UK/Germany: Fight for the world’s strongest beer settled

Scottish craft brewer BrewDog has settled its dispute with Bavarian brewer Schorschbräu over the strongest beer in the world. In a Zoom-meeting both brewed together the strongest beer in the world called Strength In Numbers which weighs in at 57.86% alcohol by volume (ABV) and which is stronger than most of the spirits in the market.

It all began in 2009 when BrewDog - by that time still a small and relatively unknown brewery - brewed a beer called Tactical Nuclear Penguin with an ABV of 32%, saying that it beats the previous record of 31% ABV held by German beer brand Schorschbräu. The German brewer came immediately back with Schorschbock which came in at a 40% ABV. BrewDog then retaliated with Sink the Bismarck IPA, which was 41%. Schorschbräu created again another Schorschbock with 43% ABV which was answered in July 2010 by BrewDog with a new beer at 53% ABV beer titled The End of History. However, this was not the end of history for Schorschbräu which came back with a new version of Schorschbock at a whopping 57% ABV.

This beer held up to now the record as the strongest beer on earth and it seemed nearly impossible to exceed this. In order to understand the limit it is necessary to understand how such a beer is produced.

Since the ordinary brewing yeast can usually not ferment the wort above 10-15% ABV (only special yeasts go as high as 25% ABV), brewers use a process called “fractional freezing” whereby the beer is frozen and water, which freezes already at higher temperatures than alcohol, is separated from the rest of the beer. By repeating the freezing process several times it is possible to concentrate the alcohol and the substances that are dissolved in it up to levels of about 60% ABV.

The process itself is very time consuming and costly because of the product loss with every step of the concentration process. Products with a higher alcohol content than about 60% ABV can only be produced by distilling the fermented product or by adding ethyl alcohol to the final product. However, those products are no longer considered beer.

It seems that BrewDog got tired of brewing stronger beers every time. On the other hand, the Scots did not want to be beaten by a small German brewer either. Therefore they teamed up with their former rival and approached , the founder, owner and brewmaster of Schorschbräu for a collaboration brew. “After a decade, we’re going to Germany to collaborate with Schorschbräu to see if we can up the ante together once again,” James Watt, CEO of BrewDog, said in a video.

For the strongest beer in the world, BrewDGeorg „Schorsch“ Tscheuschnerog contributed to the project a barrel of their ice-distilled 26% ABV Belgian Golden Ale named Death or Glory, which they aged in a Scotch whisky cask for 10 years. The barrel was sent to Germany and blended with a  30% ABV Schorschbräu Eisbock.

Unfortunatley, coronavirus travel restrictions prevented the two new partners from working physically together. So they worked together over Zoom and “ice-distilled” the beer many times until they reached the new record of 57.86%.

Finally the beer was released in the UK at GBP 29 (USD 37.50) per 40ml bottle on Thursday and sold out the same day.

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