I’m ruined. I have spent too long in the world of double digit ABV beers. Occasionally I tone it down and enjoy a 9.4% Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball or a 9.8% Mission Dark Seas, but that’s about as passive as I’ll go. There’s something about beers once they cross that 10% line. They always just have this affect of filling you up. It’s like the difference between eating a single 4-oz patty burger and a 16-oz NY strip steak. You don’t need sides or appetizers or really anything if you don’t want to regret it the next day.
Regardless of the style, there always seem to be this aftertaste of syrupy sweetness that I am absolutely in love with. Surprisingly enough, I don’t eat sweets or chocolate. But I will surely drink them. I am constantly raving about Weyerbacher, who are known specifically for big giant beers.Blithering Idiot and Insanity (both barleywines) sit at 11.1%, and Tiny (Belgian-style imperial stout) is 11.8%. Then I managed to get Victory V-Twelve into the store, an obvious 12% quad.
And those are still low in comparison to some.
The Goose Island Bourbon County beers are prime examples. One 12-oz bottle of the Brand Stout (at 14.2%) is enough to make anyone say, “That’s all I need tonight.” Then of course there’s the North Coast Old Stock Ale Cellar Reserve. At a paltry 15.2%, it’s the most deliciously sweet beer I’ve ever had–a hint of fruit up front, with a rich, malty goodness in the middle, finished with maple syrup. My mouth felt coated in that syrupy sweet feeling I mentioned earlier. As it warmed to room temperature, it proceeded to taste like a sweeter version of a nice brandy. That’s the kind of beer that you only need one of and you are done for the night.
There are plenty of breweries that are always going to more extreme levels, BrewDog and Mikkeller are some examples looking at plenty of 18%, 20% and higher ABV brews. I haven’t had the opportunity to try some of those more extreme beers, but I certainly have them on my to-do list. But for now, I’ll enjoy any and all barleywines, imperial stouts and Belgian quads I can acquire, like this fascinating blonde ale from France: a 13% called Belzebuth. It has the same finish as the rest of them, and as far as I’m concerned, that can never be a bad thing.
James Day, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits beer consultant – North Port
Follow me on Twitter @abcbeerjamesd