1) Chilli beers. Oh I hate you so much. For so many of them it’s all about the heat, all about making sure the chilli stomps all over the beer. “Oh yes,” brewers seem to say, “I want to create a beer drinkers will actually regret trying. Maybe because they’ve just burnt the lining of their esophagus.”
2) The worst offender is Cave Creek Chili Beer, which includes an actual chili in the bottle. It’s a standard lager – kind of like a Corona – but with a stupid amount of heat. The beer ran down my throat and into my stomach like so much molten lava. Back in 2012 I said it was the worst beer ever and no other beer since then has come close to knocking it off that perch.
3) But other chilli beers displease me too. I did go through a brief phase of liking Garage Project’s Death From Above. Until I woke up to myself and realised one simple truth – beer should be enjoyable. If a beer feels like a chore to get through, then it’s defeating the purpose. Not being the greatest fan of hot foods, a beer where chilli is front and centre is not really going to be anything I enjoy.
4) Well, with the exception of the Illawarra Brewing Company’s Smoked Jalapeno Porter. There is a crucial distinction with this beer – the chilli is used for its flavour and not heat. On the nose, you get a similar scent to what you’d get if you held a fresh, uncut chilli to your nose. Yes, there is some very slight heat (and I mean VERY slight) which lingers, but it comes in at the back end rather that shouldering all the other ingredients out of the way and saying “hey, here I am! Look at me!” It’s a porter that never forgets it’s a porter, it doesn’t give up any of its identity to the chilli. If anything, it’s the chilli’s job to fit in with what the porter is doing and not vice versa.
5) You’ll probably have to wait a little while to try this – they only made one keg of it. That’s because brewer Tim Howard was able to do some experimentation while the boss was away. He knocked up a pilot batch of this and the 20-litre keg went on tap last Saturday at the brewhouse. By now it’s probably all gone, but has proved so popular that brewing a bigger batch is a certainty. The beer is also a sign of a new direction for the brewery, with more small batches and seasonals being cranked out while some of the core range takes a back seat.
Free or paid for?: The brewery gave me a squealer of the smoked jalapeno porter after I interviewed them for a newspaper story about the beer.
Categories: Beer of the Week