Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? Maybe a beer that was far bigger than you had anticipated? Something you felt determined to drink, just so you can say you conquered that son of a bitch, and you are all that is powerful. Or perhaps it is something that is just so bad, all you want to do is slap it around a bit. Or maybe you were on the verge of passing out, but you just wanted that one last beer, and the valiant struggle between taste bud fulfillment and the velvety embrace of sleep that ensued.
You picking up what I’m putting down?
It’s time put down whatever praise you were about to dole out, and serve up a nice can of ass whupping.
If ever there was a class of beer more akin to battle than experience, it’s probably chili beers. And I actually like chili beers, but more often than not, they are just studies in abuse because the brewery didn’t know how to handle chili peppers in a beer (more likely) or because they actually thought it would be a good idea to over-heat the beer to create a liquid lava. A few get it right, and strike the right balance between malt and heat, or even better, end up with an unlikely recipe that becomes sublime. In the latter category, Portland’s Burnside Brewing gets it absolutely right with their Sweet Heat, an apricot wheat beer seasoned with Scotch Bonnet peppers.
In the former category, however, there are just too many examples of liquid pain that simply strips the enjoyment out of drinking the beer. I’ve actually avoided Stone Brewing‘s two beers, Crime and Punishment, because of reviews I’ve read indicating they are abusingly hot and I’ll just pass, thanks. That, and the high cost of those beers; I simply cannot fathom paying a large amount of money for a beer I will actively not enjoy.
There have been others over the years that hit all the wrong notes for me too. Cave Creek Chili Beer, the novelty beer with the jalapeno pepper floating in the bottle, many years ago—my first chili beer (I think someone gave it to me) that was something like putting cayenne pepper in Corona. Or Calapooia Brewing’s Chili Beer, a 22-ounce bottle of which I bought which tasted like liquid capsaicin and took me something like three hours to finish. Closer to home, 10 Barrel Brewing once did a chili version of their Sinistor Black Ale, I think it was, on their X-tap that I tried a sample of… nope! Too hot.
Look: if you can’t balance the peppers and heat into the rest of the beer, you shouldn’t be making a chili beer. And if you’re doing it simply for the heat, well, that’s just stunt brewing which is a whole different rant.
I actually like chili beers—when they’re well-made. More often than not though, they’re… not. Which is fine if you’re a masochist, I suppose. Otherwise: no.