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Chili Pepper Beers Bring The Heat

(Issue 20)
A chili beer lineup that would make Texas Pete shed a tear. (Credit: Betsy Burts)
A chili beer lineup that would make Texas Pete shed a tear. (Credit: Betsy Burts)

Heartier, warming foods beckon as the weather cools off. What better time to make a rich chili and some garnishes using beer made with chili peppers?

The look and flavors of chili beers are as varied as they are delectable, ranging from dark and mysterious to light and airy. In addition to the pepper spice, the flavors often include chocolate, cinnamon and coffee. When it comes to the heat, some can be delicately balanced with lightly spiced floral notes like Serrano Eye Patch IPA and others, like Stone’s Crime and Punishment, are “Make me cry it’s so darn hot.” A sampling can prove to be fun, eye-opening and downright party-provoking, because these spicy beers can really get people talking.


My journey into chili beers started off by sampling those made with ancho, chipotle, serrano or habanero. Then I experimented by using them in recipes, including some add-ons that can help create a veritable chili feast for sharing with family and friends.

I make a robust turkey chili that draws its inspiration from black mole, a classic Mexican “mother sauce.” The flavor of chocolate works particularly well in my recipe, bringing out the natural sweetness of the turkey. I decided to use a Prairie Bomb Imperial Stout and its ancho component to enhance this chili’s already thick and dark richness.

Deliciously full of ingredients and not hard to make, this chili pairs well with a wide range of chili beers. As a meal, it can stand alone, but why should it?

Mexico and Latin America have a popular garnish called Crema. Easy to experiment with, it’s made by combining sour cream with lime juice and is drizzled over a variety of foods. I used chili beer and compatible flavorings to create a Cocoa Molé Crema and a Chipotle Lime Crema.

Guacamole’s terrific on chili because it balances the heat. Splash in some Billy’s Chilies for a hint of serrano pepper in this Guac, before topping your chili and digging in.

Once a party gets started, there’s always a need for some salsa. Enter Sculpin Habanero. This fine drinking beer has a kick to it, which is masterfully balanced with a lovely, almost fruity note unique to habanero peppers. As a component of Mango Habanero Salsa, it adds just the right amount of sweet heat that’s a wonderful surprise atop a bowl of chili.

My verdict: Chili beers paired well with food, added welcome flavor to recipes, inspired me and were easy to experiment with. Not only are they great to drink and fun to use as a recipe ingredient, they’re sure to spice up the conversation at your next gathering. Pass the chili and another chili beer, please.


Chili Beer Pairings

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