I didn’t think I would ever know what it was like to blackout during my third beer. And now that I do, I feel strongly that I’d like to go back to the way it was before. But in the line of duty, we sacrifice, and today you, fellow imbiber, are the beneficiary of my compelled intoxication. I’m about to reveal the world’s strongest beers.
Getting assigned to test ten of the highest alcohol content beers I could find was stimulating, but I was confident I could handle it. I’m what I’d call a committed recreational beer drinker: I’m good for anywhere between 1 and 16 beers daily, and I generally enjoy different kinds: cheap American swill, Mexican lager, nitro stouts, Saisons, tripels, and Czech pilsners all have their place in my fridge. Crack a few cold ones in the name of broadening my horizons and educating my peers? Indeed I would oblige, at any cost.
How I Tested Each Beer
Intuitively, why test beers that are effectively non-existent? I wanted to make a list of the strongest beers you can actually buy and drink.
The result is a guide of ten beers tasted, tested, and (mostly) documented by yours truly.
(It’s worth noting that I actually tested 11 beers. The eleventh, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, is still a mystery to me — I can’t remember drinking it. I did manage to scrawl a note that says, “vanilla. What I did: got in a fight with my girlfriend, reveled in the abyss that is humanity.” For obvious reasons, I shelved the review).
So grab your favorite pint glass or beer koozie and head into your man-cave (or the cave of whatever gender identity makes you feel comfortable). This might get sloppy — fast.
- Strongest: Brewmeister Snake Venom
- Best Bang for Your Buck: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
- Most Unusual: Boulevard Plaid Habit
- Best Tasting: Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale
- Worst Tasting: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
- Easiest to Drink: Gulden Draak 9000
- Darkest: Squatters Outer Darkness
- Lightest: Gulden Draak 9000
- Most Well-Rounded: Rogue Rolling Thunder 2020
- Most Surprising: AleSmith Speedway Stout
- Rarest: Schorschbrau Schorschbock 57%
The World’s Strongest Beer
Snake Venom is the world’s strongest beer. This poison is 67.5% alcohol (or 135 proof), which means it’s stronger than most liquor. It comes with a serious warning not to drink more than 35 mL in one sitting. Thank god I didn’t get my hands on any — but at a crisp $135.96 for a 12-ounce bottle (after shipping), I never really had a shot at it.
How do they do it? Peat malt and multiple freezing processes do the deed. Freezing beer is a time-tested method to make it stronger. Familiar domestics like Natty Ice, Bud Ice, et al. are all products of that process. It works because alcohol does not freeze, but water does. If you can separate the two, you can remove the ice. Voila, strong brew. There’s no telling how many times Brewmeister has to freeze Snake Venom, or at what temperatures, to churn it out at 67.5%. But if your goal is simply to drink the world’s strongest beer, do you really care?
World’s strongest beer
“Ice” style beer
Trying to pronounce Schorschbrau Schorschbock is as hard as getting it. Here’s our best bet for a source, but the 57% brew was out of stock as of this writing. That’s probably for the best.
Reviewers say: “smells like windscreen washer-fluid,” tastes like “an absolute blast of cask strength whiskey alcohol,” and “clingy caramel and booze-fruit grips the tongue and dehydrates it.” The most equable review I can find says it tastes “a bit like rotten fruit, but not in an entirely off-putting way.” I’ll go thirsty, thanks.
Awful taste reputation
Amid the semi-potable paint thinners and mad science experiments that characterize the quest for the world’s strongest beer, Samuel Adams Utopias looks like an outlier. It’s not as strong as the triple-digit-proof heavyweights, and from the sound of things, it seems like Samuel Adams actually endeavors to make it a drinkable beer.
Samuel Adams makes Utopias’ magic with various high-tolerance yeast strains, rarefied barrels, and by mix-and-matching vintages. Utopias is about 200 times too rich for my blood at more than $200 a bottle (seemingly available only here at the time of writing), but I am actually interested in tasting it.
To be able to make your own beer at home, be sure to invest in some of the best homebrew kits from our list.
Strongest beer brewed in America
Unique annual vintages
- TypeAmerican Ale
- OriginBoston, MA
What I did while I drank it: Studiously paged through the biography of a famous American Supreme Court Justice.
Gulden Draak 9000 is cool. It’s a strong beer with a cool name, cool firetruck-red Gothic lettering on a black-wrapped bottle, cool steampunk dragon art (I assume Gulden Draak must mean something like “golden dragon” in Belgian — if that’s a language), and it looks cool in a glass: cloudy copper beer laced with bright violet. On top of all that, it drinks vibrantly and tastes great.
Gulden Draak 9000 is a Belgian quad-style ale. It’s inspired by the Trappist brewing tradition, in which orders of monks brew beer using centuries-old recipes and sell it to sustain their communities. Pour a glass of Gulden Draak 9000, and you’ll notice its strong aroma. It’s crisply fruity, but also spicy; I’m admittedly stealing the phrase from a commenter on BeerAdvocate, but “black peppery clove spice” is on point. It’s lightly bodied and dances across your palate effervescently then leaves behind a notable alcohol signature. Brilliant but devious, Gulden Draak 9000 belongs in your refrigerator for sophisticated moments and mischief alike.
- TypeBelgian Quadruple Ale
- OriginErtvelde, Belgium
What I did while I drank it: Parlayed a happy visit with Awkward Look Monkey Puppet into a few legendary games of NHL ’94 on SNES.
Open a can of Revision’s Dr. Lupulin Triple IPA and your nostrils instantly flare. Unmistakable IPA flower power surrounds you in an aromatic cloud. Take it in and get ready for an adventure: this is one of the most potent beers on the IPA circuit. It’s important to understand that Dr. Lupulin (pronounce it loop-you-lin) is not a person. If she were, she would be the female god of the strong beer realm. Lupulin is hop fairy dust: a bitter yellowish powder found on glandular hairs beneath the scales of the flowers on the female hop plant.
Yes, you read that correctly; and no, Revision Dr. Lupulin Triple IPA is not a cannabinoid. It pours highly transparent and nearly headless, and it drinks extremely moderately (at least to my taste) for being so boozy. The beer doesn’t taste as flowery as it smells, nor does it seem thick or malty. It finishes rather sharply on the rear palette — eventually, there can be nowhere to hide 11.3% ABV. Dr. Lupulin “Diabolical” Triple IPA clocks in with some of the highest alcohol content on the IPA market. It’s also a fun beer, from the cartoonish artwork it’s wrapped in to the loopy buzz it delivers. The fairy god of hops is indeed pleased.
Beer connoisseurs will also be interested in some of the top growlers from our list. Don’t miss them.
Heavy hop and alcohol flavor
Fun label art
- TypeTriple IPA
- OriginSparks, NV
What I did while I drank it: Kept tabs on the group chat for work until my eyeballs started vibrating, then did yoga and started to see things that weren’t really there.
AleSmith Speedway Stout is a surprisingly well-balanced imperial stout with coffee. It’s a good way to get your day started: one of the strongest beers in the world that we recommend for breakfast. Crack a tallboy of this balanced-yet-mighty brew first thing in the morning, and there’s no telling what might happen (see above). Speedway is highly approachable, especially at 12% alcohol. On my first impression, the beer felt light. That surprised me until I realized how well-carbonated it is. It features all the heavy flavor overtones you expect from an imperial stout, packaged in a crisp drinkability.
Speedway Stout is also anointed with “a healthy dose of locally roasted coffee.” I thought that meant the beer would, well, taste like coffee. Instead, it doesn’t. This beer’s coffee profile may be a little stronger than other stouts’, but AleSmith seems to have added coffee to Speedway Stout to improve its approachability, rather than alter its flavor. Far from a gimmick, this creative touch works wonders. AleSmith’s unconventional imperial stout promises to grab your attention — whether it’s the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you remember at night.
Brewed with local coffee
Highly carbonated for smooth taste
- TypeImperial Stout with Coffee
- OriginSan Diego, CA
I love a good play on words (say “Plaid Habit”), and this beer happens to hail from this reviewer’s homeland. Boulevard has built a tradition based on quality products since its inception in 1989. This entry added some variety to my quest for the highest alcohol content beers available: an imperial brown ale aged in Canadian whiskey barrels, brewed in Missouri?
Why not? Come to find out, the answer was in the description of the brew itself: Plaid Habit has a lot going on. The beer pours a deep brown, not quite black, and smells decidedly caramelly. The first taste comes on strong and syrupy and leaves a distinctly alcoholic aftertaste, delivered by Canadian whiskey. Canadian whiskey is sweeter and less smoky than Bourbons. Coupled with brown ale, it can give Plaid Habit a bit of a cloying feel. I highly recommend drinking Plaid Habit at a relatively high temperature: whiskey warmth comes across better at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Boulevard Plaid Habit will get you where you’re going at 12.4% ABV. It’s an interesting entry for those seeking variety on their adventure in the realm of strong beer.
Aged in Canadian Whiskey barrels
Tastes distinctly sweet
- TypeImperial Brown Ale
- Origin Kansas City, MO
- AvailabilityLimited release
What I did while I drank it: Took my dog to the park and made friends with so many of the goodest boys and girls.
Squatters Outer Darkness had me at first pour. It comes out of the can as jet-black and opaque as oil from a well-worked diesel engine, and it smells like charred roots. A Russian imperial stout should be straightforward: dark, chocolatey but not sweet, and demurely boozy. Outer Darkness is right on target.
I appreciated the cohesion of the beer’s flavor profile — generally, in a high-ABV stout, one flavor or another becomes dominant. Consider that Squatters boils Outer Darkness for 3 ½ hours, adding molasses and licorice root to the brew, then ages it in oak barrels. It’s a testament to Squatters’ brewing acumen that this imperial stout emerges harmoniously — in perfect darkness. For Russian imperial stout lovers who appreciate the form, it doesn’t get any better than Squatters Outer Darkness.
No-nonsense stout profile
Incredibly dark color
- TypeRussian Style Imperial Stout
- OriginSalt Lake City, UT
What I did while I drank it: Examined a $1 bill at a distance of less than 1 inch from my eyeballs, hunting for signs of the Illuminati; conversed at length with old friends.
Despite winning our inter-test award for “Most Boring Label,” Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale is hands-down my favorite entry. That surprised me, as I usually can’t stand barley wines, which usually taste like the offspring of apple cinnamon Pop-Tarts and Rose’s Grenadine to me. But, I realized, no test of the strongest beers on the market would be complete without one.
So, when I opened the bottle and wafted Bell’s Third Coast’s boozy spiciness (no off-putting sugar aroma), I was intrigued. Pouring it was nice, too — it’s murky and mysterious, a brew the color of ancient, smoky hardwood with a head as weightless and tall as a cumulous cloud. Then I drank it, fast. That was the best part. Maybe it would have been even better if I had sipped it, but slugging it felt like savoring it. I could also have aged it (in the austere, candlelit beer cellar I definitely have below my apartment). The label itself says, “Go ahead, test your patience.” Patience test: failed. Good beer test: passed.
Drinks smoothly on rear palate
- TypeAmerican Barley Wine Ale
- OriginComstock, MI
What I did while I drank it: Enjoyed the impressionist-style painting of a garden pond and the vinyl copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel I’d scored at the thrift store.
I’ll admit it: I’m skeptical of beers packaged individually in their own boxes. Firestone Walker threw me off a bit at first. Who do these guys think they are? I thought. The box features an Arthurian battle: a bear sparring against a lion. But Firestone Walker Parabola melted my face (without making fun of me for my elitism).
Make no mistake; this is an elitist’s beer. You don’t dub your barrel-aged beer program the “Proprietor’s Vintage Series” for nothing. Ratings are sky-high across the beer-reviewer board; Firestone Walker delivers a limited run of a unique entry each year. And, as the box declares, Proprietor’s Vintage is “one of the most extensive barrel-aging programs in the craft industry.” High times, but what is Parabola 2021 like? It’s highly aromatic — vibrant booze saturates very dark chocolate to create an aroma almost as strong as red wine vinegar. It pours quite black with a pencil-thick khaki head.
To drink it is to get punched in the face by strong beer greatness. It’s a little assaulting at first: dark fruit, pepper, and chocolate fight each other in a pool of alcohol on the tip of your tongue. Give it time, though, and it falls into lockstep: the rear palate taste is balanced, the aftertaste mildly boozy. As it warms in the beer glass, it grows milder, even cuddly (or maybe you just stared at the bear/lion illustration long enough for that adjective to come to mind). After you drink it, you’ll be well surprised to remember that almost 14% of it was alcohol. Touché — er, cheers — Firestone.
Enthralling, strong aroma
Surprising, temperate drinkability
- TypeBarrel-aged Imperial Stout
- OriginPaso Robles, CA
- AvailabilityAnnual Limited Release
What I did while I drank it: Celebrated a birthday.
Rogue’s 2020 edition of its Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout series is outstanding. It delights the taste buds without attracting too much attention, and even a small dose delivers a hearty buzz appropriate for any — well, pretty much any — occasion. It’s the darkest, strongest beer on our list, and it’s proudly produced fully in-house by Rogue — from barrel nails to bottlecaps.
Rogue ages Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout in the same barrels that it uses for its Dead Guy Whiskey. Not only that, it makes the barrels in-house from Oregon oak, in a highly-curative process. The bottle literature states, “we plane, trim, joint, hoop, hammer, bend, toast, croze, bevel, shape, saw, sand, cauterize and char” the locally harvested wood to produce one barrel each day. Rogue’s affinity for internalized production works wonders in this barrel-aged stout.
The aroma is stately dark chocolate, with a touch of cherry. It pours gently black with a copper head. Though Rolling Thunder may seem modest, it packs a punch — swirl it a little in your glass, and you’ll see that it almost has legs. This stout is smooth and velvety on the tongue at all temperatures, with just a touch of bright spice. Each bottle is numbered by hand on the label, so you know just what you’re getting. Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout is as no-nonsense as Rogue’s production methods — if you like your massively strong beer with a subtext of curated traditionality, then this is the brew for you.
Highly curative brewing and bottling process
Drinks well at all temperatures
- TypeImperial Stout
- OriginNewport, OR
- AvailabilityAnnual Limited Release
What I did while I drank it: Lost many games of checkers.
The Sierra Nevada name probably rings a bell for almost anyone who doesn’t exclusively drink Bud Light. The brewer’s Pale Ale, in its signature bright green packaging, is visible just about anywhere beer is sold. Narwhal is a bit rarer. Like the storied Arctic Ocean creature to which it owes its name, this barrel-aged imperial stout lurks in relative obscurity — and is equally impressive when it surfaces.
Narwhal Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout is a hell of a beer. That may come as a surprise to some craft beer aficionados (Sierra Nevada offerings enjoy a fair-to-middling reputation among beer hounds). Sierra Nevada is ubiquitous enough to have achieved relative saturation and is known to rarely make a substantial impression.
Not so in Narwhal’s case. Highly drinkable and well-carbonated, it pours with a robust and persistent head — unusual in a stout. Narwhal’s taste profile leans pleasantly toward coffee, and its aftertaste is impressively balanced. If you want the highest alcohol content beer you can find to taste like kerosene on the back of your tongue, seek elsewhere — Narwhal is smooth as velvet, whether it’s fridge-cold or warming. An encounter with Narwhal is pure delight. Still, keep in mind that it’s a wild animal: an experience as strong as 11.9% ABV can be hard to predict.
Striking visual profile
- TypeImperial Stout
- OriginChico, CA and Mills River, NC
What I did while I drank it: Stumbled through a hard day’s night.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is the king of the IPA’s. It clocks in at “15-20% ABV,” and its name is bound to come up in any conversation about the world’s strongest beers. Dogfish Head 120 is a defiant brew that stands out for its alcoholic voracity and its commitment to hops. Let’s get right to the point: this stuff is highly potent. If you’re expecting a “beer,” my advice is to look elsewhere. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA may look like beer, with its hazy amber hue, a sprinkling of sediment, and moderate head — but it drinks like brandy.
My initial impression was somewhere between “An IPA with a shot of Kentucky Deluxe in it” and “Wow! Laundry detergent!” Good thing you won’t care anymore after you drink half the bottle. I should note that on this occasion, I drank an un-aged bottle (aged only by the brewer, in this case, 2 months). A source confirms that aging Dogfish Head 120 up to several years yields dividends; however, time constraints for this test forced my hand. Check back in 5 years for my review of an aged bottle (if you, or I for that matter, haven’t drunk ourselves into a perpetual delirium on Dogfish Head 120 by then).
Tastes extremely alcoholic
Best when well-aged
- TypeImperial IPA
- OriginMilton, DE
Things to Consider
When shopping for the most alcoholic beer you can find, remember one thing: don't expect "beer." I mean, don't expect to buy a 30-pack of silver-and-blue cans for $19.99. In fact, many of the beers in this test are sold only as singles. That's because a) you won't want to drink more than a few of them at once (if you have any regard for your well-being) and b) they're rare birds, painstakingly created by experienced brewers.
Of course, any encounter with alcohol also requires safety: if you take the strongest beer you can buy to a friend's house for the evening, have a plan to sleep over, or get home safely. Even a few of these bad boys can induce staggering intoxication.
Why Trust This Guide?
In selecting and personally testing the brews featured here, I relied upon in-house experts, field contacts, and ratings and reviews from BeerAdvocate and other reputable beer rating institutions. These resources (along with more than a few years of personal expertise) informed my decisions.
Who This Guide Is For
Everyday drinkers that are thirsty for exploration.
How I Selected Each Beer
The tested entries in this guide were chosen based on high ABV first, relative availability second. As mentioned above, I drew from various knowledgeable sources in selecting each beer featured here.
I've included news-style entries for the actual strongest beers in the world, but If you're looking for real tests of those brews, they are not here. That's because beers in that echelon more or less can't be gotten (see above).
Features To Look for in the World's Strongest Beer
ABV, aging, and vintage play important roles in the strong beer game.
ABV is a simple principle: alcohol by volume. Expressed as a percentage, it measures how much pure alcohol is in each swallow of beer. The name of the game, the holy grail of strong beer, over 2 billion people each day drink EtOH: ethanol. I strongly encourage you to enjoy altering your chemical composition responsibly.
Aging is an important consideration for strong beer drinkers. Check out Firestone Walker's quick and easy guide to cellaring beer (and try it out with a bottle of its Parabola 2021, reviewed above)! Firestone Walker notes that aging is only appropriate for beers above the 8% ABV range and helps flavor profiles mature.
You should also be aware of your beer's vintage, especially in the case of a limited run or seasonal offering. Firestone Walker releases a totally unique Parabola, for instance, every year. Other beers can be under- or over-mature based on birth date and shelf time.
World's Strongest Beer FAQ
Q: What is the strongest beer in the world?
A: Brewmeister Snake Venom, from Scotland, is the world's strongest beer at 67.5% ABV. Pick up a bottle on Amazon for £50 plus £49 delivery (about USD $69 and $68, respectively).
Q: What is the strongest beer in the US?
A: Samuel Adams Utopias is the strongest beer brewed in the United States, clocking in at 28% ABV. Be aware — it's neither sold in nor shipped to 15 states.
Q: Can you drink 100% alcohol?
A: Absolutely. Similarly, you can drink gasoline or furniture varnish. What happens next? Nothing good. 190-proof Everclear is the highest-percentage alcohol sold for drinking (95% ABV). ChemicalSafetyFacts.org has you covered when it comes to drinking chemicals.
Q: Can you order the world's strongest beer?
A: Yes! Brewmeister Snake Venom. A 12-ounce bottle costs $136 after shipping.
Q: How is beer made?
A: Step 1: Harvest and process grains (heating and drying, plus cracking).
Step 2: Steep the processed grains in hot water to make wort (a sticky, sugary mash).
Step 3: Boil the wort while adding hops and spices.
Step 4: Cool, strain, and filter the wort, then pour it into a fermentation vessel. Add yeast.
Step 5: Age and bottle.
That's a hyper-simplified explanation. For alcohol, we have yeast to thank: the bacteria eat the sugar in the wort and releases CO2 and EtOH (alcohol) as byproducts.