Is anyone ever ready for the first sweltering heat wave of each summer?
Even after the terribly soggy and chilly spring we suffered through in the Northeast that made everyone pretty much beg for a ray of sunshine and a forecast over 70˚, the late May temperature onslaught caught me off guard. Coming back from a stretch of cool weather on Cape Cod, so brisk that I could watch the fog lift from between the pines at the Hyannisport golf course each morning, I was (un)pleasantly surprised to return to a muggy situation at home.
Once our house traps heat, it’s all over and done for. Nothing to do but open all the windows, turn on all the ceiling fans, and pray for cross-ventilation. And drink a beer.
I’ve joked on Facebook before about the classy way I like to cool down my drinks with ice cubes—hey, even Mario Batali cops to throwing a few cubes in his wine! But my status update: “It’s so hot I’m putting ice cubes in my beer. Desperate times.” prompted more than a joke response from my friend Chris Clark: “OMG. Beer in the ice tray for times like these. Credit, please.”
Chris, here’s your credit. Brilliant move.
He explained that the idea came from Caffe Capri, an old-school Italian joint in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that’s been around for a decade or three. The secret to their much-lauded iced coffee is that it’s made with frozen coffee shavings instead of ice—why not take the same granita idea and apply it to a brew?
Much like my earlier tip on making coffee ice cubes for your summer cold brew, and making ice cubes of stock or wine for future use, the boozy shortcut of using ice cubes made of lager is like a Magic Eye drawing—once you’ve done it once, it’ll pop back into your mind more quickly and stronger each time.
The caveat to hoarding a stash of beer ice cubes is that you can’t stray too far between the kind of beer in your glass and the beer that you’ve poured into ice cube tray—even more so for wine, because nuances in taste vary so much more widely between bottles, not to mention between vineyards.
However, if I can be frank (and honestly, folks, when am I not frank about my likes, dislikes, and obsessions here?), there are really only a few beers I turn to when the mercury rises dangerously close to and into the triple digits, and they all have a similar—read: light and not too hoppy—flavor profile: Sol. IC Light. Sometimes a Sam Adams Summer or a Brooklyn Summer, if I’m feeling flush and saucy. Making ice cubes with one of these lighter-bodied beers won’t dilute the taste of your drink too too much, especially if you’re downing them without dawdling.
Anyone who’s thrown a sixer into the freezer for a quick cool-down and promptly forgotten all about it knows that beer will freeze fully, and that it expands slightly as it does because of the carbonation. One 12-oz. can or bottle of beer fits absolutely perfectly into a standard ice cube tray. Pour slowly and gently to avoid foam—it’s slightly unnerving to see yellow ice cubes that look like a medical waste experiment gone awry, but just remember: that’s delicious beer in them cubes.
Once completely frozen, the cubes will have a soft and flaky, crystalline texture because of the aforementioned carbonation. If that bugs you and you’d rather have a firmer cube, dilute the beer with water (a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of water to beer, depending on your preference) before adding to the ice cube tray.
Either way, you’ve now got a neat party trick and a guaranteed way to make coping with the next round of heat advisory days (and nights) a little more bearable. And that’s something we can all drink to. Bottoms up!