Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Heat is On: Chilli Beers

Words by Graham Frizzel
From a brewer’s perspective, few ingredients are trickier to work with than chilli.  More often than not, test batches need to be done in order to make sure the level of heat is just right, even when milder chillies are used, and then there’s the small matter of how to treat the chillies before adding them to the boil.
But when the balance is just right, the end result is a thing of beauty.  Chilli can either provide an upfront flavour with other elements providing a counterpoint, or it can be used to great effect as a flavour enhancer.
To that end, I thoroughly recommend the following four top draw chilli beers, plus a fifth that’s perhaps best avoided.
BrewDog's Dog B: One of the finest chilli beers going
40 Ft. Brewing:  Gran Humo NegroLevel of heat:  1.5/5
Last confirmed sighting:  On tap at Carwyn Cellars
This is the beer that went on to become a fabulous hot sauce.  Gran Humo Negro is what all other chilli beers aspire to be: Balanced, measured and contemplative.  This chilli porter has a certain comforting tropical warmth to it, with the subtle but present chilli holding the luscious chocolate undertone together like the full moon holds the tide.
BrewDog: Dog B, C, D and E
Level of heat: 2.5/5
Last confirmed sighting:  Carwyn Cellars and Grape & Grain
What was once BrewDog’s Abstrakt AB:04 morphed to become the Scottish bad boys’ anniversary imperial stout.  Older versions of this insanely complex stout are still kicking about the place, with the fresher Dog D and Dog E going even further into madness having been barrel-aged.  The newer versions really do strike while the iron is hot, as there’s not only a decent whop of chilli heat on the back of the throat, there’s also a real alcohol burn too.  It’s like emerging from a chocolate, chilli, boozy volcano and you’ve lived to tell the tale.
Garage Project: La Calavera Catrina
Level of heat:  4/5
Last confirmed sighting: Grape & Grain, 500mL bottles
Garage Project have nothing to declare but their genius, and it’s downright impossible to resist this temptation.  Nobody else could have concocted a brew consisting of habaneros, watermelon and rosewater.  The chilli heat is a truly satisfactory burn, but for the uninitiated it might lead to strange visualisations similar to those experienced by Oscar Wilde following one too many absinthe benders.  Consider this fair warning!
Not hot enough for ya?  Check out Garage Project’s The Fabulous Firebreather.  If you’re lucky enough to find it, you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a habanero-fuelled fire-storm in a glass!
Ballast Point:  Habanero Sculpin
Level of heat:  4/5
Last confirmed sighting:  Young & Jackson during Good Beer Week
Okay, this one’s a ring-in because it’s a been-and-gone annual visitor to Melbourne, but it gets an honourable mention because it’s so damn good.  It’s often said IPAs and spicy food go together like Ebony and Ivory but, truth be known, the reality is more like Simon and Garfunkel.  Put chilli in an IPA though and the results can be devastating.  Habanero Sculpin puts the power of hops together with the heat of habanero to create the perfect rock n’ roll double act.
Matso’s:  Chilli Beer
Level of heat:  3/5
Last confirmed sighting:  Dan Murphy’s
The spiel says Matso’s Chilli Beer is probably the hottest beer in the world.  And yes, it does light up the tongue to a near-challenging point.  But the reality is there are infinitely hotter beers out there.  Garage Project alone brews two of them (see above).
The trouble with Matso’s Chilli Beer isn’t its heat.  The problem lies with its malt and hop characteristics, which take on an unpleasantly bitter and astringent presentation.  Save this one for a party trick or as a base for what could be an awesome chilli batter.

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