DOUBLE-DIGIT DRINKABILITY

They Really Are All Session Beers

This conundrum is another from the depths of the depraved mind of our very own Slouch Sixpack. My recent post about the dangerous drinkability of The Stoic, a tasty quadrupel from Deschutes, spawned a behind-the-scenes chat* about high-ABV beers that are nonetheless highly drinkable. It’s a rare imperial stout that I want more than one, or at best two of in a given evening (ignoring Barley’s recent obsession with seeing how many Ten FIDYs he can fit into a beer bong). But there are certainly a few of them out there, along with the odd DIPA, barleywine, or various other beastly beer styles. So in today’s conundrum we will explore the realm of bad decisions and questionable expenditures: Fellas, what is the most drinkable high-ABV beer you’ve come across?

The rules: Beer’s ABV must be in the double digits. I guess I should have just called that ‘the rule’.

*The chat:
Slouch Sixpack – The Stoic post made me think of a conundrum topic- what is the most drinkable high ABV beer you’ve ever had? We could cap it at 10% or something?
Beerford McBrewin’ – I like that.

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COMMANDER PINT O. CHUG

I know you guys don’t think I can answer a question head on. Perhaps this answer will vindicate me–that the questions you ask are usually just too fucking stupid for me to answer coherently.

Bell’s HopSlam barely meets the 10% minimum, but it’s my clear winner. In this case, I can back up my answer with real-life experience.

As I’ve written in these pages before, at Super Bowl 2011, my good friend and former drinking buddy Herr Direktor and I took down a 5-liter mini-keg of HopSlam. It was the Alehead’s equivalent of a stay-cation. It cost $40, but that meant that for $20 each we had about 5 pints of HopSlam.

After throwing back 5 pints in 2-1/2 hours, I can truthfully say it is the most drinkable high-ABV beer I’ve had. Though I’m dying to try the same stunt with Pliny the Younger someday.

The Commander is a pounder

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BROTHER BARLEY MCHOPS

An excellent Conundrum spawned by Beerford’s experiences with the dangerously drinkable Stoic and Slouch’s obsession with numbing himself to all of the world’s torments.

I’ve had many a high-gravity brew that left me thinking, “Whoa…that one went down just a little TOO easy.” But truth be told, there aren’t that many 10%+ beers on the market that leave me thirsting for more than a bomber or magnus of the stuff. Beyond the obvious problem of bedrunkening my brainbone, high-gravity brews are generally full-bodied, heavy, and chock-full of fermentable sugars. In other words, one or two of them usually leaves me pretty satisfied.

But there are some rare big beers on the market that belie their heavy-hitting nature. For my money, the easiest-drinkin’, double-digit brew is the outlandishly tasty Lenny’s Bittersweet RIPA from He’brew. Maybe it’s the rye malt bill which adds just a touch of spice and a nicely fluffy mouthfeel. Or maybe it’s the huge, but not overwhelming hop profile which keeps the brew from being too sugary-sweet. All I know is that those four-packs of Lenny’s disappear dishearteningly quickly from my fridge. Unfortunately, even though the 10% ABV booze is utterly indiscernible when drinking them, it becomes fairly obvious the next morning.

Ouch.

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DR. RIPPED VAN DRINKALE III

I’ll admit that my consumption of booze-bombs has quickly diminished these days. While I love a good Double IPA in the 8-9% realm and can usually pop down a couple in a row, I’ve found that I’m drinking less and less of the higher-end, hard to find Imperial Stouts that often stretch over 12%. Apparently they make me very sick. Well, maybe it’s the other 5 or 13 beers that I drink before and after the 12% Imperial Stout that make me sick, but nonetheless I’m trying to limit my intake. Case in point – It probably wasn’t the 12% Brooklyn Black Ops that Sudsy and I split last weekend that made me feel as if death was immanent the next morning. Could have been everything else we drank like the Troeg’s Perpetual IPA, the Rock Art ?Riddler?, or even the way past its prime vintage De Dolle Stille Nacht that had us both questioning why we didn’t drink it sometime during the last decade. Maybe it was just that bean I had, I guess we’ll never know. As much as I like to think “They’re All Session Beers”, apparently they don’t all need to be session beers during the same session. Unless of course they’re all Kulmbacher EKU 28.

While I can’t drink a ton of Imperial Stout, I can absolutely drink an ass-load (That’s more than a ton) of the liquid-bread known as EKU 28. At 11% alcohol this German Dopplebock packs a punch and doesn’t do a damn thing to hide all of that luscious booze. I think that’s why it’s so drinkable. It is a bit syrupy but the alcohol burns off most of the sweetness just before you’re met with plenty of bready malts and ample carbonation. You’ll probably only see the 12oz bottles in the States but I was lucky enough to belly up to a bar in Austria a few years back and drink several of these back-to-back right from the tap. I also chased the EKU 28’s with the local Urbock 23, which might be the most sessionable high gravity ale that just misses the cut at 9.6% ABV. Just because they’re sessionable though, doesn’t mean I won’t feel like hot garbage in the morning. Such is life…

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KID CARBOY JR.

If I’m telling truths, then I must mention that pretty much all of all the most “sessionable” 10%+ brews I’ve had are homebrews, either my own or other peoples’. The beers I make tend to finish quite dry, and so even the heftiest of brews go down and leave room for another one following right behind.

In terms of commercial beer, however, I think I’m going to have to agree with The Commander on this one–I haven’t had another brew over 10% that I could drink with reckless abandon in the same way that I could tackle some Bell’s HopSlam. It’s the perfect mix of pungent hops and drying bitterness that keeps me coming back for more.

I can’t help but notice that none of us has chosen a huge imperial stout yet. This may be the rare conundrum where we don’t advocate drinking copious quantities of them. When it comes to high-abv beer, though, I can drink significantly larger amounts of something with ample hops than a pure malt bomb. I think that for ultra high-gravity session brews, you probably can’t beat an imperial IPA that stays on the dry side (relatively).

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HERR HORDEUM

Not advocate drinking copious quantities of Imperial Stouts? Careful Carboy, or someone might take away your Alecard.

This is actually kind of a tough one for me. I can put down an obscene amount of Odell Myrcenary or Founders Double Trouble, but they both fall a touch short. I enjoy just about any barleywine I can get my hands on— but for slow sipping on a winters day. Imperial Stouts also fall into this category, but they just seem to disappear a little more quickly.

My choice is Deschutes The Abyss. Sure, it may weight in at 11%, but it disappears as quickly as a Guinness in a Hanover Frat House. No hint of alcohol, silky smooth. If I were to be put to death, my last meal would be TWO bottle of Abyss (preferably different vintages). Since I can’t purchase Abyss locally, my wallet and my gut don’t have to deal with the drawbacks of having a constant supply. Thankfully, Beerford has offered to ship all of the Aleheads three bombers of the 2011 release. Thanks in advance Beerford!!!

A big giant pounder

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SLOUCH SIXPACK

I’m going to echo again HopSlam nomination; not sure if it’s the honey they use or what, but that beer is the most dangerously drinkable booze bomb I’ve ever come across. For sake of variety, I’ll throw out a recent local selection that absolutely floored me: the Lavery Imperial French-Style Ale is a heavily-hopped Saison clocking in at a robust 11.5% ABV. Jason Lavery mashes his beers at low temperatures that lend a dry finish and make his high-gravity stuff very drinkable. If you’re a fan of Saison and hops and can find your way to western Pennsylvania, keep an eye out for this outstanding summer seasonal. Just be careful… it’s way to easy to have one too many.

It’s because he pounds so much

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CZAR VLADIBEER S. ‘BOOTIN

Feh on Hopslam, only because I did not think first of it and also cannot keep enough of it to make a full session. Germans can drink German beers. Is what my guard dog drinks. Leningrad (Lenny) is name of my dolphin and so maybe I feed him barley’s RIPA tonight. I will make esteemed vote for a barleywine local to the capital of world, which is New York City and it is obvious that this should be at top of list. Chelsea Brewering makes beer 1000 Gyle Imperial Mild. Is aged in whiskey barrel and I had occassion to have some of these some time ago at underground fighting club I am partners inwith. Is 11% like bull but tastes like Svetlana asking for more jewelry.This beer drinks like running my fingers through the hair of my mistress. Is soft and golden and smells like most expensive french shampoo. It makes the head spin counter clockwise after four of five of them and I am assuring you this is the correct direction to watch two high school girls pummel one another. Is hard to find but I will tell you secret: I have the rest.

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BEERFORD MCBREWIN’

I still haven’t had the privilege of sampling our clear winner, the great Bell’s HopSlam.  I have no doubt it would make my short list of drinkable asskickers.  As for my choice, I threw it down without hesitation at the top of this conundrum (in fact, as I mentioned, it’s the reason this conundrum happened).  I love Hordeum’s choice, but as good as The Abyss is (and it is goddamn effing good), one bomber is plenty for me.  I haven’t seen any Kulmbacher or Lavery out this way, and clearly don’t get any Chelsea beers.  I do see He’Brew now and then though, so I’ll have to grab a Lenny’s to check it out.  But yes, you guessed correctly, Deschutes The Stoic is my runaway choice for this one.  If I ever find it on tap again I’m going to do exactly the same thing I did last time and stick by it all night, regardless of the potential consequences.  It’s freaking delicious, utterly unique, and has almost no hint of the substantial alcohol present in this burly quad.  So there you have it.

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13 comments

  1. Cask Beerouac · · Reply

    I’m going to think a little outside the box on this one and say Consecration. Clocking in right at 10%, this beauty is a sour brown ale aged in port. Russian River doesn’t miss much, and they certainly didn’t with this one. I probably would have said Hopslam, but that’s lame. Or KBS ’cause it’s delicious. Whatever, drink Consecration, it’s delicious.

  2. My vote is for Southern Tier Mokah Imperial Stout, which I had for the first time Saturday. This one smelled like chocolate syrup and tasted like chocolatey coffee. It gave a warm feeling in my chest and a tingling sensation in my loins.

  3. Cask: that was my runner up. It’s a dark horse. In fact, I’ll admit I had to look up the ABV, because the Consecration sure doesn’t taste like a 10%+ beer.

    If we’d all gone to the sour-fest in San Diego that the Czar is spreading the word about, we might have a different list altogether. As one of our friends who blasphemed the Russian River tasting room with me said, RR’s sour lineup challenges what beer even is in the first place. I could see a 10%+ sour beer list making for one hell of a night.

  4. AleSmith Horny Devil, it went down so smooth that I forgot that it was a 11%. Opened a second bottle, that was the downward spiral.

  5. This was actually a tough conundrum for me, because I rarely drink any one beer in “sessions” in general, instead preferring to constantly mix it up throughout the night. That goes double for stuff over 10%. In general, I like to get a bunch of different tastes in the course of a night.

    With that said though, I think all my alternate choices and runners-up here would have been other imperial IPAs. Unfortunately, a good number of them come close but don’t quite crack 10%, but here are a few that do, or almost do:

    — Firestone Walker Double Jack (which is 9.5%)
    — Unita Detour Double IPA (also 9.5%)
    — Port Hop 15 (which I like, but don’t think I could drink as many of)

  6. beer-miester · · Reply

    Any of you, Commander Pint, that can throw back 5 pints of Hopslam and then walk and talk are true seasoned aleheads and I salute you! My buddy and I downed a mini-keg of the over the top drink-a-licious Hopslam for my birthday and we had a drop to one knee mellow buzz that was a true delight. I recommend the same to all.

    Drink well my friends!

    1. Walk and talk? I can hardly do that on a good day, let alone after the HopSlam mini-keg. (That is a picture of me up there with the smiley face, post-HopSlam.)

      But I absolutely agree–it gave me an awesome buzz. I don’t know whether it was psychosomatic or not. Is it possible that I was so excited that I even HAD a mini-keg of HopSlam that the euphoria stayed with me all night, through 2.5 liters of it? And is that part of the reason we like craft beer so much? Is it the reason that top-beer rankings on sites like BeerAdvocate seem to be self-perpetuating?

      Feel free to discuss while I get back to my beer.

  7. Cask, I think Consecration would be a great choice for this conundrum. Kid, seconded on the Firestone Walker, though I actually don’t love that Uinta DIPA much. Have one of two left in my fridge that I bought a month ago, which is an awfully long time for a bomber to stick around.

  8. beer-miester · · Reply

    well said..Commander! I wonder if I had the best craft beer experience or was I goofed out from turning 50… yes, there, I said it and darn proud of it… I feel that age increases our alehead type knowledge and refines the taste…. has helped me to drink smarted not harder!

    drink with experience my friends!

  9. I know it’s only 9% – but I am British – Brooklyn Local 1 is something I could drink all afternoon. Incredibly drinkable, great balance

  10. Taking your Britishness into consideration, I suppose we can let that slide. Although: What’s the most drinkable high-ABV beer from that series of isles? Please don’t say something from BrewDog.

  11. You know what Kid? They do make some surprisingly drinkable beers – forget headline-grabbing stuff like Sink the Bismarck and Tactical Nuclear Penguin (which a fellow BeerCaster descibed as like chewing a fire). The Abstrakt series of beers are tremendous – AB06 is an 11% black IPA, really drinkable.

    Leaving the terrible twosome aside, I don’t know if any Kernel beers have blipped the Aleheads boozy radar yet – but they are (in my humble opinion) the best strong British brewer around, now and probably for years. The 10.1% IPA Centennial (their 100th brew, hence the abv and choice of hop) is like drinking liquid marmalade. If you see any of their stuff on your travels, pick some up…

    thekernelbrewery.com/

  12. “…it tastes like Svetlana asking for more jewelry” is my new favorite simile of all time.

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