6 April 2014

Bah Humbug Christmas Beer & Chilli Challenge [review by @NLi10]

Merry Christmas!  No - this isn't an elaborate April fools joke designed to catch you unawares. You see there was a big public health campaign in January to promote and encourage alcohol awareness by not drinking in January. It was pretty successful, and I decided that it would be inappropriate to drink and review this Christmas present until February.  I left it until early March as I have to be in the right mood to drink at home these days, and the added twist meant that I wanted a witness to the event.  The present consisted of a fruity beer and some chilli chocolate.

Now I'm the last person on the team who should be reviewing specialty beers. Both Spectre and CaptainKindling are experts in this field and have lots of experience. Even cinabar who shys away from these kind of drinks has probably had more varieties of beer than me.

I trust that my boss (who this gift package was off) knows his stuff, and it was a nice fruity beer, but that's as far as I feel competent to review it.  Me finishing the bottle is recommendation enough.

The reason for this particular combination is a trip to a restaurant called Shanghai1930 in Oxford that I often recount as the time I ordered two pints of beer.  You see there was a beef and chilli combo on the menu that I really, really, fancied and it came with a free beer. The meal was no more expensive than the other items on the menu and I thought that at the very worst I'd just drink a bit of the beer and then leave or share the rest.  When the meal came it had chilies on top - dried and stacked in neat layers - and was quite literally the hottest meal I'd ever eaten up to that point. I practically downed the beer (much to the amusement of Ms. NLi10) and half way through ordered a second in anticipation of the future burning. In fairness I only needed 1 1/2 pints to cope with the heat and then drank the rest once I'd finished. It's still one of my favourite meals I've had and we keep meaning to go back.

This resulted in me receiving beer and chilies for Christmas and me relishing the repeat experience.  Note that Duchess is not only posing in The background but is doing so on the WiFi board because when they get weighed they get treats! 

First up was the grey chili chocolate, or as the package called it mild. I could not detect the chili, but Ms. NLi10 could. Knowing that eating four whole bits of chocolate is more than I'd normally do I let her finish this one. Beer not required.

The yellow or medium chili was next and this is my Nandos heat level of choice. I could tell this had chilie in it. My partner only had one bite of this as she said it was uncomfortably hot and had a sip of the beer, I too had a sip, but more to see how it interacted with the chili oil. It cooled it but not as well as I'd remembered, but then this is a Christmassy real ale, not a quencher. 

Medium hot was orange which I took as a good sign. I had to eat all of this one. Turns out it's noticeably hotter than the last, but not even that challenging.  I'd call this one enjoyable hot as I'd happily eat squares of this at work. I tend to buy the dark chocolate chili so this was softer and more chewy than crumbly. I drank some of the beer and again it cooled it but not completely which was nice.  No problems finishing it.

I'd worried about the max strength chili for a while before eating these. I'd presumed they knew this was a gag gift and that most people would never see a second pack. Because of this id presumed that the chili smell from the package was predominantly from this one. Turns out that it wasn't that much hotter than the last, but it did build a little.  I'd say this is below the montezuma chili chocolate that I couldn't finish, and almost on par with the FYI chili choc that I quite enjoyed.  Beer was generally consumed at this point because I was enjoying it. The whole experience gave me tingly lips as you'd expect but by no means blew my socks off.

I think that I've just gotten used to chili heat over the years. I'd much rather have chili heat than a Vindaloo style explosion and my scoville point must have shifted towards the higher end of the scale. Overall an enjoyable way to have beer and chocolate and a nice idea for a present for anyone looking to warm up a winter evening.

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