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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         The politics of drinking
December 14, 2009



Is it a beer? Is it a penguin? No, it seems to be a whisky

Not surprisingly, until just now Iíve dismissed Tactical Nuclear Penguin as a gimmick. At 32% ABV TNP (as itís come to be abbreviated Ė although itís a bit close to TCP for comfort) is the strongest beer in the world and sells for £35 a bottle.

Itís brewed by the Scottish maverick outfit BrewDog, which recently had its 18.2% beer Tokyo banned by The Portman Group Ė after filing its own complaint about it.

I vaguely wondered what it could possibly taste like, but after watching a vicarious video tasting made by outgoing Beer Writer of the Year Zak Avery Iím intrigued.

I was brought up to believe that once the strength of a beer exceeds 10% ABV it becomes a barley wine. You can go no further. But through a process of freeze distillation Ė you freeze it, scoop the ice off, and keep repeating, increasing the proportion of unfrozen alcohol in the liquid Ė BrewDog has managed to get to 32%.

Whatís interesting from the video is that rather than just ending up with an unbearably alcoholic beer, it has produced a complex, challenging drink that might well hold its own against malt whisky. After all, whisky is only distilled beer without the hops.

Despite the daft name, the dressing up as penguins and, as Avery notes, the criminal failure to stop the bottle with a cork so you donít have to drink it all at once, TNP appears to be a serious brewing/distilling experiment, an eloquent retort to the outrage itís provoked in some quarters.

Though the last people to understand that seem to be the boys at BrewDog

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