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The 5 Best High-Alcohol Beers

Sometimes the usual 4.5 ABV just isn't enough. Sometimes you need a little extra kick to get your motor going. Maybe it's cold out, maybe you're stressed, or maybe you're just sick of the watery yeast-flavored soda pop that usually passes for beer in America. Well fret no more! Here are a few higher-octane beverages that the true beer aficionado can't afford to miss.

1. Hibernation Ale (8.7% ABV) by Great Divide Brewing Co.

Great Divide Hibernation Ale Bernt Rostad

Denver's Great Divide Brewing Company was ranked the 23rd greatest brewery in the world by in 2007. Try their seasonal Hibernation Ale to see why. Great Divide specializes in high-alcohol beers (their Old Ruffian line comes in at a whopping 10.2% ABV) and in Hibernation they found a perfect mix. It's got a hoppy citrus character that tickles but doesn't bite, chased by notes of molasses and a rich, frothy head, the perfect drink for warming you up on a cold winter's eve. Just make sure you don't have anything important to do after you crack one open, since you'll likely chase it with a few more.

2. Heady Topper (8.0% ABV) by The Alchemist

The Alchemist Heady Topper walknboston

A world-class Imperial IPA with a rabid following, Alchemist's Heady Topper sits at the top of Beer Advocate's 250 Greatest Beers list, a lofty accomplishment for any small-town canned microbrew. You can only get it in Waterbury, Vermont at the moment, where it sells for the jaw-dropping low price of $3.00, though black market re-sales of the product have been reported to be as high as $18.00 per can. There are plans to increase both the ale's price and distribution so if you get the chance in the near future, order a case of this flowery, sweet and malty masterpiece. The pine smell alone has been known to cause mouths to water.

3. Founder's Breakfast Stout (8.3% ABV) by Founder's Brewing Co.

Founder's Breakfast Stout Bernt Rostad

The name is a lie. Do not drink this thing for breakfast. You'll be on the floor before lunch.
Then again, if you do find a responsible hour in which to crack open a bottle of Founder's recent imperial stout offering, you may find the name oddly endearing. It's darker than midnight with a taste to match. Bitter chocolate and coffee notes complement its oatmeal presence, letting the alcohol burn hide somewhere in the background. The term "meal in a glass" comes to mind. This one's on the pricier side of the list, but if you're willing to invest it won't disappoint you.

4. Parabola (13% ABV) by Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Firestone Walker Parabola amberdegrace

The 8-9% ABV range is usually a good safe zone for "high alcohol beers". If you want more booze than that, you might as well just spring for a glass of whiskey. But in the case of Firestone Walker's Parabola, an exception must be made. Aged in bourbon barrels for eight months, this Russian Imperial Stout boasts charred flavors of chocolate and coffee in addition to the bourbon. The mouth feel must be experienced to be believed. All 13 percentage points of booze somehow fade into the mixture, present but not overpowering. If you want a real buzz-inducer, pour yourself a snifter and sip it as it warms.

5. The Abyss (11% ABV) by Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Abyss martinbowling

Another barrel-aged stout, Deschutes' Abyss offering contains low notes of fruit, oak, and brown sugar. It has a milky character going down, and unlike many stouts, neither flavor nor smell is muted when chilled. A wine-like character emerges on the second or third sip, evoking the Pinot Noir barrels this stout is aged in. Just remember to sip slowly. It goes down like candy and the booze can sneak up on you if you're not careful.

So there you have it. Five world-class beers any drinker should try. Get them in bottles, cans, on tap, whatever. Just make sure you've got a soft surface to lay on when the glass is empty.

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