Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Sick of All of the "World's Strongest Beer" Bullshit

Beer geeks just can't get enough of high ABV brews. Back in the day when Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Jim Koch of Samuel Adams were jockeying for the title of world's strongest beer, everyone had a lot of fun. It was new a whole new territory, requiring new techniques and ingredients, and gave birth to legendary beers like Utopias and World Wide Stout.

Contrary to popular opinion, Utopias was not actually the strongest beer on the market a year ago. That title actually went to Schorschbräu Schorschbock, a German beer that clocked in at 31% ABV, besting Utopias by four whole percentage points.

This was accomplished by freeze-distilling the beer, a process where the beer is placed in freezing conditions so that water will freeze out, leaving a more potent brew behind. As Utopias was fermented without the process of distillation, this might sound a bit like cheating. However, Schorschbock was an Eisbock, a totally legitimate German style that requires a level of freeze distillation.

In my mind, this meant Schorschbock was not a cheat, and had earned the title honestly. However, I still think an important distinction should be made between high-test beers that have been fermented "naturally," and those that employ distillation.

Anyway, late last year the titled changed hands again when BrewDog, a brewery with a flair for the dramatic and a keen eye for publicity, came out with Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Clocking in at 32% ABV and using the same freeze distillation process, the Imperial Stout was potent enough to just beat out Schorschbräu Schorschbock for the title and garner the brewery lots of publicity. It was all very tongue in cheek and I thought it was a cool move from the Scots.

But things didn't stay like that for long, as Schorschbräu countered with a 40% ABV version of Schorschbock, knocking BrewDog off the top of the hill. BrewDog then counter-countered with with Sink the Bismark!, an IPA clocking in at 41% ABV*. Again, it was all very clever, but it felt a little contrived. Guess what happened next? That's right, Schorschbräu came back with a 43% ABV version of Schorschbock.

If that wasn't bad enough, BrewDog countered again earlier this month with The End of History, a 55% blond Belgian ale soldI shit thee notin the remains of dead woodland creatures.
Obviously, at this point we were clearly getting into farse territory, and I'm sure BrewDog understood that, as they announced The End of History would be their last excursion into high ABV beers.

That's where we stood last week, with yet another world's strongest beer, this one costing over $750 and coming with a free squirrel carcass. The whole world's strongest beer race had turned into a played-out publicity stunt game, but it looked like at least with the introduction of what I'm calling the "carcass-card," things would calm down.

Wrong! The reason I bring all of this up is that today a Dutch brewer just announced another world's strongest beer: 't Koelschip Start the Future. This time though, shit got real. Instead of messing around in the 50% range, these Dutch madmen have churned out a beer clocking in at an amazing 60% ABV, totally blowing BrewDog and Schorschbräu out of the water.

However, that being said, I could not give a shit if I tried. I stopped caring back when Schorschbräu countered Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Since then, it's just been a parade of contrived press releases attached to what I'm sure are pretty shitty beers.

How about you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

* A few German labs got a hold of the stuff and both claim it doesn't hit the 41% ABV claimed on the bottle, instead topping out at about 30%. All of that horseshit and it doesn't even measure up?

1 comment:

Jamie Hunt said...

I'm so glad you don't care, because I will not have that terrible dead thing in my house!