New Image Brewing | Five for Freezing Imperial Stout
As part of their five-year anniversary series, New Image Brewing tackles the complicated science of fractional freezing with their new Imperial Stout, Five for Freezing. Typically, frozen beer is a travesty. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as cracking open the beer you crave, only to find that it’s morphed into a slushie mess or worse, discovering that a bottle left to chill in the freezer exploded like a Peep in the microwave. However, freezing beer before it’s packaged, is actually an old-world technique that yields some highly desirable results.
The most common style that involves freezing techniques would be Eisbock. Not to be confused with college party favorites like Icehouse or Keystone Ice, Eisbock is a niche German-style Lager made by freezing the water in a doppelbock, then extracting the concentrated alcohol and sugar. What’s leftover is a thick, syrupy liquid with a high gravity ranging between 10-15% ABV.
Bringing fermentation temperature down to almost freezing makes sense for Lagers, which are fermented at cooler temperatures anyway. What’s a lot less common is freezing a Stout. However, if you know anything about New Image, they tend to make plenty of decisions that seem unorthodox.
While it would be safe to assume that the inspiration for Five for Freezing came from an Eisbock or a big Stout, according to owner and head brewer Brandon Capps, that’s actually not the case. “I actually got really into ice wine and developed a taste for spirits with high alcohol and high sugar. I saw a lot of parallels in how to make high gravity beer.”
The base stout for Five for Freezing was aged for 18-months in Bear Creek Distillery barrels that’s been concentrated through a process called fractional freezing. Unlike the ice wines that inspired the beer, which are made by freezing grapes prior to fermentation, fractional freezing beer involves freezing the liquid itself either before or after it ferments.
Capps built a machine that he refers to as the “freeze skid.” It’s a combination chilling unit and dedicated fermentation tank. It allows him to control the temperature of the product down to extremely low temperatures. In this case all the way down to 0˚ F. The ice concentrates at the top and the sides, where the tank is the coldest. This forms a large cornice shape where the dense liquid is leftover in the middle. That remaining liquid is then racked for consumption. “The final product is something between a beer and a spirit not only in texture but in the way it’s consumed.”
Flavor, Aroma and Mouthfeel
By the time Five for Freezing is packaged the final ABV is 16.48%. A beer fit for sharing or small consumption. “Freezing increases everything,” said Capps. “Removing the water not only increases the alcohol percentage but also leads to across-the-board flavor concentration. The alcohol simply becomes a significant part of the flavor profile.” The beer has intense aromas of cacao and chocolate with no hop presence. Upon the first sip, the taste of chocolate syrup and alcohol is profound.
As the beer warms, the intensity of the alcohol is matched by the thick mouthfeel. Almost like pouring whiskey into brownie batter. The most notable characteristic of this beer is the mouthfeel. “The viscosity is high. It has a distinct maple syrup character.” Syrup or batter comes to mind. To say this beer is thick is an understatement. Definitely a dessert in a glass.
Availability and Serving
Starting Friday Five for Freezing will be available in 500 mL bottles at the taproom and online for pre-sale pickup. For serving Capps recommended allowing it to warm to room temperature, then hard pour into a glass in order to release the CO2. If you have a means of resealing the bottle it should hold up for up to a month past opening so you can savor small pours past the initial sip.