Feb 10 2011

A Simple Way to Make a Homebrewed Eisbock without a Keg

In December of 2009, I did a co-brew with a friend and made a doppelbock and an eisbock. That eisbock (named “Fargin Eishole“) ended up doing well enough to make it to the final round of the National Homebrew Competition in 2010. (I squeaked in a cider, as well, that year.) It was a pretty good beer, but I’d tweak up the alcohol and a few other factors with a re-brew. (I won’t be posting a recipe for the Eisbock. It was basically Jamil Z’s “Steve’s Fifty”, and I’m not taking money out of his pocket. If you don’t own his book, Brewing Classic Styles, you should.)

At the end of 2010, based on a dare of course, I returned to the world of absurdity and made an eis-barleywine. Weighing in at over 15% ABV, that one was a bit of a beast and will deserve a separate post and tasting of its own. (Coming soon…) “Eis”ing the English barleywine hit a minor glitch, but I’ll talk about that towards the end of the post.

But it hadn’t occurred to me, until recently, to put up a blog post about making eis-beers. There are two big challenges to making an eisbock. First, you have to make a really, really clean beer because the cold distillation will magnify any flaw. Second, there’s the matter of freezing the right amount of water in the finished beer and then getting that distilled beer back out again. Every time I had heard someone talk about making an eis-beer, it involved using a keg. That wasn’t going to work for me since I do not keg*.

Making that clean and well balanced beer, well, that is a topic worthy of an entire book. And others have done so. So I’m going to focus on the second challenge with this post.

The trick of an eisbeer, for me, was getting the beer frozen and back out again since I use glass carboys. The solution I came up with was racking my beer into a sealable bottling bucket and freezing it in there. The elegance of that solution is that the ice (now just frozen water) floats to the surface of the bucket and the distilled beer is towards the bottom of the bucket and close to the bucket’s spigot. Once you can see that the ice portion of the bucket is ~20% of the beer, it is time to rack.

The bucket after the eis-beer had all been bottled.

How long does it take? That depends on your freezer, the size of the batch and the ABV of the beer. I think you’d be safe to check it after 24 hrs and ready to go at 48 hours.

When I did this with my eisbock, I bottled straight from the bucket. I did not re-pitch yeast, and I didn’t need to, and I used Cooper’s Carbonation Drops to prime. If you wish to keg, lager some more, or prime and re-pitch yeast, you’ll probably find yourself racking into another container. I get nervous about sanitation and splashing a beer about if I rack a beer more than twice, so I went straight to the bottles and that went smoothly.

The only real hiccup I had was when I was freezing the eis-barleywine last month. When I tried to bottle that one, the spigot was frozen solid. I’m guessing that happened because I left some diluted Star San diluted water in there while cleaning the bucket and didn’t drain it back out. I’d be careful to make sure that area is clean AND empty before you start to drain the bucket.

There you go, simple and easy. Let me know below if you have a different method of making eis-beers. As with all homebrewing, there isn’t a “right” answer, there’s just the way that works best for you.

* – I usually brew a lot and no one, save me, drinks beer in my house. Bottling is how I started and I love to share my beer, so that is what I still do. (Some 15 years later….)