When it comes to beer with laughably large alcohol-by-volume percentages, the Scottish win. Trying to go up against the Scots is like staging a dunking contest between Kobe Bryant and my grandmother. It’s just embarrassing for everyone involved.
But just because American craft brewers aren’t aiming to give you alcohol poisoning doesn’t mean they aren’t making giant beers. They are, and they’re doing a pretty amazing job of it. These are the American beers with enormous ABVs that are worth the price on the bottle…and the drunken cab ride home.
Avery Brewing Company’s Black Eye
Clocking in at 18.82 percent ABV, Black Eye is an impressive imperial stout that practically oozes out of the bottle. Seriously, I kind of wanted to pour it over ice cream instead of drink it from a glass. Black Eye sits squarely on the nexus of two beer trends: brews with ever-climbing ABVs and beyond-bourbon-barrel-aged beers. Avery (based in Boulder, Colorado) ages Black Eye in rum barrels, and the sweetly spiced rum notes definitely shine through.
Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA
I do not worship at the altar of hops. But sometimes a beer comes along that makes you question your religious affiliation. Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA is such a beer. The notoriously experimental brewery in Delaware releases a few batches of 120 Minute IPA a year and they always sell out fast. Because who doesn’t want to know what an IPA with a 20 percent ABV tastes like (a little like throwing stars…in a good way)?
Firestone Walker Brewing Co’s Parabola
Parabola, a Russian imperial stout brewed in bourbon barrels, has the lowest ABV of the bunch (14 percent). But that’s nothing to sniff at. Especially when you consider the fact that drinking a single 12-ounce glass of Parabola is pretty much the equivalent of slamming four Amstel Lights in one go. Only much more enjoyable. Parabola uses the big ABV to express all kinds of chewy malts and rich vanilla flavors. If stouts aren’t your thing, Paso Robles’ Firestone Walker also has a pretty killer collection of jumbo barleywines (Sucaba for one) that’ll do the trick.
The Bruery’s Black Tuesday
The OG from the OC. The legend. Black Tuesday. The 2014 version boasts an ABV of 19.7 percent, which makes this barrel-aged stout a mandatory share bottle. Last time I popped open a Black Tuesday, five people got in on the action and we all felt a little toasty after polishing it off. The beer pours black as night, completely opaque. And it tastes like beer candy–strong notes of toffee, vanilla, and caramel. The Bruery releases a limited quantity of Black Tuesday on the last, well, Tuesday of October each year. It sells out quicker than tickets to a Taylor Swift show (and is just as sweet). Get it if you can, enjoy it responsibly.
For where to buy the beers listed above, visit the brewery websites.