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.
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 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.
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 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.
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