Current Weather
The Spy FM

Newfoundland Gives Whole New Meaning To Ice Cold Beer

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
February 29, 2012

The year the Quidi Vidi Brewing Co. started brewing beer with iceberg water, a giant iceberg floated up against the cliffs around St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“It was a big berg and it jammed right across the harbor here,” says Charlie Rees, the brewery’s tour guide.

Rees says Newfoundlanders have a curious relationship with icebergs. On the one hand, they’re a fact of life. On the other, when that iceberg was in the harbor’s mouth, hundreds of people came down to gawk. He took pictures.

“Eventually the wind and waves broke it up into small pieces and it just disappeared,” he recalls.

On land, in a former fish-processing plant, Rees’ brother was already brewing up the first batches of iceberg beer, now a brewery staple. Charlie Rees showed off the assembly line that fills thousands of bottles with the lager by the hour.

The ice formed tens of thousands of years ago from compacted snow. That means there are no minerals and lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside. It gives the golden beer a special, very light taste.

Newfoundlanders have known about icebergs’ special properties for years.

“You don’t taste anything. It’s not like normal ice cubes where even with filtered water — you don’t notice you’re drinking chemicals,” says Tak Ishiwata, a chef who runs a sleek restaurant that serves Newfoundland-Japanese fusion cuisine.

Ishiwata says the drinks are just a new twist on a very old Newfoundland tradition of keeping a chunk of ice in the freezer. Ishiwata’s mother had a block, which she would chisel with a screwdriver to ice drinks. The trapped air in the ice gives off a special fizz in the liquid.

A couple of years ago, Ishiwata had the chance to go out on an ice-harvesting boat. It’s dangerous to get too close to the giant towers of ice, he says, so to break off manageable pieces, he took a shot at the iceberg with a .22-caliber rifle.

“It was pretty cool, yeah,” he says. “Like one bullet took down — it was a minuscule amount compared to the entirety of the ice, but it was big. Big pieces blew off.”

Ishiwata stored the “bergie bits,” as they’re called, that he brought back in his restaurant freezer. He chipped off pieces with a knife to top off special blue martinis. He said they looked like miniature icebergs floating in the glass.

The drink became so popular he’s had to bring it back every summer since, though he gamely says he doesn’t know what the big fuss is all about. He says a lot of the people who come looking for the drinks are probably tourists.

“They’re pretty intrigued with the whole iceberg situation,” he says. “We find it pretty normal here. ” [Copyright 2012 WHYY, Inc.]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center