To be called the world’s strongest beer, you need more than just water, hops, yeast, and malt. You need access to some great fermentation technology and the cajones to brew a beer that is higher in alcohol than most hard liquors on the market (not including these, of course). For a while, the record holder was a brew called Armageddon — a 33o ml bottle of malty goodness from the Scottish madmen at Brewmeister. Weighing in at a formidable 65 percent alcohol by volume, it took the title from the previous Titan, Schorschbräu Schorschbock, a 57 percent ABV Eisbock beer from Germany. For a while, too, Scotland’s BrewDog held the title with their Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32 percent) and Sink the Bismarck (41 percent), but these newer beers have blown those out of the water.
The beer that beats them all? Well, it’s also made by Brewmeister. Not satisfied with the meager 65 percent of Armageddon, Brewmeister set out to break its own record and did by brewing a concoction called, appropriately, Snake Venom. This is not so much a beer as a behemoth that tips the scales at a staggering 67.5 percent ABV.
To achieve such a ridiculously high alcohol content, the brew is fermented with two different types of yeast: a top-fermenting strain used in ales and another that’s generally used in Champagne. The latter strain is known to have a higher alcohol tolerance, and can, therefore, survive longer and make the brew more powerful.
However, this only takes the beer so far. Champagne yeast can survive in alcohol concentrations of about 17 to 20 percent, depending on the strain, so in order to make Snake Venom more potent after the initial fermentation process, Brewmeister uses a technique called freeze concentration. Basically, this involves bringing the beer to a specific temperature just below the freezing point of water and just above the freezing point of alcohol. When the water freezes and becomes solid, it’s removed so that all that’s left behind is highly-concentrated and unfrozen booze. (Think of it as a kind of opposite distillation. Either way, alcohol is being separated from water in order to achieve a higher proof.)
According to Brewmeister’s website, “The alcohol is very strong but the beer still tastes like a beer rather than a spirit. It’s hoppy, malty, and very pleasant.” Oh, and it’ll knock you on your ass if you have more than a few sips. There’s that too.
If you feel so inclined, you can get your hands on a bottle of Snake Venom online for about £50 ($81) per bottle. If you want something a little more attainable, you can always check out these high alcohol beers that are available in the US.
This article was originally published on December 6, 2013. Last updated November 5, 2018, to confirm Snake Venom’s current standing as the strongest beer.
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