BrewDog – The End of History

Tactical Nuclear Penguin is the funny, and fitting name given to a BrewDog offering which sports an amazingly high alcohol level of 32%. That’s one of the strongest commercial beers made. But it’s not alone.

Schorschbräu, a German brewery which claims to be “Home of the Strongest Beers on Earth” is notorious for producing such brain numbing potions as Schorschbock 31, Schorschbock 40, released after “Tactical Nuclear Penguin,” and Schorschbock 43, which they released in response to BrewDog’s “Sink the Bismarck,” a buzz bomb weighing 41%. It appears that BrewDog has taken their title again.

100723-brewdog-beer-hmed-140agrid-6x2On July 22, 2010, BrewDog, Scotland’s largest independent brewery, announced “The End of History,” a 12 bottle run which sold out within days. The biggest beer ever made settled the score at 55% alcohol. Will Schorschbräu respond with an offering even more lethal?

If they do, it will be interesting to see if they go to such nutty lengths to ensure a solid footing on the strange brew stage as BrewDog has. The End of History not only takes the title of the highest ABV for a commercial beer, it takes the cake for creativity, and takes taxidermy to new heights. Each bottle of The End of History, which sell for $770, is presented in a stuffed stoat or grey squirrel. (No animals were harmed during the packaging process. They used roadkill.)

In their blog, BrewDog states that “The bottles are at once beautiful and disturbing — they disrupt conventions and break taboos, just like the beer they hold within them.”

BrewDog also states that The End of History is “the last high abv beer we are going to brew.”

So how did they get the beer so strong anyhow? They froze it.

Controversial among craft beer purists, the process is a form of distillation, traditionally referred to as ice distillation, or freeze distillation, a technique that began in fourteenth century Germany with the Eisbock style. The idea that freezing beer to concentrate the alcohol can be called distillation at all is also a point of controversy.

Regardless of that, the process allows a beer to increase in alcohol strength without sacrificing depth of flavor. The beer starts life just like any other, in the mash tun and brew kettles, then it is aged. Finally, the beer is slowly frozen to remove some of the water, leaving behind a concentrated form of the brew, with higher alcohol and more robust flavors.

Ice distillation is illegal in the United States, therefore the strongest beers produced in the U.S. are variations of barley-wines, Belgian strong ales, imperial stouts, and IPAs. Some examples are Sam Adams Utopias (25-27%), Dogfish Head’s Worldwide Stout (23.04%) and 120 Minute IPA (20%). These brewers use traditional fermenting techniques and proprietary yeast strains. Since yeast produces the alcohol, the production of beers like these relies solely on yeasts tolerance to higher alcohol levels.

brewdog-300228099Whether you agree or disagree that beers produced through ice distillation should be considered beers at all, there is no denying that BrewDog has made a big wave in the vast sea of beer marketing. BrewDog has been criticized by industry watchdogs, as well as others regarding their higher ABV beers. Now they can add animals rights advocates to that list.

Talk about pushing the envelope.

2 thoughts on “BrewDog – The End of History

  1. I got your second comment, “does not**” and I’m assuming you meant to correct your original comment to read “The ATF does not consider the eisbock process as distillation.”

    I agree. Distillation is the removal of alcohol spirits from the fermented substance, that’s how distillers get whisky from beer. Concentrating does not remove anything but water, so there is no real distillation going on.

    According to the ATF:

    “Sec. 25.262 Restrictions and conditions on processes of concentration and reconstitution.

    (a) Conditions on concentration. A brewer may not employ any process
    of concentration which separates alcohol spirits from any fermented

    It would appear that the ATF does not consider concentration and distillation the same thing, and obviously it technically is not, because we do not get the same product as a result. Concentration of beer through fractional freezing increases the alcohol level, by reducing the water content, but it does not lead to whisky. Distillation may result in a concentration, but the process of beer concentration is not a form distillation.

    So, I was incorrect in stating, “the process is a form of distillation.”

    That’s point one. Point two…

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to concentration being legal for the home brewer, or for commercial brewing, but “Ice Beers” commercially produced in the United Stated, and the focus of any ATF rulings and regulations that I read, are beers which have had a small percentage of water removed in the form of ice crystals after undergoing a freezing process, and according to the ATF, “After this freezing process, brewers restore to the beer at least the volume of water lost when ice crystals are removed.”

    Which means, if I’m understanding this correctly, that American “ice” beers are bottled and distributed at the alcohol level to which they are originally fermented. ATF ruling 94-3 also states:

    “The definition of ‘beer concentrate’ in 27 CFR 25.11 does not include a beer whose volume has been reduced as long as there is not more than a 0.5 percent by volume reduction in the beer, and the resultant product retains its character as beer.”

    That, and all I have read under the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Volume 1, Part 25, seem to indicate that beer concentrate must be reconstituted prior to being made commercially available, and that would mean that beer concentrate, as defined by the ATF, cannot legally be distributed to the public.


  2. You are mistaken. The ATF does [not] consider the eisbock process as distillation. In the eyes of the United States federal government it is called “concentrating” ad is therefore legal barring local laws.

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