As Jeff Goldberg noted the other day, the Scottish brewery BrewDog recently debuted a 55 percent alcohol-by-volume beer, cheekily naming it The End of History—after Francis Fukuyama's famous book, of course—and declaring it the world's most alcoholic brew. And at $780 a bottle, it's among the world's most expensive. Oh, and it comes stuffed inside a squirrel or stoat. Oh, and the brewery's other beers have names like Punk Monk, Trashy Blonde, and How to Disappear Completely.
MORE ON BEER:
Clay Risen: "U.S. Beers in Europe"
Clay Risen: "The Death of Beer?"
Clay Risen: "Beer Mimics Wine"
It all sounds like a stunt. And it sort of is. But BrewDog isn't. Founded in 2007 by two 20-something friends, Martin Dickie and James Watt, it's already Scotland's largest independent brewery and easily one of the best in Europe. For such a young outfit, their beers are already widely available in the United States, probably because they ape the stylings of American craft breweries, turning out IPAs, barrel-aged stouts, and imperial ales.
Dickie and Watt, like Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione in Delaware, are priests in the temple of extreme beer. Last December, they decided to dip into their Scottish heritage and brew beers at whisky strength, upwards of 40 percent ABV. By chilling the beer to 70 below zero for three weeks in an ice cream factory, then skimming off the ice crystals (leaving behind the alcohol, which freezes at a lower temperature than water), they were able to slowly raise the alcohol content far above what normal brewing can achieve. The result was Tactical Nuclear Penguin, an imperial stout clocking in at 32 percent. They even made a funny little promo video. (Okay, it's funnier if you're kind of a beer geek, but my wife laughed. It might be the Scottish accents.)
What came next was a marketer's dream: a challenge from the Germans. A few months after BrewDog dropped Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Schorschbräu, a small brewery in central Germany known for producing ridiculously high-alcohol beers, released Schorschbock, a 40 percent ABV beer.