Pushing the limits of what beer can be is a crucial piece of the craft beer movement. If every beer was a simple recreation of traditional beer, I don’t think craft beer would be nearly as appealing for most of us. Finding new flavor combinations is a lot of fun. One style that is continually controversial is craft beers made with peppers.
Most add heat while all of them add a unique flavor that is pretty far off the standard flavor profile.
Here’s a list of craft beers made with peppers. I’ve ranked these in order of hottest to the most mild so you can pick one based on your threshold of pain.
Related Post: Four Iconic IPAs Every Craft Beer Fan Must Try
Peppers Used: Bhut Jolokia Chiles (aka Ghost Peppers)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout ABV: 11.7% IBU: 38
Description: A harmony of Heaven and Hell, this robust Russian Imperial Stout is brewed with a grim dose of Bhut Jolokia Chiles, also known as the Ghost Pepper. Death offers up a warm, high gravity, chocolate malt, roasty, rich embrace only to displace this mirth with a virulent, balanced kick of heat on the back palate.
My Thoughts: This was probably the first of many craft beers made with peppers that I’ve tried. And honestly, it took me by surprise. This deep, rich stout has the thick mouthfeel that you expect with a strong punch of spicy pepper. The heat builds over time. For me, it burned more in my throat. It comes in a bomber so I highly recommend sharing this with a friend or 2 or 3 or 4.
Peppers Used: Jalapenos (that seemed obvious)
Style: Pale Ale ABV: 5.5% IBU: 45
Description: The Jalapeño Pale is in a class by itself. Using our Free Will Pale as a foundation, we add a generous amount of fresh, hand-cut jalapeños mixed with a hint of awesome. Don’t be scared to try it! The Jalapeño is refreshing, crisp, and pairs well with the peanuts we have in the tap room!
My Thoughts: I was on a business trip to Charlotte, NC when I had this one. After enjoying a few other beers that day, I wanted to try something different with my dinner. The jalapeno is all upfront. It burns as it hits your tongue and doesn’t let go. I am really glad I was eating when I had this one.
Peppers Used: Chili De Arbol Peppers
Style: ABV: IBU:
Description: This beer, aged with Chili de arbol peppers in the barrels, is one of a series of innovative specialties to sneak out of our Dragon’s Milk Cellar. The earthy pepper character mingles with the dark roasted tones of Dragon’s Milk as the spice slowly warms your palate, pleasantly contrasting the deep malt character. Pairings: red meat, smoked foods, balsamic, rich cheese & dark chocolate.
My Thoughts: This is probably my favorite of the Dragon’s Milk Reserve Series. This barrel-aged stout is such a classic in the craft beer world and adding the toasted chiles takes it to the next level. The peppers have just a touch of heat that disappears shortly after each sip. This keeps you coming back for more.
Peppers Used: Jalapenos
Style: Pale Ale ABV: 5.9% IBU: 16
Description: A super-fresh aroma of jalapeños is complimented by the tang of a splash of lime juice. Hops: Northern Brewer. Malts: Pale, Caramel, Honey
My Thoughts: I had this one recently and was really impressed. This light bodied ale is an easy drinker that packs a huge jalapeno flavor without any heat. There is so much jalapeno in it that you keep expecting it to be spicy but it isn’t. And then you notice the slight lime accent that makes it finish a little sweet. I think it would be perfect with fajitas.
Peppers Used: Pasilla Peppers
Style: Stout ABV: 8.1% IBU: 50
Description: This insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate is crafted with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.
My Thoughts: Not all craft beers made with peppers need to be bold or spicy. Xocoveza is a perfect example of that. This is a spiced stout that features sweet tones followed by just a touch of pepper on the backend. There’s a lot going on in this one but it’s balanced and a real treat. It’s only available during the winter months so grab some when you get the chance.
Related Post: 5 Barrel-Aged Stouts To Try
Tips On Drinking Craft Beers Made With Peppers
So not everyone is going to be interested in a beer that burns the taste buds but I am sure that some of you are interested in giving them a try. Here are a few tips for those that are new to spicy beers.
Drink Spicy Beer With A Meal
Craft beers made with peppers pair great with food. The food can help calm down your taste buds if it gets too hot as well as compliment the beer. For example, I think Mexican food would go quite well with the Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale. It’s light and refreshing plus; who needs hot salsa when your beer can add the heat?
Some peppers burn as soon as they hit your tongue; others get increasingly hot as you eat more. Spicy beer is the same way so proceed with caution. Just because the first few sips go down easy doesn’t mean that the rest of the glass will. Go slow and prevent over doing it.
Some craft beers made with peppers will be too spicy for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them. One strategy to reduce the heat is to mix the spicy beer with a non-spicy beer. For example, at Rivertown, they often mix their Death with other beers. Typically, they use 25% of the spicy beer so you get the flavor and heat of the peppers but in a much more manageable package.
Cook With It
Cooking isn’t my strong suit; I know how to make eggs and that is about it. But I do know that many enjoy using craft beer in their cooking. Craft beers made with peppers are a great style to use. I can easily see a chili being taken to the next level with one of the above beers added to it. Or think about using the North High Jalalima in a fajitas recipe. Get creative and see how you can use a spicy beer instead of seasoning.
My challenge to you is to be adventurous with your craft beer choices. We all have our favorite styles but every once in a while you must push yourself into something new.
Order a spicy craft beer and test your ability to withstand the heat. If your local brewery doesn’t offer something then see if any of the above beers are offered in your area.
Do You Like Spicy Craft Beer? What Have Been Your Favorites?