What’s the next trend for craft beer brewers and their loyal fans? It’s high alcohol beers that compete with spirits for alcohol content.
High alcohol beers got their start in Belgium about four years ago at the De Struise brewery. Their Black Damnation can be as high as 26% abv (alcohol by volume) and the critics loved it. After that, it was “bring it on” for craft brewers around the world.
Some ales are now aged in whiskey barrels. Scottish brewer BrewDog freezes the beer to concentrate the flavor. The water in the beer turns to chunks of ice, which they can remove. After aging in barrels for 16 months, they re-freeze and remove more water. The final product comes in around 32% abv. Another beer from Brewdog called Watt Dickie is 35% and uncarbonated. They suggest it be enjoyed as a spirit. So if it is uncarbonated, is it still beer?
The Scots seem to be in the lead when it comes to juicing up the alcohol with something called Snake’s Venom at 67.5% abv from Brewmeister. It is so potent that it comes with advice not to drink more than 35 ml in one sitting. That’s only slightly more than an ounce. What beer devotee drinks just 35 ml? Critics say it does taste like beer – and alcohol. Imagine that.
Then there’s cost. High alcohol beers are not cheap but the prize for the most expensive goes to Sam Adam’s Utopias at $200 a bottle. Aged for two years in Hungarian oak, it is 29% abv. They only make about 15,000 bottles and some critics say it is worth the price. We won’t be sampling any time soon.