As I’ve pointed out before, it’s pretty easy to pull together ingredients for a pepper beer. Now, creating a well-balanced pepper beer? That’s something else entirely.
Enter Twisted Pine’s Billy’s Chilies – a new offering here in North Carolina by way of Boulder, CO. A pretty straight-forward pepper brew, it’s got a 79 on Beer Advocate and features five different kinds of peppers in the brewing process – Serrano, Habenero, Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Fresno chili peppers.
How much pepper comes to play in this pepper beer? Let’s hit the jump and dissect.
First thing to note about this beer is the severe lack of head. I had a somewhat similar problem with my jalapeño blonde ale, from what I assume is the presence of residual oils of the peppers. When introducing oils into the process, it’ll knock head potential down unless it’s counteracted with some protein-rich malt.
All that aside, it doesn’t take much away from the smell, which is all pepper from start to finish. To offer a touch of roundness, there’s a tinge of sweetness like you might find in a pepper jam. Without knowing a hell of a lot about peppers, my guess is that the sweetness is brought about by the use of Anaheim peppers, which offer a more mild flavor and heat than the others used in this brew.
Things are equally simplistic, but enjoyable, with the beer’s flavor. The first few sips are barely offending, giving a perfect blend of heat at the front of each sip that fades to a smooth pale ale-like taste. At first, there’s no lingering heat on the tongue, which is pretty amazing since it’s hard to do that in a pepper beer. The flavor has some pepper spiciness, but after about half a bottle the heat really takes hold and stays on your tongue. Like the aroma, the flavor is based around experiencing the peppers as they’re the main attraction. Willamette and Northern Brewer hops were used, but never utter a peep because of all the pepper flavor, although given the low alpha acid, herbal/earthy profile of those varieties, it makes sense that they’d blend in more than anything else.
Would I recommend this beer to non-pepper fans? I think so. However, I’d caution that for someone who isn’t crazy about this style, they should split a bottle to enjoy more of the well-rounded aspects of the beer instead of heat and spiciness, which is definitely more polarizing for something like this.
Billy’s Chilies stats:
- Malt: N/A
- Hops: Willamette and Northern Brewer
- Adjuncts: Serrano, Habenero, Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Fresno chili peppers
- ABV: 5 percent