Super Brew 15: I know what you're thinking, but don't. Just don't.



Super Brew 15, the beatdown shot
  • Super Brew 15, the beatdown shot
Maybe you've spotted Super Brew 15 at the kind of modestly ambitious neighborhood liquor store where bombers of Three Floyds sit two shelves from cans of Four Loko—you'll often see it stocked alongside craft beers, where it stands out thanks to a label that looks like the paint job on a late-70s Hot Wheels car. Maybe you've noticed that it calls itself a "Barley Wine," costs about five bucks for more than a pint, and somehow contains 14.9 percent alcohol. Maybe you've thought that a beer so strong would be an efficient way to subdue certain parts of your brain after a grueling week in the salt mines.

Well, that's more or less how it went with me. I took the plunge and bought a bottle, and only later discovered that Super Brew 15 is already notorious—especially among the beer nerds called "tickers." They got that name because they like ticking off items on a list, and one subspecies of ticker looks for beers from unusual countries. On account of Super Brew 15 is from Romania (it's manufactured by S.C. Martens in the city of Galati), it's provoked more than a few appalled online reviews from such folks.

Someone on the first page of ratings at Beer Advocate calls it "awesomely terrible." A blogger at J Street Beer Review says, "I've never tasted asshole before, but I imagine that it tastes pretty similar to Super Brew 15." Tom Becham at Professor Good Ales writes,
"Never before have I encountered a beer as hideous . . . if genocide could be fermented and bottled, it would be just like Super Brew 15."

Super Brew 15 scores a 57 at Beer Advocate ("poor") and a dazzling 3 at RateBeer (which oddly classifies it as a "strong pale lager"). Both sites use 100-point scales.

During this rudimentary research, my spider sense started tingling. A still small voice was trying to tell me something. The Lord Humungus says it better than I could:

But what the hell. Who wants to live forever?

After everything I'd read, I had to steel my resolve to pour myself a glass of Super Brew 15 on a God damned Saturday afternoon, when I could've been doing so many things more fun than slowly going blind in my living room. But those were the hours I'd set aside for this week's Beer and Metal post. I'd backed myself into a corner.

Care for a nice cold glass of caramel-colored nail polish remover?
  • Yep, that's the head after ten seconds. Not a good sign. Not even a Hopleaf tulip can class this up.

Unlike the solid citizen writing for J Street Beer Review, I have tasted asshole, and the comparison to Super Brew 15 is profoundly unfair to assholes.

The aroma is . . . bracing. A flood of synthetic-smelling burnt caramel gives way to butterscotch, a touch of maraschino cherry, and then to what I can only describe as rubber cement. If you've ever wondered why rubber cement is so unpopular as a custard flavoring, take a whiff of this beer.

It's got no head at all—you can get it to bubble up with a rough pour, but the fizz doesn't stick around for more than a few seconds. This supports a theory I've seen bandied about online: that Super Brew 15 is freeze distilled to concentrate its alcohol. A beer this strong made strictly by fermenting malts ought to leave at least a little lacing on the glass.

In keeping with the absence of a proper head, Super Brew 15 has a thin mouthfeel, despite its potency. The flavor starts inoffensively—oily toffee, subdued fruitiness (green grape, tart apple), and a faint maltiness like stale graham crackers. Combined with the alcohol heat, this has been enough to remind some online reviewers of brandy. But then something tragic happens: an aftertaste arrives that splits the difference between gasoline and nail polish remover. I'm convinced this shit is eating the enamel off my teeth.

My tasting notes are going to end here, I think, because every time I take a sip it gets harder to take the next one. I feel like somebody cleaned a motorcycle chain in my mouth, then gave me a Werther's to make it up to me.

I suspect there's a nasty chemical in Super Brew 15 that only some people can taste—something analogous to the compound that makes cilantro seem soapy to certain unfortunate souls. Otherwise I can't account for the reviews I've read that judge this alleged barleywine anything but revolting. I ended up pouring two-thirds of the bottle down the drain.

Most of the crap beer I've had over the decades has been bad in an ignorable, watery way—it's not so much offensive as it is mediocre. It's not trying to do much, so even when it fails the results are rarely a disaster. Super Brew 15 is like crashing the Hindenburg into the Titanic.

If you're so desperate to get fucked up that you'd finish a bottle of this, you have my condolences. If you're not, allow me to point out that a 22-ounce bomber of Lagunitas's ubiquitous and delicious Hop Stoopid is about five bucks as well—and at 8 percent alcohol, it'll do seven-tenths of the job.

I'll let Carcass play us out with a tune from 1991's Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious. This is "Incarnated Solvent Abuse," and it's all about how I feel right now.

Just kidding. I don't have any idea what the lyrics are.

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.

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