Each month, Tasting Table’s Monthly Editions explores a single topic from a variety of delicious angles. Our December issue, Fire and Ice, examines dishes and drinks in which extreme temperature helps to create delicious flavor. Keep checking back here to watch the story grow.
What ramps are to spring, eisbocks are to winter.
The singular style of beer can only be produced in the coldest of temperatures. It is created by taking a strong lager called a bock and freezing it. Since alcohol solidifies at a frostier temperature than water, the alcohol separates from the liquid, which turns to ice. Removing some ice creates a more concentrated, more flavorful beer with an elevated alcohol level.
Up next, a few of our favorite iterations of this wintertime treat.
Kulmbacher Reichelbräu Eisbock
According to lore, the eisbock style was born more than a century ago, when a wooden barrel filled with Kulmbacher’s bock was accidentally left outside during a cold snap. The beer mostly froze, and when it was discovered, the brewers chipped away the ice, leaving behind a surprisingly rich brew. A happy accident, indeed: Kulmbacher’s amber-tinted offering registers 9.2 percent ABV and has a bouquet of figs and chocolate. It’s a fine accompaniment to dessert.
On its own, this German brewery’s strong weizenbock (weizen is German for “wheat”) is a superb, banana-nuanced delight. But a freezing stint turns it into a luxurious, snifter-worthy treat. The hazy, chestnut-hued eisbock’s complex aroma slinks from raisins to cloves and butterscotch, with a creamy texture. Expect flavor with plenty of honey and dried fruits, backed by bananas and cloves. At 12 percent ABV, this eisbock is like a liquid sweater.
This rustic Austrian brewery makes its base bock by caramelizing the wort--the unfermented broth created by boiling grains with water--with superheated rocks. The brewery then ferments the beer in granite troughs. The process gives the toffee-scented, burgundy-brown eisbock intensified flavors of caramel, which are evened out by herbal undertones. The 11.5 percent ABV, syrupy beer is somewhat sweet, but the sugar levels somehow stay in check.