I came across a story about a Scottish beer company that had just produced a new beer with the highest alcohol content for a beer ever produced.
It set me wondering as to what other beer companies had been up to in the realms of trying to produce high alcohol content in their beers.
How many more of them had been experimenting trying to brew a “Milk of Amnesia”? Who were making the strongest beers in the world?
With ratebeer.com as my guide I decided to find out.
It is worth bearing in mind, when talking about “the strongest beers”, that the average bottle of wine is 11-12%; a bottle of brandy is around 36%; a bottle of vodka is 37% and a bottle of whisky is 40%. Buying a pint of draught beer in the UK will be between 3.5-4.2%. A bottle of premium lager (Grolsch, Stella Artois or Budweiser, for example), is about 5%
1. Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%)
Brewed by BrewDog
Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Type: Imperial Stout
You have just got to love this company. Why? Is it that if you click on the BrewDog link, above, you come across the most anarchic looking brewery site you have ever seen, stating:
“Our beers are in no way commercial or mainstream.
We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness.
We are unique and individual.
A beacon of non-conformity in an increasingly monotone corporate desert.
We are proud to be an intrepid David in a desperate ocean of insipid Goliaths.
We are proud to be an alternative.”
Or that the guy running the show dresses in a penguin suit?
For me it is the fact they were once criticized for making an 18% beer so they immediately responded by producing a 1.1% beer called “Nannie State”. Now they have followed it up with the highest alcohol content of a beer ever.
(By the way before you go rushing out to buy a case it was a limited run, and costs £50 a bottle)
That was the easy one because it has been in the news recently and was easy to track down. The following beers are in some cases rather rare and also from small breweries so I will give all the info I have been able to glean.
2. Schorschbräu Schorschbock 31% (30.86%)
Brewed by Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu,
One reviewer described the beer. “The bottle looks great, the beer in the glass light brown, no head. Complex fiery-alcoholic aroma. Starts the same: incredibly strong, very alcoholic, like fire on the tongue. Goes down burning, like an earthquake, shows interesting fruity notes, like apricot. Very warming but also well balanced finish. Very prickly aftertaste. Really an incredible beer, a hot beer.”
3. Südstern XXL (27.6%)
Brewed by Brauhaus Südstern
To try to brew the strongest beer in the world, according to German Purity Law, Thorsten Schoppe had only 21 days time. 5 Tage vor Ablauf der Frist wird der Braumeister ungeduldig. 5 days before the deadline, the brewmaster was getting impatient. Er nimmt eine erste Probe und reicht sie zum Testen bei Professor Methner ein. He took a first sample and handed it to a Professor Methner to test. Das amtliche Ergebnis aber zeigt, das war es noch nicht. The official result showed, however, that the higher alcohol content was not there. Thorsten Schoppe und sein Lehrling geben aber so schnell nicht auf. However Thorsten Schoppe and his apprentice, did not give up easily. Sie wechseln zum Eisbockverfahren, dabei wird das Bier gefroren. The beer was refrozen and the ice removed. This time the sample reached 27.61 per cent, in accordance with the German Purity Law, as the above certificate shows.
(This tale of how this particular brew came to be made shows one of the methods behind making these strong beers. It is to “freeze” the beer, and take away the ice thus removing water from the mix and leaving a higher percentage of alcohol.)
4. Samuel Adams Utopias (27%)
Brewed by Boston Beer Company
Boston, Massachusetts USA
Type: Barley wine
Brewers description: “To create Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams used traditional brewing ingredients including all four types of Noble hops, which add a slightly earthy, herbal taste. The spiciness of the hops really comes alive. In fact, Utopias MMII has even been described by some as almost “fiery” — a fitting description for the strongest beer in history. Beyond the special brand of hops, Utopias features ingredients that truly set it apart from other varieties of beer. Utopias MMII contains caramel and Vienna malts for its rich amber color and several different types of yeast including a variety found in champagne. $100 a bottle and it’s limited to 3000 bottles, which look like copper brew kettles.”
5. Struise Double Black (26%)
Brewed by De Struise Brouwers
Type: Imperial Stout
This has been described as being made from the brewery’s Black Albertthat had been frozen to remove some water: “was just mind-blowing, like a silky smooth chocolate/coffee/dried fruit liquer, only ten times better”
6. Mühlfelder Stärkstes Bier der Welt (25.4%)
Brewed by Mühlfelder Brauhaus
Herrsching am Ammersee, Germany
The world’s strongest beer in 2005 at 25.4% ABV. “Fermented 12 weeks with sherry yeast.”
7. Bos Solar Eclipse Imperial Stout (22.5%)
Formerly brewed at Bos Brewery and Bistro
Style: Imperial Stout
Pontiac, Michigan USA
In the book Michigan Breweries by Paul Ruschmann and Maryanne Nasiatka
“Michiganders enjoy living large……and Bo’s Brewery and Bistro makes the biggest beers in the state. First let us introduce you to Bo. His real name is Burgess Young, the now semiretired owner of the brewpub. If you see a gent inside Bo’s who looks a lot like Kris Kringle, that’s him.”
They described a tasting of the beer “ smooth – incredibly so for 21% ABV.”
8. Applewood Farm Iced Cider (22%)
Brewed by Applewood Farm Winery
Type: Ice Cider
Ice cider is traditionally made by leaving apples on the tree into the winter, picking them only when they are frozen. This results in highly concentrated apples, from which juice is pressed and then fermented
“Honey in colour, medium weight with a soft sweet vanilla spice nose.”
Despite making one of the world’s strongest beers I love the “homey” feel of this brewery that offers
“Fine Wine – Apples – Strawberries – Pumpkins – Gift Baskets – Petting Zoo
We are pleased to offer group tours and wine tasting upon request.”
9. DuClaw Colossus (21.92%)
Brewed by DuClaw Brewing Company
Abingdon, Maryland, USA
Type: American Strong Ale
(Who also make the intriguing sounding Bare Ass Blonde Ale!)
Brewers description: “The name says it all! This unique brew comes in officially at 21.92% abv. This was accomplished by the use of 3 different strains of yeast and a lot of TLC. Technically an ale, but this monster has complex flavors and aromas that suggests characteristics of mead and fruit wines. Be sure to sample Colossus at several different temperatures including heated. That’s right!…heat it up to about 105′F for yet another unique experience of flavors and aromas”
If you are ever in Abingdon they have an intriguing sounding “Pint club”. Or look out for Colossus during DuClaw’s event catering in Houston.
There are six beers that hit the number ten spot with an alcohol content of 20%. Bos is there again with Bos Oak Aged Imperial Stout, there is another iced cider Vergers Pedneault La Grande Glace, Hoppers 38 Special an American strong ale, Lijiang Yinjiu a traditional ale from China, and Mikkeller Big Worst Barley Wine.The last is another Barley wine, which Grand Lake Brewing Co., knowing what brewers and drinkers are perhaps both in search of, is most appropriately, called Holy Grail.