Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Super Beer!

What's that in the sky? It's a bird...it's a plane...no, that's just ol' Jim flying high from a mere sip of his Super Beer! I stumbled on an interesting article, which led to a couple of other articles.  It all started when I was reading the May/June 2011 edition of DRAFT.  They featured an article about an independent Scottish brewery called BrewDog.  Founded in 2006, they have apparently become quite popular in a relatively short period of time.  The article states that BrewDog's sales increased by 230% after opening a restaurant / bar in their hometown of Aberdeen, U.K.  What was most interesting, though, was the trilogy of ice-distilled beers that they released, each one setting a new world record for highest alcohol by volume:
  1. Tactical Nuclear Penguin, 32% ABV
  2. Sink the Bismarck, 41% ABV
  3. The End of History, 55% ABV
Just to give you an idea, a typical beer is between 4% and 6% ABV (see my previous blog post, How Does Your Beer Measure Up?).  Wine is usually about 13% ABV, while vodka may be about 40% ABV [3].

If you think BrewDog's names of beers are odd, the packaging is even more eclectic:  the highly-intoxicating The End of History was sold stuffed inside of a squirrel -- well, at least it used to be a squirrel.  I won't post any pictures here, but if you are interested, you can find one posted on the Consumerist's website and on an LA Weekly blog.  According to a Reuters article, only 12 bottles of The End of History were made, and they sold for over $700 per bottle (1/3 liter [1], which is less than 12 ounces).

So I got to wondering if The End of History was still the highest-ABV beer available.  After all, it was released a whole year ago in mid-2010.  It turns out that only a week after BrewDog introduced their limited-time offer, a Dutch brewery announced a new 60%-ABV beer [1], [2].  In a friendly competitive way, the 60%-ABV was given the moniker Start the Future.  The Dutch brewery, 't Koelschip (The Refrigerated Ship), offered 1/3-liter bottles of their 120 proof brew for the competitive price of only $45 [2].

I have not been able to find anything stronger than the purported 60%-ABV beer by 't Koelschip, but that's not to say it doesn't exist.  If you find one or see a news article about a new high-ABV beer, let me know - I'd like to include it here as an update.  I did find a nice image on gizmag.com, which I've posted below.  It shows some of the high-ABV beers that are available from various breweries.  As you can see, ABV increases over time.

Photo courtesy of http://www.gizmag.com/worlds-strongest-beers/15256/
I suppose it should go without saying, but this isn't the kind of beer that you chug or otherwise drink "normally".  This is the kind that you "enjoy" -- in a small glass.  BrewDog even goes so far as to place a quasi-serious disclaimer on their website for the Tactical Nuclear Penguin:  "This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whiskey, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost."

Need to be rescued from a boring night?  Never fear -- Super Beer is here!  Prost!

Sources:
[1] http://consumerist.com/2010/07/high-alcohol-content-beer-war-continues-with-60-abv-brew.html
[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/07/29/us-dutch-beer-odd-idUSTRE66S3SR20100729
[3] http://www.pricecuts.us/abv/encyclopedia.htm