I went to pour a beer tonight, I pulled the tap handle and only a trickle came out. I know I have beer because I just filled the keg with a Hazy IPA a few days ago. And the Co2 should be fine because I just got done force-carbing this keg.
I open up the keezer and see the sides of the chest are frozen, I knew I was in trouble, my finished hazy homebrew had frozen!
So I did some research to see what temperature does beer freeze at? Beer freezes at 28 degrees Fahrenheit. And depending on the alcohol content, it could freeze a degree higher or lower. For example, a lite beer that is less than 5% would freeze at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but a 9.5% IPA would freeze at 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why did my beer freeze?
The reason this batch froze is that I was force carbonating the beer in a keg and lowering the temperature helps the beer and CO2 mix together faster.
I guess I was not patient enough to wait an extra day. But a hazy IPA that I just brewed was calling my name to try it!
The whole keg of beer didn’t freeze, thankfully. I caught it just in time and it’s possible that only a small amount froze and including the tiny tubes that draw the beer up to the faucet, making it impossible for anything to come out.
My biggest fear is having a fully CO2 charged keg that is starting to freeze and expand, would it have exploded? I hope I never have to find out.
Bottles and Cans
Living in Minnesota I have a habit of taking advantage of the cold by leaving bottles and cans of beer in the garage. This works great, as long as they are not directly on the floor, that seems to be a conductor and will freeze. But if you have the beer on a box or something else that is off the ground, generally temperatures in the 20’s the beer has stayed ice cold and not froze on me.
Beer Froze right after opening it
I could see it was still liquid in the bottle, but then as soon as I opened it something changed and I watched in crystalize slowing and turn it to undrinkable slush. I had to find out why, so I looked up the science on this.
The Co2 is the reason it will freeze instantly when opened. This is because beer, whether it’s in a can, bottle or keg is under pressure of the Co2 and, is mixed in with the liquid. Once opened the Co2 pressure escapes rapidly from the liquid, and now reduces the freezing point.
Was my beer ruined?
Although freezing beer does accelerate the expiration, it will probably taste fine. This batch after a day of getting back to 34 degrees, was just fine.
I caught it in time. I was worried at first because it wasn’t tasting right, but I think that it was still too cold and my taste buds react to beer differently when it is ice cold.
This beer tasted fine because it was on CO2 the whole time. In some cases, a beer that freezes, especially in cans will lose its carbonation and will have a flat taste. It’s still drinkable, but maybe not enjoyable.
How to thaw beer?
When my keg froze all I did was fix the temp on the keezer to what I wanted it to be, 34 degrees and then wait. I found that slowly getting it back to temp was going to be the best way without losing any quality.
If you have the time, you could just let it sit out for an hour or two, because of it’s cold and climbing back up degrees slowly, it shouldn’t hurt. Just don’t forget about it, you don’t want two extremes in one day, cold to warm.
Winter beer outside
I grew up in Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers are my favorite. I have been to a couple of outdoor games, but I never experienced my beer freezing at the game.
One season the Packers made it to the Championship game against the New York Giants. January 20, 2008, it was -25 degrees out. SO insanely cold, but Wisconsinites are used to that and of course drank beer like any normal day. I recall seeing everyone’s frozen beer on TV. How hilarious, it’s a $15 dollar slushy. But hey, your team made it to the championship. Sadly for Green Bay, they lost that one.
I don’t have any recommendations if you plan to have a beer in the cold weather. Not my cup of tea, to be honest, something more hot with fireball in it would be fine.
Hopefully, my lesson in freezing beer can help you prevent any beer lose in the future. For a general rule, keep the beer off the ground and know that if its 25 to 30 degrees, your beer will be safe. I know that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and realizing you left the 24 pack in the trunk! Don’t worry, it will be fine but be sure to grab it in the morning to be safe.