Though it might sound ridiculous at first, many breweries have crafted beers with alcohol contents that far exceed those found in hard liquor, like whisky and vodka. And we’re ok with it. We’re always up for substituting other types of alcohol for beer.
To reach these levels, breweries tend to concentrate beers using a technique called fractional freezing. This involves getting the beer cold enough so that the water freezes, while the alcohol remains in its liquid form. Then, brewers separate the water from the alcohol, allowing the brewers to make extremely strong beer (we’re talking over 60% ABV, over 120 proof).
Though freeze distilling is pretty cool, we have a lot of respect for the breweries who stick to the traditional fermentation process while hiking up their beer’s ABV. This takes some creativity, hard work and devotion to the way beer has been made for hundreds of years. To celebrate them, let’s take a look at the strongest naturally-fermented beers in the world.
The 5 Strongest Naturally-Fermented Beers in the World
Brewery: Samuel Adams
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Style: American Strong Ale
Samuel Adams claims the title of brewing the strongest naturally-fermented beer in the world. In 2012, Utopia was released at 29% ABV (58 proof), though some of its barrels clocked in at 33% ABV. Yes, you read that right. Brewmasters blended these barrels down for the sake of taste. Although the beer’s core ingredients are the same as most normal beers (hops, barley malt, yeast and water), brewmasters used a champagne yeast that would survive the higher alcohol content. They also added in maple syrup to raise the alcohol content with extra fermentable sugars.
Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Second place goes to the eccentric folks over at BrewDog. Though they’ve brewed stronger beers with freezing techniques, BrewDog’s Ghost Deer is the brewery’s strongest naturally-fermented beer at 28% ABV. During the fermentation process, the brewers use a variety of yeast strains and drip-fed exotic sugars into the brew to make sure the yeast continued to grow. Ghost Deer is aged for 6 months in whiskey, rum, bourbon and sherry barrels after fermentation, and is exclusively served from “a single handcrafted and authentic deer’s head”. A little weird, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to try it.
Style: Imperial Stout
It took Mikkeller 2 years to boost Black Fist’s ABV from 18% to 26.1%. No wonder it was only done once. To reach these remarkable alcohol levels, Black First was aged 10 times in a variety of bourbon barrels. Those who had the rare opportunity to sip on the decadent brew describe it as featuring extremely complex bourbon flavors, with chocolate and vanilla notes, and a hard-hitting alcoholic punch (thus the name, Black Fist).
Brewery: The Herkimer Pub & Brewery
Location: Minnesota, United States
Toripuru Triple Bock is The Herkimer’s rarest and strongest beer ever. Brewed with Japanese sake yeast, the 23% ABV does not overwhelm the taste buds, with sweet flavors of plum and cocoa making it incredibly easy to drink. The brewery crafted Toripuru with ingredients from around the world, truly making it a beer like no other.
Brewery: Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill
Location: Florida, United States
Style: Barley Wine
After 9 months of fermentation and 2 years of barrel aging, Lagerhaus decided 44 Magnum was ready to be tasted by the public. This barley wine is brewed with a special English high-gravity yeast in order to reach a high alcohol level. Its complex flavors are extremely sweet, making it dangerously easy to sip on.
Just because our beer didn’t make the list doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a highly alcoholic beer. If you want to get warm fast on a local brew, check out our Oak-Aged Stock Ale. It’s crisp, hoppy, and will give you quite the buzz with a 10% ABV.