Recently I’ve been trying to experiment with a few new ideas and keep the brew days fresh and interesting. Although I readily admit that I have an immense amount of learning to do to become a solid brewer, switching things up and doing something new is a good way to not get bored or stuck in a rut. After the idea for the bacon beer was formed in my mind, other somewhat weird brewing possibilities started popping up. The jalapeno ale was one of them. After doing a little poking around, I found some recipes and tried my best to see if there was a consensus as to how to make the pepper flavor come through. Should the peppers be roasted? Added to the boil? De-seeded? Added in the secondary? How many? etc. The problem I found was that it seemed that everyone had their own way of doing things and had results they enjoyed.
I saw some people who actually placed a whole pepper into the bottle! It looked cool, but I have no clear bottles nor would I want to try such a trick, too messy. I decided to just chop up two decent sized jalapenos and add them to the boil unroasted. Once the peppers had hit the wort it really seemed more like a stew than a beer in the making but it didn’t smell unpleasant by any means. Getting the wort from the boil kettle to the carboy was a bit more messy than usual but it wasn’t that bad.
As a note of warning to anyone that may want to try something like this in the future: I’d be sure to use a glass carboy for fermentation and it also may be a good idea to brew this beer right before you are planning on changing out your siphon tubing. I found that even after using the tubing for two batches after the jalapeno ale I could smell a distinct pepper aroma from the tubing. I can’t detect any flavor transfer but I imagine it would be smart to play it safe. I also read of people that made a pepper beer in a plastic fermenting container and had the flavor leech into the next batch they brewed.
At bottling time I gave the hydrometer sample a nice taste and was pretty pleased so far. The FG came out at 1.012 and the beer is somewhat balanced. The aroma is unequivocally jalapeno. The taste however is a bit more subtle than the overwhelming nose. There’s a decent malt component that at least reminds you that you’re drinking a beer and not a bottle of pepper juice. The only heat I detected was in the back of my throat in the finish, well after the other tastes had vanished. It was not an intense burn, just enough to give you a bit of a pause. This burn might become more pronounced if you were to drink a larger sample, but I don’t think it is something that would turn away people other than those averse to spicy foods. I suppose adding a hotter pepper (or a fraction of a hotter pepper) along with the jalapenos would be the best way to give the beer a bigger kick. Adding more jalapeno seems to me like it would start to make the pepper flavor too intense by the time you got the heat you were looking for. A couple more weeks and I’ll be able to taste the finished product. I carbonated this beer on the high side. I think the fizz from the carbonation will work well with the heat of the peppers.
A punch of peño Ale (1 gallon batch)
- 1.5 lbs (60%) US 2-Row
- .75 lbs (30%) Golden Promise Malt
- .125 lbs (5%) CaraPils
- .125 lbs (5%) Palm Sugar (about .25 cup)
- .25 oz Challenger 7.3% AA @ 60 min
- .25 oz Challenger 7.3% AA @ 5 min
- about 2 sliced Jalapeno Peppers (adjust to taste) @ 5 min
- US-05 yeast
Mash at 152 F for 60 Min
Fermented at about 70 F
This beer has the potential to be much better than the Bacon Maple experiment that I brewed recently. The maple flavor imparted in the priming sugar is just too overwhelming and doesn’t seem to be fading much. If I ever revisit the bacon beer I will definitely use a mixture of maple syrup and dextrose as my priming sugar instead of straight maple syrup. Once this is ready to drink, I will revisit and give some final thoughts.