When Scottish brewers Martin Dickie and James Watt came up with the cheeky idea to make a beer as potent as whiskey, they couldn’t wait to share it with the world.
They didn’t know they would trigger an arms race.
But that’s what ensued when their brewery, BrewDog, released the first limited-edition bottles of “Tactical Nuclear Penguin,” a stout that measures 32% alcohol and was quickly crowned “strongest beer in the world” — for less than a month.
Then the buildup began.
A small German brewer, Schorschbräu, announced online in December that it had topped the Scots with a 40% beer to recapture the title.
Now, BrewDog has unveiled a 41% “quadruple India Pale Ale” called Sink the Bismarck and is marketing it with a viral video campaign that spoofs the old European rivalries. The one-upmanship has raised ire in the British media and irked some beer fans who see it as a cheap publicity stunt.
Watt, BrewDog’s chief executive, insists they had been developing the stronger beer for six months. “You can’t just magic up a 41% beer in two weeks,” he says.
Still, the international rivalry has put a spotlight on a fascinating, though fringe, sector of the beer industry: brewers who push beer to its alcoholic limits.