Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Around the World - New Strongest "Beer" Record

Brewmeister Brewery
Well folks, it appears that we've got a new record set for the world's strongest beer. The new beer, brewed by the Brewmeister Brewery out of Scotland clocks in at an amazing 67.5% abv. By comparison, most hard liquor ranges from 40%-60% abv--weak compared to this beer. While this is exciting news, I have a problem with these so-called record-breaking beers of late. You see, the beers getting all the attention lately might not even be beer. As it stands, Sam Adam's 10th Anniversary Utopias is the strongest traditionally brewed beer in the world at 29% abv. All of the beers stronger than this have been freeze distilled.

Freeze distillation involves the process of freezing beer (or anything else alcoholic) and then separating the liquid from the ice crystals in the slushy mixture by draining it off. Barring the fact that it is illegal, any of you homebrewers out there could make a freeze distilled drink in the 20%-30% range using a 2-liter and your kitchen freezer, and 40%-50% abv range with some dry ice and a little patience. So instead of spending years selectively breeding super alcohol tolerant yeast like Sam Adam's did for Utopias, these breweries just put their beer in a really cold freezer.

Considering then that these beers have been distilled, are they even technically beers worth considering for the record? Traditionally beer is defined as a drink that is the result of yeast fermenting sugars that were created by the saccharification of starches (as opposed to free sugar like in fruit juice or mead). So do freeze distilled beers fit this definition? It seems as if they don't, but then again does that mean all eisbocks aren't beer? The TTB seems to think that a beer is still beer if the freeze distillation only increases the alcohol content by 0.5%. Otherwise, freeze distilled beer is very poetically classified as beer concentrate. Yum.

I guess the point is that I'm still in awe of the work that Sam Adam's did with Utopias, and hope that people take the news of the strongest "beer" in the world in context. All semantics aside, though, if it tastes good, who cares? Only problem is, I probably won't ever know how it tastes--unless someone out there wants to share their $80 9-oz bottle with me?

So what do you think? Is it beer? Is it worthy of the record? Have any of you tried one of these super strong freeze distilled beers?

3 comments:

  1. I don't believe there's anything illegal about freeze distilling. It isn't actually distilling.

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  2. Thank you for putting beer in "quotes" and explaining the difference.

    What Sam Adams has done with Utopias really is amazing. Typically yeast starts getting unhappy around 7-8% and to make good strong beer, you really need to work with it to adapt to those conditions.

    A very good brewer can get into the low or mid-teens by using some selective strains and doing everything they can to stack the deck in their favor.

    Sam Adams is doubling that. It is absurd, but some yahoos with an industrial freezer say "hey, we got passed 50%".

    No, buddy, you just distilled beer into liquor. I don't care if you used the freezing point instead of the boiling point to separate the water, it's still distillation.

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  3. AreaKode, you may be right, but it is a very grey legal area. Technically it is freeze concentration of beer, not distillation, like you say. The law allows for the production of beer concentrate from freezing. The issue is that there is no allowance for sale of beer concentrate to consumers. Generally what is legal to sell by commercial breweries is legal to produce and consume at home. So if it is illegal to sell this, it is probably illegal to consume it at home if you made it. So it is probably legal to make it and probably illegal to drink it. Go figure.

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