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Happy Friday again, beer fans! Somehow we've all survived another week.

Thanks to a generous member of the homebrew club, I recently tasted a couple of the rarest, most expensive, and most extreme malt beverages ever brewed. I'm assuming you want to hear about them.

Sam Calagione may have literally written the book on Extreme Brewing, but he's far from the only brewer dedicated to continually pushing the limits of what we call "beer".

One limit that's been pushed a long way in the past few years is the alcohol content, now up to an amazing 57%. The strongest of these are ice distilled, but brewers have also bred yeast that can ferment much stronger brews than before. These are weird, hard to find beers made in tiny quantities using extreme processes.

Any of you who's ever drunk cheap malt liquor knows that designing a beer for strength doesn't always make a great tasting product; only four of the 50 strongest reach a score of 4.00 on ratebeer's 5 point scale and none score the 4.13 required to make the list of the 50 best (no one gets a 5, #1 is 4.47).

Here's what I tasted:

Samuel Adams Utopias (2007 release):

 The comments on this ratebeer page are useful although they're probably drinking the 2011 release. The Sam Adams site is kind of annoying IMO so  I won't link to them (going to gets you a lame video of pouring it into a snifter and you have to follow a couple of links to get info). Here's what they say about the 2009 release:
Sweet fire, with a rich malt and wood complexity.

Truly the epitome of brewing's two thousand year evolution, Samuel Adams Utopias® offers a flavor not just unlike any other beer but unlike any other beverage in the world. The 2009 release is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 16 years in the barrel room of our Boston Brewery, in a variety of woods. We aged a portion of the beer in hand-selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery. The latest batch also spent time in Portuguese muscatel finishing casks, as well as sherry, brandy and Cognac casks. This flavorful, slightly fruity brew has a sweet, malty flavor that is reminiscent of a deep, rich vintage port, fine cognac or aged sherry.

I think they release a batch only in odd-numbered years. The release price of the 2011 was $150 for 24oz bottle (very pretty decorative bottle), now being resold at $400+. This is fermented to 27% abv, not ice distilled, and is not carbonated. Their description is a good one; I found it rather like a good port or sherry. Oxidized flavors from the long barrel aging; raisiny flavors, caramel, nuts. Sweet but not overpoweringly sweet. Delicious but out of my price range. Ratebeer score 4.01. This is a very good very strong "beer".

BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin:

Gotta like the name. BrewDog gives the impression of being not merely extreme but downright dangerously weird. Tactical Nuclear Penguin is an imperial stout ice distilled to 32% abv, was when released the strongest beer in the world, and it's one of four BrewDog beers in the Strongest 50.

This isn't like a wine or a malt beverage in flavor, it's like drinking a distilled spirit and you notice the alcohol. The ice process concentrates the flavors, giving a strong bitterness with also an herbal hop flavor; people compared it to a German herbal liqueur (not necessarily a compliment). Available from their site for £35.00 / 330ml, in a standard bottle, wrapped in a brown paper bag marked with a crudely hand-drawn penguin. I didn't check on shipping cost to the USA and didn't like it that much anyway. Ratebeer score 3.27.  


That was fun, now back to the real world. I haven't shopped yet and don't know what I'm drinking this evening. Definitely neither of the above. What are you drinking? Anyone brewing this weekend?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:45:05 PM PDT

  •  Cheers from Providence (6+ / 0-)

    Checking in from Netroots Nation.

    There are two breweries near the convention center. Trinity Brewhouse & Union Station Brewery. I've been to both. Trinity is definitely better, Union Station is a chain, the food is good & the beer was fine but Trinity's beers have more character.

  •  Been into sours lately (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OkieByAccident, Tonedevil

    Duchesse de Bourgogne is awesome. I could drink gallons of that. Well, not really. But you know what I mean.

    Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

    by Linnaeus on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:01:54 PM PDT

    •  you too? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OkieByAccident, Tonedevil

      good barrel-aged sour beers are damn expensive though. The first time I tasted Duchesse I thought it was vinegar not beer; my tastes have evolved since then.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:04:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's an acquired taste, for sure (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I wouldn't have liked it, say, 15 years ago. And yes, they ain't cheap, so I don't have them a lot. We have a beer place here called Brouwer's that sells a lot of Belgian-style beers and they feature a couple of sour ales regularly. I go there for happy hour sometimes.

        Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

        by Linnaeus on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:06:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          webranding, Linnaeus, Tonedevil

          First time I had a sour beer, it was like "someone did this on purpose?" Now I love 'em. Duchesse is a go-to for me, and my wife even likes it. I've seen several cases of this, where women who otherwise hate beer like sours.

          Haven't had TNP, but I've had Utopias twice, along with Brewdog's Sink The Bismarck, a 30%+ IPA. Once was enough on that, but I'd drink Utopias anytime.

          Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce

          by OkieByAccident on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:33:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I Like To Think I Know A Little About Beer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund, Tonedevil, Ahianne

    this diary makes me think I don't.

    I am just sitting here watching Whale Wars and having a glass of water. Nothing that interesting :).

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:11:01 PM PDT

  •  My wife is at Netroots Nation (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, Quicklund, Tonedevil, Ahianne

    and her daughter is at the beach, so I'm doing the basic maintenance and wrangling on dogs, cats, chickens, goldfish, and plants. I'm taking my own little vacation by brewing partial mashes, a Clary Sage Ale Wednesday and a Belgian Pale Ale Saturday.

    My brew buddy John brewed a ten gallon all-grain IPA Thursday with our upgraded system with bigger burners and a Blichmann Therminator wort chiller.  Six hours 42 minutes from start to pitching yeast in the second primary. Much better than the nine plus hours we had once with a stuck sparge. Next will be an attempt at 20 gallons of a Genesse Cream Ale clone, possibly with 3 yeasts plus a flavor treatment, the frozen lemon-ginger sludge from my Ginger Ale soda pop.

    Drinking The Last Edme Red Ale and the Galaxy IPA.

    The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in learning to love the dandelions. Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1910

    by Grainpaw on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:37:23 PM PDT

    •  I've never (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund, Tonedevil

      heard a good word about Genny Cream, and here you are brewing 20 gallons of it.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:04:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was one of our standard college drinks, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund, Tonedevil

        along with products of the Pennsylvania regional breweries like Stoney's from Jones Brewing (in Smithton, PA), Straub's, The Lion, Stegmaier, Rolling Rock, and Yuengling, all in heavy returnable 12 or 16 oz. bottles. Rolling Rock also came in 7 oz. pony bottles. I used to like Falls City, Old German Cumberland, MD) and Stroh's too.
            Cream Ale will be a simple low-gravity beer to try stretching our system with before we move on to bigger beers. There will be a limit to how much grain we can mash in a 15 gallon keg and get 20 gallons of beer. Have to work up to it. Summer is almost upon us, and you just can't drink IPA all day and get much done. Another reason I made the Ginger Ale. If we can do 20 gallons, I need to make a bunch of Dead Guy Ale to reward the people who helped build 500 feet of fence a year ago. I like the chance to try different yeasts, etc., on the same wort, and need to build up a backlog of aged beer so I am not rushing things into the keg because I'm out.

        The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in learning to love the dandelions. Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1910

        by Grainpaw on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:34:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Enjoyed Genesse Cream Ale skiing in college (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          About a month or two ago saw it in the local. Bought a case for nostalgia. Gotta admit I didn't think it was great.

          Only had Yuengling once.  A co-worker brought me a case once. That's a very nice beer. Much better than Iron City. :-p

          Lately I've been making everything I can from scratch. Bratwursts, most recently. But beer? Has it occurred to me to try brewing? D'oh!

  •  Wanna beer or somethin' like that? Wanna beer? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    OK, sure.
    What kind of beer would you like?
    What? I don't know. I don't care. Any kind.
    I'll get you Rolling Rock, it's a good beer. It's the best around.

           Robert De Niro to Meryl Streep
           The Deer Hunter
            M. Cimino, Universal Pictures, 1978

    The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in learning to love the dandelions. Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1910

    by Grainpaw on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:43:20 PM PDT

  •  Bought a $10 Belgian last week (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Never did that before. And here I thought I was taking a leap into the world of expensive beer.

    I can't remember the name offhand. It was a "tripel" I remember that. It was an import and a moderately-priced one among the local selection.

    It was good and reminded me of one of the New Belgium variants I had a couple weeks before that. Abbey? I think that was the name. Anyway at $10 for 750ml I thought it a poor money value compared to the New Belgium. But I have a lot to learn about Belgian beer and I am stubborn enough to do so.

    Not tonight though. Tonight I think I will have a Paulaner Hefe-Weissen. At $4 for a six-pack how could I pass up that?

  •  I am drinking... (0+ / 0-)

    Soulman Stout from my neighborhood brewery Track7 Brewing. Went to New York last week went to Brooklyn Brewery for their Sunday Smorgesbrew.  

    This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

    by Tonedevil on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:53:19 PM PDT

  •  You are lucky. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've always wanted to try Samuel Adams Utopias. So far I've only been on one alcoholic trip, which was one of the chianti tours offered by Tuscany Tours, and that was when I heard of this beer when our tour guide Marco Miniati mentioned it to us (and he's an awesome guide, you guys should join them someday!).

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