I’ve been thinking about beer lately.
It’s not something I usually spend a lot of time thinking about, although I must admit I do enjoy a barley sandwich as much as the next guy.
But when I recently read that one bottle of beer sold for over $7,000, and that the strongest beer ever made has an alcohol content of 55 per cent, well, it got me thinking about beer.
I remember when my favourite beverage of this category was called Alta 3.9, because it was brewed in Alberta and had a “light” alcohol content of 3.9 per cent.
The world record 55 per cent beer, called The End of History (really) is brewed by a Scottish company called Brewdog.
That would mean you could have 14 Alta 3-9s for every Brewdog beer, and that probably one gulp of the Brewdog and somebody should be hiding your car keys.
A whole bottle of The End of History and, well, you’d be history.
Why, you may ask, as I did, why on Earth would somebody want to produce a beer that costs as much as a motorcycle and that has 10 times the wallop of good old perfectly fine regular beer?
Good question, glad you asked.
The End of History beer is part of a category that we humans never seem to tire of: the biggest this, fastest that, most expensive whatever.
The adult beverage industry seems particularly keen on it. The world’s oldest Scotch, the world’s most ridiculously over-priced champagne. And now the lowly beer, formerly relegated to such unsavoury places of public debauchery called “beer parlors” with separate entrances for women folk, is opening up the taps and joining the snobby world of Guinness World Records (not to be confused with the popular black ale called Guinness, which is famous for being what aficionados call “meat in a glass”).
Part publicity stunt, part insanity, the beer industry has ‘hopped” ‘head’-first into the world of ridiculous excess.
The astronomical alcohol content of the aforementioned Brewdog’s The End of History beer was achieved by a process called “ice distillation,” which involved freezing the product until the alcohol could be separated from the water.
Which sounds a lot like what happens when partying people in bathing suits cut holes in the ice on winter lakes and jump in for a frigid swim.
Thing is, only 12 bottles of the potent stuff were produced and 11 were sold for around $1,000 a pop (well, a beer in this case). And as the Brewdog company brags: “each bottle was incased in a professionally stuffed squirrel.”
Yes, you did read that right. I’ve seen the gross pictures. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Not to be outdone, the Boston brewing company Samuel Adams has just announced that the world’s strongest “naturally fermented” beer is now available. Called Utopias, one 710-ml bottle of brew will set you back $114.95. Alcohol content? A staggering 27 per cent — over twice that of the average bottle of wine and two-thirds that of hard liquor.
But you’d better hurry because only 70 bottles were produced.
A jug of Utopias can be purchased online or by phone from the Ontario Liquor Control Board. Mind you, there is a limit of one per customer and even then when you order you receive a lottery number and if your lottery number is picked, then and only then are you allowed to purchase your one bottle of beer. And that’s not all.
The bottle must be picked up in person within 30 days, no matter where in the beer-drinking world you happen to be.
Is this what the world has come to?
I remember … I mean, I’m told that years ago my friends would visit the Park Hotel establishment downtown, circle the chairs around four terrycloth-covered round tables and order 100 draft beers.
Throw down one $20 bill and 100 of those classic small ALCB draft beer glasses — 20 cents each for the mathematically challenged — would fit perfectly on the four tables, a sea of foam circles. Stupid of course, and most of them would be so warm and stale by the time you get to them that they were (fortunately) undrinkable.
Or so I’m told.
So it’s astounding even with the runaway economy that one bottle of beer actually fetched $7,686.00 back in 1996.
It was brewed in a Cambridge University laboratory using an ancient recipe found in Egyptian tombs. It was called, perhaps not surprisingly, Tutankhamen Ale. As in King Tut. At that price, it should have been personally served by King Tut himself.
But if seven grand seems a bit much for a brew, hey, you can always purchase a nice bottle of Antarctic Nail Ale — a rare beer made with the ice from Antarctica (only 30 bottles produced). A steal at $1,800 per. And presumably nice and cold.
So maybe a person should switch to coffee. Or not. Apparently the world’s most expensive coffee will set you back over $50 a cup.
It’s from Indonesia and it’s called Kopi Luwak, which, loosely translated, means Weasel Coffee, which, as Dave Barry would say, would make a great name for a rock band. But why is it called Weasel Coffee? That’s the really good part.
The coffee is made from beans that are eaten, partly digested, then excreted by a small animal called the luwak, which is a civet or type of weasel.
The undigested inner beans are picked out of the weasel poop and made into a beverage that a leading coffee critic described in these glowing terms: “The aroma is rich and strong, and the coffee is incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It’s thick with a hint of chocolate, and lingers on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste.”
I can’t help but wonder just what it might be that “lingers on the tongue — with a thick hint of chocolate.” Yikes.
$1,000 Brewdog taxidermy beer? $50 Weasel excrement coffee? Next thing you know, someone will be putting tap water into bottles and charging good money for plain old bottled water.
Nah … none of us would fall for that one.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.