Skip to main content

The Highest ABV Beers Brewed in the U.S. and Where to Get Them

European beer drinkers have a myriad of options when they want to get smashed. Take Scotland-based Brewdog. It produces Tactical Nuclear Penguin, an imperial stout that measures a whopping 32 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). It also puts out Ghost Deer, a Belgian strong pale ale that comes in at 28 percent ABV. Germany’s Schorschbräu produces beers that push the alcohol boundaries even higher, going all the way up to 57 percent in its rotating Schorschbock release.

Related Reading:

In contrast with Europe, the United States’ puritanical base has had a complicated history with alcohol. America’s 13-year ban on producing and selling alcohol, Prohibition, still has lingering effects in today’s marketplace. As a direct result of that era, many states have tight caps on the percentage of alcohol allowed in beer. Other rules concerning distribution and product placement in retail establishments like grocery stores can also vary widely and impact the profitability of producing high-alcohol beers.

Luckily, there are several U.S. craft beer makers who continue to make a diverse range of products, including beers that push the norms for alcohol. Many breweries produce special one-off beers or regional exclusives with high alcohol by volume percentages, which can be hard to find. Here are three breweries with high-ABV beers currently in production. With a little hard work, you can get your hands on any of the beers below.

The Bruery

Placentia, California

the bruery black tuesday
The Bruery

The Bruery is known for making high-quality beer in a wide variety of styles. At the low end of the scale is its German Leichtbier at a minuscule 3.2 percent ABV, but at the top end, you find some of The Bruery’s flagship and most coveted beers like Grey Monday, Black Tuesday, Mocha Wednesday, and Chocolate Rain. These are decadent, dessert-worthy beers ranging from 19.5 to 20 percent ABV.  Black Tuesday, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, is the starting point for all of these beers. The subtle differences imparted by additions of vanilla beans, chocolate, coffee, and hazelnuts provide variety and an excellent side-by-side tasting opportunity. Just make sure to invite lots of friends.

Dogfish Head Brewing Company

Milton, Delaware

dogfish head 120 minute ipa
Dogfish Head/Facebook

The motto for Dogfish Head is to bring “off-centered goodness to off-centered people.” While many of its mainline beers already push the needle higher than center in terms of ABV, it’s the aggressively hopped 120 Minute IPA that tips the scales at up to 20 percent ABV. Even with all of the high alpha hop additions, it’s still a malty, chewy IPA meant for sipping. As rotating releases, World Wide Stout, a thick Stout recently presented in an Oak Aged Vanilla variant, and Raison D’Extra, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, are routinely in the same range, averaging around 18 percent ABV.

Samuel Adams

Boston, Massachusetts

utopias beer
Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams is famous for its Boston Lager, which at 5 percent ABV doesn’t come close to making this list, but there’s a secret that true beer nerds know about this brewery, but the general public doesn’t. That secret is Utopias, a 29 percent bomb that drinks more like a port than a beer. Presented in a copper-colored ceramic decanter, the beer is served flat at room temperature and is a totally unique tasting experience. Read The Manual’s review of Utopias.

As an important note, no matter what beer you’re enjoying, make sure to enjoy it responsibly. These beers are meant for sharing and celebrating.

Lee Heidel
Lee Heidel is the managing editor of Brew/Drink/Run, a website and podcast that promotes brewing your own beer, consuming the…
This Road in Washington is Where All Your Favorite Beers Get Their Start
Hop farms.

On a map, it doesn’t look like much more than a straight north-south line just southwest of Wapato, Washington. Yet, the road known as Lateral A in the Yakima Valley is one of the most famous hop-growing stretches on earth. Here, one of beer’s critical ingredients grows up along tall trellises as far as the eye can see, harvested annually and sent off to brewers near and far.
It’s a reminder of the many people and places that go into your favorite brews. Rural areas like this provide the space, climate, and human beings for such sprawling agricultural tracts. Those who’ve been to the Yakima Valley know of the openness of this arid country, with mountains beyond and glimpses of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the west. If it wasn’t for the dramatic topography in the distance, you’d think you were in the desert, or some farm-heavy stretch of the Midwest, mid-drought.

Here, the sun shines more than 200 days per year. It’s an energized environment, one that’s responsible for three of every four hops produced in the entire country. What started as an experimental planting in 1868 is now an impressive patchwork of hop-farms. It’s said that a hotel room in the area is hard to come by in August and September, when bottom cutters meander through rows, harvesting the annual crop and brewer’s celebrate with farm-fresh creations.
The valley is quickly approaching 150 hop varieties, which emerge, cone-like, from hop bines (yes, bines, not vines) that can surpass the height of a three-story building. It’s home to many family-run operations which have been hauling in hops for generations. Places like Perrault Farms, in Toppenish a bit south along Lateral A. The Perrault Family arrived here in 1902, when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House. In addition to growing eleven hop varieties, the family raises bison and grows blueberries.
The hops end up in everything from specialty one-off seasonal beers by Bale Breaker Brewing Company (just north and on the other side of the Yakima River) to Budweiser. Business is booming and the area has its requisite commissions, grower-owned coops, and the like. It’s not uncommon to see reps from the big boys like AB InBev-owned labels sniffing around for a good deal on some choice hops.

Read more
A Quick Guide to Iranian Wine (and What You Can Get in the U.S.)
Azari Vineyards

Way, way back, the city of Shiraz was a place known for its wine. The vibrant Iranian town produced and enjoyed a fair bit of the stuff, gaining a vast reputation for fermented fruit.
The Persian region is home to some of the oldest evidence of enology on the planet. Vessels caked in tartaric acid, a byproduct of winemaking, have been found that date back to 5400 BC. They were discovered in the Zagros Mountains, the rugged range of peaks that makes up Iran’s western border.
Such rich history means plenty of corresponding mythology. One of the best tales involves a heartbroken girl rejected by the king. Suicidal, she ate rotten table grapes, seeking to end her life. As you might guess, she survived, and even got a little drunk. She reported her findings to the king and a glorious wine scene was born.
It’s estimated that until the revolution of 1979, as many as 300 wineries operated within Iran’s borders. Today, the industry is mostly forbidden, save for a few non-Muslim operations. However, there are almost certainly a few clandestine operations (producers, importers, etc.) as well, given that some reports say Iranians still drink a modest amount of wine per year, illegal as it may be. And there are the reports of the well-to-do, partying on weekends and even making some of their own wine at home.
So while the wine scene has been very limited in Iran for the last 41 years, the region as a whole over the course of civilization has largely embraced the stuff. It shows up in old paintings and literature (although the word wine has been outlawed in modern writing). And it makes sense, given the climate and elevation. Shiraz is set up quite high, giving it favorable diurnal shifts and a good grape-growing aspect.
While some suggest that today’s Shiraz wine (made from Syrah) owes its name in part to the historic central Iranian city, there’s not much to the claim. In fact, much of the wine that indigenous to the Shiraz area and enjoyed by its people was white, ranging from dry to sweet. It was typically fermented in amphora, both commercially and by families at home.
It’s pretty much impossible to taste anything alcoholic that’s made in Iran today. There are rumors of renegade winemakers smuggling Iranian-grown fruit across borders and making small amounts to be shipped to select spots, but very little evidence to back that up. Fortunately, there are other creative ways to taste a bit of the Persian tradition. Several wineries in the States were launched by Iranians and look to craft something that honors their homeland, not to mention its prehistoric relationship with wine.
A few to look out for:


Read more
Super Bowl of Beers: The Best Brews from San Francisco and Kansas City
2020 super bowl beers best of san francisco kansas city fieldwork feature

While the highly anticipated ads may tell you otherwise, what you drink this Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t have to be generic suds. In fact, you can drink some great stuff from in and around the two cities represented in this year’s matchup.

As the Kansas City Chiefs get set to take on the San Francisco 49ers, another rivalry comes to life — that of craft beer from the two American cities. We’ve picked three of our favorites from the Bay Area and the city that sits in two states to suit up and fetch a W in the name of beer excellence.

Read more