Fear not the Triton Brewing Hatch Blower Pepper IPA. Sure, it packs a burn, but it’s an enjoyable one.
Pepper beers are as divisive – or as acquired a taste – as sours or others that deliver an extreme taste bud sensation. And for a series that highlights craft beer worth crossing the border into neighboring Indiana, Wisconsin or Michigan for, sometimes that means doing so to find something so intriguing, so different — Triton Brewing Hatch Blower Pepper IPA fits the bill.
It’s going to be too much heat for some – not enough for others – but unique enough that it will draw a wide range of opinions. Count me among those who finds the blending of three different peppers amid a hoppy IPA background mighty enjoyable – one of the most fun beers I’ve had in a long time.
This isn’t just a matter of dropping a jalapeno pepper in a bottle of beer and calling it a “chili beer.” Jalapenos, chipotles and green pepper are utilized in this beer and, remarkably, each of those flavors come through at some point while drinking it.
In the first sip alone, there are the hoppy bitterness you’d expect from an IPA, before a green pepper taste slips through. A bit of jalapeno quickly hits, before an earthy chipotle taste pops and then a little more green pepper – all with a slightly lingering jalapeno offering a slight burn. A bit later, that burn is joined by hop bitterness once again. That’s just one sip.
And while the look of Hatch Blower Pepper IPA is all IPA – innocent, gold-orange, with a slight head – the nose is complex, with a malty sweetness balanced by green pepper and jalapeno battling for position.
Working your way through the bottle, the complexity doesn’t stop. There’s less jalapeno – or maybe I’m just getting used to it – and more green pepper, but there’s an occasional reminder in the chest that the hotter peppers are there.
I was introduced to this beer back at the 2014 Brewers of Indiana Guild’s Winterfest, when it was offered on tap by the Indianapolis-based brewer. So imagine my pleasant surprise to find it on Indiana shelves in recent weeks.
Triton brewmaster Jon Lang, who describes himself as a big fan of both peppers and IPAs, said the beer is the result of playing with a variety of dried peppers and the brewery’s Railsplitter IPA in growlers. His goal was to deliver the “bright peppery nose and flavor” of green pepper with the heat of jalapeno and chipotle. Lang adds dried peppers to nylon bags and marinates them in Triton’s finishing tank for a few days, essentially dry hopping with peppers.
“In the end, I wanted to make sure we made a balanced beer with peppers, not a burn your tongue pepper beer,” he said.
That, he did.
Triton, located at the old Fort Benjamin Harrison Army post, which closed in 1997, often leans on Hoosier history for the names of many of its beers, including this one – albeit in a fun, unique way. Indianapolis native Gus Grissom, who trained at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, was just the second American to fly in space. Grissom was flying the Liberty Bell 7 when, after a splash-landing in the ocean, bolts unexpectedly fired and blew the hatch off, causing water to gush into the ship and Grissom’s own spacesuit. Asked by reporters how he felt afterward, Grissom said “Well, I was scared a good portion of the time; I guess that’s a pretty good indication.”
There’s nothing to be scared of with this Hatch Blower, however. It’s different, unique, complex and fun – unlike any beer (including pepper beer) that I’ve had before.
Triton isn’t available in the Chicagoland area, but can be found in the Peoria and Champaign area, making it a beer worth crossing the border (or well south of I-80) to find.