Good question. I’ve often wondered this myself. It seems like you should be able to use it in your kettle and might even add some sort of unique flavors to your beer. Well, that’s partly right, but not in a good way.
When I first started brewing and was using extract kits, I would boil 3 gallons of wort and since I didn’t have a great way to quickly cool it down, I would freeze 2 gallons of spring water and add to the bucket to cool and bring my batch up to 5 gallons. Worked then, so why now try it with snow?
I live in Chicago and personally don’t trust the snow here – but might be better in other places. After searching around a bit, seems like that the consensus pretty much across the board is DON’T USE SNOW WHEN BREWING.
Snow is good for cooling beer (i.e. put your kettle in a snow bank or pack around plumbing you use in wort chiller), but not if you actually put it in you beer. Even if you live in a pristine location, there’s no guarantee that your snow originated there or what sort of chemicals are in it. So while this might sound like something cool to boast about, it isn’t. And while boiling could kill off bacteria and such, lingering chemicals could still be harmful at the worst or create some undesirable off flavors at the best. So much like yellow snow, putting white snow in your beer should pretty much be avoided at all times.
(photo by Wannasonic)