Chili Beer Experiments

For some reason I have been drawn to making chili beers.  I am not sure why.  Before the experiment I’ve never tasted one, and had not been enticed by the few public offerings I’d seen.  I was probably scared of the chili in the bottle seeming like the worm in cheap mescal.

After hearing a few podcasts about brewer’s efforts, and seeing Basic Brewing’s Chili experiment I decided to try it myself.

The experiment

  1. Brew 5 gal. base brown beer (Hat tip Tom Schmidlin).  I did Jamil’s Nutcastle (New Castle clone).
  2. I went to Whole Foods, and bought 5 chilies.  Since I did not know much about chilies, I just bought 5 in a row.
  3. After the beer was in primary for a week, I split it into 5 1 gallon batches.
  4. In each batch I added a chili, which was split and dipped in sanitizing solution.  For the Thai chili I did two, since it was so small and did not seem as potent as I feared. (and contrary to expectation was not very hot in the beer).
  5. I let that sit for 14 days, and then bottled each batch, getting 8-9 bottles per batch.  I used a syringe and some guessing/calculation for priming with boiled DME.
  6. I let it bottle condition for a week before the first tasting.  The tasting included 3 home brewers and 1 chili and beer loving friend.


The beers had weak carbonation.  That may be screwing up the guess work, or the chili oils having an effect.  But that was not the goal.  Here is a taste chart from the first meeting:







Mild Pepper smell, green, very strong in carboy

Potent, too much, on throat, lots of aroma

Anaheim Chiles


Red, not very aromatic

Fruity ester, awesome flavor



Not very aromatic

Aroma, long finish, favorite beer

Thai Chili


Small green, smoky smell, very strong in carboy

Too light in flavor, tobacco flavor.





Potent smell more smoky

Powerful, great throat


Overall Serrano was the favorite.

I open the same beers a few months later at a Mount Si Home Brewers meeting.  People definitely had more chili preferences.  It almost seemed as though the chili flavors were stronger.

After each tasting, we mixed the chili beers.  Come combo that were nice was Serrano and Thai, and even better add the Habanero.  At the Home Brewers meeting there was a smoked porter.  Mixing the Serrano and others with it was great!


Using the brown beer was an awesome base.  Its malty sweetness offset the chili flavors nicely.  The beers are a bit strong, but the goal here was not build a perfect beer, but determine what the flavors of the chilies were.  If I were to make a chili beer I would want a little more beer flavor to chili.  I would also mix a few chilies together.  Also adding in smoke is a definite possibility.  The beers are good on their on, but not a quaffing beer.

Most surprising was how week the Thai chilies were.  I expect to blow that one out.  I wonder if I just had a weak batch.  In Vietnam, add 2 2mm slices of the chili for 5 minutes sent my Pho to 4 out 5!

Also I would have more carbonation drops on hand.  Using a syringe to prime is a PITA Smile


2 Responses to Chili Beer Experiments

  1. Rick says:

    Were the habaneros fresh or dried? I did a choco-chili porter based on the same Basic Brewing show. I used John Palmer’s “Port O’ Palmer Porter” as the base. It was good, but I think the chili needed to be amped up a little.

    I took a bottle to the monthly CBG meeting and it seemed to be accpetable to the couple of people who tried it.

    Recently the Black Raven had a cask of “Ghost Pepper Trickster” for the Cask Wednesday feature. Yum!

    • Zot says:

      All the chiles were fresh, right from the store (Whole Foods). I have found the chile flavor is stabile over time which was surprising. You could try longer contact time and probably nail the flavor. You go to beerstock and try Mark Joy’s chile beers.

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