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.