FROZEN FIRE: BrewDog, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, 32% Alcohol Beer Review: EU Austerity Drinking Tour #20

Last week’s review found favor with BrewDog’s wine-like 11.1% alcohol Imperial Red Wheat ale.  It’s time to triple it.

BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin should do the trick.

Born from the flames of competition, Brewdog and German brewer Schorschbräu vied to make the world’s most alcoholic beer.  In 2009 the Scots won at 32% alcohol.  And they only made 108 bottles.


The boy(s) behind the beer…literally.

At their flagship Aberdeen bar, I hand my credit card to a tattooed lass, ignore the price, and walk back with my fancy glass.

Now.  How the hell to describe it…


No Penguins were harmed in the making of this beer.

Well it looks clear but extremely dark amber brown, with beefy thick legs, and no fizz.  Aromas smother the room with burnt rubber, treacle (molasses), and flambeed Christmas pudding.  Santa’s sleigh in a explosive, five car pileup probably smells like this.

I close my eyes and sip.  I can’t find any sugar or acidity yet.  Toasty tannins assert their mouth-drying edges.  The alcohol then strips any surviving saliva with embers burning.  The body feels sumo-wrestler fat.

I sit back and try to remember any flavors.  Nope.  I brace and taste again.  Pronounced caramel shows up front.  There is sugar here.  The center tastes of cherry pie with a burnt crust.  Alongside the pie are hints of sherry cask vanilla and wood.  The endless finish carries me off with black bitter chocolate.  Hot cherry and caramel syrup poured on throughout smooths out the edgy, bitter flavors.

The quality must be outstanding.  There is simply too much intensity, complexity, and length to deny its quality.  My advice: sip this like Whisky or it will own you (and your wallet).

But is Tactical Nuclear Penguin beer?

The hardiest yeast strains can only ferment up to 28%.  BrewDog holds that record with “Ghost Deer” (discontinued).  But to push beer beyond that, one has to remove water, thus raising leftover alcohol in relation to the shrinking liquid volume.  Still with me?  Now how?

Heating to capture the alcohol as steam (distilling) turns beer into a spirit, like Whisky.  No dice.

However, freezing it and removing the frozen water presents a loophole.  The higher alcohol/lower water solution stays liquid, whereas the lower alcohol/higher water solution freezes and gets cut.  Incrementally, one can keep cutting ice water and concentrate the beer.  At least in the eyes of German beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot), freeze-concentrated beer is beer (aka icebock).

Such freeze-fractioning, to date, has maxed out at 57.7%.  Schorschbräu took a year to beat BrewDog’s 55% squirrel-festooned The End of History.  But these beers get bought out before they’re sold.  At least I got to see a bottle.


Roadkill never looked so tempting.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin represents Genesis for this alcoholic cold war between Germany and Scotland.  It strains the definition of beer-hood.  I was lucky to try it.

Would you try it?  Have you?  Is this just a game for beer geeks and notoriety?  Or is there a point?

Interview with Schorschbräu on their icebock. Click here.


About waywardwine

Follow Wayward Wine (WSET3) to tour the world's exciting vineyards, breweries, and distilleries, while discovering new drinks.
This entry was posted in Beer, EMPTIED BOTTLES, Scotland, WINERIES WANDERED and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to FROZEN FIRE: BrewDog, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, 32% Alcohol Beer Review: EU Austerity Drinking Tour #20

  1. Sandy says:

    The labor intensive ice process sounds like hours and hours of work. I will check their site, but wonder if there are machines to do this? Also, many states are highly regulated, will something with this much alcohol still be considered a beer?
    How much do they charge a pint?

    • waywardwine says:

      It’s crazy difficult to do manually. The Germans have given up, it’s just too hard. Lasers may help mechanize it.

      I have no idea about the legality, honestly.

      $53/ 375ml bottle…I try to forget how much the bar charged for a few ounces.

  2. talkavino says:

    This was the post I was waiting for! Great tasting notes, I can literally imagine that I’m tasting this beer too! I would love to get my hands on it, but it would be very difficult to find a retailer who will risk carrying it – it is very expensive even in wholesale… But it is definitely legal in CT, listed int he wholesale catalog.

    Now I really want to try it…

    • waywardwine says:

      It is insane stuff but wholly worth it. Makes blended Whisky seem dull and pedestrian. Drink it if you can. And try Sink the Bismark and let me know…I never had the guts (or extra cash).

      • talkavino says:

        Ahh, thank you so much : ) No, I don’t have extra cash, but now I’m double curious. And extra thank you for not recommending “The End of History” – if $80 seems to be something palatable for once in the life drink experience, $765 doesn’t sound like one…

      • waywardwine says:

        I wish Ghost Deer was still around. Either way my wallet (and wife) thank me as well.

  3. Pingback: Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Chardonnay Day, Wine Appellation Earth?, Best Blogging Tips and more | Talk-A-Vino

  4. Pingback: THE 7 WEIRDEST BRANDS OF BEER EVER | Drunk In The Lab

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s