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Frozen Beer Heats up in L.A.

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Credit Karl Baron, Creative Commons

An ice cold beer — it’s the iconic summer tipple.  The paradox: How do you keep that beer ice-cold in the summer heat?

Chaya, in downtown L.A., recently became the first American restaurant licensed by the Japanese beer company Kirin to sell its patented frozen beer — a soft-serve-esque foam that keeps the liquid beer beneath it cold for 30 minutes.  We get the scoop (and the sip) from manager Melissa Powell.

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Rico Gagliano: Is it like a slushie? Cause that would be like a dream come true — beer plus slushie.

Melissa Powell: I think it is kind of a dream come true. It is just a fresh poured Kirin beer with a frozen foam on top that is very similar to a beer slushie. It actually keeps your beer cold for 30 minutes longer than it normally would.

Rico Gagliano: Wow. Now the beer foam is just that? It’s just beer?

Melissa Powell: It is. It’s just beer, and it is basically just air that bubbles in the special machine that they have that makes beer into foam.

Rico Gagliano: Beer has a lower freezing point than, say, water. How cold does this thing get? I want to believe that it’s kind of like the eyeball manufacturer in Blade Runner, where it’s a frozen nitrogen level of cold.

Melissa Powell: This freezes at 23 degrees Fahrenheit, so pretty cold.

Rico Gagliano: And do you know how long this technology has been around? You know, Japan seems to have everything before us.

Melissa Powell: Japan does. This has been around in Japan, and I’m told that it’s everywhere, that it’s sort of a common thing now for bars there.

Rico Gagliano: Why just make the top part foamy? Why not make the entire beer foamy?

Melissa Powell: You could. Traditional beer drinkers like that liquid, and the foam sort of seems like a treat on top.

Rico Gagliano: So, this machine really does look like one of those things you see at the 7-11 churning. Looking through the window of this thing is interesting. It’s basically like looking at a machine making only beer foam. It’s like an entire machine full of the head of a beer.

Melissa Powell: Yeah, as we’ve been standing here, it keeps turning and turning and adding more air into the foam, and it gets thicker and thicker and richer and more luscious and beautiful.

Rico Gagliano: I’ll tell you, I ran this by one friend just today and said, “frozen beer, what do you think? It’s kind of like a beer slushie.” And his initial reaction was kind of like “I don’t know if I can get behind that. It seems somehow denuding beer its machismo.”

Melissa Powell: Sure. We have people who aren’t sure when they come, and then we convert them.

Rico Gagliano: I mean, I remember putting beers in the freezer to make them cold faster at a party and having them explode, so it’s nice to not have that happen.

Melissa Powell: Exactly. It’s sort of the best of both worlds, having it in the freezer and not having it explode.

Rico Gagliano: Alright, let’s do this. It doesn’t really look that much different than a regular beer except that the head basically has that kind of soft serve peak at the top of it that makes it look like a sundae. Can I just sip it right through the foam, or do I put a straw in it.

Melissa Powell: Most people just sip right from it.

Rico Gagliano: Oh wow, it really tastes icy. There’s no water in this thing?

Melissa Powell: No, it’s just frozen beer. There’s no water in it at all.

Rico Gagliano: So it’s not going to water down the beer. It’s like getting a cold beer without having to put ice in it.

Melissa Powell: Precisely, yeah. The idea is that it will keep the beer colder longer.

Rico Gagliano: It is just barely at that level of cold that it’s not quite hurting my lips. Like, a little bit colder and this would be a painful drink. It’s refreshing.