In the world of beer, wine, spirits, and even cigars, the descriptor str0ng can mean different things. For example, calling a cigar strong usually means that the flavor is unpleasant and overwhelming, not that it has a full body. But when the word strong is applied to wine and beer, is usually refers to the drink’s alcohol content, measured in alcohol [percentage] by volume, standardly abbreviated as ABV. Two main factors determine a beer product’s final ABV. First, the wort (the grain liquid before yeast is added) has sugar in it for the yeast to eat, and the more sugar that occurs naturally in the chosen grains, the higher the ABV will usually be. Second, the type and amount of yeast added to the wort control the ABV: some yeast produce more alcohol, some less, sort of like some of your friends have huge appetites and eat large meals, while others seem to do fine with smaller snacks. And when the entire fermentation process is being controlled by a master brewer, then the ABV can be manipulated to reach the desired final content. Since most beer yeast cannot survive in a solution with more than about 12% ABV, some brewers re-ferment beer with champagne yeast to reach high ABV levels, or use a process called freeze-distillation to reach very high levels.
Most beer in the world has an average ABV of about 5%. As as many of our readers know, mass-produced American beer, like Coors Light, is even lower in alcohol — that is why you can knock back so many cold ones during a football or baseball game, and not end up passed out on the floor. Some beers have a higher content. For example, my personal favorite beer, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA, clocks in at an ABV of 7.5%. But what about those beers that indeed use champagne yeast or freeze-distillation? While some would argue that they do not literally fit the definition of beer, let us assume that they are in fact beer. Which three have the highest alcohol contents in the world?
From Brewmeister in Aberdeenshire, Scotland comes this oat-brewed ale that is slightly sweet and yeasty on the palate. It is also incredibly alcoholic on the palate, at an unbelievable 65%, making it the world’s strongest beer. I would imagine that one bottle of Armageddon would indeed bring about an Armageddon of a hangover the next morning.
2. Schorschbrau Schorschbock Finis Coronat Opus.
Besides the abnormally-high number of consonants in the name, this roasted, caramel ale is produced by Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu in Bavaria, Germany is ice-distilled. The result is a 57% ABV that is up there with the highest in the world. The flavor is sweet with notes of caramel and alcohol (big surprise).
3. The End Of History.
If you drink too many bottles of this 55% ABV ale by Brewdog in Fraserburgh, Scotland, you may indeed face the end of history in the morning. But if you enjoy it responsibly, this extremely-strong ale will treat you to concentrated, sweet flavors of dried fruit and brown sugar. It is named The End Of History because it is the last high-alcohol beer that the company will produce.
Having enjoyed some beers of this high-ABV category, I can recommend sipping them like a good scotch. As for pairing, I would not pair them with food. Instead, try matching them with a nice cigar, perhaps a good Dominican. And if you have never tried a beer in this upper-echelon of ABV, you simply must. It is quite an experience, blurring the line between beer and liquor.