I love chili beers. The bright flavors and heat go perfectly with fruity hops in an IPA, and the heavier, smoked flavors make a great addition to a porter or stout. Before I had tried a chili beer, I thought the concept was interesting, but more of a novelty. After trying Stone’s Smoked Porter with poblano peppers, I realized that a properly made chili beer is delicious.
I wanted to offer a chili beer at Crooked Run, but in smaller batches, preferably as a variant on one of our other staple beers. Last weekend I put the two experimental variants of our American IPA, Storm, on tap. They both turned out perfect and sold out in two seconds!
The two beers were a peach habanero and cherry cayenne version. The peach habanero is really cool because the fruitiness and heat from the habanero combines really well with the peach flavor. It makes a really bright beer with a light heat. The cherry cayenne is quite different but equally as enjoyable. Cayenne has a “dirtier” flavor than habanero–think a bowl of chili versus bright fruit.
Storm is a single hop Galaxy IPA, with intense tropical flavor from my favorite hop. When designing these beers, I wanted to be very careful to not create something that was difficult/impossible to drink. While I found Habanero Sculpin to be enjoyable, it was a bit too hot. I felt comfortable backing off on the heat, with the fruit addition as another element to keep the beer interesting with a subtle spicy flavor.
Here are the recipes for these beers for a 5 gallon batch size:
12.5 lbs two row
1 lb C-15
Bittering hops: Warrior @ 60 minutes
Aroma hops: 3 oz Galaxy @ 2 minutes
Dry hops: 3 oz Galaxy for 5 days
Peach habanero: add one can of Vintner’s Harvest peach puree to cooled beer before pitching yeast. Add 3 ounces of de-seeded and de-stemmed habaneros, sliced in half, to beer along with dry hops for 5 days.
Cherry cayenne: add one can of Vintner’s Harvest sweet cherry puree to cooled beer before pitching yeast. Add 9 ounces of de-seeded and de-stemmed cayenne peppers, sliced in half, to beer along with dry hops for 5 days.
As you can see, this is a very simple twist, and the results are great. The fruit adds a nice color to both versions. One note: the capsaicin content of peppers, particularly habaneros, can vary wildly. I erred on the side of caution with these beers, and I believe these amounts are a good starting point to produce pleasant but noticeable heat. Your mileage may vary, but even if your peppers are considerably hotter, you should still end up with a drinkable beer. Chilis are naturally anti-microbial and don’t need to be sanitized, so just add them directly to the beer. One further note: always wear gloves and do not touch anything when handling habaneros or other hot peppers. I did a good job of this, except that I forgot to wash the handle of the knife I used to prep the peppers. A week later, I picked up the same knife and touched my nose later…oops.
This year we are planting habaneros and cayennes in the brewery garden, and will be producing these two beers regularly! Cheers!