The race to create the world's strongest beer has, mercifully, died down after brewers ice-distilled (freezing off liquid) full batches down to less than a case of ridiculously strong beer. In the meantime, another handful of masters of malt perfected ales and lagers within the normal bounds of yeast, creating full-flavored, burn-free stouts, bocks, and barleywines that you could (slowly) sip all night long.
For our list of the strongest brews, we ruled out the super-rare novelties, brewed-once experiments, and gasoline-like failures not worth your liver. Every beer on our list is complex, textured, and intricately balanced — beer that's as sophisticated as a good Burgundy or a fine single-malt Scotch. So go ahead, seek these beers out, serve them at cellar temperature, and enjoy with your favorite drinking partners.
Sam Adams Utopias
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Style: American Barleywine
First, the bad news: A bottle of this groundbreaking beer runs about $250. The good news: Utopias is packaged in a 750 ml bottle with a resealable cap, so that the entire bottle doesn't have to be consumed in one evening. Utopias defies all notions of beer styles. It is a barrel-aged beer, made super alcoholic by means of a ton of malt (sugar from grains) and specially engineered super-yeast capable of fermenting it to spirit strength. Samuel Adams blends the base beers from a library of hundreds of oak barrels. Most of the barrels were purchased from bourbon distilleries, but some were also used for rum or wine and many have been reused multiple times dating back to Triple Bock, which is Samuel Adams's first high-alcohol beer in 1992.
Credit: Photograph by Michael Pirrocco