Spice Trade and Counter Culture Brewery Collaborate on Nashville Hot Chicken Beer

Jeff Tyler expects quite a bit of skepticism when he releases his latest beer this weekend. And rightly so: “Because anyone brewing beer that tastes like Nashville hot chicken must” be faced with some, er, burning questions, says the owner of Spice Trade Brewing in Greenwood Village.

But Tyler, brewer Andrew Moore and their collaborators at Counter Culture Brewery + Grille didn’t take it lightly. They also didn’t do it for the headlines (apart from the one above).

“We didn’t want to just put the words ‘Nashville hot chicken’ on the beer and on the label just to do it,” explains Tyler. “As a brewer, it’s a fun challenge to make something that’s both savory and drinkable. We don’t want it to taste like you’re drinking a cup of chicken noodle soup. We want each of the flavors to come out and be recognizable to people.”

So for starters, no actual chickens were used to make the Nashville hot chicken ale.

Instead, the brewers reached out to the respective chefs at each of their restaurants for their advice and ended up with chicken demi glace, a concentrated form of chicken stock.

click to enlarge

Counter Culture Brewery is no stranger to fried chicken.

Counter Culture Brewery + Grille

From there, they built the “sandwich” and picked some biscuit malts for the “bread” and red malts to give the beer the same “angry mahogany color” that the real hot chicken has, Tyler says.

Then they came up with a spice blend consisting of mustard seed, celery seed, paprika, black pepper, white pepper, and Korean gochugaru pepper. However, they’ve left out a few traditional Nashville hot chicken spices, such as cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin, and dill, so as not to “confuse the flavors,” Tyler adds.

“It’s easy to just throw things in a tank, but it’s hard to get the balance right. We did a few test batches, like cooks making a stock – a little more of this or a little less of that. … Getting it right takes a lot of work,” Tyler adds.

From there, they upped the heat — though Tyler says it’s an “approachable heat” — with roasted guajillo and arbol peppers, more gochugaru, and some red pepper flakes. (The brewery is very well known for chili beers: one of its flagships is a jalapenopils and last year it made four different pepper beers for Cinco de Mayo that you could taste side by side.)

Its purpose was to mimic the “dangerously slow-burning” fire the sandwiches have—and Tyler points out that he’s tried just about every joint in Denver that specializes in fiery cuisine, from Chicken Rebel and the now-closed Budlong to Dave’s Hot Chicken, Lou’s Hot & Naked, Birdcall, and Music City Hot Chicken in TRVE Brewing (The pain of TRVE’s black metal music fits well with the pain of the Nashville spice, Tyler points out.)

Finally, they used Sorachi Ace hops, which are known for its dill and lemon notes.

click to enlarge Spice Trade made four different pepper beers last year.  - BREW SPICE TRADE

Spice Trade made four different pepper beers last year.

Spice Trade Brewing

“You can have a pint of this without being blown out of the water. It’s heat you can handle,” Tyler says. “And it turned out really well, better than we expected. Hopefully people are excited and want to try it. … Those are the ones we make it for.

“Running a brewery that serves its own food, such as Spice Trade and Counter Culture, is very different from running a taproom brewery that only focuses on beer,” he continues. To start with, “brewpubs don’t usually get much appreciation in the larger beer market. But beer is food, and when it comes to spices and other ingredients, the combinations are endless” — and the kitchen cupboard is within reach.

“Beer should be fun,” he says. “We know there will be… different reactions [to it]† But we’re trying to change the perception of what beer can be and what it should be.”

Both Spice Trade and Counter Culture are hosting chicken sandwich specials this weekend to celebrate the beer, which will be tapped at Collaboration Fest on Saturday, April 2 at the Fillmore Auditorium, and at both breweries, where Tyler recommends pairing it with Spice Trade’s allspice. cheese platter. The beer will also be canned in cans for extremely limited distribution to some local liquor stores.

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