I’m slowly picking away at the beers I brought back to North Carolina from my trip home this summer, and the latest in that group was one I was really excited for. A chili beer by Horseheads Brewing that’s got an 85 on Beer Advocate.
This particular brew – Hot-Jala-Heim – gets its name from a combination of peppers used in the brewing process – jalapenos and anaheims. I’ve had good experiences with pepper beers before, including my own homebrew of a jalapeno blonde, so this seemed like it might be another good entry into that category. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there’s a two-sided answer to that. I found this beer to be great for someone whose palette is tuned to milder pepper tastes and good but kind of boring for someone like me, who loves peppery heat.
Which side will you fall on? Hit the jump and let’s find out.
What threw me off the most about this beer was how sweet it was. I suppose this could be a benefit for most drinkers – especially if you fall into the camp that isn’t crazy about pepper or pepper beers. I felt that the sweetness just overpowered everything else. On my first smell of the brew a caramel malt-like aroma just absolutely dominated, pushing the pepper aside to an end-of-smell afterthought. Hot-Jala-Heim smelled more of peppery baked bread than beer. However, I should note that when the peppers showed up on the nose, it was a nice combination, it just made the peppers seem more like sweet peppers than hot ones you’d imagine from something like a jalapeno.
The beer had little carbonation and I imagine that would be good for someone who doesn’t want too much pepper flavor. Had this beer really been rocking some serious bubbles, I can imagine the tingling of the pepper heat being a bit more intense. On each sip there was just a slight hint of the pepper heat that stuck around on my tongue and lingered, but I would’ve loved it to stay longer and showcase some more heat, especially given the maltiness of the beer. The heat would’ve been nice to cut through that aspect.
In all fairness, here’s what Horseheads says about this beer:
“It has a delightful ‘peppery’ aroma as well as taste with a ‘mild’ sensation of heat experienced after swallowing.”
I’d say that description is accurate, although you’ll most definitely get varying definitions of what “delightful” means when it comes to peppers, let alone pepper beers. Personally, I’d love something that showcases the peppers because my thought is that if you’re going to make something of a novelty beer, you might as well go all out. But – again – I think this brew draws a fine line between what someone like me would want and a general beer drinker who has the curiosity to branch outside their normal comfort zone.