Remarkable People

Extreme beer - man's favourite drink suddenly gets much stronger

Extreme beer - man's favourite drink suddenly gets much stronger
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Georg Tscheuschner and his Schorschbocks
Georg Tscheuschner and his Schorschbocks
Tactical Nuclear Penguin
Tactical Nuclear Penguin
Try this with your average beer
Try this with your average beer
James and Martin and their "Sink the Bismark"
James and Martin and their "Sink the Bismark"
This is it folks - the world's strongest beer
This is it folks - the world's strongest beer
The second Schorschbrau Schorschbock
The second Schorschbrau Schorschbock
Samuel Adams' Utopias
Samuel Adams' Utopias
The delightfully mad Scotsmen from Brewdog
The delightfully mad Scotsmen from Brewdog
The beer that started beer's nuclear arms race
The beer that started beer's nuclear arms race
Alex Liberati's "Freeze the Penguin"
Alex Liberati's "Freeze the Penguin"
James launches "Freeze the Penguin" for Brewdog
James launches "Freeze the Penguin" for Brewdog
"Sink the Bismark"
"Sink the Bismark"
Web sites, magazines and newspapers - if using this image, please credit
Web sites, magazines and newspapers - if using this image, please credit
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Alcohol is the oldest and most commonly used of all recreational drugs, with annual sales exceeding USD 500 billion a year. Beer has been the world's most popular alcohol since well before the invention of the wheel.

Most of the world’s beer has between 4% and 6% Alcohol By Volume (ABV), and the strength of beer achieved by traditional fermentation brewing methods has limits, but a well crafted beer that is repeatedly “freeze distilled” can achieve exquisite qualities and much higher alcohol concentrations.

An escalation in the use of this relatively new methodology over the last 12 months has seen man's favorite beverage suddenly move into the 40+% ABV realm of spirits such as gin, rum, brandy, whiskey and vodka, creating a new category of extreme beer. A little more than twelve months ago, the world's strongest beer was 27% but due to an informal contest to claim the title of the world’s strongest beer, has suddenly jumped in strength dramatically and this week we spoke to the brewers at the centre of the escalating competition. New contestants are gathering, and the race is now on to break 50% alcohol by volume.

The astonishing aspect to these recent developments is the how quickly a new market can evolve after ten millennia of time-honored tradition. Hindsight is the only true 20-20 vision, and in retrospect, it’s just as surprising that it has taken so long for such a popular product to evolve into a new category.

Beer is the third most popular drink of all of the planet’s people, taking into account all cultures and geographies. Only water and tea are consumed in greater volumes. Amazingly, it still outsells coffee, the second most internationally traded raw commodity, behind oil.

Just when commercial brewing started is not clear, though it goes back to the very roots of civilization and appears to have been independently invented across many cultures in almost every part of the world. Remarkably, beer is perhaps twice as old as mankind’s most powerful enabling technology - the wheel. Beer, and its cousin, bread, were fundamental to the development of civilization and by virtue of the development of basic machinery to grind grain for the production of both bread and beer, may have even contributed to the evolution of the wheel.

Religion and Beer

This 5000 year old Babylonian tablet is part of a series of tablets that account for an order of 134,813 liters of barley to be delivered to the brewery at the temple of Inanna in Uruk. It is inscribed with the recipe for brewing beer.

The ability of ancient peoples to see far more into the intoxicating powers of alcohol than might be good for them can be seen from the number of civilisations which appointed themselves a God of Beer, beginning an entwinement between religion and alcohol as a sacrament and lucrative income stream that has lasted to this day.

Almost all ancient civilizations which had Gods, had a God of Beer. In Ancient Baltic and Slavic mythology, Raugupatis was the God of fermentation and his partner Raugutiene was the Goddess of beer.

Perhaps even more enlightening as to the many societal roles played by alcohol in general and beer in particular are the dual portfolios many of these Gods held.

The ancient Sumerians (now Southern Iraq) worshiped a Goddess of beer and brewing named Ninkasi. The ancient prayer known as "The Hymn to Ninkasi" offered both homage to the Goddess and a method of remembering the recipe for beer – quite useful in a society where literacy was uncommon. Ninkasi had several other powers to "satisfy the desire" and "sate the heart."

Many brewers in ancient times were women, often priestesses, as alcohol was often of far more ceremonial and sacramental importance in those days than it is today.

The Ancient Egyptian God of agriculture was Osiris who was also known as the God of Beer. In Norse mythology, the God of the sea was Aegir who was also the God of beer and brewing. In the Aztec culture, the God of Pulque (a traditional alcoholic beverage similar to beer) was Tezcatzontecatl who was also associated with drunkenness and fertility, much as beer appears to have been throughout our most esteemed learning institutions as long as they have existed.

The connection between beer, fertility, and matters of the heart appears to be a universal one. In Zulu mythology, the Goddess of beer was Mbaba Mwana Waresa also known as the Goddess of rain and the rainbow and celebrated for her search for true love.

Beer is mentioned in the recorded histories of almost all ancient civilizations, including Ancient Iraq and Mesopotamia. It was part of the daily diet of Egyptian Pharaohs. Chinese civilizations were brewing a beer-like substance known as kui some 7000 years ago. The Ebla tablets reveal that the city Ebla produced a range of beers in 2,500 BC, and Babylonia instituted laws governing tavern keepers in 2,100 BC.

In some African cultures, the Goddess of Beer is known as Yasigi, also known as the Goddess of Dance and Masks. Her statue portrays her as large-breasted female holding a beer ladle while dancing. In the Czech mythology, Radegast is credited with the creation of beer, entitling him to become the God of Hospitality and Mutuality. The ancients choice of ministerial portfolios in the heavens indicate a long standing recognition of beer’s ability to lubricate social intercourse and unmask true feelings.

One of the first currencies

So fundamental was the role and relationship between grain, bread and beer, that the early Mesopotamia used a weight of barley as its first currency, bringing new meaning to the phrase, “drinking away the family fortune.”

Alcohol has often been an important part of the remuneration of armies throughout history, from ancient times until relatively recently.

Indeed, the more you research beer, the more you see how it has been core to the development of civilization. From wikipedia "it is likely that beer-like beverages were independently invented among various cultures throughout the world. The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity's ability to develop technology and build civilisation."

The Beer Industry is massive

However long it has been going, beer has become a massive global industry. Humans will drink more than 150 billion liters of beer in 2008, spending USD $500 billion on their favourite recreational drug, providing massive profits to the companies that manufacture it, and a large slice of the revenues of almost all Governments through excises, duties and taxes.

Due to the limitations of transport, freshness and production quantities, for many centuries, breweries serviced a small area, enabling many breweries to develop exquisite skills.

The Fall And Rise Of The Boutique Brewery

When motorized transportation came along, and mass production came into vogue with the industrial revolution, beer’s popularity slowly saw it become enslaved by many of the efficiencies of commerce, with acquisitions and effective marketing creating giant brewing companies. One company, Anheuser-Busch, now brews a quarter of all beer consumed globally. Distribution channels have made beer a convenient purchase too – supermarkets and hypermarkets supply 40% of the global beer market's volume to consumers.

The trends of the last few hundred years appear to be turning though. In the most sophisticated beer markets, boutique breweries created by artisan craftsmen are springing up and furthering the art of brewing at an unprecedented rate, using experimentation and science to rapidly craft new drinking experiences and it is the rise of new boutique breweries that has created the new beer category of extreme beers.

The alcoholic strength of beer is usually between 4% and 7% alcohol by volume, thanks to the limitations of the traditional fermentation method.

The Coming of Extreme Beer

For future generations studying the history of beer, history seems to have nicely compartmentalized the emergence of extreme beer into a single decade. In the first decade of the new millennium, the extreme beer category blossomed from the decision by Samuel Adams' head brewer Jim Koch to create a brew to be known as Millennium Ale.

Despite numerous other services to the beer drinkers of America and the world, Koch will forever be seen as the creator of the segment . Koch created Samuel Adams Triple Bock in 1994. At 17 percent alcohol by volume, it set the stage for future exploration in what was to become the extreme beer category. Triple Bock was followed by the commemorative Samuel Adams Millennium, a single release brew made in 1999 for obvious purposes, and it contained 21% ABV.

It was the first extreme beer – the first to broach the 20% ABV content barrier, and its presence and the promotional value of the brew and its offspring, Utopias, created the category and set the stage for what was to happen a decade later using the Eisbock method of freeze distillation – the beer market’s equivalent to the nuclear arms race.

Samuel Adams Utopias

In 2002, the first batch of Samuel Adams Utopias was introduced, with an ABV of 24 percent. Utopias was brewed again in 2003, 2005 and 2007 when Jim continued to push for more complexity and strength, producing brews with 24, then 25 then 27% ABV in 2007.

Since 2002, Samuel Adams Utopias has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the strongest naturally brewed beer in the world.

Considering it is the product of a major, internationally-recognized brewery, the production quantities of Utopias brews have been miniscule. Initially, only 8,000 twenty-four-ounce bottles of Utopias were produced in all, with an unprecedented price for a beer of USD$100 a bottle.

Even subsequent productions have been small. Just 12,000 bottles were produced for the 2007 holiday season and 53 barrels (approximately 9,000 bottles) were released in November 2009, at a suggested retail price of USD$150.

Samuel Adams founder and head brewer, Jim Koch says of Utopias, “As brewers, we continue to challenge ourselves to experiment and explore new flavors and brewing techniques in the Barrel Room year after year, and what continues to energize us is that our beer quest hasn’t changed.

“It’s my life’s work to elevate people’s thinking about beer and to push the boundaries of traditional brewing in order to offer beer lovers an inspired drinking experience. Today, Utopias is our best example of that quest.”

Samuel Adams Utopias is now brewed with several different strains of yeast, including a variety typically reserved for champagne. A blend of two-row Caramel and Munich malts gives the beer its rich ruby-black color and the blend of three kinds of Noble hops; Spalt Spalter, Hallertau Mittelfrueh, and Tettnang Tettnanger give the beer its floral character and spicy note.

The 2009 batch of Samuel Adams Utopias is a blend of liquids, some of which have been aged in a variety of woods, including Scotch whiskey barrels in the Barrel Room at the Boston Brewery for up to 16 years. This longer aging gives the 2009 batch of Utopias a level of complexity not seen in earlier releases.

A portion of the beer was also aged in hand-selected, single-use bourbon casks from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The extended aging process enhances the distinct cinnamon, vanilla, and maple notes in the beer's flavor. The batch was finished in sherry casks from Spain and muscatel and port casks from Portugal. The sherry casks add nutty, oak, and honey notes, while the muscatel and port casks contribute slightly more elegant, dark fruit aromas and flavors.

The limited-edition 2009 batch of Samuel Adams Utopias was bottled in numbered, ceramic brew kettle shaped decanters. The small batch release comes from just 53 barrels all brewed, blended and aged at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston.

Utopias is far more similar to brandy, sherry, cognac or port than to traditional beers.

The Eisbock method

The Eisbock method of beer production has been claimed as the invention of both Canada and Germany. The Kulmbacher Brewery in Germany claims the method as its invention in its packaging, and though we are in no position to adjudicate, if anyone can shed light on the origins of the ice distillation method of beer production in the comments section for this article, we’d be more than happy to update the article.

Despite the vagaries of all legend, there seems to be some consistency that the Eisbock method was accidentally discovered around a century ago when an apprentice forgot to stow two barrels of bock beer into their normal home in a brewery cellar in the midst of winter. The barrels stayed outside, froze, and burst. When discovered, the only liquid that remained was a bock beer extract at the centre of the ice which was much stronger and tastier.

The Eisbock process is far more refined these days, but relies on principles we all learned long ago in chemistry 101. The freezing point of alcohol is lower than the freezing point of water, so by lowering the temperature of the beer to between the two freezing points, it’s possible to remove the ice and hence remove the water, distilling or enriching the alcoholic content and the flavour of what remains.

Schorschbräu – three time record holder

The three time holder of the record for the world’s strongest beer, Georg Tscheuschner began the Schorschbräu brewery in 1996 in the traditional beer-brewing area of Franconia in Northern Bavaria. When Rome's Legions got to this region in 200 BC they regularly found the locals brewing beer in metal urns up to 500 litres in size. Brewing beer has a long history in the area and Georg is now furthering the legend, intending to make it the home of the world’s strongest beers.Tscheuschner began brewing high alcohol beers some years prior to 2005, but it was with the release that year of his Thunderboch and Thunderwheat Lagers, both 16% by alcohol and both the strongest of their types in the world, that he realized the power of such a title.

In 2008, Georg was invited by a German TV show, as the brewer of the world’s strongest beers, to compete against a Berlin brewery in a contest to create the strongest beer. He refused the offer because the contest was framed with Schorschbräu using its normal fermentation methodology, while the Berlin brewery was to use the Eisboch method. “It was like asking me to race a bicycle against a motorcycle”, said Tscheuschner, “but it got me thinking and woke up my interest in the methodology.” He began experimenting with it and quickly recognized its potential for creating a new drinking experience.

“There are two sides to Eisbock for me”, says Tscheuschner.

“By increasing the alcohol to record levels, a lot of beer buyers know my name that didn't know me before and many more people now buy my other beers. It's good for business because you get a lot of publicity”

“The other side is that you can create a very different experience for the beer drinker using only malt, hops, yeast and water. The process increases many of the flavors and depending on the beer you start out with, which might contain say a 100% smoked malt or more hop, you can create some wonderful aspects to this beer. It’s an authentic way of creating new flavors and delivering a new experience to the beer drinker.

After experimenting, Tscheuschner released his first world record breaker, the first Schorschbräu Schorschbock, in February 2009, creating what was unquestionably the strongest beer in 10,000 years of beer production. It was to be a record he would hold for just nine months, as other brewers around Europe were also experimenting with the Eisbock method and by claiming the record, Georg had unwittingly created a target for these other Eisbock beer makers.

Brewdog fires up the Tactical Nuclear Penguin

One brewery which set its sights on Georg’s record was the Scottish brewery of Brewdog. Run by brewers, James Watt and Martin Dickie, Brewdog is NOT your conventional staid and traditional brewery.

BrewDog was founded in 2006 by friends James Watt and Martin Dickie and produced its first brew in April 2007 from a modest brewery on the Kessock Industrial Estate in Fraserburgh, Scotland. Brewdog, moreso than any other brewery in history, likes to challenge conventional thinking.

From the outset the quality of its beers was extremely high, and has subsequently won the company many awards. Producing brews with names such as "Trashy Blonde" "5am Saint" and "Punk IPA", Brewdog’s irreverence garnered much support from the youth market, and sent sales skyrocketing, but its unconventional and challenging marketing and promotional activities raised hackles amongst the establishment and has more than once landed the company in court.

In 2008 BrewDog was challenged by UK drinks industry watchdog the Portman Group which claimed BrewDog to be in breach of their Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks.

BrewDog denied these allegations and countered that Portman was impeding the development of smaller brewing companies. After an 8 month long dispute and a preliminary adjudication which had ruled against the company, in December 2008 BrewDog were cleared of all breaches of the Code of Practice and were permitted to continue marketing their brands without making any changes to the packaging.

A prime example of the eccentric humour of the Brewdog crew was when "Alcohol Focus Scotland" a Government initiative tasked with encouraging responsible alcohol consumption, criticised the brewery's 18.2% alcohol "Tokyo" beer, which according to company publicity, is named after the WWII bombing of Tokyo. Brewdog’s response was to create a low alcohol beer and market it as "Nanny State"

Brewdog took such delight in winding up "Alcohol Focus Scotland" that when the agency was approached for comment on Brewdog’s latest escapades by no less than the BBC, it issued the statement "Over the past few months BrewDog have continued to produce stronger and stronger beers. By commenting on this irresponsible brewing practice we only serve to add to their marketing and therefore we have no further comment to make."

Brewdog saw the title as the world’s strongest beer as a challenge it could not refuse and brewed its first world record holder, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, just six months ago, in November 2009. The beer was named for “the amount of time it spent exposed to extreme cold.”

In announcing the achievement, it could not help but give another backhander to Alcohol Awareness groups, writing: “Beer has a terrible reputation in Britain, it’s ignorant to assume that a beer can’t be enjoyed responsibly like a nice dram or a glass of fine wine. A beer like Tactical Nuclear Penguin should be enjoyed in spirit sized measures. It pairs fantastically with vanilla bean white chocolate … it really brings out the complexity of the beer and complements the powerful, smoky and cocoa flavours.”

In typical BrewDog style, the beer comes packed not in an elaborate box or case, as had previous record holders from the United States and Germany, but a brown paper bag with a hand-drawn penguin on it.

A warning on the label states: “This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”

Its press release was clear: “This beer is about pushing the boundaries, it is about taking innovation in beer to a whole new level. It is about achieving something which has never before been done and putting Scotland firmly on the map for progressive, craft beers.

“This beer is bold, irreverent and uncompromising. A beer with a soul and a purpose. A statement of intent. A modern day rebellion for the craft beer proletariat in our struggle to over throw the faceless bourgeoisie oppression of corporate, soulless beer.’

When I asked Martin (by email) if I could confidently write that his beer was definitely the strongest beer every created, he sent me this response: “Yes, I am sure you can, and here’s a note on the history of beer from one of our bottles ...”

“10,000 years ago, a mystical and enchanting beverage was discovered. It was a nourishing foodstuff that played a pivotal role in many great ancient civilizations.

“Today, in this hectic, monopolized, grey world we live in there is no longer magic to be found in this bland, mass produced, cheaply sourced and watered down concoction.

“At BrewDog we believe that the magic is still there to be extracted from this drink. All that is needed is the reintroduction of passion, love, care, and the highest quality ingredients. Everyone who shares in BrewDog's vision will be able to escape from the monotony of modern day life and rediscover the zest, sparkle and spectrum of joys provided by nature and her wares that make life worth living.”

James signs his emails, “Emperor Penguin.”

Tactical Nuclear Penguin began life as a 10% imperial stout in June 2008. The beer was aged for eight months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask and eight months in an Islay cask making it the company’s first double cask aged beer. After an intense 16 months, the final stages saw the beer stored at -20 degrees in an icecream factory for three weeks. As the beer got colder, BrewDog Chief Engineer, Steven Sutherland decanted the beer periodically, leaving only ice in the container, creating more intensity of flavors and a stronger concentration of alcohol for the next phase of freezing. The process was repeated until it reached 32%.

Of the 500 330ml bottles created by the process, 250 were made available at GBP35 with a further 250 available for GBP250. The latter bottles included a share in the BrewDog company as part of its ‘Equity for Punks’ fund raising campaign. The offer was oversubscribed and over 1300 people invested, raising GBP642,000 so the company could build a new eco-friendly, carbon-neutral brewery in Aberdeen.

Given the publicity created by the new record and its “Equity for Punks” program, Brewdog enjoyed much higher national visibility in the UK, later noting on its blog, “2010 has got off to a great start for us with sales up over 250% from 2009."

Revelation Cat Craft attempts to Freeze the Penguin

The challenge and no doubt publicity created by the Schorschbräu Schorschbock and release of Brewdog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin quickly precipitated an immediate record attempt from entrepreneur Alex Liberati, owner of Italian brewers Revelation Cat Craft Brewing, working with ultra-high tech Belgian Brewery De Proefbrouwerij and the internationally acclaimed brewer/scientist Dirk Naudts, (aka “the Prof”), produced a beer with 35% alcohol, appropriately naming it "Freeze the Penguin".

According to internationally acclaimed beer site Ratebeer, Revelation Cat’s “Freeze the Penguin” is “an Ice Roasted Barleywine which has been obtained by a blend of a strong barleywine and an Imperial Stout, then the blend has been freezed and the ice extracted.”

Schorschbräu Schorschbock jumps to 40% ABV

Sadly for the entrepreneur Alex Liberati, who runs the famous Brasserie 4:20 in Rome, Georg Tscheuschner had anticipated his record would be broken, and retaliated immediately, upping the record to 39.44% within weeks of Brewdog’s announcment and putting the Revelation Cat brew out of the running for the record before it was released.

The strongest beer in history had a 27% alcohol content in January 2009. By December, the record had risen to nearly 40% alcohol by volume - a 50% rise in potency in 12 months, despite 10,000 years of history.

Brewdog attempts to Sink the Bismark

So Brewdog went straight back to the icecream factory, this time producing a beer named Sink the Bismark with 41% alcohol, effectively declaring war in the battle for the world title of the world’s strongest beer.

For those unfamiliar with history, the Bismark was the biggest warship in history when it was launched by Germany during WWII. In its first encounter, it sank the pride of Britain's fleet, HMS Hood. In response, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proclaimed Great Britain would "Sink the Bismark" as a matter of national pride, and this was achieved in short order following a relentless pursuit.

To say the publicity surrounding Sink the Bismark was highly irreverent is an understatement. Watch the video

Remarkably, the record had gone from 31% ABV to 41ABV in just three months.

Schorschbräu reclaims the record with 43% ABV

Creating a beer of such potency is not easy, and the initial skirmishes of the battle for the world’s most extreme beer saw everyone go back to the brewing room to prepare for the next round, which began again this week with the announcement by Schorschbräu of a 43% ABV version of its Schorschbräu Schorschbock, the third consecutive world record for the brewery.

As Georg Tscheuschner explained to us, the record is now so high, that furthering it will involve an enormous investment in time and resources. One of the major problems with creating Eisbock beers, is that they require intense amounts of labor and care, and they consume vast amounts of raw ingredients. To create an Eisboch beer, you need at least ten times more beer to start with because, as rule of thumb, one litre of Eisboch consumes at least ten liters of base beer.

“To create the 43% beer, I had to filter around 15 times”, said Tscheuschner. “I actually lost count, but I think it was 15 times. You end up with only 50 litres from the 800-1000 liters that you started with. You need to do a lot more filtering to get a beer from 32% to 43% alcohol because whereas in the first filtering (of the ice), you might add say 5 or six percent ABV, but towards the end of the filtering process, it's maybe even less than 1% additional ABV for each filter. Towards the end it becomes very difficult.”

“The beer needs to see you every day”, he says.

“You cannot leave it for three or four days like a normal beer. The crystals must be just the right size – not too big and not too small so that they can flow through the filter.

“It's a lot of work and it makes the beer very expensive to produce, so even at EUR 99 a bottle, I won't earn much money for all the time and effort put in to create maybe 50 liters from 800 or 1000 liters.

“So it might yield only 100 bottles from a batch if we go any higher,” he says.

He’s also of no doubt that the competition is far from over, and is currently brewing in preparation to counter what he anticipates will be Brewdog’s next effort, and the likely joining of the competition from other sources.

“Rumour has it that the Belgians are preparing to join our competition”, he says with undisguised glee.

“Like any other form of competition, I welcome the best competition, because you cannot be the best in the world until everyone has competed … and I’ll be far more comfortable with multiple nationalities involved.

“In essence, I don't want to continue with the war theme. I don't think Martin and James realize that I cannot go down that path with them, so I was very pleased to see Italy get involved in the contest (a reference to Revelation Cat), and I am looking forward to seeing other nationalities involved as well.

"Both Brewdog and Revelation Cat have used Belgian-based beers in their best efforts, and as I said, I believe that there's a Belgian brewery preparing a challenge at the moment. I can't wait to see what they come up with. They should be very good as for a long time there were laws forbidding distilled alcohol in Belgium, so they brewed very strong beers to compensate. That could give them an advantage when it comes to the Eisbock method.

“So I'll be much more comfortable being part of an international competition than continuing the British versus Germany war theme. Bring on the competition by all means, but please understand it is not considered good manners for a German to joke about war. I sincerely hope that this can be a contest in respectful good humour.”

In the meantime, awaiting the hoped introduction of a new international theme, the latest message on the Schorschbräu website says "Schorschbock 43% Vol., 'cause Frankonian Men don't dress like girls."

One of the most interesting aspects of the forthcoming ABV proliferation will where the limits might be. We asked Georg his thoughts on the matter.

“Going higher will take everybody into new territory again”, says Georg.

“ I don’t think 45% is the limit for alcohol content, though I suspect that once we get to 50% we may begin to find issues with the drinkability and taste – it's uncharted territory. I am confident we can get to 50% with all the right qualities. After that, we'll see. Also if we go much higher, we might be getting only 40 to 60 bottles from an entire batch. It's not about the money – like people chasing any record, I just want to see what the limit can be.”

“I don't want to start using unnatural brewing methods to obtain a better beer. Martin and James at Brewdog are now starting to do hop freezing and dry hopping but I don't want to do that. That isn't the original product in my opinion, and I don't want to do that. I think if you put hops in afterwards, it's a different type of product. Also, when you keep concentrating the beer, they can get very salty. I will not change the product once it is in process, but everyone has the right to do what they want to do with their process.”

"Have you tasted Brewdog's beers?", I ask.

"Yes, I have tasted the Brewdog 32% and 41 % also. The 32% was for me very aromatic and very good. The 41% was for me too hoppy – very good, but four times the hops was too hoppy. The 32% was excellent though. I have not been able to try the Revelation Cat beer yet."

"They all seem to work well with the Belgians though. Mikkeller, Revelation Cat and Brewdog all seem to work a little better with Belgian breweries, so maybe we should change the contest to a Franconian v Belgian contest."

One of the things I noticed in speaking with Georg was the obvious respect with which he spoke of Brewdog. His mentions of Martin and James frame them almost as friends, so I ask him if he knows them. “We met doing an interview on the BBC and I respect what they are doing as brewers and I like them. The brewing world is a boring enough and they are good for the beer industry. They are funny and their humour is good natured and like Monty Python. I have really laughed a lot about some of the things they have done.”

My final email to the Emperor Penguin enquires, “as you're no doubt aware Schorschbräu decided to have another crack at the record, and have upped it to 43%. Will you attempt to get the record back?

His response: “Maybe, maybe not. Watch this space......."

Putting the demon drink in perspective

“Here's to alcohol, the cause of and solution to our problems”, said one of our favourite modern day soothsayers, TV character Homer Simpson. There’s many a true word said in jest, and Homer certainly captured both sides of the demon drink. For all the joy and celebration it fuels, and the day to day problems it has been masking for 10,000 years, it certainly creates quite a few issues in its own right.

The creation of an extreme beer category does not of itself create social and health problems – in terms of alcohol content, extreme beers contain no more alcohol than the previously mentioned gin, rum, brandy, whisky and vodka, all of which can be readily procured in greater strengths, at much less cost.

The enabler of the new category is technology, which just happens to be creating new and better user experiences in almost every other consumer product category known to man. The last few decades have seen man’s knowledge and understanding blossom on all fronts. New thought and massively improved education across the globe has brought many benefits and it is the firm belief here at Gizmag that the only sure fire solution to man’s many problems is education.

Accordingly, it would be remiss not to point out that alcohol is indeed, one the greatest causes of mankind's many problems. According to the World Health Organisation's Global Status Report on Alcohol, alcohol exacts a toll on world health on a par with measles and malaria, and greater than tobacco. Men suffer the bulk of direct consequences of drinking, while women are the primary sufferers of such indirect effects as domestic violence, abandonment and household poverty.

Finally, as an aside to this subject which the beer drinkers of America might find of interest,the Obama Administration is looking to prevent another financial crisis by regulating the derivatives market. This may have some dire consequences for the price of man's favourite recreational drug.

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Craig Jennings
God........reading all of that leaves a man with a thirst.... thankfully I brew my own 4.75% out back so will go and enjoy that and leave the stratospheric numbers to those with the know
Vladimir Popov
Useless beer competition , nothing is better than normal 4-5% beer.
A tour de force of beer de force. Nice one Mike!
I love a glass of English Bitter,followed by more of course, I cannot see why these extra strong beers have any place in social drinking,,,,,,,, comatose and drunk would be me after a session on 40%
First thanks for such a detailed article, so much better than the detail free bad PR\'s you usually put up.
Beer is the cause of civilization as by brewing it, it increased the food value of the rasther poor food quality grain by 100% sprouting it to be pounded into flour, called double baked bread in the bible, then fermenting it doubled it\'s food value again.
This meant the grain could now feed 4 people instead of 1 leaving 3 to do other things that gathering/making food.
That said ahcohol is the most dangerous drug by far and should be replaced by pot which is far less dangerous and doesn\'t cause fights, ect and one wakes refreshed instead of hung over.
Bill D'Arcy
Kinda wish I still drank this looks like a new sport.
Hugo Wray
One for the boys!!!!
You should add in some history on \"Apple Jack.\" Thanks to Johnny Appleseed, hard cider was the alcoholic brew of choice in pioneer America. Add cold weather to freeze out some of the water, and you can jack up the alcohol limit near 40% ABV.
Adam Blanchard
\"Useless beer competition , nothing is better than normal 4-5% beer.\"
\"I love a glass of English Bitter,followed by more of course, I cannot see why these extra strong beers have any place in social drinking,,,,,,,, comatose and drunk would be me after a session on 40%\"
You guys are missing the point. Didn\'t you read that it\'s more similar to cognac or port than traditional beer? This is something that you order neat in a tumbler or snifter and enjoy slowly, rather than down a pint. You can\'t compare this to traditionally having a beer. It\'s not supposed to be the same type of experience. It\'s a new classification of spirit with an unfortunate name.
as a now old alchemist, i am amused by this article. as a 20something postdoc chem/phys instructor, had friendly challenge on making best tasting brew with highest alcohol %vol/vol and wt/wt. dpl/dplganged , our best taste voted at about 19%. in ca at the time i think legal on-sale without liquor lic was about 3.2, in 1950\'s. most of us , ex-gis\', had \"tasted\" in many parts of world, and generally rated \"our\" brews superior to regular comm\'l stuff in usa. coors, @ golden, colo , a. busch, st louis, and some smaller usa brewers had \"creations\" in testing that had much higher alc%.. over the last 1/2 century, i have participated in the freezing processes, with many scientists and some family brewers , with experience handed down from cave dwellers. cave folks had no heat, but produced mighty strong ales. at 50%, really lose some important natural flavors, hard to add back. i bot some vintage ale in 25- oz wire corked, at about 9% from trader joe\'s last winter, excellent, have a few bottles remaining, refrigerated and not. think i\'ll go try one at room temp, all in the name of science, of course.
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