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The Tippling Point | Brewers are challenging themselves - and us - to push the frothy borders of beer further

Scottish and German brewers have been competing to make the strongest beer in the world for decades. How have beer lovers fared in this chug of war?

July 24, 2021 / 02:18 PM IST
(Photo by Jürgen Howaldt via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0; image cropped)

(Photo by Jürgen Howaldt via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0; image cropped)

You are dead-tired and desperately want to grab a cold beer. Chugging it while relishing its beery taste is an experience you wouldn't forfeit for anything else in this world. More than whisky and brandy, rum and vodka, you trust beer because of its low alcohol content. With 4-5% ABV, beer is not designed to floor you like those hard drinks that flaunt a whopping 40% alcohol content.

But what if you are hit by a beer that has 67%?

manu-remakant-logo-the-tippling-point-logo1-R-258x258Ever since beer firmly set its foot in our world, brewers have been tampering with its flimsy borders. What if we pack more power to the pale drink, they ask themselves.

BrewDog, a Scottish distillery hit the headlines in 2009, when it brought out a beer named 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin.' True to the spirit of the title, the beer was explosive, with a 32% ABV, toppling Germany's SchorschBock (by SchorschBrau) to the second position.

How could companies amp up the alcohol content in a beer?

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The method is simple. Most of you know alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water. As the refrigerated beer gets colder and colder, brewers decant the beer periodically. Finally, only ice, with a strong concentration of alcohol is left in the container. The process continues repeatedly until they get to their ideal alcohol content.

Well, back to the competition between Scotland and Germany to make the strongest beer in the world. SchorschBrau didn't sulk or go down in history all decimated by its Scottish rival. Pretty soon, it upped the ante by bringing out SchorschBock 40 with - no points for guessing - 40% alcohol. To rub salt into the wound, SchorschBrau sent an email to BrewDog, offering to share its secrets of making strong beers: "Interested?"

The infuriated Scots retorted by bringing out a master beer, named 'Sink the Bismarck', for the purpose of taking down their German rival. The alcohol content was now raised to new heights: 41%!

The name 'Sink the Bismarck' reminds the Germans about the fate of their enormous battleship of that name, sunk by the Royal British Navy in 1941. The snide was clear and loud. Battle lines were now drawn.

SchorschBrau cranked its beer up to 43% ABV. BrewDog answered with the legendary 'End of History' with 55% ABV. The beer was sold inside taxidermic squirrels. Then in 2011, SchorschBrau trumped its rival with 57% SchorschBock!

A decade of silence followed. Just when people thought, they had already seen the end of the battle between the two major beer companies, they got a surprise.

Together, the two brewers, in order to commemorate their long rivalry, created a new beer in collaboration titled - 'Strength in Numbers' with 57.8% alcohol. Is that the final thing, the strongest beer in the world now?

Sorry, no. Today, 'Snake Venom' from a Scottish distillery, Brewmaster holds that title with a whopping 67.5% ABV. This concoction is brewed with smoked peat malt and Champagne and ale yeasts. Like any other strong beer put through torture, Snake Venom also undergoes multiple freezings and accepts additional alcohol, until it breaks the roof to claim the title of the strongest beer in the world.

But is it beer?

Many beer aficionados disqualify it, saying that the strongest beer should only be judged by fermentation and not through freezing or doping it with additional alcohol.

Let them argue to the end of the world, but read the labels if you are ever going to take one mentioned above. One warns:

"This beer is not for chugging."
Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalis. The views expressed here are personal.

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