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Drink This Now

Best High-Alcohol Beers

Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery Photo © Deschutes Brewery

Oh, those clever folks at Amstel Bulgaria, always pushing the boundaries. Recently, there was news that they’d installed a beer vending machine on a street in Sofia that—and this is the genius part—would give you a free beer for doing nothing.

That meant really doing nothing, i.e. standing there for three minutes in front of the machine, not talking, not texting, not looking around, not dancing a jig, nada. But if you could manage to hold mind and body perfectly still for three minutes, hey presto, here’s your beer.

In light of the fact that Labor Day has come and gone, and we are all back at work, being given beer for doing nothing sounds particularly good right now. Of course, beer vending machines aren’t likely to take off in the US anytime soon, unless they can figure out how to make them check ID’s, too, so that will remain a dream. But in the meantime, thanks to the craft beer world’s fascination with high-alcohol beers, here are a few potent—and very good—brews that will pretty much ensure you'll relax once the work day is over (of course, you could just down a couple of Amstels, too, if you wanted).

Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout
Definitely not wimpy at 10.6 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), this lightly bitter, chocolaty stout has a distinct coffee note. That’s unsurprising, given that it was brewed together with several hundred pounds of espresso beans. It lifts you up even as it relaxes you. If you can’t find this one, Stone Smoked Porter is a mighty fine alternative (and about half the alcohol by volume).

Deschutes Black Butte XXV
In honor of this Oregon brewery’s 25th birthday, earlier this summer it released twice as much of its annual anniversary beer as usual. A potent imperial porter at 11.3 percent alcohol, it was brewed with cocoa nibs, figs and dates, and gets vanilla notes from a portion of it being aged in bourbon barrels. An excellent, easier-to-find alternative is Deschutes’ regular Black Butte Porter.

Smuttynose Rhye IPA
Part of the Smuttynose “Big Beer” Series—they come in 22-ounce bottles, hence the name—this aromatic, citrus-hoppy IPA gets an unexpected spiciness from 30 percent rye malt. It’s 7 percent ABV; not wildly strong, but a notch more than usual. Another option: the grapefruity, regular-release Smuttynose IPA.

Samuel Adams Tetravis
A Belgian quadruple ale that’s part of the Sam Adams Barrel Room collection—a limited series of barrel-aged beers fermented with a special blend of yeasts the Sam Adams folks have seen fit to call “Kosmic Mother Funk”—this is a caramel-y, dense, ruby-hued ale, 10.2 percent ABV. There’s no real alternative to it, but the annual, reliably tasty Sam Adams OctoberFest is also now in stores and worth checking out.

Related: Train Yourself to be a Better Beer Taster
Best Beer Gardens in the U.S.
Ultimate Beer Guide

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