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This Is The End

July 30th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

This Squirrel and Stoat are hopefully The End of History

The race for the World’s Strongest Beer has gotten carried away, and it looks like at least one brewery in the competition finally gets it. BrewDog has once again put out the latest pacesetter, but has stated that this will be their final foray into pushing the limits of alcohol content.

BrewDog The End of History (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland; Belgian Strong Ale; ABV: 55.0), a blonde Belgian strong ale, was released in bottles stored in stuffed animals; about a dozen apiece for the Stoat and Gray Squirrel. At £500 and £700 apiece, they retailed for roughly $800 and $1100 at current exchange rates, and were the most expensive beers ever produced as well. Despite the expense, all of the bottles sold out as soon as they became available.

Hopefully this will truly be the end of history. Maybe Schorschbräu, which had recently been on top with their 43% eisbock, will produce a 56% or even 60% and that will end the madness.

With an alcohol content of 55%, The End of History more than doubled the potency of Samuel Adams Utopias, which at 27% was the benchmark less than two years ago.

Update: No sooner had I wrote this post, that Dutch brewery Het Koelschip returned to the top of the heap with a beer called Start The Future. Start The Future is reported to have an ABV of 60%, and like The End Of History, to be a Belgian strong ale.

High Flying Dutchman

July 15th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 1 comment

Breweries keep reaching for the sky

The King Is Dead…Long Live The King!

For anyone that cares, we have a new World’s Strongest Beer. Het Koelschip Obilix (Brouwerij het Koelschip; Almere, Netherlands; Amber Ale; ABV: 45.0) is an amber ale that can now lay claim to the crown. Brewer Jan Nijboer made this ale as a statement against the continuing trend of brewing the beer with the highest alcohol content.

From what I’ve read, it tastes more like a whiskey than a beer. Het Koelschip Obilix doesn’t appear to be available to the U.S., and based upon the initial reviews that I’ve seen, is probably not worth the effort. It’ll be interesting to see how Schorschbräu and BrewDog respond.

Here We Go Again

May 6th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Schorschbräu fires back...the race to 50% is on

No sooner had BrewDog recaptured the World’s Strongest Beer title with their BrewDog Sink The Bismarck, a 41% ABV quadruple IPA, that brewery Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu countered with Schorschbräu Schorschbock 43%. Like 31% and 40%, this beer is an eisbock, and Schorschbräu is even toying with the idea of brewing a 50% bock! 43% will have a limited release of 100 bottles, although it may not be available to U.S. or Canadian markets.

It’ll be interesting to see if and when BrewDog answers this latest challenge from Schorschbräu. The German brewery took a mild swipe at them with the Pussian helmet, a favorite of Bismarck, as well as issuing the line “cause Frankonian Men don’t dress like girls”, an obvious reference to Scottish kilts.

And finally, it’s worth noting that Samuel Adams Utopias, once the strongest beer in the world and still America’s pacesetter at 27% ABV, now ranks a “mere” 10th worldwide.

Stoutzilla

April 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Tokyo is big & complex like its namesake

Recent surveys by Demographia and the United Nations both confirm that Tokyo remains the world’s largest urban area. Travelers to the city have described it as sophisticated and cutting edge in addition to being large. So I expected that a beer named after this metropolis would exhibit the same qualities.

BrewDog Tokyo (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 18.2), like its namesake, has a lot going on. It pours a dark black and the nose is an array of dark fruit and chocolate. The dark fruit, especially cherries, and chocolate also come out in the taste, which is complimented by roasted malt, cranberries, jasmine, and vanilla with a woody finish. Despite an ABV of more than 18%, Tokyo is incredibly smooth and a very drinkable beer. I’m inclined to favor it over another extreme stout, the highly touted Dogfish World Wide Stout (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial Stout; ABV: 21.0).

Kudos to BrewDog for crafting another excellent extreme beer.

Battlestations!

March 25th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

There's definitely some firepower in Bismarck

What if you brewed The World’s Strongest Beer and made it not only palatable, but downright delicious? A beer that has a 41% alcohol content, yet compares favorably with highly regarded IPAs with several times less potency? Those crazy Claymores at BrewDog have managed to do just that with their latest offering!

I shared a bottle of BrewDog Sink the Bismarck (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 41.0) with my friends Bret, Kelly, Mark, Mick, and Rick last night at Mr. Beery’s. Many extreme beers either taste like paint thinner, or are enjoyable yet so far removed from normal beer that they can only be handled in small quantities. Bismarck actually bucks the trend. This IPA is an amber orange color, and the nose is a blast of citrusy and piny hops. It’s very warming from the first sip, and the big hoppy flavor is complimented by sweet malt, honey, and spices with a resiny finish. Despite its obvious firepower, this is an ale that is wonderfully complex and thoroughly enjoyable.

For those who are curious, Bismarck can be offered directly from the brewery online at http://www.brewdog.com/shop.php?Category=beer. Kudos to BrewDog for pulling this off!

Hold The Fort

February 25th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

This is one Fortifying brew

Billed as The World’s Strongest Fruit Beer, Dogfish Fort (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 18.0) is one potent ale. It had been awhile since I’d last tried this beer, so I picked up a bottle at Total Wine & More recently.

The alcohol presence is very noticeable here, so Fort is best sampled in a 6-8 oz. sniffer as opposed to a full pint. There’s a tart raspberry bite up front, complimented by hints of sweet malt, spices, and citrusy hops. The finish is deceptively smooth. Fort reminded Anne of a pumped up lambic or fruit wine, and she agreed with me that this would make a excellent dessert beer to share with guests.

Fort is highly recommended by me as another superb offering, albeit it an extreme one, from Dogfish.

The Sky’s The Limit

February 22nd, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

The strength of some beers are scaling new heights

No sooner had Schorschbräu Schorschbock 40% claimed the title of World’s Strongest Beer, that BrewDog upped the ante once more. The Scottish brewery has launched BrewDog Sink the Bismarck (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 41.0), a quadruple IPA with an alcohol content of 41%! An IPA that’s twice the strength of Dogfish 120 Minute IPA is truly an ale to be reckoned with!

Of course you knew that I had to order it. Once I’ve received my order, and shared this latest heir to the throne with some brave souls, I’ll report back in a future post.

Making My Case

February 20th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Green Flash Imperial IPA makes a strong case

Another year, another Best Beers list. I decided to do a new slant on this year’s All-Time Favorites post, and create my dream case. The criteria is as follows:

a. Retired beers have been omitted. Ales such as DuClaw Repent, Blue Point No Apologies Imperial IPA, and Thomas Hardy’s Ale were among my favorites, but I want to list beers that are currently available to everyone.

b. Extreme beers, e.g. ABV of 20% or more, have been omitted as well. Samuel Adams Utopias and BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin have more in common with a liquor than a conventional beer.

c. I’ve limited the list to one beer per brewery. This not only prevents the list from getting too top heavy with certain breweries, e.g. St. Bernardus, DFH, Stone, etc., but also allows me to feature some excellent regional brews as well. Although one beer on this list, Life & Limb, is a collaboration between DFH & Sierra Nevada, it’s technically considered to be brewed from the latter and will be listed under that brewery.

And now, without further adieu, is my Ultimate Case, 2010 Edition:

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen; Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla; Bamberg, Germany; Rauchbier; ABV: 5.4. Brewed in the classic rauchbier tradition, this marzen has an incredible smoky nose and taste to match. The big hickory smoke bite reminds me of smoked bacon, sausage, etc., and there’s a hint of malt and light hops as well.

Anchor Old Foghorn; Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 8.8. An exceptional barley wine from Anchor Brewing. The toffee and sweet caramel malt is balanced by dark fruit, citrusy hops, & spices. This ale has the taste and feel of a classic English barley wine.

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock; Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying; Aying, Germany; Doppelbock; ABV: 6.7. This is an absolutely superb doppelbock. The rich malty taste is complimented by hints of sweet chocolate & spicy hops. Wunderbar!

Bell’s HopSlam Ale; Bell’s Brewery, Inc.; Kalamazoo, MI; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. An absolute hop bomb! The uber hoppy presence is well balanced by sweet malt and a taste of honey. Truly one of the best IPAs out there.

Brewer’s Art Ozzy Ale; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. A smooth & crisp tasting Belgian style ale. There’s a nice array of floral hops and Belgian spices, with a slight peppery finish at the end.

Brooklyn Black OPS; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0. A truly outstanding Russian Imperial stout from Brooklyn. A wonderfully complex mix of chocolate, roasted malt, and spices. Like a chocolate milkshake with a kick!

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Old Ale; ABV: 10.0. An excellent old ale from the outstanding brewery Cigar City. There’s a hint of tobacco up front, followed by an array of chocolate, caramel malt, sweet fruit, and cinnamon spices with a slightly bitter finish.

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA; Deschutes Brewery; Bend, OR; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.8. A big, bold hop bomb. The citrusy hops hit you up front, and are balanced by sweet caramel & a piney finish.

Dogfish Squall IPA; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. An unfiltered, bottle conditioned, and dry-hopped version of their 90 Minute IPA. The taste is bold and complex. There’s a gust of citrusy, piney, and spicy hops up front, complimented by sweet caramel and a malty presence at the end.

Green Flash Imperial IPA; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. Smooth, nutty, & spicy. A crisp citrusy burst up front, complimented by sweet malt and a piney hops finish. Another of the classic West Coast IPAs.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. A superior ale aged in a 16 year old whiskey cask. The hint of whiskey is complimented by chocolate, dark malt, and vanilla spices. Similar to an Imperial Porter, it’s very smooth and robust with an exceptional finish.

La Caracole Saxo; Brasserie Caracole; Farmignoul, Belgium; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. An incredibly smooth Belgian strong pale ale. The 8% ABV isn’t noticeable, and the sweet malt taste is complimented by citrusy hops, light fruit, and spices. Saxo finishes crisp and clean, and I could drink this ale all day.

New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale; New Belgium Brewing Inc.; Fort Collins, CO; Belgian Dark Ale; ABV: 5.5. While their excellent Fat Tire is better known, this is actually the best beer crafted by New Belgium. This would easily be my session beer if I could get it here in Florida. The nutty taste is well balanced by subtle hints of sweet caramel, roasted coffee, & cocoa chocolate.

Ommegang Ommegeddon; Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, NY; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 8.0. Another outstanding Belgian style ale from Ommegang. This saison is very crisp and refreshing. There’s a nice bite of tart and citrusy fruit up front, balanced by Brettanomyces yeast, sweet malt, and grassy hops with a clean dry finish.

Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; American Strong Ale; ABV: 9.5. While the alcohol is a bit more noticeable than their original Dead Guy Ale, it still compliments the sweet malt, caramel, & cascade hops to deliver a rich & smooth tasting beer. In short, as enjoyable as the original maibock, but more complex & certainly with more of a kick.

Russian River Pliny The Elder; Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. Another big & bold IPA with a surprisingly smooth taste. The grapefruit flavor up front highlights the array of citrusy hops, and is complimented by roasted malt & caramel. The finish is crisp & clean.

Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.0. The quintessential English porter. A creamy, coffee tasting beer balanced by hints of chocolate & malt.

Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Life & Limb; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 10.2. A collaboration between Dogfish and Sierra Nevada, it took a lot of effort to find this beer, but the hunt was definitely worth it! This is a very complex beer to say the least. I noticed a smoky, almost tobacco like taste up front, followed by chocolate, sweet molasses, dark fruit, and possibly a little vanilla as well. There’s even a woody feel to Life & Limb that reminds me of Dogfish’s own Palo Santo Marron, albeit a slightly lighter version.

Southern Tier Pumking; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 9.0. This pick surprised me, as I’m always singing the praises of their Southern Tier Unearthly (Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0). Pumking, however, is quite simply the best of the pumpkin ales and deserves to be on this list. It’s bold & spicy with a wonderful pumpkin taste from start to finish. There’s even a hint of pie crust in the flavor! For my hop-head moments, I would substitute this choice for Unearthly, which is quite possibly the best IPA around. A wonderful full bodied ale, the citrusy hops taste is well balanced by sweet malt. It’s very smooth for a hop bomb!

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 8.6. An absolutely outstanding Belgian strong ale. Brewed on a limited basis annually, Epic is both smooth and complex. The rich chocolate taste is complimented by roasted malt, vanilla, orange peel, and spices.

St. Bernardus Abt 12; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.5. A wonderfully complex balance of spices, ripe fruit, & sweet malt. The gold standard of Belgium quads, and one of the world’s best beers period.

Terminal Gravity IPA; Terminal Gravity Brewing Co.; Enterprise, OR; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.9. This IPA has a big reputation in the Northwest, and it’s well deserved. The big citrusy hops up front are complimented by hints of caramel & a sweet malt finish.

Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine; Three Floyds Brewing Co.; Munster, ID; Barley Wine; ABV: 12.5. An superb offering from the acclaimed Three Floyds Brewery. Behemoth has a sweet caramel taste up front, which is complimented by hints of tart fruit, raisins, roasted malt, and piny hops with a slightly bitter finish.

Tripel Karmeliet; Brouwerij Bosteels; Buggenhout, Belgium; Tripel; ABV: 8.4. An absolutely outstanding abbey ale. The taste is quite smooth, with a nice array of citrus fruit up front complimented by sweet malt. flowery hops, and spices.

Honorable Mention 6-Pack:

Boundary Bay Imperial IPA; Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro; Bellingham, WA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.5. This IPA is an absolute hop bomb, with the big Cascade hops taste well balanced by roasted malt & a piney finish.

BrewDog Dogma; BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Herbed / Spiced Beer; ABV: 7.8. A very crisp and drinkable beer. The taste is well balanced between the sweet malt, honey, kola nut, poppy seed, guarana, and spices with a nice clean finish. Its alcohol content of nearly 8% isn’t noticeable, so Dogma has the feel of a session beer.

DuClaw Devil’s Milk; DuClaw Brewing Co.; Bel Air, MD; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. A very potent barley wine. The sweet caramel malt is well balanced by dark fruit and citrusy hops.

Ellicott Mills Bock of the Bat; Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.; Ellicott Mills, MD; Maibock; ABV: 7.0. Brewed in the classic Alpenhof style of beer. An excellent bock with a roasted, malty taste balanced with dark fruit.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA; Ninkasi Brewing Co.; Eugene, OR; India Pale Ale; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.7. This is a crisp, smooth tasting IPA. The citrusy hops, particularly grapefruit, is noticable up front, and is well balanced by biscuity malt & a dry finish.

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY; Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.0. This is an excellent Russian imperial stout, with the rich milk chocolate taste complimented by coffee, dark fruit, and roasted malt. Ten FIDY packs a punch at 10% ABV, so it’s definitely a beer to be savored!

Nuclear Fallout

January 21st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 5 comments

Penguin may cause you to duck and cover

At a certain point, you begin to wonder what constitutes a beer. The strongest beer that I’ve had, that still tasted like a beer, was Dogfish 120 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 21.0). Albeit it was like their 90 Minute IPA on steroids. Prior to ordering Tactical Nuclear Penguin (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 32.0), the strongest beer that I’d sampled was Samuel Adams Utopias (Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0). This ale, which is still the strongest beer brewed in the U.S., tasted more like a brandy or cognac.

So I was really curious about Penguin. I tried it initially in a 2 oz. sniffer at home, then shared a bottle with my friends and bartenders at World of Beer last Sunday during the Cowboys-Vikings game. Their opinions ran the gauntlet, from “wonderfully complex” to “it tasted like paint thinner”!

Penguin is definitely an acquired taste, with a megaton of alcohol right from the start. It reminds me a lot of a Scotch whiskey, with underlying notes of caramel, licorice, and roasted malt with a smoky tobacco chaser. This is definitely the beer for scotch drinkers! I was somewhat overpowered by the initial tasting, but have tried it in 1 or 2 oz. samplings since opening the original bottle. Its complexity has started to grow on me.

No sooner had Penguin laid claim to being the World’s Strongest Beer, that a new contender to the throne has appeared. Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu, the brewer that dethroned Utopias last year with their Schorschbräu Schorschbock 31% (Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu; Gunsenhausen, Germany; Eisbock; ABV: 31.0), has reportedly put out another heavyweight called appropriately enough Schorschbräu Schorschbock 40% (Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu; Gunsenhausen, Germany; Eisbock; ABV: 40.0). And there was a rumor floating around on the web that an unnamed Belgian brewer was toying with the idea of brewing the world’s first 50% ABV beer. The art of brewing has turned into an arms race!

The Nuclear Option

December 27th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

This penguin packs quite a punch

This penguin packs quite a punch

You’ve got to hand it to the Scots. The land that brought us bagpipes, golf, Scotch whiskey, and 007 can now lay claim to brewing the world’s strongest beer. Tactical Nuclear Penguin (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 32.0) is the latest creation from BrewDog, and at 32% ABV, it has surpassed Germany’s Schorschbräu Schorschbock (31% ABV) and that perennial pacesetter, Samuel Adams Utopias (27% ABV).

BrewDog has put out a limited release of Penguin for {35 ($56.70 at the latest $1.62 currency exchange rate), and I ordered a couple of 330ml bottles. Once I receive my order, I’ll be doing a review of Penguin in a future post.