Iceberg beer makes for a distinctive Newfoundland brew

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

Icebergs off Newfoundland's coast have always been a feast for the eyes, but a St. John's brewery is using the frozen masses to entice a different set of senses altogether.

As NPR reports, the Quidi Vidi Brewing Co. has started brewing award-winning batches of beer with 25,000-year-old glacial water harvested from the province's icebergs.

Because the ice formed thousands of years ago from compacted snow, there are no minerals in the water. What you will find, however, are lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside.

These natural factors lend a unique look and taste to the beer. On the Quidi Vidi website, their iceberg beer is described as a light-bodied brew that has a "light and golden" appearance and offers a "clean, sparkling finish, crisp with no aftertaste."

The beer seems a natural extension when you consider the province's familiarity with its enormous ice towers.

NPR spoke to local chef Tak Ishiwata, who explained the old Newfoundland tradition of keeping a block of ice in the freezer to chisel into drinks. The trapped air in the ice — the same property that gives the Quidi Vidi beer its special feel — is reported to add a bit of extra fizz when it hits any liquid.

"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," Ishiwata said.

Ishiwata experimented with his own iceberg drink when, a few years ago, he set out on an ice-harvesting boat armed with a .22 caliber rifle.

Because it's dangerous to get too close to the masses, he shot at the iceberg to chip off manageable-sized pieces, known familiarly as "bergie bits."

"It was pretty cool, yeah," he told the agency. "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."

Culling from his haul, Ishiwata chipped off pieces of the ice and used it to top off his restaurant's signature blue martinis. The drinks were a huge hit with tourists.

"They're pretty intrigued with the whole iceberg situation," he said, adding that locals barely bat an eyelash when it comes to finding a piece of glacier in their glass. "We find it pretty normal here."

Popular demand leads Ishiwata to bring back the martinis each summer. But if you're curious to know what it feels like to crunch an ancient ice cube between your teeth, there's a good chance you can find an iceberg-laden beverage year round on the island.