There’s little doubt that I’m a sucker for spicy drinks—I usually chase my weekend coffee with at least one Bloody Mary, and in the summer months, I concoct vats of michelada mix (often with Cholula hot sauce, sometimes with Valentina) to blend with ice-cold bottles of cheap international-style lager.
But truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of beer made with actual chile peppers. They always struck me as hokey, gimmicky, and too closely aligned with the machismo ethos that I associate with extreme hot sauce enthusiasts.
That changed recently when I noticed an influx of new chile-centric brews hitting the market, ones made by breweries that I recognized and, more importantly, breweries that I respected. One of the first that I tried was Founder’s Mango Magnifico, a high-gravity fruit beer imbued with a kick of fresh habanero chiles. It was fruity and fiery and (in a very small quantity) nearly perfect. After that, it wasn’t long before I found myself ordering a pint of Green Flash’s Double Stout spiked with roasted Serrano peppers.
Within this new wave of chile beer, some breweries are devising recipes that elevate the pepper from supporting role to integral component, while others are simply taking an existing brew and infusing it with dried or fresh chiles (a technique akin to dry-hopping, which lets the beer retain its original character while supplying a persistent, fiery kick on the back end).
Regardless of what role it assumes, the chile usually imbues a spiciness so perverse that it’s difficult to drink more than one glass—but that doesn’t mean that one glass can’t be delicious. Here are 10 spicy beers that are actually worth drinking.