Cold ones got too cold and turned into ice.
This week, a polar vortex swept through the Midwest. The arctic blast brought bitter cold and howling winds that pushed the wind chill below -50ºF in some places, resulting in several deaths. And while some have falsely claimed that the coldest weather in decades means there’s no such thing as global warming, the big chill’s impact on beer deliveries has been much more real.
Yep, we’ve officially reached the point where it’s too cold to deliver beer. Though alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water, the relatively low ABV of most beer made it all but impossible for fresh brews to be delivered in places like Minnesota, where kegs of beer froze in their trucks on Tuesday. With the temperature plummeting to -26ºF (with a wind chill of -53ºF) in Minneapolis on Wednesday, there was simply no chance that beers could arrive at their destinations before turning into cylindrical bricks of ice.
“Most of the folks up north are not delivering," says Mike Madigan, president of Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association told CNN. "Most distributors are not delivering in the Twin Cities, down south and out west."
So how do distributors keep beers drinkable? Heating trucks can transport beers in polar vortex weather before they change phases from liquid to solid, but they’re pretty rare even in the coldest parts of the country.
"There's a few (distributors) that have heated trucks," Madigan said. "But there's not many. You tend not to need heated trucks."
Beer might not be the only alcoholic beverage that’s not equipped to stand up to such absurdly cold weather. While liquor has a lower freezing point by nature of containing a higher concentration of alcohol, a bottle of 80-proof liquor freezes at around -16.5ºF. So if you live in Chicago and left a bottle of vodka on your balcony overnight on Tuesday, you more than likely would’ve found it frozen solid given that Wednesday morning’s low was a hypothermia-inducing -23ºF, literally colder than Mars.
Thankfully, “warmer” weather in the days ahead mean the usual schedule of beer deliveries should resume soon enough. And after a week like this, I think most of the Midwest is entitled to celebrate the return of balmier temperatures by cracking open an extremely cold one.