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World's Strongest Beers

by: BeerAdvocate on 03-19-2003
Modern day brewers are constantly pushing or, rather, creating anew the boundaries of brewing, often times brewing beers that defy mainstream beer styles and/or looking at other alcoholic beverages for inspiration. Strong beers are just one of the many byproducts of this highly creative and artisanal approach to brewing. They span from beers that are more like premium liquors to an exaggeration of style to something completely new and off the map. Price-wise, you can expect anything from under $10 for a small bottle to literally hundreds of dollars for some presented in elaborate vessels.

The processes involved to create such beers aren't simple either. Brewers spend a lot of research time, money and trial and error to cultivate their super yeast strains that can survive the high-alcohol brewing environment and produce well-attenuated beers. They are often designed with the idea that they'll be aged for many years, like wine, but often treated as a port, scotch, brandy, etc., and poured into snifter-style glassware.

Here's a brief look at some of the world's strongest alcohol by volume (ABV) beers.

Sam Adams Utopias MMII & Samuel Adams Millennium
Brewed by the Boston Beer Co., Utopias currently holds the record as the strongest beer in the world. It weighs in at 24 percent ABV and is limited to 3,000 bottles that looked like mini, old-school, copper brewing kettles. The beer was brewed with a slew of malts, hops and maple syrup, then aged in port, scotch and cognac barrels.

Millennium was produced to celebrate the year 2000 and is the predecessor to Utopias. It weighed in at 21 percent ABV, was limited to only 3,000 bottles, came in a wine-like sleeve and rested in a wooden box. Jim Koch (founder) also signed each bottle, and the first bottle was auctioned on eBay for $4,910. You'll find common flavors of buttery caramel, toffee, light cocoa, maple syrup, big vanilla and an oaky middle, not to mention a spicy alcohol character and a thick consistency.

We've actually heard of people finding both beers, quite recently actually. If you're so lucky, expect to pay at least $100 for the Utopias and at least $200 for the Millennium.

World Wide Stout
Prior to the 2002 vintage batch, this brew from Delaware's Dogfish Head Craft Brewery reached 18 percent ABV. But the 2002 hit the shelves at 23.04 percent ABV, making it the second strongest beer in the world, and it is the strongest stout in the world as well. It's fermented using six different strains of yeast for seven months, and then aged for a half year. It is released November 1 of each year in 12 oz. bottles that retail for around $10. Super creamy, extremely prominent alcohol character, hints of chocolate, charcoal (barrel pitch) and bourbon in a woody vanilla way.

Raison d'Extra
The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery pushed the envelope again with its 20 percent ABV version of its Raison d'Etre, which was brewed with beet sugar, green raisins and Belgian yeast. Big, sweet and malty with dominate raisin and molasses flavors as well as a balanced yet kickin' alcohol feel. Very limited run, but word on the street is that you will pay anywhere from $13 to $15 a 750ml bottle.

Sam Adams Triple Bock
This was one of the Boston Beer Co.'s first experimental strong beers. Even the brewers hadn't a clue how it would turnout, but they meant it to be laid down like a fine wine. First brewed in 1991, but not released until 1994, the first batch boasted a 17.5 percent ABV, making it the strongest of its day (up until 1999). Future releases came out in both 1995 and 1997. All were presented in 8.45 oz. dark blue bottles with a cork and were brewed with maple syrup and aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels. A very intense beer with notes of oak, maple, molasses and caramelized sugars, all smoothed in alcohol – many complain of a soy sauce-like flavor. You can still find SATB for around $5 a bottle.

Olde School
This is yet another "kick-you-in-the-pants" beer from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, the strongest bottle-conditioned beer in the world at 15 percent ABV. Be warned, it's so damn complex that the alcohol becomes very deceiving and almost too easy to drink. It's brewed with dates, figs and the same yeast used to ferment the brewery's World Wide Stout. Big maltiness laced with ripe fruit and earthy yeast, hidden alcohol, twang of fruitiness and a little buttery with hops dropping a spike of bitterness. Expect to pay around $10 for a 25 oz. bottle.

Perhaps the strongest beer produced in France, from the Brasseries Jeanne d'Arc SA. When it was first brewed, it towered at 15 percent ABV with its all malt profile and near sherrylike flavors. Very fat and chewy, spicy sweet alcohol, some fruitiness and hop bitterness, and candied orange and raisins with hop leaf flavors. The latest version sadly weighs in at only 13 percent ABV; it still has the strength but not the same evil that the name touts. Be careful of this one. It's still a heady beer. You'll drop about $4 for a 25 cl. bottle.

Samichlaus Bier
Hailing from the Brewery Castle Eggenberg in Austria, this is the heavy weight of lagers … the strongest lager in the world at 14 percent ABV. This beer was recently on hiatus while it switched breweries; but, thankfully, due to a mad uproar of beer enthusiasts, the brand has made a comeback. Syrupy with alcohol soaked raisins is the most popular way to describe this beer. Brewed each year for … you guessed it, Christmas. Goes for around $5 for a 33 cl. bottle.

Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock
This is the condensed version of Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH's Avetinus Wheat Doppelbock which, through a traditional German brewing process, has enough water removed from its former self (8 percent ABV) to make it reach 13 percent ABV. Spicy and phenolic with an alcohol doused banana bread flavor and lots of residual sweetness from the condensation of the original beer. Drop around $5 for an 11.2 oz. bottle.

Respect beer (especially strong beers).

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