When is a Beer Too Strong?

By Jim Cohen | June 23, 2010 | 3 Comments |
Bookmark and Share

The strong beer war is on. One of our most popular articles on Beer Universe is The Strongest Beers in the Universe. We have had to revise it twice since the original post in February as two beers surpassed our initial list (Sink the Bismark – 41%; Schorschbock – 43%).  Don’t think the updates have stopped either, as the breweries in the hunt for the strongest beer in the universe, are targeting 50% ABV!

In order to get a strong beer these days, most of the breweries in the race for the top use the Eisbock method. The idea is that you freeze water in the beer and leave the alcohol behind (alcohol has a lower freezing point than water). These methods are used by the likes of BrewDog, Shorschbrau and Hakusekikan.

You may be sick of all the hype around “strong” beers, because most consumers don’t normally consume these aggressive alcoholic beverages; however, the benefits for the breweries are two fold: (1) they gain notoriety through this sort of publicity and (2) they love the challenge.

Georg Tscheuschner, founder of Shorschbrau told Gizmag.com that “By increasing the alcohol to record levels, a lot of beer buyers know my name that didn't know me before and many more people now buy my other beers. It's good for business because you get a lot of publicity” and, in addition to the publicity, “you can create a very different experience for the beer drinker using only malt, hops, yeast and water.”

The two competitors in this arena have been BrewDog Brewery (out of the UK) and Shorschbrau (out of Germany).  Since January 2009, these two breweries have pushed the boundaries – helping raise the strongest beer in the universe from 27% to 43% ABV (50%+ increase in ABV!).

The record will certainly be difficult to break – now that the record is at 43%, it takes significant time and resources to develop a stable beer that has a higher ABV. Apparently for Schorschbrau’s latest released they only retained 50 liters of the original 800-1000 liters at the beginning of the brewing process.  In addition, higher ABV beers need more attention that traditional brewery brewed beers – inspecting the timely process, but the beer needs to be in the perfect state in order to achieve the high alcohol volume.

Even though it is difficult, we expect that other brewers looking for the thrill of a challenge will enter the competition and challenge the existing players. Tscheuschner believes the limit for good beer is ~50% ABV, and after that the taste and drinkability (thanks Budweiser) will be lost.

A teenager occasionally downing a bottle of strong beer is not exactly an example of teen alcoholism, but that kid could be heading towards that direction if he or she makes it a habit.

Would you drink a beer this strong? Remember, it’s not supposed to be chilled and had after a hot day—it is supposed to be enjoyed like a spirit (like a nice glass of scotch). At Beer Universe, we’re open to the idea; after all, it’s your choice!

Your Choice. Your Beer. Drink Up.
- Beer Universe


A teenager occasionally downing a bottle of strong beer is not exactly an
example of

3 Comments · When is a Beer Too Strong?

  • I would love to try a 50% ABV beer, Sink The Bismarck was great even though it didn't really feel like a beer. It was more like a brandy to drink.

  • I'm not sure you can call it a beer if you have to sip it like a brandy. I mean I think that eventually as you refine beer, we should start calling it a different beverage all together? Call me old-fashioned but I like to sip on a nice beer to enjoy the entire drink as a beer vs. a spirit.

  • Irish Whiskey and Scotch are made from barley and have this percentage of alcohol. When does this stop being beer and start being whiskey?

Leave a Comment

Log in to leave a comment!

Log In | Register

What's Hot on Beer Universe