What do you get when you combine six 300-pound blocks of frozen water, frigid northern temperatures and a throng of thirsty sports fans bound for the Twin Cities?
Ice bars -- a phenomenon that has been around for years but is now gaining major steam -- er, frost -- thanks to the Super Bowl's arrival, the growth of artisan ice companies and the usual bounty of cold air. Suddenly, the frosty novelties are cropping up everywhere from rooftops to alleyways, and keeping things cool with chilly concoctions, frozen furniture and arctic bar games (think made-from-ice air hockey and shuffle-puck tables).
Take the ice bars from Minnesota Ice. Each is built with blocks of 10-by-20-by-40-inch ice slabs, and needs about three days to freeze, said Erik Eastman, director of sales for the company, which is constructing them at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, Oxcart Ale House in St. Paul, Volstead House in Eagan, the Great Northern St. Paul Chefs Experience and more. Ice Occasions, the other major ice company in town, is also building outdoor ice bars around town.
Eastman says that, once the blocks are solid, a standard 6 1/2-foot ice bar can be put together in as little as 30 minutes, using a blowtorch to freeze the blocks together. From there, Minnesota Ice can engrave designs, add color and even embed wireless LED lighting for dramatic effect. Hand-carved embellishments, statues, games and other icy constructions complete the wintry wonderland vibe.
But why subject yourself to the numbing outdoors when there are perfectly good indoor bars keeping the frozen stuff in the glassware? Well, it's fun. It's unique. And gosh darn it, we're a hardy breed.
"They're beautiful," Eastman said. "When you see them put together, it's like 'Wow.' They're pretty. They're super-clear, and they're just different."
Oh -- and have we mentioned that alcohol tricks your brain into thinking you're warm? There's plenty of that, too.
Although the current spike in ice bars may be aided by that not-so-subtle big event coming to town, Eastman expects the nippy trend to stick.
"We'll continue to see these because I think we're really embracing our climate right now and wanting to be outdoors right now," he said. "The ice bar is not going anywhere."
Check out these variations this winter: