Breweries Vie to Produce the Strongest Beer in the World

on 03/12/10 at 9:25 am

Beer

For the last two years brewers in Europe have waged a liquid arms race to create the world’s highest ABV (alcohol by volume) beer. Since fall 2008 the ABV of the most potent beer on the planet has more than doubled from 27 percent to a quite-literally staggering 60 percent.

These probably aren’t the beers you’re drinking. Most beer has an ABV of 4-6 percent, with 12 percent typically the limit for beers brewed using traditional methods. Bud Light and Guinness both have an ABV of 4.2 percent, for example. But over the past decade brewers have experimented with abnormal methods of brewing, which can greatly increase ABV.

A little background on alcohol content: Alcohol comes from the breakdown of sugar in the fermentation process. The amount of fermentable sugar in the brew is the most important aspect in determining ABV. Most brewing yeast used to create beer cannot produce an ABV above 12 percent. Innovative brewers recently discovered methods for exceeding this cap by using champagne yeasts and “freeze distilling.” Alcohol has a lower freezing point than water; a brew can be set to an extremely low temperature and when the water in the mix freezes, it is removed, leaving behind a potent mix. It is a complex process, with little margin for error.

These are the three breweries pushing the limits and gunning for the title of strongest beer in the world.

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