We were all skeptical of El Diablo Verde. The buzz in the tasting room gave it away.
"A pepper beer? With cilantro?"
"Hmmm, I don't know."
But the skepticism faded with each sample handed out, and El Diablo Verde ended up with the highest score of 2011 in Dogfish's Small-Batch Brewing Program.
"It's fun to play around and try stuff out," says Lou Carrazzone, one of the brewers behind El Diablo Verde. "It's the Dogfish way, right?"
Small-Batch Brewing gives Dogfish co-workers a chance to step away from the day-to-day, and if they're not brewers, learn a little more about beer. Each team's 10-gallon batch ends up being judged at one of Dogfish's Friday beer:30 gatherings.
For El Diablo Verde, Lou and lead brewer Ryan Harvey started with an imperial IPA, then headed to the local supermarket to pick up some produce. They brewed teas with different herbs and infused 60 Minute IPA with peppers to test their ideas and settle on a recipe.
"We ended up adding a little bit of jalapeno in the last five minutes of the boil," says Ryan. "The majority of the jalapeno and the cilantro went in with the dry hops, post-fermentation."
Ryan and Lou's experimentation paid off. Brewmaster Tim Hawn is a fan.
"It's a really nice IPA with a jalapeno twist," he says. "The flavors are very identifiable. It got my highest score of all the small-batch beers."
One word kept showing up on the score sheets: balance.
"We've all had pepper beers that are too hot," says Ryan. "That wasn't the intention. The intention was to have more flavor and a little bit of heat. With the hops, it's a nice balance.
Besides winning a trip to New York, Lou and Ryan also got to brew a 10-barrel batch for Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats. El Diablo Verde goes on tap at noon Monday, March 5, and will be available until it's not.