Ice Cutter Winter Warmer Homebrew Recipe & Details


The following recipe for and discussion of Ice Cutter Winter Warmer was graciously shared with Chop & Brew by our good friend Vaughn Stewart, director of brewing and distilling operations at Portside Distillery & Brewery in Cleveland, OH. Ice Cutter is a winter warmer style ale spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon and allspiced, and dosed with a plum puree towards the end of fermentation. The results is a malty winter seasonal beer with a bit of spice and dark fermented fruit notes. The commercial example was quite yummy and perfect for cutting the breezy winter chill off of Lake Erie. The text below is presented directly in first-person as received in an email from Vaughn. I’m choosing to not set this up in your standard recipe format, instead treating it more like a word problem for you to solve and interact with. Vaughn lays out everything you need to build this recipe for any scale of homebrewery. Have fun! (Chip @ Chop & Brew)

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The idea was to go for an Eastern European-influence, although it also bears some similarity to English plum pudding. Cranberry is another fruit that plays well with these flavors, adds a bit of acidity.

Cleveland water is pretty hard for being in the Great Lakes watershed, especially compared to the Twin Cities. Lots of temporary hardness, pH starts around 7.8, bicarb up around 150, calcium around 35, sulfate and chloride negligible.  We use 75% phosphoric acid to bring the strike pH down to 6.2-6.4, but for a beer this dark you’d be fine as high as 6.8. We supplement with 0.1 grams/gallon gypsum and half as much calcium chloride to get the calcium above 50 ppm or mg/L – no real flavor impact on the sulfate or chloride side here, just helps to precipitate oxalate and provide enough calcium for enzymes. Get the pH in-line with the acid first, then make a slurry with the water salts before adding to the strike liquor.
81% Pale Ale Malt (3-4L)
10% Munich Malt (6-8L)
4% English Dark Crystal (77L) [I prefer Crisp but Bairds, Patagonia, or Simpsons work also]
3% English Amber Malt (23-35L) [Again, I prefer Crisp, but other maltsters with malts at a similar color will work, just make sure it’s a roasted pale and not a cara-type]
2% Weyermann Melanoidin (23-31L) [Castle/Chateau or Dingemans or Patagonia can sub]
1% Chocolate malt (425-475L) [British is best]
Our mash tun is completely manual, so we add pre-milled malt to the entire volume of strike liquor and stir quickly. Mash-in should take under 15 minutes to avoid denaturing enzymes with the high strike temp. Target saccharification temperature is 148-150°F. Lauter and sparge as the system dictates but avoid sparging too hot. This mash should convert in 45 minutes, but as long as the temp is stable there’s no problem going up to 90.
Our target copper-up gravity for this beer is 17 Plato (1.068SG) at 7.75 bbls, for 88% lauter efficiency.
Standard boil time; we bittered with 13.8%AA 2014 Nugget T90 pellets at start of boil, 1.5 lbs for 7.75bbl copper-up. After 30 minutes, 12 oz of 13.8%AA 2014 Nugget T90 pellets go in to round out the bittering. Our kettle is undersized so it tends to throw a lot of sediment on the walls; it helps to spread out the bittering charge, but there’s no reason you can’t just do a single charge at the start of the boil for 30 BU. We dose with Whirlfloc tablets 10 minutes before the end of the boil, as well as Yeastex 82 yeast nutrient (equivalent to about 1/2tsp for 5 gal).
Spices are 1.25 oz Nutmeg (1/4 tsp in 5 gal), 0.75 oz Allspice (3/8 tsp in 5 gal), 2.25 oz Cinnamon (1/2 tsp in 5 gal), all powders, sourced from Penzey’s. Spices go in when we turn the steam off to the kettle. After the boil “ends,” we whirlpool for 20 minutes with the steam jacket off, then stand for another 20 minutes before knocking out. So the spices sit in progressively cooling wort for about 45 minutes after the end of the boil. Knockout takes 45-60 minutes; temperature at KO varies, but it’s usually between 190 and 205F. I can tell you that we used a similar method at Arcadia for Jaw Jacker – spices were hydrated with hot wort in a brink, then sucked into the whirlpool at the end of the boil, where they also sat for 45 minutes. The point here is, your mileage may vary. I think we get away with using a small amount of powdered spices because we can hold them at just below boiling for an extended period of time. I’ll also say that from experience, spices are always best added at a low level; you can always add more, but you can’t take them out once they’re in there. For a homebrewer, I would just add the spices when you turn the heat off, and give them at least 15 minutes of hot contact before knocking out. As always with spices: freshness is paramount! Do not use baking spices that have been sitting above your stove for a year, they will taste like crap. Buy freshly-ground spices from a reputable source and throw them out if they don’t knock you out with aroma when you open the bag.
Fermentation starts around 17.5-18P (1.070-1.076), we pitch the equivalent of 22 grams of dry US-05 for a 5 gallon batch (2 sachets). We don’t rehydrate the yeast before adding it to the wort and we don’t oxygenate wort during KO, because neither is necessary when working with a fresh dry pitch. We start fermentation around 69°F, then bump up to 72°F after 48 hours, but you can go as high as 78°F with US-05 with no negative impact, especially at this pitch rate (most homebrewers pitch half as much, and you’ll definitely see some heavy esters and fusels with that pitch rate).
Plum puree gets added about 1-2P from terminal gravity, so somewhere around 5-6P (1.020-1.024). We also add 0.5mL/gal of pectic enzyme when we add the fruit – this helps to promote clarity, and is crucial if you’re not filtering (which we’re not). It will also help the yeast fully ferment the plum puree, and avoid off-flavors. We add 42 lbs of plum puree per 7 bbl batch – this works out to 1 lb for a 5 gallon batch. We use Oregon Fruit Products, which should be the same brand that most homebrew stores carry. Plum puree is cheap as hell, so if you were going for a more pronounced plum flavor, that shouldn’t be an issue. Coloma Frozen Fruit out of Michigan and Perfect Puree from California are also good sources.
Target terminal gravity is in the low 4s, which will put you right around 7.5% after factoring in the slight bump in sugar from the plum puree. Our fermentation takes all of 12 days, including 5 days on fruit. We’ll rack off after about 24 hours of cooling, but longer won’t hurt anything. 2-3 days of cold conditioning at 32F helps to drop yeast and sediment. We dose racked, semi-bright beer with Biofine Clear at about 70 mL/bbl, added either through the top of the tank or mixed during transfer. Carb to 2.48-2.64 volumes of CO2, according to preference (I like fruit beers at the higher end, but if you want to bring the malt out more, go for the low end.)