“Beer, motor fuel, semantics.”
For some time now, Media sources have been discussing how “Macro” beers such as Budweiser, Coors, and piss Miller have been losing ground to the niche market of craft breweries. There has been a lot of speculation as to the reason for this—microbrews tend to use better ingredients to make creative, delicious, flavorful beers that blow their much more watered down counterparts out of the water. They are a new, thriving addition to an alcohol producing landscape that until recently has been remarkably stagnant. Hell, microbrews even offer a wide variety of complex beer styles that can be paired with any meal, as opposed to Bud Light, which is only paired with Solo Cups and roofies.
Yes, all of those can explain the surge of craft beers, but if we had to guess, the main reason behind their success rests with the fact that we’re all American, and craft beers just tend to get you drunk faster. You can doll it up all you want, but most Americans would rather spend a few more bucks on a tasty beer as opposed to a domestic brew that’s got half the alcohol. That’s just simple economics.
So in order to celebrate America’s contributions to getting you drunk while drinking as little liquid as possible, we at AFFotD are here to present you with…
America’s 10 Most Alcoholic Beers
When we looked up the strongest beer we could find, we were a little dismayed when we discovered that, though there is a beer that is 65% alcohol, it’s brewed in Scotland. We suspect that it’s colloquially known as “Gin” but we can’t be sure. Either way, it was disheartening to find that America doesn’t brew the most alcoholic beer, and that our best attempt is only one-third the strength of that beer.
But then we thought, “wait a minute, we have beer that’s about that strong. We call it bourbon and it’s delicious.” That made us feel a lot better. We also appreciated the fact that, while the following beers brewed in America might not be able to combust when they touch an open flame, they are a healthy combination of “delicious” and “drinking one bottle is like drinking a six pack of most other beers.”
So let’s make less with the talking and more with the helping you get drunk.
10 (tie)—DOGFISH HEAD WORLD WIDE STOUT/DOGFISH HEAD 120 MINUTE IPA: 15-20% ABV
While these beers are released seasonally, with a range of 15-20% alcohol by volume generally being rounded out to 18%, Dogfish Head isn’t exactly a stranger to making beers that push the envelope a little bit. So while it’s strange to put an India Pale Ale and a Stout into the same categories, both of these beers from Dogfish Head are examples of some of the easier to find strong beers on this list. Sure, you won’t find this on your local grocery store’s shelves (and God forbid if you’re stuck in one of those states with archaic laws limiting the sale of strong beers), but if you want a 120 Minute IPA or a World Wide Stout, you can probably find one without too much difficulty.
But let’s just get to the nitty gritty. These beers are each brewed a special way (the 120 Minute IPA finds the beer continuously hopped for two hours during the boil, and then dry hopped every day for the next month, giving it an insane hoppy bitterness that has to be balanced out with malts, which in turn converts to sugars, which in turn becomes alcohol, while the World Wide Stout pretty much does the same with approach with barley to amp up the booziness) and we could write a professional, in-depth look at the brewing styles implemented to make these delicious beers.
But this is AFFotD and we’re already drunk, so we’ll just point out that when World Wide Stout was released, it was the most potent beer on the planet. This was in 1999. We can only assume that our tireless efforts to get Americans drunk has ensured that eight of the other beers on this list have since been made with higher ABV, because we like taking credit for things you have no way of refuting. We also are the reason more girls where tank tops during the summer, and we were largely responsible for the development of the KFC Double Down. You’re welcome, America.
9—THE BRUERY CHOCOLATE RAIN: 19.5% ABV
While the brewery’s (Bruery the brewery…get it? GET IT!?) website seems to indicate that the beer has been replaced by a similar and equally-alcoholic “Black Tuesday” (both are imperial stouts aged in bourbon barrels with 19.5% alcohol by volume) we’re going to stick with Chocolate Rain as our representative from this Orange County, California brewery because we like the fact that it reminds us of Tay Zonday, and we think it’s hilarious that the label for Chocolate Rain, a beer that’ll get you drunk faster than wine and some liquors, has to warn you that it “contains alcohol.” That’s like buying a box of armor-piercing bullets and having the label say, “WARNING: CONTAINS BULLETS.” Chocolate Rain takes the Black Tuesday and adds cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, which we suspect they use to both add a unique flavor to the dark beer, while also saying that their beer has “nibs and beans” in it, which we think is hilarious because most of us never graduated from the fourth grade. Hehe. Nibs and beans. Penis and balls.
8—BIG BUCK IMPERIAL PORTER: 20% ABV
Okay, Big Buck Brewery, we’ve got a bit of an issue here. Here we are, all ready to say, “Hey, if you find yourself in Gaylord, Michigan, and you can stop giggling at the name of the town you’re in, you should go to this brewery and steakhouse because they brew a beer that’s 20% alcohol, and holy shit we didn’t realize it was a steakhouse as well until now” and give you some free advertising that likely will get you so much business you’d see no other recourse than to sell us a case of your finest strong stout.
But then we do a little digging, and while we see a 17.65% beer, it looks like you don’t bother to sell your 20% beer anymore. In fact, that specific beer seems to have been an extremely small batch that you only did once. Listen, we appreciate that you at least seasonally offer a Coffee Stout with such high alcohol content, but if you make a 20% beer once, why would you ever not sell it? If you ever do something so wonderful, why only do it once? Could you imagine a world with only one Robocop film? Or only one Die Hard? God forbid, only one Rocky movie? That’d be borderline criminal! A world without Sylvester Stallone defeating communism through the proxy of Ivan Drago is not a world in which we want to live.
What we’re saying, Big Buck Brewery, is do the right thing. Make the Big Buck Imperial Porter and never take it off your menu. It’s your American duty.
7—GRAND LAKE HOLY GRAIL: 20% ABV
Based in Grand Lake, Colorado at an altitude of 8,369 feet above sea level, The Grand Lake Brewing Company doesn’t generally make overly strong beers. Does it disappoint us that they only offer three beers with a higher ABV than Bud Light Platinum? Yes. Does the explanation that, at higher altitudes, it takes less alcohol to get you drunk do anything to make us feel better about that fact? Not really, that just seems like a missed opportunity.
The Grand Lake Holy Grail, however, is not a missed opportunity. Or at least, for a glorious moment in 2003, it wasn’t. That’s because two brewers at Grand Lake decided they wanted to punch your liver in the face, so they brewed a beer made entirely out of pale malt before aging it for eight months in rum barrels, eventually coming out with a one-time batch of beer that was 20% alcohol. To put that in perspective, drinking a bottle of Grand Lake Holy Grail will get you about as drunk as drinking a bottle of Baileys. Combine that with the effects of being over a mile and a half above sea level, this beer probably was the responsible for some of the most efficient drunk nights for those who consumed it than any other beer on this list.
6—SAMUEL ADAMS MILLENIUM: 20% ABV
Samuel Adams has been around since 1984, and by most accounts was the first “craft” brewery to make a splash on the national market. They are largely credited with starting the craft beer movement that is responsible for all of these fine beers that you see listed in this article. While it is hard to find a beer snob who says that Samuel Adams makes their favorite beer, they all at least respect the hell out of the brewery, if for no other reason than the fact that, if there was no Samuel Adams , we’d probably still be forced to choose between Bud, Miller, and Coors when looking for a drink at a bar. That said, while they’re known for their Boston Lager, which was only novel at the time it came out because it has “flavor” and “tastes like something other than water and straw, cough cough looking at you Budweiser” their lesser known forays into experimental brewing deserves tends to produce their finest work. These experimental beers range from “Chocolate Cherry Bocks” to “Deconstructed IPA variety packs” but back in 1999, to celebrate the upcoming new millennium, Sam Adams made 3,000 bottles of Millennium, a $200 dollar beer (yes, we didn’t accidentally add an extra zero there) that was 20% alcohol. And the first bottle of it sold for over $4,000.
Here’s a dirty little secret about Americans who are really into craft beer—after a certain point, beer enthusiasts have tried so many different beers, and have so much disposable income after that second divorce, that they will spend anything for a beer if it’s purported to be super rare, or one-time-only. The idea of paying so much for a single bottle of beer, albeit a tasty, alcoholic beer, is foreign to those of us who live near a liquor store that supplies vodka in plastic bottles. Most of you who are that American mix of “alcoholic” and “appreciative of finely crafted alcoholic beverages” would rather just spend twenty bucks for a bottle of St. Bernardus chased with a Mad Dog 20/20, after all.
5—DUCLAW COLOSSUS: 21% ABV
This beer from the DuClaw Brewing Company actually clocks in at 21.92% alcohol by volume, but we’re not rounding up because we don’t want to understand how math works. While most of us would approach drinking a bottle of this beer the same way we’d approach our first acid trip (make sure you have a friend to spot you, lock all the doors to ensure you don’t do anything you regret once you get out of your right mind, drink a lot of water afterwards) this Maryland brewing company decided that when you’re drinking one of the most potent beers available in America, you should try it, often, at different temperatures. They tell you to try it at a 105 degrees to experience “new flavors and aromas.” We’re not entirely sure how we feel about this. We like our beer like we like our women—cool, intoxicating, and leaving us the next day. Warming up a heavily alcoholic beer to “hot tub” levels seems…a bit strange to us. Call us paranoid, but anytime someone has to put an alcoholic drink of ours in a microwave, we’re going to automatically assumed it’s either spiked hot chocolate, or it’s roofies. Though, considering how most of these high gravity beers tend to taste like they have a lot less alcohol in them than they actually do, the roofie concept might not be so far off…
4—LAGERHAUS .44 MAGNUM ALE: 22% ABV
This one is pretty impossible to find…unless you actually go to the Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill down in Palm Harbor, Florida. The beer is extremely regional, and seems to have been made by a place that doesn’t care to go into too much detail of what you should expect from their beer (“It will give you an experience similar to a port”) but what does that matter? It’s a beer that’s almost ¼ pure alcohol. If you made someone a mixed drink with that much alcohol in it they’d assume you were trying to get them drunk so you could take advantage of their diminished inhibitions, and who are you fooling, that’s exactly what you were doing.
This beer is a Barley Wine, which despite the name is actually a style of beer, and it tends to be pretty high gravity. We know it’s confusing, just trust us on this. It’s like when people call a melon a “honeydew” or a Carrot Top a “comedian.” Now, most Barley Wines tend to not be 22% alcohol by volume, but do you see us complaining? No. Well, you see us complaining that we have to go to Palm Harbor to drink this one, but otherwise, we are not complaining.
3—HERKIMER TORIPURU TRIPLE BOCK: 23% ABV
Individual brewpubs tend to be largely responsible for a lot of the items on this list, and while we’re frankly touched that individual restaurants would take the American initiative to make beers that can double as paint remover, we wish we could have an easier time finding these beers just so we can find a way to get our teetotaler friends who say “Okay, I’ll have just one drink” wasted due to semantic loopholes. What we do know is that if we end up at the Herkimer Pub & Brewery in Uptown Minneapolis, we’re going to try our best to get this Strong Bock, which likely isn’t available as it was released last year in a limited quantity. If they don’t have it, we’ll beg, bribe, and eventually resort to blackmail to make sure they make more of it.
Regardless of its current availability, this beer with “sweet dark fruit and rich cocoa tones” uses Japanese Sake yeast to create a beer that has an ABV figure that happens to be the same number as that of a certain basketball player. Have you heard of Michael Jordan. You might say this is the Michael Jordan of Bocks. You know, one of a kind, impossible to replicate, addicted to gambling, and kind of an entitled dick. Um. That analogy sort of got away from us there. Either way, this sounds delicious, and we want four of them, two of which will then be introduced in violent fashion to our toilet bowl.
2—SAMUEL ADAMS UTOPIAS: 27% ABV
After making their Millennium beer at 20% ABV, Sam Adams decided they might as well continue brewing high gravity beers in fancy bottles that they can sell for hundreds of dollars. So in 2002, they released Utopias at 24% ABV, making a Triple Bock aged in scotch, cognac, and port barrels for a year, and sold it in shiny ceramic bottles for $100 a pop. In 2007 they released their most recent variation of the beer, which came in at a whopping 27% alcohol because when you’re selling a beer on a semi-open market that’s twice as strong as just about anything else you can find, you might as well try to make it stronger the next go-round. 12,000 bottles were made in 2007, and another 9,000 were released in 2009, so while this beer isn’t always available, they do make a point to sell it on occasion (the price is now $150 because, you know, beer snobs will still pay for that).
While we appreciate a complex, super alcoholic beer from a pioneering large-scale brewery, our favorite thing about this product is easily the fact that this beer is illegal in 12 states. Seriously. When you make a beer so strong that almost a quarter of the states in America have to throw up their hands and go “easy there buddy, let’s not get ahead of ourselves” you know you’re doing something right.
1—HAIR OF THE DOG DAVE: 29% ABV
First of all, we want to go on the record as saying that Hair of the Dog from Portland, Oregon is one of our favorite names for a brewery. Just, well done you guys. Hair of the Dog Dave was first produced in 1994, and was a Barley Wine that was made incredibly alcoholic (29%!) by taking 300 gallons of a Barley Wine called Adam and freezing it three times. Each time, the pure ice (extra, boring, non-alcoholic water) that formed would be removed, and eventually only 100 gallons of incredibly alcoholic beer remained. It’s since been retired, but every once and a while a bottle appears. Granted, it usually involves someone spending $4,500 for two of them, but our point is still technically valid.
Despite having a pretty awful name (seriously, you can’t tell where the beer name begins and the brewery name ends. Giving a beer a name that’s just a normal, human first name is like naming a dog “Jennifer.” There’s something slightly unsettling about it) we’re sad that we can’t find this beer without, you know, kidnapping family members. We’re not saying we’d kidnap family members to get one of the last bottles of this 29% ABV beer, but we are saying we’d probably be more likely to do that then shell out $4,000 for it. Do you know how much bourbon we can buy with $4,000? We’re no mathmagicians or anything, but if you put us on the spot, we’d say infinity. Infinity bourbons. That’s a lot of bourbons.
Either way, even if the process of “freeze out all the non-alcoholic water in the beer” makes this beer seem more like a vanilla extract version of beer, we salute you, Hair of the Dog, for making a beer stronger than any other American has before or since. Have a drink on us.