The Strongest Beers in the Universe

By Jim Cohen | February 2, 2010 | 8 Comments |
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Beer is the world's oldest and most widely consumer alcohol beverage. In fact it's the third most popular drink after water and tea. The beer industry reached over $300 billion dollars, and breweries produce over 35 billion gallons a year. But we didn't need to tell the readers of Beer Universe that. What may be of interest is to discover the top 10 beers with the highest alcohol content.

 Beers range from less than 3% alcohol by volume (ABV) to over 30%. The alcohol in beer comes primarily from the break-down of sugars that are produced during fermentation. The quantity of fermentable sugars in the wort and the variety of year used are the most important factor that determine the final amount of alcohol in a beer. Most brewing yeast cannot survive at alcohol concentrations above 12%.

Wait a second. Didn't we just say that alcohol can go well above 12%? Over the course of the last 10-15 years, brewers have pushed the gap to increase the alcohol of their beers. They have employed various tactics including using champagne yeasts and freeze distilling to achieve high ABVs. We have compiled a list of the top 10 alcoholic beers on the planet (and tried to include their prices when available for your pleasure). To give you a comparison, a standard light beer, like Bud Light has 4.2% ABV.

For more insight on the recent developments on this - checkout: When is a Beer Too Strong?

Please note that these beers are highly alcoholic and are meant to be consumed in small servings.

10.  The Bruery – Black Tuesday: 19.5% ($30.00)

An imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for over a year each, this beer has flavors of rich caramel, toasted malt and vanilla. The beer is released on an annual basis and can be purchased directly from the brewer. They approximately release 1,300, 750ml bottles at $30.00 a bottle. The beer was so popular at its release in 2009, that even the 3 bottle limit per customer on opening day did not stop it from being sold out.

9. Grand Lake – Holy Grail: 20% ($25.00)

Grand Lake aged this malt concoction for a year in an oak charred barrel. The beer is left uncarbonated and is preferred at room temperature to unlock the hints of vanilla while sipping on it. The beer smells of a sweet cognac, but the alcohol is well hidden as it finishes smooth.  With a limited release and limited distribution, this is a difficult one to find.

8. Sam Adams – Millennium: 20% ($200.00)

Sam Adams first beer on the list is a one-time batch brewed in 1999, Sam Adams Millennium was one of the strongest beers at the time. This packaging of the bottle is almost as impressive as the beer inside of it, with a cobalt blue bottle with platinum lettering, finished with a natural cork and sealing wax, encased in a cherry wood box. At the time the Millennium beer came out, there were only 3,000 bottles produced and each ran ~$200.00. If you can find any full bottles today, we're sure they are worth much much more.

7. DuClaw – Colossus: 21% ($21.99)

You have waited for 4 years while this beer was aging, but DuClaw Brewing Company released this beer in early 2010 for your enjoyment. Utilizing three strains of yeast, a variety of spices and some secret combinations, this beer is infused with hints of apple, cinnamon and honey. The price on a 22 ounce bottle is $21.99, so cheaper than some others on the list for the volume that you are going to get.  If you are in Maryland, check out a local beer store.

6. Dogfish Head – 120 Minute IPA: 21% ($12.00)

Are you a fan of IPAs? Love those Hops? You should check the release schedule at Dogfish Head Brewery. Their 120 IPA is brewed three times a year and goes fast. At ~$12 a bottle, these beers aren't cheap, but not as expensive as some of the others on this list. Dogfish Head boils the beer for 2 hours using high-alpha American hops and then dry-hopped daily for a month in the fermenter. By the way they age it for another month on whole-leaf hops. You hopped out yet? NOTE: We're giving credit to the beer at 21.0% ABV, but they have scaled it back to 18% for ageing recommendations and overall balance.

5. Sam Adams – Utopias: 27% ($190.00 - $600.00)

Breaking previous boundaries of the Sam Adams brewery, Utopias received the highest recommendation from Wine Enthusiast Magazine in November 2003. Not available in certain states due the 27% ABV, the swee,t malty flavor is similar to a port wine. This brew is different as it is not carbonated and it is suggested to be served at room temperature.  Original prices for this beer were ~$190 but have gone up in recent years as high as $600 a bottle.

4. Hakusekikan – Eisbock: 28%

In Japan, Hakusekikan Beer Restaurant sold an eisbock, strengthed through freeze distilling believed to be 28% in 2005. An iced version of Hakusekikan's Super Vintage Ale, this beer is extremely difficult to find. If you find out about it, please let us know!                  

3. Hair of the Dog – Dave: 29% ($80.00)

This barley wine is one of the strongest beers brewed in the United States (Portland, OR). In 1994 the brewery brewed just 90 gallons of Dave and didn't let any of them outside the brewery until 1998. 15 Bottles were released in 2008 and sold for $80 bucks a pop. However, what's more impressive is that a six pack of Dave was sold for close to $3,500 earlier in 2008 at a beer auction. If you can get your paws on this beer, hold on tight!

2. BrewDog – Tactical Nuclear Penguin: 32% ($56.00)

This malty imperial stout was created using the freeze distilling method. It was initially double barrel aged for 14 months and then went through several freezing processes in order to reach this extreme ABV. Reach down into you wallet though, if you want to try this beer. At $56 for a 330ml bottle, this beer isn't cheap.

1. Schorschbrau – Schorschbock: 40%

In December 2009, Schorschbrau set a new limit for their beer and brewed a 40% ABV beer. Want to try some? Get in line, the beer is only available from Schorschbrau directly. They had originally only created 55, 0.5 liter bottles but grew that to 250 bottles when demand started to soar. Each bottles bears the personal signature of the Brewmaster and is seals with wax.

February 17, 2010 note: A New Beer Tops the List

BrewDog – Sink the Bismark (41%) – ($63.00)

It was only a matter of time before the Scots shot down the German claim that they had the strongest beer. BrewDog has done it again, breaking another barrier with a 41% ABV beer. This beer is not to be messed around with and should not be chugged on a Saturday night to drown your sorrows. Trumping their Tactical Nuclear Penguin (from above) this beer is only available for sale through their website and will cost you about $63.00 for a bottle.

Note: June 17, 2010: Wow, 43% ABV Tops Beer Charts

Schorschbräu - Schorschbock: 43%

The feud continues...Only 3 months after being dethroned by Brewdog, at a whopping 43% ABV, Schorschbräu reclaims the strongest beer in the world and it certainly packs its punch. Trying to surpass this feat will take an incredible amount of time and resources. According to the brewery, it takes about 10 times the amount of beer to finalize this product (that's how much effort / waste occurs during the process!). Do you think they are done? We've heard the brewery aiming at the 50% ABV mark...

8 Comments · The Strongest Beers in the Universe

  • Sign me up for a beer tasting, please!

  • This is just silly strong. Have you all written an article on the legal aspects of displaying and marketing the strength of beers? I remember I recently read a Wall Street Journal piece on the fairly recent activity within legislature that allows for companies to market the strength of the beer and include the ABV right on the labels. Could be a nice thing to know about and definetly a great plus for the craft industry.

  • I want that Dog Fish Head so bad. A local bar and grill carries the 60 minute and I get it every time I go. It is by far my favorite beer right now. Next up it the 90 for me and if I can get my hands on it I will be all over the 120.

  • We had a tasting in The Old Fountain in London of Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Leather, tar, smokey, chocolate, coffee,phenol,very aggressive alcohol. You find it difficult to drink a whole bottle on your own! Thankfully we didn't have to pay for it, it was a Christmas present from the brewers. It was from the first brew which retailed at £30 a bottle, or £250 if you wanted to buy a share in the company.

  • Nice insight, thanks beerdydaly!

  • I personally am not a fan of high alcohol beers. I really liked the DogFish Head 60 Minute but thought the 90 Minute was a little sweet. Not what I want in an IPA.

  • Sadly, with the exception of Dogfish 120, I haven't had any of the beers on this list. But I have had other flavors from The Bruery and BrewDog and those were some damn fine beers. The Bruery's Autumn Maple is made with yams and is a perfect Thanksgiving treat. BrewDog's Paradox Smokehead is also very tasty.

  • Dont forget brewdogs The end of history at 55% and their final stupidly strobg beer. Look out for their tokyo imperial stout which is 18.2% but a great beer.

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