Ice Concentration, Separation, Refermentation, & Resurrection

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Over 2 years ago I brewed a beer that I intended to be fashioned after Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout. I brewed a big R.I.S. to around 1.100 and pitched it on top of an enormous yeast cake of 1056. I followed the standard yet advanced procedure of staggered sugar additions and pitching a second more alcohol tolerant yeast strain. By my estimates via BeerSmith, the O.G. of the beer was in the neighborhood of 1.180 after all was said and done. After several weeks primary and bulk aging in secondary with a significant raise in temperature (up to 90* ambient temp that summer) the final gravity was 1.043. The abv was too high for any yeast to really survive in there long enough to drop the FG down, even a few more points. It was syrupy sweet and almost undrinkable. It got force carbed and tucked away in the cupboard until I wanted to shock somebody with its high alcohol content, but their reaction was always the same, "This's too sweet."
Fast forward 2 years. While reading some articles from The Mad Fermentationist, I stumble upon an article about him ice concentrating a beer:
In the article, he references how the first part that melted off of the beercicle he made was the higher alcohol portion, while the last parts to drip off were much lower abv than the original beer. This gave me an idea. If I iced my monster of a stout,collected the high alcohol portion in one container and the lower alcohol portion in another, I might be able to repitch yeast into the low alcohol portion and drop the gravity down some. I realize this sounds confusing so I tried to take pictures and illustrate the process to the best of my abilities.
Disclaimer: This breaks many sanitation and oxidation rules. I didn't care because I wanted to test my theory and maybe have a drinkable beer in the end.
Ice Concentration & Separation:
First, I dumped 11 bottles of the stout into a large plastic bowl, covered it with foil and stuck it in the freezer at the coldest setting. I left it there for 2 days until I ended up with this stoutcicle.

I sanitized my giant funnel, funnel screen, 1 gallon growler, and half gallon growler. Then I stuck the funnel into the half gallon growler and put the frozen stout into the funnel to start thawing.

The idea here was that I had just over gallon of frozen beer and the first part to thaw out should be the higher alcohol portion. I let the 1/2 gallon growler fill up with the high alcohol portion.

After about 2 hours the small growler was full and I started collecting the second portion, which should be the lower alcohol portion, in the 1 gallon growler. The picture shows how much the color has changed after the first portion was thawed out and collected.

After everything was thawed and separated I was left with a half gallon growler full of less than 18% abv stout and a half gallon of greater than 18% abv in the other growler.

The strong beer portion, as I called it in the picture, was capped and put in the fridge while the weak beer was given a full packet of re-hydrated champagne yeast and some yeast nutrient. After about 3 days I started to see some signs of an active fermentation via a small krausen. At this point I dumped roughly 1/3 of the strong beer into the fermenting weaker beer. This was to sort of mimic the staggered sugar additions and help the yeast stay alive via incremental feedings. Here is an illustration to help keep track of volumes between the 2 containers.

The next day I gave the fermenting growler a swirl to see if stuff was still moving since champagne yeast doesn't give off a lot of visuals. It was!

A day later I added around another 1/3 of the strong beer portion to the actively fermenting portion.

The next morning I gave it another quick swirl, it foamed up and out of the container. I had a little bit of clean up to do. I let it go an additional day before adding the final portion. I figured I'd let it dry out as much as possible and that once I added the final 1/3 it would kill the yeast.
On the day of the last addition this is where the volumes were at in case I've lost you.

I let the beer sit in the growler for about a week before I took a gravity reading. I could see a small and steady stream of bubbles during this time frame but wasn't sure if the beer was still fermenting or if it was just off gassing.
Since my refractometer is useless with this project, I pulled out the hydrometer (tested with 60* water to make sure it was calibrated) and I got a reading of right around 1.015

This is way beyond what I expected. I would have been happy with it dropping 10 points and becoming drinkable. It dropped almost 30 points and is still drinkable.
I know my OG reading was estimated and I suspect that at this alcohol level the FG reading is probably off a little even with a hydrometer but here are the final numbers.
Original Beer: O.G. 1.180 F.G. 1.043 18.8% abv
Refermented Beer: O.G. 1.180 F.G. 1.015 22.6% abv
I started with an almost undrinkable mess of a beer and ended up with a few bottles of pretty fantastic extreme beer and a great story to tell.
You do know this is technically distilling right? Very cool procedure but the authorities might not like it too much.
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@Spintab this process walks a fine line but it's technically ice concentration which is legal. this is how eisbocks are made and they're legal for homebrewers to make.
Is there a reason why you didnt use wlp099? I did a dfh 120 monster clone that came in at 1.090 and added 11 pounds of sugar to a 6 1/2 gallons batch. I started it out with dry english ale which did a great job until the high grav yeast took over, got it down to BELOW 1.0 (I know that is skewed but amazing nonetheless)
The eisbock is something I wnt to try, way to save it!
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@kosmokramer I used wlp099 when i initially fermented it but when i decided to try this little experiment out all i could get locally was champagne yeast and it worked pretty well. much cheaper too
There's no fine line about it. Distillation is concentration by boiling off alcohol. This is freeze concentration. I've never once seen the B.A.T.F. seize freezers in an "illegal" jacking operation.
That said, this is so freaking cool! Is there any oxidation flavors? I would imagine they might be a nice thing in a beer like this.
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I don't get any oxidation flavors yet but it's a pretty heavy beer and it'll probly hide them until they're really strong. one cool thing that happened was that the roast barley flavor comes through a lot more now. it must have been covered up by the excess sugars
You say it's drinkable...but how drinkable? I wonder if in lieu of the sweetness now you have such a high ABV that you get really hot alcohol flavors...what are your tasting notes?
I also wonder if this would be something good to do to blend with another stout, like make a gallon of this and blend it with a 5 gal batch of a regular strength stout to up the ABV to 10-11% instead of drinking the straight 22%.
Cool experiment, though! Thanks for sharing!
I was lucky enough to have a taste of mikes ICE monster and it was really really nice. Tasted like a roasty coffee liqueur. Hopefully the next time we hang out wel be using this beer for a mocha stout milk shake float type concoction.
I think you sir just might have saved my mead! I will have to try this. But it will be difficult with 5 gal of the stuff. I just hope that I will have as much luck as you have.
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It's in the keg now i'll do some tasting notes on one of the short pours i get after the bottles are filled. I'll try to do it before and after (since i have a few bottles of the original) to see what kind of changes happened beyond just alcohol production
@Sewer_Urchen it's pretty drinkable. when i brewed it 2 years ago it definitely had some heat from the alcohol but that has mellowed out big time. If I had more bottles of it i'd definitely consider blending it.I might do some mini blends with it and a chocolate milk stout I have. my buddy pat wants to make beerfloats with it.
@pkrath84 the recipe isn't really anything special but yeah i'll post it sometime and note what i'd change. cuz there's a lot of things i'd change
@psnydez86 yep it's happening
@Bowow0708 freeze it in 1 gallon water jugs and thaw it out into two 5 gallon carboys or buckets and follow the same process
Label a bottle and put in on the shelf. That is something that you will probably never recreate and is a cool story. Congrats on the save of a questionable beer and you are lucky that it was a stout that could handle the abuse:)
Very cool... i'd like to put a sample of before and after in my Beer Helmet... hhmm... reminds me I'm due to brew!
The ATF recently made a ruling that distillation by freezing is not distillation that is prohibited in the eyes of the US government. Also, part of it was that a company with a brewing license can do this without having to get a distillation license.
Well we will see how this does on my 1123 OG - 1041 FG, Dbl Crooked Tree IPA clone. Nothing could really hurt at this point. Its to sweet and the dbl dry hopping can't overcome the sugars. 6 months have mellowed it very little, I like the suggestions to blend... Thanks for the write-up and some new mad science to try!
@Jester5120: Yeah, I'm doing that right now, but I can only fit one jug at a time so it will take a while to do even the first step.
Tip: if your beer refuses to freeze, drop in a tiny piece of ice and it will do the trick. You'll have slush in just a couple of hours. So drop in maybe half a cube or less of ice after twelve hours to ensure it will solidify.
This is not even close to "technically distilling" and no authority anywhere would have any grounds to give a rat's ass since it aint.
@Spintab i believ that depending on the state you live in distilling alchohol for private use is legal. or so i have heard.
This is a great idea to ferment out those big beers to the 20+ ABV mark. I like the idea of dropping ice into the beer to start the crystallization.
Not to egg on this never-ending conversation of legality, but I called the TTB, no longer under ATF jurisdiction, which told me it's called "Ice Concentration," which is legal and there are no restrictions on the amount of ice pulled out. The only regulations that exist for Eis Beers are taxes and label requirements for Commercial Breweries.
I'm a bit confused as to how this could be considered distilling OR concentrating.
The volume of beer never changed from freezing...the ice was never skimmed off. The freezing was merely a means of separating the existing beer into two gravities. The total volume was the same pre and post freezing, correct?
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@fezzman yep you're exactly right. it just got tiresome trying to explain that or what the legalities of everything surrounding it might be.
Any reason why you couldn't freeze in a keg, dispense out what doesn't freeze, melt the frozen part and referment it, slowly adding back the first part of the beer? Seems like it might be easier/cleaner than doing it in a bowl with a funnel