Beer School

What are Chili (Chile) Beers?

No matter how you write it, chili, chilli or chile, these beers give a punch of heat which comes from the addition of chili-peppers, habaneros, or jalapeños. This Picante beer style isn’t for the weak of heart (or stomach); so, let’s turn up the heat and learn about the hottest trend to hit craft beer…

What are Chili (Chile) Beers?

What is a Spicy or Hot Style Chile Beer?

The classification of “chili-infused beers”, broadly encompasses all beer styles which include an adjunct additive of chili peppers, jalapenos or habanero peppers.

In short, Hot & Spicy (Picante) or “Chili-Infused” beers are heat-forward and spicy and often that flavour can be so strong it overpowers the standard beer flavours (which is why this type of beer gets its own classification even though the underlying beer may be a pale ale, stout, porter or some other beer style).


What a Chile Beer is Not—a Chilean regional-specific Beer

Chile beers are not the same as “Chilean beers”; the Chilean region of South America primarily brews and consumes pale lagers. There is also a traditional fermented corn (maize) beverage called chicha, which is popular in Latin America. This chicha style of brewed drink has also been made with non-corn additives like quinoa, peanuts, cassava, potato, oxalis, and other types of local plants and cultivated crops, so it’s more of a catch-all for a fermented beverage. If a brewer were to toss some jalapenos into a Chilean lager or chicha, then it would be considered a Chilean chili beer! Make sense?


Is a Chile Beer an Ale or a Lager?

It can be either-or. If the beer has been brewed with chilis, no matter with top-fermenting ale yeasts, or bottom-fermenting lager yeasts, it is considered a chile beer. Chile beers simply refer to any type of beer that has chili-peppers (or other spicy pepper) added during the brewing process.


What Type of Chili Peppers Are Used in Chile Beers?

It depends on the desired heat the brewer would like the final beer to have. Chilli pepper heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SVU), with the lowest being 0 SVU (like a green pepper), to the hottest being over 3 million (like pepper spray).

Typically, the following peppers are used—if you want to know more about the flavours of each pepper type, check out this link:

  • Ancho (AKA Poblano Pepper) 1K-2K SKU
  • Anaheim – 500 to 2.5K SKU
  • Mirasolo Chili (Guajillo) – 2.5K to 5K SKU
  • Jalapeño (Chipotle) – 3.5K to 8K SVUs
  • Serrano – 6K – 23K SKU
  • Cayenne – 30K to 50K SKU
  • Tabasco Pepper – 30K to 60K SKU
  • Piri Piri (African Red Devil Pepper) – 50K to 175K SKU
  • Rocoto – 100K to 250K SKU
  • Habanero – 150K to 350K SKU
  • Bhut jolokia (AKA Ghost Pepper) – 1M+ SVUs


About Picante Chili Beers – Essential Style Information:


Origin of Chile Beer:

For as long as people have been making beer (and gruit aka ‘spice beer’), they have been adding all sorts of adjunct additives to their brewing concoctions. There are fully-spiced beers, while others are flavoured with lilac, lavender, tea and dandelions, and people have even made vegetable brews using tomatoes, beats, and rhubarb. It seems only normal that the next natural step would be to also explore flavours of heat and spice by adding chili peppers and so the origin is not pinpointed to one geography. One can generally assume though, with the chili peppers coming from South America, where there has been a long history of chicha, there’s a significant chance, that chile beers did originate somewhere in and along with the Peruvian mountain range either from Chile or nearby.


Beer Appearance:

Variable depending on the underlying beer style made with the chilis.


Aroma, Flavour, Palate & Mouthfeel:

Heat-forward but variable depending on the type of beer brewed.


What does a pint of chile beer taste like?

If you’ve ever had chile-infused chocolate, a chile beer is reminiscent of that; the underlying flavour + heat.

If you haven’t had chile chocolate for comparison, imagine the heat you’d expect from a jalapeno, combined with a more earthy-mineral flavour of eggplant or papaya. It will depend on the exact style of beer the chili peppers were brewed in (and also whether or not they were smoked or charred), but you can generally expect to taste the classic undertone the beer style with an additional punch of heat and minerality from the vegetable part of the pepper.


What foods pair well with chile beers?

Spanish, Mexican, and/or Portuguese-style dishes. Heavy cheeses or creamy dips. Acidic fruits to cut the heat.


How to serve an English Bitter:

Served lightly-chilled (11° to 14° Celsius) in a Pint Glass (American or Nonic).


What are examples of popular chile beers?


Try a Chili Beer for yourself!

Check out your local craft beer scene and stop by a local brewery in your area.


Now that you know all about chili-infused beers, brush up on the other types with our guide to craft beer styles

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