10 of the World's Most Expensive Beers

If you like sampling new beers or hate having money, you might want to try one of these.

1. Sapporo's Space Barley

Price: $110/six-pack
ABV: 5.5%

In 2006, Japanese and Russian scientists tested how well barley could grow in space. They rocketed barley seeds to the International Space Station and planted them aboard the Zvezda Service Module. After spending five months in orbit, the fourth-generation of barley was brought back to earth, where Japanese brewer Sapporo fermented it into the world's first space beer. A six-pack costs $110—not bad, considering it was imported from the cosmos.

If you'd like a cheaper space brew, try 4pines Vostok Space Beer. The stout is the first zero-gravity beer. Not only is it drinkable in space, but it's cheaper, too: $20 for a six-pack. It's perfect for anyone who's dreamt of imbibing where no man has imbibed before.

2. Crown Ambassador Reserve

Price: $90/750ml
ABV: 10.2%

If Foster's is Australian for beer, then Crown Ambassador Reserve must be Australian for expensive beer. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and packaged in a champagne bottle, Crown pitches Ambassador as an alternative to wine. The Australian brewer has produced four iterations since 2008, each batch limited to 8,000 bottles.

3. Tutankhamun Ale

Price: $75/500ml
ABV: 6%

In 1990, Cambridge archaeologist Dr. Barry Kemp unearthed Queen Nefertiti's Royal Brewery. He found ten brewing chambers buried beneath the Egyptian sand. Each contained traces of ancient beer residue. With the help of an electron microscope, fellow scientist Dr. Delwen Samuel analyzed the residues to quantify the 3,250-year-old recipe. The researchers then teamed up with Scottish brewer Jim Merrington, who made 1000 bottles of the Queen's brew. The first sold for $7,686, but the price tag eventually dipped to $75 per bottle. Years later, Merrington's breweries closed down. Did Tut's curse strike again?

4. Brewdog's Sink the Bismarck

Price: $80/375ml
ABV: 41%

Named after Nazi Germany's largest battleship, Sink the Bismarck was Brewdog's attack on Schorschbräu, a German brewery that held the record for strongest beer. Not only did Bismarck beer briefly steal the record, but it also redefined brewing. Brewdog calls the beer a "quadruple IPA": It was freeze-distilled four times, has four times as many hops as a conventional beer, and is four times as bitter. It's also forty times as expensive. Also from Brewdog: the slightly cheaper Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

5. Samuel Adams' Utopias

Price: $150/700ml
ABV: 27%

Weighing in at $150, Samuel Adams' Utopias is America's most expensive beer. Released every two years, each batch is aged in sherry, brandy, cognac, bourbon, and scotch casks for up to 18 years. (Each installment also contains a touch of maple syrup!) Thanks to archaic ABV laws, Utopias is banned in 13 states. If the price tag makes you wince, just remember you may be able to get a nickel refund if you recycle the bottle.

6. Schorschbräu's Schorschbock 57

Price: $275/330ml
ABV: 57.5%

Released in 2011, Schorschbock 57 claims to be the strongest beer in the world. According to Master brewer Georg Tscheuschner, a higher proof beer would violate Germany's 500-year-old Beer Purity Law. Schorschbräu only made 36 bottles, and each carries a price tag of €200. Tasters say the 115 proof bock is smoky and nutty, with hints of raisins and, obviously, alcohol. The folks at ratebeer.com gave it a paltry 20/100.

7. Carlsberg's Jacobsen Vintage

Price: $400/375ml
ABV: 10.5%

The Danish company launched "the vintage trilogy" in 2008 to challenge the luxury wine market. This barley wine is matured in Swedish and French oak barrels for six months and supposedly tastes like vanilla and cocoa, with hints of peaty "tar and rope." Sold at upscale restaurants in Copenhagen, 600 bottles were made annually from 2008 to 2010. Each bottle boasts an expiration date of 2059, which means you have another 47 years before that smoky "tar and rope" taste goes bad.

8. Brewdog's The End of History

Price: $765/330ml
ABV: 55%

With the beer to end all beers, the gang at Brewdog mistakenly thought End of History would end the ABV arms race. At 110 proof and a staggering $765, it is the third strongest and second most expensive beer on the planet. This blond Belgian ale was mixed with nettles and juniper berries from the Scottish highlands and then freeze distilled multiple times. Only 12 bottles exist, and each is made out of taxidermied roadkill: seven weasels (stoats), four squirrels, and one hare. I like to think of them as fuzzy koozies.

9. Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844

Price: $44.00/720ml
ABV: 6%

In the USA, Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the cheapest beers you can buy. But in China, it is the Mercedes Benz of Beers. At $44 per bottle, Chinese PBR costs 44 times more than what's sold stateside. That’s because it’s not the same blue-collar swill. PBR 1844 is made from German caramel malts, is aged in uncharred American whiskey barrels, and even comes in a fancy glass bottle. Masterbrewer Alan Kornhauser designed the ale to compete with higher end wines and brandies. It is not sold outside of China.

10. Nail Brewing's Antarctic Nail Ale

Price: $800-$1815/500ml
ABV: 10%

Not made from animals, this pale ale is made for animals. Concocted by Nail Brewing in Perth, Australia, 100% of profits go to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. (That's right, the Whale Wars people.) The Sea Shepherds landed a helicopter on an Antarctic iceberg, dug up some ice, melted it in Tasmania, and flew it to Perth for brewing. Only 30 bottles were made, and the first sold for $800 at auction.

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Big Questions
Is There Any Point in Letting Red Wine Breathe?
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by Aliya Whiteley

At the end of a long day, few things beat simple pleasures like watching a good film, eating a bar of chocolate the size of your head, or drinking a big glass of red wine.

By this point in the evening, most people don’t want to be told that they need to uncork the bottle and let the wine sit for at least 30 minutes before it becomes pleasantly drinkable. Yet that's (by the letter of the unwritten law) what you're supposed to do.

But why? Well, let's start with the assorted historical reasons.

Red wine has been around since the Stone Age. In fact, in 2011 a cave was uncovered in Armenia where the remains of a wine press, drinking and fermentation vessels, and withered grape vines were uncovered; the remains were dated at 5500 years old. Early winemaking often had a ritualistic aspect: Wine jars were found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and wine appears in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

The concept of letting wine "breathe" is, historically speaking, relatively new and probably has its roots in the way wine was once bottled and stored.

Traditionally, sulfur is added to wine in order to preserve it for longer, and if too much is added the wine might well have an ... interesting aroma when first opened—the kind of "interesting aroma" that bears more than a passing resemblance to rotten eggs. Contact with the air may have helped to remove the smell, so decanting wine may once have been a way of removing unwelcome odors, as well as getting rid of the sediment that built up in the bottom of bottles.

It’s also possible that the concept springs from the early 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III asked Louis Pasteur to investigate why so much French wine was spoiling in transit. Pasteur published his results, which concluded that wine coming into contact with air led to the growth of bacteria, thus ruining the vino. However, small amounts of air improved the flavor of the wine by "aging" it. In bottles, with a cork stopper, the wine still came into contact with a small amount of oxygen, and by storing it for years the wine was thought to develop a deeper flavor.

However, how much of that actually matters today?

Many experts agree that there is no point in simply pulling out the cork and letting the wine sit in an open bottle for any period of time; the wine won’t come into enough contact with oxygen to make any difference to the taste.

However, decanting wine might still be a useful activity. The truth is this: It entirely depends on the wine.

Nowadays we don’t really age wine anymore; we make it with the aim of drinking it quickly, within a year or so. But some types of wine that are rich in tannins (compounds that come from the grape skins and seeds) can benefit from a period of time in a decanter, to soften the astringent taste. These include wines from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, for instance.

If you really want to know if a particular wine would benefit from being given time to breathe, try your own experiment at home. Buy two bottles, decant one, and let it breathe for an hour. Do you notice a difference in the taste? Even if you don’t, it's an experiment that justifies opening two bottles of wine.

One word of warning: No matter where a wine comes from, it is possible to overexpose it to oxygen. So remember Pasteur’s experiments and don’t leave your wine out of the bottle for days. That, friends, would be one hell of a waste.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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A Beer From the Middle Ages Is Making a Serious Comeback

Hop-forward beer is all the rage today, but in the middle ages many imbibers preferred brews that skewed towards the sweeter side. Now, centuries after it fell out of fashion, Atlas Obscura reports that gruit ale is making a comeback.

Gruit beer is any beer that features botanicals in place of hops. The ingredients that give the drink its distinctive sweet, aromatic taste can be as familiar as ginger and lavender or as exotic as mugwort and seabuckthorn. The herbs play the role of hops by both adding complex flavors and creating an inhospitable environment for harmful microbes.

It may be hard for modern beer lovers to imagine beer without hops, but prior to the 16th century gruit was as common in parts of Europe as IPAs are in hip American cities today. Then, in 1516, that style of beer suddenly vanished from pint glasses: That was the year Germany passed a beer purity law that restricted beer formulas to hops, water, and barley. Many of the key botanicals in gruit beer were considered aphrodisiacs at the time, and the rising Puritan movement helped push the brew further into obscurity.

Hops have dominated the beer scene ever since, and only in the past few decades have microbrewers started giving old gruit recipes the attention they're due. In 2017, the Scratch Brewing Company in Illinois released their seasonal Scratch Tonic, made from a combination of dandelion, carrot tops, clover, and ginger. The Põhjala Brewery in Estonia brews their Laugas beer using Estonian herbs, caraway, and juniper berries. Get in touch with your local microbrewery to see if they have their own version of the old-school beer in their line-up.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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