Wednesday, July 8, 2015


One of my favorite styles of beers is the chile beer or a beer brewed with peppers.  Some brewers produce beers that highlight a particular pepper, such as Rogue's Chipotle Ale.  Other brewers incorporate chiles into beers inspired by the Mexican mole, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho, Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, and New Belgium's Cocoa Mole.  (As an aside, mole beers are probably my favorites.)

Then there is Stone Brewing's Punishment.  This is a chile beer that only Stone could produce.  Brewed in its in-your-face style, Stone Brewing takes its Double Bastard Ale (an excellent beer in its own right) and then adds peppers.  A lot of peppers.  Red and green jalapenos.  Black nagas.  Caribbean red hots.  Moruga scorpions and fatalia.   All of these peppers produce a beer that practically breaks down the Scoville Scale.  They also give life and meaning to the name of the beer.  It is Punishment.

Let's begin with the fact that I am a chile head.  Hell, I came up with my own recipe known as The Inferno Steak, which uses nine different chiles in an ode to Dante's Inferno.  The phrase from Dante's writing -- "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" -- is not only apt for that recipe, but for this beer.

The Punishment pours a darkish amber, brown in color.  There is a thin, light foam that quickly recedes, opening the beer for drinkers to take in its aroma.  That aroma is ground chiles.  The beer smells like any one of the many ground chiles in my spice pantry.  The aromatic elements do not burn the nose, but it nevertheless serves as a warning to those who would go ahead and take a sip.  

This is truly a sipping beer.  The reason is the sting of the peppers.  The combination of black nagas, Caribbean red hots, and moruga scorpions pack a punch, especially in the roof and back of the mouth.  Indeed, the sting is so much that I could feel it in my ears and my nose.  The burn of the peppers is a good thing, if you are a chile head.  If you are a beer connoisseur,  then it becomes a little more problematic.  The taste elements of the bourbon barrels are present in the first few sips, but they cannot stand up to the sting of the chiles.  In fact, the chiles are so overpowering, that even the Double Bastard Ale gets lost in the experience.   I had a difficult time discerning the caramel, butterscotch and, eventually, the bourbon flavors.  Eventually, I could not even tell that this beer also packs a whopping 12% ABV.

Don't get me wrong, I like this beer, because I love chile peppers.  While I understand the goal of the brewers, brewing a beer that could embody its name, the Stone Double Bastard Ale is such a good beer that I would have liked for a better balance of the heat and the base beer.  

I would recommend this beer only if you can tolerate peppers such as habanero or scotch bonnets.   If you cannot, then I would recommend that you buy a bottle of the Double Bastard Ale.


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