With a name like Tactical Nuclear Penguin, I of course had to try it. This ridiculously strong stout by Scottish Brewery BrewDog packs a wallop at 36%ABV! Did I enjoy it? Well it’s more like I survived to tell the tale.
Back in my early college years, one of the bands I played in had a show at the local dive bar. Young, naive, pre-beer snob Cris ordered a light lager of some sort. My bassist looked at me in discuss and told us to come outside. In the back parking lot of this tiny dive bar complete with dead rat carcasses, my buddy took out an intimidating looking bottle with the title “Tactical Nuclear Penguin.” Needless to say I was intrigued. “Now this is a beer!” he proclaimed as we each took a swig. Imagine if you will taking a healthy swig from a beer bottle only to discover the liquid burned like straight whiskey! I immediately regretted it. Of course we finished the bottle. Some might say it wasn’t our best show but I remember us sounding fantastic!
BrewDog upped the ante on this monstrosity by creating Sink the Bismarck, a Triple IPA with 41%ABV. There were a few other super alcoholic offerings by various breweries throughout the years but they were all left in the dust by another Scottish brewery, Brewmeister, when they released their Armageddon, a 65%ABV eisbock. Not content with that, Brewmeister still holds the record for the world’s strongest beer with their uncanny Snake Venom Malt Liquor which is treated like an eisbock but brewed with both ale and champagne yeasts. According to them it tastes like a beer rather than a spirit but at $81 a bottle, I’ll take their word for it.
Simply put, an Eisbock (ice beer) is created by freezing the beer to a specific temperature during the brewing process which separates and removes the water from the alcohol allowing for a stronger brew. The champagne yeast is used in Snake Venom due to it’s higher alcohol tolerance. That combined with the freezing process allowed to create this face destroyer.
So why do this at all? Good question. I enjoy a good buzz like anyone else but I also like having a functioning liver. I’ve heard that Sam Adams 29% Utopias strong ale is delicious but at $200 a bottle, I’ll just have to imagine. The highest ABV beer I’ve actually enjoyed would have to be the Dogfish Head 120 minute imperial IPA (one of my favorites). I’m realizing that at only 20%ABV this beer actually looks tiny in comparison!
Are the BrewDog and Brewmeister offerings worth the money? Are they good beers? Are they even technically beers at this point? Or are these Scottish breweries just measuring what’s under their kilts?