« Mad » for Beer!

The profession of brewer may be exceedingly scientific, being an engineer at the core, yet certain "alchemists" plunge into mild madness as they get carried away by their desire to inspire passion for one of the oldest and most popular beverages in the world.

There is little chance to achieve most of the rare varieties below, but one can always dream of it! And why not succumb to the flame of passion for a bottle design or a recipe that no one else will ever possess, perhaps by creating it yourself.

For example, one can always try to imitate (and even drink) the Snake Venom, known as the strongest beer in the world, with its 67.5% content in alcohol. This IPA was developed in Scotland by the Brewmeister brewery. It beat the Armageddon, from the same brewer, already at 65%. Moderate consumption is recommended, especially since this beer sells for almost 100 Euros! Some refer to a Dutch beer, the “Mystery of Beer” of the brewery ‘t Koelschip which declares 70% alcohol. But in any case, it must be hard to taste the difference at this level!

To stay humble, like any good Belgian, we keep our spirits high with “The Black”, the strongest Belgian beer at 14% (with no alcohol added), made in Bouillon. “Gorden Finest Carbon” at 14.1%, from the Anthony Martin group is a close competitor, with its virile taste that plays on an initial bitterness followed by a soft sweetness to the palate.

In addition to the strongest, comes the most expensive commercial beer. Here again Belgium takes the lead, given its price of nearly 1000 Euros for a bottle of 12 litres for the “Bon Secours” beer from the Brasserie Caulier, which has not found a buyer 10 years. So, it stays exhibited in a London restaurant, awaiting a savvy taster or connoisseur.

Other non–commercially available beers to reach such dizzying prices include a bottle recovered from the Hindenburg zeppelin catastrophe which, despite being deemed undrinkable, sold at auction for more than 14.000 Euros, and, live from Las Vegas, a beer brewed for Charity that included such ingredients as saffron and gold, valued at more than 3000 Euros).

In the United States again, the “Sam Adams Utopias”, a beer with 26% alcohol (and therefore banned in several states), is brewed in limited edition every two years, is a more accessible collector’s item. It reveals a fragrant association of cherries, brandy and cognac and is presented in a superb copper bottle that reminds as much of the brew kettles then brandy decanters. Its price: +/- 150 Euros.

Are Brewers’ Whims Fancied by All?

On the odd side, the worst undoubtedly comes with the best. Starting with a Scottish brewery named Brewdog, which packaged beers with 5% alcohol in stuffed squirrels, a hare and ermines. Named “The End of History” these beers were sold at 840 Euros a piece. Although eccentric, this marketing gimmick turned out to be an effective publicity stunt for this specialty brewer, inspiring strong emotions.

Or how about a bulls testicles beer, or beers with the aroma of oyster, sausage, milk, peppers or made with yeasts cultivated in the beard of the brewer (sic!)? Or those with Viagra, brewed exclusively in occasion of the princely wedding of Kate and William, in limited edition of course!

More understated, if you don’t know what aperitif to choose for your parties, you may opt for a champagne beer like the “Krait”, although this appellation could be misleading. If the process used for its making is reminiscent of the Champagne method, and while it is tapped with cork and bottled in the same fashion as the great sparkling, its “soft and fruity” taste does not represent an alternative to real champagne or to a delicious “Oude Gueuze”, the traditional reference of the Timmermans brewery, which was awarded the title of the best in the world in 2015 and known to the connoisseurs as the “champagne” of all beers.

In a refined style too, here come the Italians of the Baladin brewery, and their “Nora”, a spicy beer made from kamut grains, ginger and myrrh, according to an ancient Egyptian recipe: in any case, a pretty name and a pretty bottle.

Let us pass on many other creative whims of brewers. Each day brings its share of creations, from the "strongest" beer to the one with the most intriguing ingredients. For the most part, these are mainly marketing efforts aimed at gaining notoriety. But it is clear that these regular "buzzes" fuel the curiosity of some collectors as they strive to engrave a new name in the minds of beer lovers. On the other hand, there is a risk that in the long run, these “games” may end up undermining the quality and seriousness of the entire professional tradition.

We can only advise you to include a creative beer in your collection, perhaps one with a combination of new flavours, well balanced and harmonious, presented in a rare bottle that will be a pleasure to look at and a joy to consume!