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Sep 12 2011

It’s what I’d expect of Scotland

It’s a new beer with some unusual characteristics.

  • Only 12 bottles were brewed, and they sold for $765 each.

  • It had an alcohol content of 55%. Can you even get that without distillation? Does it even count as a beer? Does it taste like beer?

  • It comes in a unique bottle wrapped in preserved roadkill.

It’s an interesting combination, not one element of which gives me any desire to drink the stuff.

(Also on Sb)

76 comments

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  1. 1
    Dhorvath, OM

    Hey Twitchy, you look kind of bloated, are you feeling okay?

  2. 2
    asonge

    Technically, it is distillation but these guys love to use “freeze distillation” a lot. You basically freeze the beer (in their case, in an ice cream warehouse) after it ferments and scoop out the water ice. Commercially, I think Sam Adams holds the record for non-distilled beer with their Utopias at 28%.

  3. 3
    criminy

    Well, the empty bottle with furry “cozy” would make one heckuva coffee table piece and/or conversation starter. Or killer. I could see it as a way to get the in-laws out of the house.

  4. 4
    Jon Massey

    as a Brew Dog shareholder…

    This is freeze-separated up to 55% rather than distilled, gives a very different character to a distilled drink. Unfortunately, I missed the boat on “The End of History”, but I’ve had a couple of bottles of their other silly-strength beer (“Tactical Nuclear Penguin” and “Sink The Bismark!”) which are rather lovely and certainly an interesting experience!

    The rest of their beers are well worth a look in, they also own a chunk of Anchor Brewery in San Francisco.

  5. 5
    James Emery

    Wat is this I don’t even

  6. 6
    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)

    I’ve had some of Brewdog’s 40% beer, and that tasted strange but still beery. As for the process, I seem to recall it isn’t distillation but some sort of freezing to reduce the water content (I’m going by half-remembered impressions from an occasion one of whose features was drinking a 40% beer, so don’t take my word for it!)

  7. 7
    Jon Massey

    … and in terms of strongest brewed beer, keep an eye out for Ghost Deer from these lads which will soon be breaking more world records and also with a taxidermy-themed presentation!

  8. 8
    Glen Davidson

    It had an alcohol content of 55%. Can you even get that without distillation? Does it even count as a beer? Does it taste like beer?

    25% is the most I’ve ever heard of without distillation. But is there a transcendent–or legal–force to determine what is and what is not beer?

    Any chance the writer got it wrong and it was 55 proof? That sounds more likely to myself.

    And no, it doesn’t taste like beer, they say it tastes more like whisky. Not a bad thing, actually.

    It’s a remarkable set of wrappings, which do make it somewhat more interesting to drink in my mind. The $765 price means that I most certainly won’t.

    Glen Davidson

  9. 9
    Ing

    Psh, shopped

  10. 10
    Jon Massey

    Here’s some more detail on the making of, with videos and (non-shopped) photos of the finished product http://www.brewdog.com/blog-article/341

  11. 11
    AussieMike

    honestly drinkstable….I haven’t had a c*@nt all night!

  12. 12
    Bernard Bumner

    Any chance the writer got it wrong and it was 55 proof? That sounds more likely to myself.

    No 55% ABV. It is designed to be drunk in shots, as per a distilled spirit.

    Brewdog make some interesting beers, with an emphasis on technical innovation. Their blog is well established.

    Personally, I find their brews somewhat hit and miss. Some of them are fermented for rather too long for my palate. Trashy Bonde and Punk IPA are good.

    Paradox, a stout aged in Whisky casks, is interesting but too rich for more than one in an evening. (I prefer Innis and Gunn’s Whisky cask aged beers, or Raftman, the Canadian Whiskey-aged BPA).

  13. 13
    Glen Davidson

    No 55% ABV. It is designed to be drunk in shots, as per a distilled spirit.

    Yes, I see that people explained it well while I was writing my post (in between doing other things).

    The freezing should remove water without taking much else out of it (let alone cooking it), I would think.

    Glen Davidson

  14. 14
    Alex

    I read about this when it was first announced. As I recall, you can call freeze-distilled grain-mash alcohol ‘beer’ and sell it if you have a commercial brewer’s license in Europe but not in the US. If you wanted to make it here, you’d need a distiller’s license.

  15. 15
    Alex W.

    As noted above, it’s freeze-distilled* but they recently started touring a proper, brewed beer at 28% called “Ghost Deer”. It’s served out of a mounted stag’s head of course.

    They go a bit heavy on the hops IMO but their IPA’s nice.

    *As part of an arms race with a rival brewery in mainland Europe, IIRC, hence the nuclear warfare naming

  16. 16
    mikeg

    Wait.

    I was going to make a some cutesy comment but I am WAY too aroused to even think right now.

  17. 17
    raymoscow

    •It had an alcohol content of 55%. Can you even get that without distillation?

    I think the alcohol concentration becomes too toxic for the yeast at around 15 vol %, and so I think some separation and reblending is required.

    110 proof spirits doesn’t sound much like “beer”, does it?

  18. 18
    rgmani

    As mentioned by several people, this beer is freeze distilled. I think that BrewDog does these ultra-high strength beers just to get themselves some publicity. They do make a line of more conventional beers some of which are actually quite good.

    As an aside, the strongest beer that has been created by fermentation alone is probably still Sam Adams Utopias (at 27 percent ABV).

    – Raghu

  19. 19
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It does appear they could get at 55% ethanol beer if they cooled to -40 °C (or °F) according to this phase diagram. Regular freezing temperatures of about -15 °C give the 25% or so beer.

  20. 20
    earlycuyler

    This is the only animal beer I like:

    http://www.cafepress.com/+bear_whiz_beer,292183049

  21. 21
    Bernard Bumner

    Yes, I see that people explained it well while I was writing my post (in between doing other things).

    I hope my redundant reply didn’t seem patronising. I jumped in without considering the timeline. Sorry if it did, I do trust you to be able to read and comprehend the earlier replies!

  22. 22
    Matt Penfold

    And no, it doesn’t taste like beer, they say it tastes more like whisky. Not a bad thing, actually.

    Well whisky is just distilled beer anyway.

  23. 23
    Jon Massey

    Matt, no it isn’t. Beer is hopped, whisky is not.

  24. 24
    peterh

    Überkitsch.

  25. 25
    Larry

    Needs more rodent.

  26. 26
    Scott

    Wouldn’t that alcohol content put it more into malt-liquor territory? It’s like a high-priced Colt 45.

  27. 27
    NitricAcid

    Scott- I don’t think the term “malt liquor” is used much out of the USA. The rest of us expect there to be alcohol in our beer.

  28. 28
    Masklinn

    It’s a new beer with some unusual characteristics.

    As others have noted, The End of History is from last year (the article you linked is from 2010-07-23) so not exactly new.

    Does it even count as a beer? Does it taste like beer?

    I have not had the occasion to taste The End (price a little to high for my purse), but I *have* tasted their 32% “Tactical Nuclear Penguin”.

    It’s good and it does taste of beer (somewhere between beer and aged spirits really), although it’s not drunk like a beer (and the 33cl bottles come with a stopper so you can drink it over a few days). I found 4 or 5 people for just one of these to be more than sufficient.

    But seriously, they’re something to try.

  29. 29
    Epinephrine

    As an aside, the strongest beer that has been created by fermentation alone is probably still Sam Adams Utopias (at 27 percent ABV).

    I had to look this up; I’ve brewed for years and never heard of any fermentation going to that kind of strength. They keep it in casks for at least 10 years, I expect that it’s the casking that brings the ABV up. If the environment is dry enough it should concentrate the alcohol.

  30. 30
    Matt Penfold

    Matt, no it isn’t. Beer is hopped, whisky is not.

    Beer is now hopped, but this was not always the case. When whisky production began in Scotland hops were not normally added to beer.

  31. 31
    Matt Penfold

    Oh, and what makes beer beer is not the addition of hops, it is the use of grain and yeast.

  32. 32
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    NitricAcid:

    The rest of us expect there to be alcohol in our beer.

    That’s the problem that some of the US craft brewers ran into: too high an alcohol content and it’s no longer considered “beer”. “Beer” in th US is generally below 5% and 5-9% is “malt liquor”, but the specific laws vary state-by-state*. It’s not unusual to see a craft beer labelled at 9% ABV, but actually have a much higher ABV.

    *IIRC, of course.

  33. 33
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    This stuff is to beer what modern art is to… well, art.

    You can’t technically say that it isn’t beer…

  34. 34
    phhht

    It’s off-topic, but The Panda’s Thumb has been unreachable all day.

    What’s up?

  35. 35
    evilDoug

    Wouldn’t pig rectum or camel penis sheath be more suitable as bottle covering? Not necessarily fitting for for the contents, but more for the buyers.

  36. 36
    Apikoros

    I’m glad you’re supposed to pour out a shot at a time; I wouldn’t want to drink it straight from the bottle.

    Hello, Mr. Squirrel…bottoms up!!

  37. 37
    Therrin

    I have yet to see a dead camel by the side of any road I’ve driven down.

  38. 38
    bromion

    I’ve got some of their 32% tactical nuclear penguin, which was their first freeze-distilled beer. It’s interesting, but tastes more like some mutant fortified wine than any beer I’ve had. It was the strongest beer in the world until the German-scot arms race began. Now ABV is over 60% I believe.

  39. 39
    Snowshoe the Canuck

    At one time, beer and spirits carried an excise tax based on the ABV. What’s the price of one bottle? All I could afford to drink ( health and wallet ) would be 1 bottle.

  40. 40
    Michael Swanson

    That’s revolting.

  41. 41
    The Countess

    Since beer is hoppy, shouldn’t this stuff be served in a rabbit?

    This beer is tailor made for Fark. LOL

  42. 42
    Cuttlefish

    Ok, you knowledgeable pharyngulites… This freeze-distilling, what sort of a history does it have with beers/wines/whiskys? I had only heard of it being used with cider; in fact, I was told it is the “proper” way to make apple jack. Are freeze-distilled beers a recent thing, or just a rare thing? Or have they always been here, and I have just been ignorant?

  43. 43
    Vidar

    I’m a homebrewer, so I know a little about yeasts, and what it can do in terms of alcohol.

    No, you can’t get 55% ABV without some form of distillation. Yeast dies when there’s too much alcohol in the liquid. I’ve seen specially bread turbo-yeasts that can get to 23%, but I doubt that they can go much higher.

    In my opinion, if distillation is involved, it’s no longer beer. This stuff has more in common with whiskey than beer. It will not taste like beer, because the alcohol content is much too high. Strong ales can have a bit of an alcohol ‘bite’ to them, but it’s nothing like the punch 55% will give you.

    IM not so HO, brewers who try to get the highest amount of alcohol in their brews as possible have lost sight of what a good beer is. It’s a marketing gimmick that shows a lack of love for the craft, and an undue love of money.

  44. 44
    Vidar

    Oy, blockquote fail.

    @Jon Massey 24:

    Hops are a fairly recent addition to beer. Before the use of hops other herbs were used to flavor beer, and offset the sweetness of the malt. Each brewer has their own mix of herbs, called ‘gruit’. It is rarely used these days, since hops are pretty much the ideal counterpart to the barley malt in terms of flavor. Hops also act as preservatives, giving the beer a longer shelf-life.

    A better distinction between beer and whiskey would be that whiskey is distilled, while beer is fermented.

  45. 45
    anuran

    It had an alcohol content of 55%. Can you even get that without distillation? Does it even count as a beer? Does it taste like beer?

    No. They get the high alcohol content by freeze distillation. It’s absolutely illegal to do this at home unless you live in New Zealand.

    No. It’s a distilled beverage and might count as a whiskey depending on what went into it.

    Probably not. Does brandy taste like wine? Does rum taste like sugar wash? Does everclear taste like unhopped ale? If it’s a hopped beer the stuff is probably nasty. Distillate of hops is bitter and nasty.

  46. 46
    anuran

    Further notes on freeze distilling…

    I’m not saying I’ve ever done this. It would be illegal without a distiller’s license. But I’ve heard that a lot of the really nasty low freezing temperature stuff in fermented beverages like fusel oils gets concentrated along with the alcohol when you freeze distill. It’s not like heat or vacuum distillation where you can draw off the (really nasty) heads, keep the alcohol-rich hearts and leave the (still very nasty) tails behind.

  47. 47
    anuran

    Bromion writes:

    . It was the strongest beer in the world until the German-scot arms race began. Now ABV is over 60% I believe.

    Why bother? Once it gets to absinthe strength you might as well just take neat alcohol and add it to the punch.

  48. 48
    Umbre

    I see you read Cracked.

    But yeah, uh, why would anyone buy this. I fail to see anything appealing about beer flavored alcohol inside a dead squirrel.

  49. 49
    Pierce R. Butler

    I must’ve missed a post.

    What bibaric (bibulatic?) trauma did our esteemed host undergo in Scotland?

    Or did no-one warn him about believing everything said by the English?

  50. 50
    Hurin

    Epinephrine

    I had to look this up; I’ve brewed for years and never heard of any fermentation going to that kind of strength. They keep it in casks for at least 10 years, I expect that it’s the casking that brings the ABV up. If the environment is dry enough it should concentrate the alcohol.

    I think it has more to do with the yeast they are using. Some strains of yeast have a higher tolerance to alcohol than others, and within highly alcohol resistant yeast you will have variation W.R.T. alcohol tolerance. If you ferment strong beers and then reculture the yeast that is still active at the end of the fermentation (as opposed to the yeast that has gone dormant, and fallen to the bottom of the fermenter) you can select and propagate the individuals with the highest tolerance to alcohol. From what I’ve read Sam Adams has been brewing successively stronger beers using this technique, and engineering a monsterously alcohol tolerant yeast strain in the process.

    There are actually a large number of peers that are cellared in wood casks for extended periods, and I don’t think there is any documentation of that process strengthening the beer.

  51. 51
    Holms

    Why do people give a shit about a beer with a silly angle? I note with scorn the beer is criticised as ‘degrading to the animals’, as if already dead roadkill give a shit about their own dignity.

    For that matter, my currently-alive dog doesnt seem to have much concern for her own either, if the bottom-dragging-on-carpet is any indication.

  52. 52
    Matt Penfold

    A better distinction between beer and whiskey would be that whiskey is distilled, while beer is fermented.

    Or the same relationship that wine has to brandy.

  53. 53
    Amblebury

    @no.37

    Therrin, I lived in Qatar a while back. Yes, I saw dead camels by the side of the road.

  54. 54
    NitricAcid

    I first heard of freeze-distillation in Sir Pterry’s Equal Rites (as the method of making apple jack). I know Molson’s started making an “ice beer” twenty or so years ago with this technique, but not to anywhere near the extreme that this has been taken to.

  55. 55
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    @Therrin & Amblebury. Me too. Up north, it’s quite possible. Where I live it’s more often kangaroos. A roo wrapper would obviously indicate a hoppy beer.

  56. 56
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Cuttlefish:

    I had only heard of it being used with cider; in fact, I was told it is the “proper” way to make apple jack.

    Yeah, applejack was the context in which I’d heard of this technique as well; it was mentioned in passing in a book I read about homebrewing and winemaking.

    I’ve been wondering: In the U.S., home distilling — unlike homebrewing and winemaking — is (AFAIK) illegal even in small quantities for personal use… but does feeze-distillation count as distilling for legal purposes? I know I could look it up, but it’s really just casual curiosity, and I thought maybe some of the brewers here had looked into it?

  57. 57
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    BTW, over on the Sb version of this thread, ‘Tis said

    I don’t drink beer to get drunk, I drink it for the taste.

    …which got me thinking about why I drink beer.

    Drink beer for the revolution!

  58. 58
    NitricAcid

    Freeze-distillation does indeed count as distillation for the purposes of legality for the home brewer/vintner.

  59. 59
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    So I suppose that means anybody leaving a cask of hard cider out on the deck in the dead of winter would be a daggone moonshiner, eh? Oh, well; it was a thought….

  60. 60
    Pierce R. Butler

    Holms @ # 51: … dog … bottom-dragging-on-carpet …

    You might want to get her checked for lower-intestinal parasites.

  61. 61
    ChasCPeterson

    I agree that this dead squirrel has been robbed of its dignity. It’s sad, as there are few things in the world more dignified than a dead squirrel.

  62. 62
    anuran

    Bill Dauphin avec fromage writes:

    I’ve been wondering: In the U.S., home distilling — unlike homebrewing and winemaking — is (AFAIK) illegal even in small quantities for personal use… but does feeze-distillation count as distilling for legal purposes? I know I could look it up, but it’s really just casual curiosity, and I thought maybe some of the brewers here had looked into it?

    Freeze-distillation is absolutely distillation for legal purposes. I had a long talk with the local TTB office a couple years back about this. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Wok in a pot. Vacuum distillation. Pot still. Freeze distillation. If you’re rectifying alcohol without a license you’re breaking the law.

  63. 63
    anuran

    Vidar writes:

    A better distinction between beer and whiskey would be that whiskey is distilled, while beer is fermented.

    Not quite. Beer is fermented grain broth. Whiskey starts with fermented grain broth which is then distilled.

  64. 64
    quidam

    Oh, and what makes beer beer is not the addition of hops, it is the use of grain and yeast.

    The addition of hops turns ale into beer. Ale was traditionally brewed without hops (a continental invention) When hops were introduced into Britain in the 1400′s they adopted the continental name ‘beer’ for hopped ale

    So what makes beer ‘beer’ is indeed the hops.

  65. 65
    theophontes , flambeau du communisme

    @no.37

    Therrin, I lived in Sudan a while back. Yes, I saw dead camels by the side of the road.

  66. 66
    madtom1999

    freeze ‘distillation’ is used in some Budweiser products. I have no idea what they are called in the US but they contain grain and hops which is the only reason they can be sold as beer in the UK – they taste awful.
    As for the the beer/ale argument beer was brewed in the UK before Hops arrived here – the name stems from its main non water ingredient – barley.
    The words ale and beer were synonymous until hops arrived in the UK after which fights broke out over the name giving beer and ale a bad reputation that continues to this day.

  67. 67
    Matt Penfold

    The addition of hops turns ale into beer. Ale was traditionally brewed without hops (a continental invention) When hops were introduced into Britain in the 1400′s they adopted the continental name ‘beer’ for hopped ale

    So what makes beer ‘beer’ is indeed the hops.

    No, Ale can have hops in it. Ale just indicates the method of fermentation. All ales are beer, but not all beers are ale since there other types of beer.

  68. 68
    ChasCPeterson

    Agree with Matt Penfold. These days, ‘ale’ is a type of beer that’s brewed at relatively warm temperatures with a bottom-fermenting brewer’s yeast, as opposed to other types of beer like lagers, stouts/porters, or lambics.
    Apparently the hops/no hops usage was original, however, ‘cording to ‘kipedia:

    The term “ale” was initially used to describe a drink brewed without hops, unlike “beer”[3]. It has often now come to mean a bitter-tasting barley beverage fermented at room temperature. In some British usage, however, in homage to the original distinction, it is not now used except in compounds (such as “pale ale” (see below)) or as “real ale”, a term adopted in opposition to the pressurised beers developed by industrial brewers in the 1960s, and used of a warm-fermented unpasteurised beer served from the cask (though not stout or porter).

  69. 69
    BioBeing

    Ice distillation is a traditional German technique for making Eisbocks.

    A traditional Kulmbach specialty brewed by freezing a doppelbock and removing the ice to concentrate the flavor and alcohol content (as well as any defects).

    http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style05.php#1d

    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bock#Eisbock

  70. 70
    Epinephrine

    @Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism:

    There are actually a large number of peers that are cellared in wood casks for extended periods, and I don’t think there is any documentation of that process strengthening the beer.

    You know, I’ve heard it many times, and I can find references to it online, but I don’t have access to any of the relevant journals to check what exactly the claims are. Not surprisingly, my work doesn’t have a subscription to the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture…

    However, if you’ll accept hearsay, I can point to an article like this on humidifiers for cellars, which makes the same sort of claim I’ve read numerous times – that the relative evaporation of water and ethanol depends on the environment, particularly the humidity.

    I think it has more to do with the yeast they are using. Some strains of yeast have a higher tolerance to alcohol than others, and within highly alcohol resistant yeast you will have variation W.R.T. alcohol tolerance. If you ferment strong beers and then reculture the yeast that is still active at the end of the fermentation (as opposed to the yeast that has gone dormant, and fallen to the bottom of the fermenter) you can select and propagate the individuals with the highest tolerance to alcohol. From what I’ve read Sam Adams has been brewing successively stronger beers using this technique, and engineering a monsterously alcohol tolerant yeast strain in the process.

    Evolution is awesome :) I suppose it could be that the whole thing is done this way, though that seems really high. It would certainly work up to some limit.

  71. 71
    JBlilie

    Yeast cannot go above about 20% ABV. All higher levels are produced by fortification. (I’m not saying no yeast can tolerate higher levels, I don’t know about that for sure; but the brewing yeasts of all sorts (the ones that taste good) can’t tolerate above about 20%.)

    The only ones going above about 15% are the ones used in making Sherry.

    The highest I know of in beer is Samichlaus at 14% ABV (and remarkably good-tasting for something with that level of esters, long-chain sugars, and alcohol. Just don’t get drunk on it. Ooh, the hangover. And many intestinal tracts do not like an overload of long-chain sugars …)

    These Scottish beers are made by freezing and removing the ice to concentrate the alcohol (and flavors I suppose). I doubt they taste very good. It’s tricky to make high ABV beers that are actually fun to drink. Most require a lot of aging to mellow them out.

  72. 72
    JBlilie

    @68

    Based on my readings in beer history, beer came way before hops were ever used in it and the beer/ale top-fermenting/bottom-fermenting distinction is mainly just semantics.

    There are beer styles to be sure. And all beers used to use locally native yeasts (and many (all?) of the greatest beers still do. The yeasts are selected by the processing in the brewery. They become localized in the beer and brewery.)

    These are just words in English, recently coined or adopted. And the Englestanis did not invent these beer styles/categories. They predate modern English and were local works from local ingredients and conditions. I’m guessing the Angles and the Saxons brought both ale and beer with them, along with the drinks themselves.

    How did the Angles and Saxons distinguish the two? Who knows?

  73. 73
    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)

    freeze ‘distillation’ is used in some Budweiser products… they taste awful.

    This is a distinct improvement on the main Budweiser product, which tastes of nothing at all.

  74. 74
    anuran

    Anheuser-Busch once sent samples to an independent lab because the beer had less taste than usual. It wasn’t the yeast. It wasn’t the hops, the water, the barley or the rice. In-house experts couldn’t figure out what was going on.

    The report came back “Your horse has diabetes”

  75. 75
    Jared Teets

  76. 76
    johnm55

    Brewdog, is in my opinion. a marketing company that occasionally manages to produce a drinkable beer e.g. their Punk IPA. There are far more interesting small breweries in Scotland who are genuinely interested in producing interesting brews.

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