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.
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…
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.
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.