Style Profile: Chili Beer

Posted on June 2nd, 2010

One of the more unusual styles to emerge from the craft beer scene is chili beer. There are all sorts of brews out there with different fruits and spices in them, but beer with chili peepers is not something you see everyday. Although it remains an unusual and rare style, its unique taste is something everyone should try once. Here’s a run down on this odd style.

Modern chili beer is a very broad category. Basically it’s any beer with prominent use of chili peppers, be it in fresh, dry or extract form. Generally speaking the spicy flavors imparted by the pepper take the main focus of the beer, with other characteristics such as hops and body taking a back seat. Generally these beers tend toward simpler, lighter bodies and low hops flavor as the pepper flavor can be so dominating. The taste is much like you would expect- bold and spicy, with smoky notes and flavors, much like how actual peppers taste. Occasionally some brewers will also be able to bring out the natural fruity flavors in some peppers as well, such as in jalapeños, the most common pepper used by brewers. The smell of a chili beer is not great, frequently a bit musty with strong vegetable flavors from the peppers.

Although quite uncommon today, there is evidence that humans have been using peppers in beer for many centuries. This was partly what inspired Dogfish Head to put fresh chili peppers in their Theobroma beer, which is based on the chemical analysis of ancient pottery fragments found in Honduras. Today, most chili beers are a little simpler, but no less interesting to taste.

A classic and widely available version of this style is the Chipotle Ale by Rogue.  Most other versions worth your time are going to be regional varieties at your local brewpub or microbrewery, so you may have to go looking for them. Like any food with a great deal of pepper in it, this isn’t for everyone, but it’s something every serious beer drinker should try once.

  • Sounds good, I will definitely have to try some. Now how about a chocolate stout with a hint of chili? Chocolate and chili goes so well together in food, so why not beer?

  • Alex

    Try getting your hands on some Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide. It has just a hint of cayenne pepper and is one of my current favorites.

  • Awesome, thanks for the tip!

  • The Theobroma from Dogfish Head I mentioned in the article also has a bit of chocolate in it as well.