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.
On 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.
Whether 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.