Let’s Bring Back Chili Beers


Before the current novelty beer craze, when tossing doughnuts or children’s cereal in the mash tun became widespread, there were chili beers. Beers spiked with spicy peppers have been around since at least 1990, when a guy out in Arizona started bottling his micro Mexican lager with a pickled serrano pepper floating in the bottle.

Mostly, chili beers have been mocked, with a precious few, like Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin and Dogfish Head’s Theobroma, earning a modicum of respect.

So maybe some good has come from all those silly cupcake stouts and jelly doughnut IPAs. They have broadened the spectrum of acceptable flavors to make room for beers that bring their own spice. Chili beers got their own category at the World Beer Cup this year, and they’re popping up all over town, from a pineapple and jalapeno cider at The Goat to Li’l Lucy’s Hot Pepper Ale at Weston Brewing Company. For my money, chili beers are some of the most complex and quaffable brews out there. When done well, they invite another sip like no other and add a little capsicum buzz on top of the booze. I drink them whenever I see them, and I was recently delighted by a raspberry chipotle ale that brought smoke, heat and sweetness together in a symphony of flavors. It was one of the very best beers I had while visiting sixteen spots for this list, and here’s hoping there are more to follow.