How to Pick a Strong Beer

Picking a beer with a some extra punch is tough. When I’m at a bar, a lot of the times I want a strong beer but I see an endless tap selection of random beers. I usually end up picking an IPA because I know it is going to have a high ABV.

 

Recently, I’ve gotten bored of IPAs so I’ve decided to figure out which types of beer are the strongest and what clues/keywords I can remember for the next time I am stuck figuring out which beer to pick. If you are often looking for a strong beer to pick – I think you’ll find this an interesting read.

The Short List

  • Anything called “Imperial”
  • All Belgian Ales (Dubbel, Tripel, Quad)
  • All Bocks
  • All Strong Ales
  • All Scotch Ales
  • All IPAs (except for session IPAs)
  • No Light or Session beers

That’s the general list I usually have in my head. Each one of those has a different flavor breakdown which will give you a nice variety to choose from.  Let’s take a deep dive into each one of those by looking at their average ABV, flavor profile and my favorite beers in each category. All ABV numbers are according to Ratebeer.com.

Imperials

Imperial basically designates a stronger version of any type of beer, so definitely look for it.  You’ll see Imperial Stouts, Imperial IPAs, Imperial Porters, Imperial Pilsners… and all of these start out at least 8% ABV and are often closer to 10%. There isn’t too much to say about flavor since it comes in many varieties.

Imperial Stout – Founders Breakfast Stout – 8.3% ABV

Founders-Breakfast-Stout
Photo credit: edwin

Imperial IPA – Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA – 9.0% ABV

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Photo credit: Rich McGirr

Imperial Porter – Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – 9.2% ABV

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Photo credit: edwin

Imperial Pilsner – Southern Tier Krampus – 9.0% ABV

Southern Tier Krampus
Photo credit: Ian Mewhinney

Belgian Ales (Dubbel, Tripel, Quad)

Dubbels are the least strong of the bunch, hovering above 7% ABV.  Tripels are next – averaging near 9% ABV.  Quads are the daddy of them all – averaging at a hefty 10.5% ABV.  The flavor of Belgian Ales is a pleasant mix of spice, sometimes fruit, and malt.  Dubbels and Quads are made with a darker malt that gives them a nice light roasty malt flavor. Tripels are made from a lighter pale malt, so you’ll notice more of the spice and fruit flavors in them.

Dubbel – Leffe Brune – 6.5% ABV

Leffe Brune
Photo credit: Doug

Tripel – Chimay Tripel – 8.0% ABV

chimay-tripel
Photo credit: Steven Guzzardi

Quadrupel – Ommegang Three Philosophers – 9.7% ABV

Three Philosophers
Photo credit: John Setzler

Bocks

Bocks are the king of malt and are the pride and joy of German lager brewing.  You’ll find many different varieties of bocks. The very strong and dark malt heavy Eisbock sits at well over 10% ABV (brewed strong by freezing the water out of the beer).  The Doppelbock is also a very malt driven beer that averages in ABV at 8.5%.

 

You’ll also find one of my favorite strong yet crisp and refreshing beers in the Hellerbock (also known as Helles bock or Maibock).  This lager is a bit softer, averaging a bit under 7%.  It’s made with paler malts and a bit more hop character, giving it a crisper feel compared to the others. It’s an awesome choice for a strong beer on a hot summer day.

Eisbock – Capital Eisphyre – 10% ABV

Capital Eisphyre
Photo credit: Jeffrey Lorenz

Doppelbock – Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock – 6.7% ABV

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
Photo credit: ALVISS_FOOD&BEER

Hellerbock – Rogue Dead Guy Ale – 6.6% ABV

Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Photo credit: John Setzler

Strong Ales

The title says it all!  These encompass many different varieties made by American craft brewers.  On average they tend to be around 9.5% ABV, so they pack a punch.  It’s hard to pin down their flavors as they’ll often differ but you’ll usually find them both hoppy and malty.

Arrogant Bastard Ale  – 7.2% ABV

Arrogant Bastard Ale
Photo credit: Rich McGirr

Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red – 8.7% ABV

Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red
Photo credit: Ted Thompson

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale – 9.8% ABV

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale
Photo credit: Doug

Scotch Ales

These are the strong ales originating in Scotland.  Also known as “Wee Heavy”, their ABV is often above 8%.  They have a brown ale profile so you’ll taste some roasted malt and sweetness.

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale – 8.5% ABV

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale
Photo credit: Doug

AleSmith Wee Heavy Scotch Ale – 10.0% ABV

AleSmith Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
Photo credit: Ian Mewhinney

IPAs

Last but certainly not least we have the IPA (India Pale Ale). This is one of the most popular and experimented genres so they’ll range in ABV quite a bit.  On average they’ll have an ABV near 7%.  You’ll find the standard IPA as hoppy, bitter, clean and crisp.

Stone IPA – 6.9% ABV

Stone IPA
Photo credit: Christer Edvartsen

Victory HopDevil – 6.7% ABV

Victory HopDevil
Photo credit: Ted Thompson

21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA – 7.0% ABV

21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA
Photo credit: Jeff Rooks

The Takeaway

That’s a pretty good list of the top beers of each strong beer genre.  So the next time you go out, look for some of the beers pictured above.  And so you don’t forget the short list of strong beer types, here it is again:

 

  • Anything called “Imperial”
  • All Belgian Ales (Dubbel, Tripel, Quad)
  • All Bocks
  • All Strong Ales
  • All Scotch Ales
  • All IPAs (except for session IPAs)
  • No Light or Session beers

 

Now that you know my steps to finding a strong beer – tell me your go-to strong beer by leaving a comment below!  And don’t forget to click the facebook icon in order to share this post!