The beauty of beer is that it comes in a variety of flavors, from dank, bitter IPAs to fruity wheat beers and toasty, silky stouts. Even sour beers have been enjoying a comeback in the American market. If you want a certain flavor profile, you can probably find it at your local beer store. Brewers are even experimenting with using chili peppers as a way to brew beers with heat and spice.
Building a beer around these spicy ingredients isn’t necessarily a gimmick designed to pull in heat fiends or people looking for a novelty beer. When crafted artfully, brewers can highlight the nuanced flavors of different hot peppers, and bring out characteristics of the base beer without decimating the palate. Cooking with a habanero pepper can be dangerous. Adding a small amount to beer? Not as much so.
If you’re curious about hot beers, definitely keep an eye on what your favorite brewers are up to, as most hot pepper beers are experimental or one-offs and can come and go and without much notice. With that said, there are some spicy beers that are produced on a regular basis. Here are several to keep an eye out for.
San Diego, California
This spicy offshoot of the wildly popular Sculpin IPA reportedly started as an experiment, but is now available year-round in both cans and bottles. The subtle spice pairs well with the fruitiness of the IPA, which includes notes of mango, peach and apricot.
This sweet stout is brewed with ancho chilies and was inspired by Mexican mole. The ancho peppers are relatively mild in heat, and they pair well with the earthiness of the mole flavor.
Burnside Brewing Co.
This year-round wheat beer won a gold medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. It features apricots and Jamaican scotch-bonnet peppers, and the spiciness can vary depending on the particular batch.
An unfiltered wheat beer, Billy’s Chilies includes serrano, habanero, jalapeno, Anaheim and Fresno chili peppers. It’s manageable 5.2% alcohol and low bitterness means this brew was designed to be very drinkable, not overwhelmingly hot. Those chasing a real spicy challenge should seek out Ghostface Killah, brewed with extremely spicy ghost peppers, among others.