Friday, March 19, 2010

I love the smell of Napalm at Happy Hour - the Story of Chili Beer

The desert, home of lizards the size of beagles, hard rock, and grit, all baked up to a crisp 130 degrees. Home to hardy people, an assortment of F-16 parts and a a couple dozen million rattlesnakes. A place where beer is pretty important.

Chili Beer.

For a man named Crazy Chilleen of Cave Creek, Arizona (Population 1328 which is said to include coyotes and cattle) beer could not be trusted to outsiders. So in 1989 he started brewing his own beer. As the story goes, the town was suspicious. And became even more so when an entire brewery arrived in crates at the foot of Black Mountain, along with a German named Arnold.

But apparently people were sold after the first batch. Enough that the yuppies started driving in from California to try the stuff. Then one day, one of them whined about no lime in their beer, and got a hot Serrano chili pepper in it instead. Amazingly, someone liked it. A number of people did, the idea was born, and as their website states "the 80's were officially over".

That brewery is now closed but the beer lives on, brewed in Mexico for an American beer company. I found it in the wide open spaces of Indianapolis at World Market.

I bought it as a novelty. But with a bowl of fresh tortilla chips to munch on it was damn good. It's a light, lager type beer, not a lot of head to it. Corona is sort of how it looked and I expected it to taste. But the pepper taste is clean, hot and pronounced, as in after you swallow it sneaks up into your sinus's and makes your whole head wake up.

With chips and some sliced sliced, sharp cheese, it was the perfect snack.

I purchased some extra for Tam and Bobbie to try this weekend, the fire extinguisher and extra chips will be ready. The online beer reviewers didn't like it, but I did. It was like biting into a crisp cold jalapeno with my chips. Then again, I'm the one that asks if there's something hotter than "Thai Hot". .

If you see some, try it. If you don't like, I'm sure there will be some takers for it.


  1. Sounds interesting.

    ..."after you swallow it sneaks up into your sinus's and makes your whole head wake up." and what I need tonight, damn tree pollen.

    "I'm the one that asks if there's something hotter than "Thai Hot"."
    You're not the only one. :-)

  2. Mmmm beer. God's true use for grain!

    One of the little taquerias I used to go to in Arizona used to put a jalopeno in your Dos Equis like a lime. Nothing better.

  3. While I always prefer Single Malt Scotch a good beer, especially with Chili, is the order of the day.

  4. First, let me explain something about myself. I like things spicy. Really quite spicy. I put Tabasco sauce on my salads, cayenne and crushed red peppers on nearly everything I eat, and in general I have a hard time finding prepared foods spicy enough to suit my taste buds.

    That said, my first experience with Chili Beer was a bit of a shock. I had purchases a six-pack out of curiosity, and after chilling them in the refrigerator for awhile, I pulled one out to see what they were all about. I opened it up, took a sip, and what I tasted I wouldn't describe as "spicy beer" as much as I would describe it as, say "chili oil" or "edible pepper spray." I had happened to pull out a bottle with a chili as large as a jalapeño, and the effect was fierce. I really wasn't sure I could get through the whole bottle, much less a six-pack.

    Thankfully, I did manage to finish it, and because I can't stand to throw away beer that's still physically drinkable, I gave the rest of the pack a second chance and found it to be indeed a unusual spicy and pleasant taste. One of the few lagers I actually enjoy drinking.

    I hadn't given it much more thought than that however, and it was fun to see your post come across my reader today and find out about its history.

  5. I first tried the Cave Creek Chili Beer when it was still made in Cave Creek AZ. It was awesome, goes down great with nachos or Quesadilla.

  6. The restaurant was called the Satisfied Frog . Locals usually just referred to it as "The Frog"

    You would have liked it. The porterhouse steak and garlic mashed potatoes washed down by a beer produced in the brewery next door was to die for.

    My favorite was the porter though, not the chili beer.

  7. Chili beer...this may be the first thing I've seen you post that I WON'T be trying...I'm way too wimpy. :-)

  8. Used to be a brewery/restaurant down in Moab, Utah called Eddie McStiff's that had over a dozen types of beer; one of them was a Jalapeño beer.

  9. Rouge brewing makes a good chipotle ale. It has a refreshing malty start, and a smokey chile bite after you swallow. Definitely worth trying.

  10. Brigid, first, my word verification is priceless: "Creer" = crying beer?

    Second, unless your boss is completely a twit, you'd be recognized by your hair and eyes alone. Barkley kinda makes for the ID hat trick.

    Third, as an occassional home brewer, I'm going to have to try this one for sure.

  11. btw... Did you know Barkley has that same look on his face as "Cup Cake" Dog had when trying to restrain his desire to eat, yet obey mom?

    very cute... and hilarious, too!

  12. Your review and the subsequent comments made me go dig out an old T-shirt I bought in Cave Creek, AZ at a brew pub in the early nineties.

    Sure enough:

    “Crazy Ed’s Black Mountain Gold”
    “We drink all we can and sell the rest”
    “Satisfied Frog, Cave Creek, AZ”

    Black Mountain Gold was the name of the beer. It was a great place for a cold beer on a hot day for sure. It’s too bad it’s gone now.

    I guess my T-shirt is now officially a collectible…

  13. Hey Brigid!

    Here's a cool name for a Salsa company:

    Makes me wonder how hot their product reaaaaaally is...

  14. two breweries here in Colorado make a green chili beer. Wynkoop Brewing, owned by the mayor of Denver makes one, Patty's Chile Beer.

    The other, Coopersmith's Pub & Brewing in Fort Collins makes Sigda's Green Chili Beer, my favorite beer. I sometimes chase it with some tomato juice.


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