Every now and then in my quest to keep up on what's brewing in southern Wisconsin, I'm confronted with a creation that just doesn't fit mainstream beer flavors. I put chili or hot pepper beer among those considered atypical. Recently, during a stop at the Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb, I was introduced to a favorite of the locals called Slow Eddie.
What is it? Slow Eddie from Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery of Mount Horeb.
Style: Chili or pepper brews often use lighter-colored ales as the base beer, to which various hot peppers, pepper extracts or even hot sauces are added. Jalapeño peppers are among the most common chilies used for flavor. The spicy heat found in these beers can range from subtle to eye-popping.
This is a style accepted by professional tasting groups and competitions like the World Beer Cup; similar to vegetable, herbal and spice beer categories, they're made by adding ingredients to either the mash, brew kettle, or fermentor. A key quality to look for is a pepper flavor that does not overpower the hop character. These beers range in alcohol strength from 2% to 6% ABV.
Background: Slow Eddie is based on a light golden ale that is fermented out before jalapeños are added. Grumpy Troll brewmaster Mark Duchow says it was a long, rather slow day when he made the latest batch of his pepper brew: "We had to cut up 420 jalapeños and remove their seeds for a 10-barrel batch of beer." Slow Eddie was first introduced at the Grumpy Troll a year ago. Its name is a tribute to one of Duchow's regular patrons, a friend he calls "Fast Eddie," who slows down for this beer.
Duchow admits Slow Eddie was a little slow to grow on the pub's regulars because of its unusual flavors, but now it's become a strong seller. This is not one of the Grumpy Troll's main brews, but Duchow says it's likely to remain on tap for a while because of its following. Slow Eddie has an alcohol content of 3.7% ABV, and it sells for $4/pint or $12/growler (refill).
If you're interested in tasting Slow Eddie or a few other area brews, the Thirsty Troll Brewfest is just a week away. Some 30 brewers offering over 100 beers are expected at Grundahl Park in Mount Horeb on Saturday, September 12; tickets are $30.
- Aroma: Very light vegetal.
- Appearance: Hazy golden with a thin, bubbly, off-white head.
- Texture: Light- to medium-bodied, soft and bubbly.
- Taste: A light, yet firm, hoppy start that gives way to a vegetal pepper flavor.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A faint roasted smokiness. The heat from the jalapeño peppers takes a while to show, but eventually it builds and stays.
Glassware: The Grumpy Troll serves Slow Eddie in a common bar pint. It's best when served very cold to accentuate the pepper heat and light bitterness from the hops. A footed pilsner glass would suit this beer well because of its slight inward taper, to focus the nose, and the glass foot, to keep it from warming as you sip.
Pairs well with: Slow Eddie is a challenging beer for food. The Grumpy Troll offers a tomato-based chicken enchilada soup; a basic cheese quesadilla or cheese pizza are other potential mates. But this is really a light, crisp and spicy beer to appreciate on its own, perhaps on a warm afternoon.
Rating: Two Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Consensus: Not enough ratings to be evaluated at Beer Advocate, and a 35 from RateBeer.
The Verdict: I'm giving Slow Eddie two openers because it's not a beer I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't necessarily rule it out, especially while sitting outside at the Grumpy Troll on a hot day. I really do like the spicy, lingering heat of the finish, but the vegetal flavors up front proved a little much for my preferences. There are certainly those who disagree, because this beer does have its groupies.