Viva Habanera


Rye ale brewed with agave nectar and aged on habanero peppers

Brewed with rye malts that bring their own natural spice, this invigorating cerveza gets its zesty kick and peppery flavor from habanero peppers that we add after fermentation. Agave nectar, produced in Mexico, helps to sweeten and lighten the body, while our Belgian house yeast strain tempers the beer’s fiery disposition.

Tasting Notes

Batches #1 & 2:

As they weren’t bottled and only kegged, these two batches were only on tap a select bars, a few events, and the brewery taproom, where they filled many a growler. Batch #1 was 7% ABV and the hottest tasting batch yet (as I write this we’re on Batch #4). We thought it was a little too spicy for many drinkers, so toned it down a lot for Batch #2, which clocked in at 6%. This batch, we decided, turned out not spicy or peppery enough. Both tasted great as beers, but as “shifted” habanero rye ales w/ agave nectar, we wanted more out of them. So, we made some slight changes and went ahead with the next batch, which was also to be bottled in small quantities…

Batch #3:

Bottled on 6/15/12; Alc. 7.6% by Vol.

This was the first batch we put into bottles, and that only comprised about 100 bottles (the other 300 or so bottles-worth went into kegs). This batch came out really well for us – strong pepper notes in the nose that continue into the beer’s flavor. Full-bodied, slightly sweet, with a raspy, warm finish, this one tingles your throat well after sipping. We want to bring the beer closer to 7% in the next batch, and ideally have it a little more dry.

Batch #4:

Bottled on 7/25/12; Alc. 7.2% by Vol.

This batch went into about 400 bottles, so was much more available than the previous. The flavor is a little cleaner in this one than Batch #3, with the rye malts shining through more. We accomplished a dryer texture as planned, and the pepper spice seem very balanced – present, detectable, but not overpowering. Definitely some heat at the end, but it dissipates quickly enough to not coat the tongue. We also love the strong pepper flavor in the beer – almost gives it a savory quality. Hoping to keep making it like this.

Batch #4 – Kappy’s Barrel Series (Release No. 04)

Bottled on 10/18/12; Alc. 7.2% by Vol.

Aged in a bourbon barrel for two months, this is one of our favorite brewery releases to date. Whiskey vanilla and hints of pepper spice in the nose. The flavor itself is ripe with bourbon, oak, rye and and a crisp, peppery burn. We pitched fresh peppers into the beer after  barrel-aging, so there’s no missing the heat. “Really remarkable…a malty richness” – check out the tasting notes from Rich Kelter with Kappy’s Medford.

Batch #5:

Bottled on 8/9/12; Alc. 7.3% by Vol.

Apparently, Boston drinkers like heat. We got great feedback on the Batch #4 bottles, but much of it included, “I wish it had even more spice.” So, we kicked up the heat with Batch #5, adding more habanero peppers to the fermenter and letting them stay on the beer an extra day or so longer. This led to heightened pepper aroma, increased pepper flavor, and amplified spice on the beer’s finish. We’re happy it still doesn’t taste overpoweringly hot, but really like the balance here. The agave nectar really gives this beer a softer mouthfeel than a lot of other ryes, playing nicely off the habanero strength.

Batch #6:

Bottled on 9/12/12; Alc. 7.2% by Vol.

This is such a fun beer. Warm, peppery nose (maybe the best nose yet) and then plenty of sweet, spicy rye and pepper notes through the full but enjoyably light body. Hints of bark, apple, raisin. The heat on this one seems turned down a bit – it’s definitely less spicy than Batch #5, more spicy than Batch #4. We used more peppers than in #5, but about half of them were somewhat green (as opposed to orange/red), which definitely brings down the heat level. Really interesting to see how timing, quantity, and, now we’re learning, pepper maturation affect the beer’s spice level. Plenty to play with for Batch #7.

Batch #8:

Bottled on 11/12/12; Alc. 7.0% by Vol.

With Batch #7 hitting barrels, Batch #8 arrived just in time for the holiday season. Avoiding the use of any green-ish, less-than-spicy peppers (a la Batch #6), we used only orange and red peppers for Batch #8, and a lot of them. The result: our spiciest Viva Habanera to date. It has everything we love about the previous batches, just more heat. Those looking for habanero subtlety might want to look elsewhere, though the beer is still very drinkable and the spice still doesn’t overwhelm. Bring on the winter heat!

Batch #9:

Bottled on 12/10/12; Alc. 7.5% by Vol.

Very similar to Batch #8, only a touch less spice. Still, probably the second spiciest batch we’ve put out yet. 

Batch #10

Bottled on 1/18/13; Alc. 7.7% by Vol.

Very close to Batch #9 actually. Similar spice level, and consistent flavor profile.

Batch #11

Bottled on 2/14/13; Alc. 7.5% by Vol.

Batch #9 heat level, though the spice isn’t forward at all here – first sip seems mild, then the spice really builds. It’s quite nice. 

Batch #12

Bottled on 3/11/13; Alc. 7.7% by Vol.

We left the peppers on the beer a day longer than normal, and potentially made the spiciest batch yet. It’s arguably as hot as Batch #8, but the overall pepperiness of it – from the aroma, to flavor, to aftertaste – is even stronger. Viva la viva!

Batch #13

Bottled on 4/2/13; Alc. 7.5% by Vol.

Same pepper routine as last time, same amount, but less spice. Something closer to mild-medium. So interesting to rely on ingredients that are naturally variable.