For the second entry in the “Old Man” series, things got a little out of hand. I had tried a couple beers with chili peppers and decided that I could do that. My Dad always liked spicy foods, surely he would like a spicy beer. I’m sure it’s been done, but I hadn’t heard of any smoked beers with hot peppers and it seemed like an obvious combination to me. Chinook hops, known for their abrasive character also seemed to fit in. So I decided that a chipotle IPA would be the end goal.
I didn’t want to go too over the top with hops because I wanted the chipotle aspect to be the star. I had learned since the previous year’s effort that I needed more hops late in the boil and that dry hopping was essential, but I played it conservative on purpose this time.I also debated how much smoked malt to use. I’m not sure how I settled on two pounds, but I think if anything, it was a bit low. In the end, it didn’t really matter, but I think using all smoked malt in addition to the extract, since this was a partial mash brew, would have been more interesting.
In the end, though, despite a lot of research to learn to balance things, the peppers completely took over. I read that it was a good idea to remove the seeds. I know that most of the heat comes from the seeds, so this seemed like an obvious thing to do. Beyond that, I also read that by cooking the peppers and removing the skins, you could minimize vegetal or grassy flavors and get pure pepper. I cut open one ounce each of habanero and cayenne (finger) peppers, removed the seeds and then grilled them. Once they had cooled, I peeled off the skin and added them to the fermenter along with an ounce of Chinook hops.
I decided on this blend of peppers by buying one of each of the hot peppers I could find at the grocery store and putting slices into small glasses of another IPA I had recently brewed. The habanero was my favorite but the finger peppers had a very unique zing and I decided that mixing them was the best option. I still think if you’re going to do this type of beer, this is a good mix. Habanero seems to be the go to for a lot of brewers with jalapeño being another favorite. Personally, I’m not crazy about jalapeño peppers on their own. Mixed with a lot of other flavors on nachos or in other dishes they work well, but I don’t think they stand up as the main flavor component.
None of this seemed to make much difference in my beer, though. It is pure heat. There may be a subtle hint of smoke in there somewhere but there are no hops evident and the peppers themselves are unidentifiable behind the wall of fire. I had hoped that the heat would mellow with time, so I saved quite a bit of this beer, but that does not seem to be what’s happened. I haven’t had one in a couple months, but at last tasting it was as hot as ever. I will give it another try tomorrow, though, so come back for those tasting notes.
I have heard more from different people about ways to incorporate peppers into your beer without having them overpower it, but I can’t speak from experience. I can say that I’ve had some stouts and other dark beers with chili peppers since making this that I’ve enjoyed a lot more. I still think the smoked malt is a good idea, but the roasted dark malt character adds a great balance that my hops couldn’t hack. I haven’t given up on trying another chili beer at some point, but there are a lot of other things that I’m more eager to jump into first.
Spicy Old Man
(FOUR gallon batch)
Style: American IPA with Chili Peppers
Brew Date: May 14, 2013
Serve Date: June, 2013
IBUs: 70 IBUs
2 lb Smoked Malt
5 lb Pale Malt
3 lb Light DME
1 oz Chinook @60 min
1 oz Chinook @10 min
1 oz Chinook @ 2 min
1 oz Chinook Dry Hop
Habanero and Cayenne Peppers prepared as described above and added with dry hops
Nottingham Dry Ale Yeast