|Image credit: Franconia Brewing Company|
Among the many beer styles that are considered hard to find, eisbocks are especially rare. North Texas does get a couple of imports, but locating one produced by a domestic craft brewer is almost unheard of. In fact, according to my notes, the last one to be sold in Texas was Redhook 28. I even wrote a review on it back in October 2010.
Eisbock, or ice bock, is a regional specialty native to the Kulmbach district in Bavaria, Germany. The idea behind it is fairly straightforward. Since water freezes before alcohol (32° F vs. -173.2° F), you can take a beer that's been exposed to the elements and remove the ice crystals. The resulting brew will then be more concentrated in terms of both flavor and alcohol.
The BJCP guidelines identify doppelbock (barley based) as the starter beer, but as the German Beer Institute points out, weizenbocks (wheat based) can be used as well. Examples of the two approaches from overseas can be found in Kulmbacher Eisbock and Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, respectively.
To get one made in America, you'll have to go to Franconia's Saturday tour.
When the mercury dipped below the freezing mark earlier this month, brewery owner Dennis Wehrmann saw an opportunity. In the past, he'd looked into ways of doing an eisbock with the beer still aging in the tank, but wasn't comfortable with the options available. So, he thought, why not try a little experiment?
The brewery's weizenbock is currently in season, so he placed two 50L (13.2 gallon) kegs of Winter Wheat out overnight and let nature take its course. The next morning, ice equaling 10 gallons of water was extracted to yield around 16 gallons of beer.
Sampling a few ounces of Texas Ice Bock side-by-side with Winter Wheat, you don't notice a striking difference in aroma or appearance. Notes of alcohol sneak out as the beer warms, but even then it's not an overwhelming presence. Where you will find a difference is in the taste. Take a sip of Texas Ice Bock after Winter Wheat and there's no mistaking the raw alcohol bite you'll detect right away. Your palate will adjust making this less and less noticeable, but a persistent warmth maintains in the finish.
Flavor wise, it's pretty much as you'd expect. The bready, lightly sweet base with hints of banana and spice gains some intensity, but I wouldn't say it's like you're drinking a completely different beer. Overall it's a stronger, slightly richer version of the original.
Your chance to try Texas Ice Bock comes this weekend, and this weekend only. The brewery will be pouring it out of one of their 200 year old casks at 11 a.m. sharp on Saturday, January 25.