My office is about a block from Wynkoop Brewing. It’s also a block from Falling Rock and about six from Great Divide. But this story is about Wynkoop.
I went there for lunch about a month ago, and had some of their chili beer, called Patty’s Chile Beer. It’s got a great chili smell and a slight pepper taste, but almost no spice to it. It falls under how I describe most of Wynkoop’s beer: a very balanced flavor that doesn’t go far enough for my palette. I love what they do there, and what Wynkoop has done for beer in Denver, it’s just not my favorite. Or second favorite. Or.. anyway.
One day, we'll use this many ghost chilis in one batch.
A few days later, I got to try some of Nick Nunns’ chili beer. It had some zing to it. It made me realize that you can make a great beer with veggies in it. So, Kell and I set out to make our own.
I did some research on spices, looking into the Scoville Scale, and started doing math. Side note, per Nick’s suggestion, I think I’ll make a Scotch Bonnet Scotch Ale one day. Anyway, we wanted to make it spicy. Not unbearable, but not for the faint of heart either. The goal was to make a beer as spicy as a jalapeno.
I had to contact my buddy James, who’s getting a PhD in Chemistry, for the extremely complex formula to determine concentration. Super complex:
C1V1 = C2V2
C stands for concentration, V for volume. Crazy, huh? (I’m being sarcastic, fyi)
Armed with this equation, and the incredibly inexact Scoville Scale example ratings, I was ready to do math.
Initially, we took a Serrano pepper, food processed it in a pint of water, and tasted. We assumed a Serrano pepper, ground up, would equal 1 tsp. The scale suggested that Serrano peppers have a Scoville rating between 10,000 and 25,000. There are 96 teaspoons in a pint. Math:
10,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 96 tsp * x Scoville
xlow Scoville = 10,000/96 = 104
25,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 96 tsp * x Scoville
xhigh scoville = 25,000/96 = 260
So, diluting 1 Serrano pepper into a pint of water would result in the water having a Scoville rating between 104 and 260, or the equivalent of a Peperoncini. And to test, we tasted the water. Having tasted a Serrano seed previously, which made my mouth burn a bit, this solution wasn’t very spicy. It appeared the math was correct.
Now we wanted to add peppers to the boil. At first, we were overly cautious. I didn’t trust the math, even though we’d just proven it’s reliability. We determined how many points one Serrano would add to a 5 gallon batch, using 12,000 points as an assumed rating for a Serrano. Why? No reason. There are 768 teaspoons in a gallon, or 3,840 in a 5 gallon batch.
12,000 Scoville * 1 tsp = 3,840x
x = 12,000/3,840 = 3.125
One Serrano pepper in a 5 gallon batch would increase the Scoville rating by 3 points. For some reason, we didn’t really believe this. We thought it would be much higher than that. So, we added 6 Serrano peppers and hoped it would be spicy at secondary. Mind you, that’s a total rating of almost 20. A bell pepper has that rating.
The other night, we transferred the beer to a bucket and tasted it. It had a slight chili flavor, but had no spice. Surprise! The math was correct. To get it to the spice level we wanted, assuming the math was correct, we would need about 800 more Serrano peppers. (12,000 * x = 2,500 * 3,840 )
Being cautious, intelligent men, we took the obvious next step.
We added Habanero.
Unlike the weak little Serrano, the Habanero has a Scoville range of 100,000 to 350,000. They’re also a little bigger, so we assumed an initial volume of a tablespoon. Exact science here, obviously. Therefore, each one would increase the rating of the beer by
100,000 * 3 = 3840x
xlow = (100,000 * 3 ) / 3840 = 78
350,000 * 3 = 3840x
xhigh = (350,000 * 3 ) / 3840 = 273
We added 5 Habanero peppers, which gave us a total rating, including the 18 from the Serrano, of between 408 and 1,383. A jalapeno has a rating between 2,500 – 8,000. We’re close.
We tasted along the way, adding only one pepper at a time, and the last taste was definitely spicy, but not unreasonable. We just finished bottling it, and it has some heat. It appears the math was mostly correct, especially considering the inaccuracies of the scale and my ability to measure things. In about 10 days we’ll see how it turns out.
Habanero in the food processor
For the recipe, I tried to do something close to a pale ale, substituting most of the hops for peppers. I didn’t want anything too hoppy, or too anything, as the pepper was the ingredient I wanted to accentuate. And, it being a first attempt, we went with extract.
Chili beer attempt #1
- 7 lbs Light Liquid Extract
- 1 lb Vienna
- 1 lb British Light
- 1/4 lb Torrified Wheat
- 1 oz Perle at 60 min
- 6 Serrano peppers at 60 min
- 1 oz Fuggle at 30 min
- California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
- 5 Habanero in secondary