Did you know that you’re currently sipping lager in the midst of an all-out beer war? It’s true. Brewers all over the world have been in a no-holds-barred competition to see who can brew the highest alcohol-by-volume (ABV), best tasting beer, creating concoctions for the past four years that contain more alcohol than whiskey while still retaining that earthy yeast flavor that beer lovers crave.
Prior to 2010, the beer world was pretty tame, alcohol-wise. The strongest brews hovered around 20 percent and that was mostly relegated to barley wines, a niche market among beer connoisseurs. All that changed when Struise, a brewing company out of Belgium, began its Black Damnation project in which they used Black Albert, their Russian Imperial Stout, as the base for some increasingly dangerous brews ranging from 13 to 26 percent ABV.
Soon, Scottish brewers Brewdog got in on the action, and the results rocked the world of craft beer. By freezing their beer in a local ice cream factory and slowing the fermentation process, the cheeky geniuses at Brewdog were able to create a beer they dubbed Tactical Nuclear Penguin. What began as a respectable 18 percent ABV imperial stout was aged in whiskey barrels for 16 months, infusing the beer with a tart whiskey flavor and higher alcohol content to boot. After three more weeks in the ice cream freezer, the result was a 32 percent ABV bombshell that launched dozens of boozy counterattacks.
You see, the water in beer has a lower freezing point than the alcohol, so freezing the water and occasionally scooping out the frozen chunks allows the remaining unfrozen alcohol to concentrate, thus creating hard hitting mega beers.
The craft beer industry is ever growing, but as demand for beer grows, so does the need for innovation. The newest generation of beer drinkers doesn’t want their dad’s watery old standbys. They’re looking for something invigorating and tasty that also packs a punch. And as the beer wars produce ales hovering around the 70 percent mark, consumers have also proven that they’re willing to pay top dollar for these spirit-like brews. A bottle of Sam Adam’s Utopias will set you back $200, but by most beer tasters’ accounts the carefully brewed concoction is worth every penny.
13. Holy Grail 20 percent
Coming in at 20 percent, this Grand Lake Brewing Company offering still packs a punch. It’s classified as a barley wine, so it has a sweeter taste than traditional beers and a syrupy, amber consistency.
12. World Wide Stout 22 percent ABV
Dogfish Head Brewery out of Delaware proclaims that this complex creation is more of a port than a beer. Its taste is described as roasty and warm, making it the ideal winter beer, which is perfect, as this is a seasonal offering.