My experience with the style is very limited. While down in Santa Barbara, I tried a Habenero Pilsner that was really awesome. It was really hot, but the coolness and refreshing feeling of the Pilsner instantly put out any fire as soon as it started. When I got back home, I looked for something similar at BevMo, but what I got really wasn't all that great. I can't remember the name of the brand, but let's just say that the only thing good about the beer was the chili flavor. It was basically a really crappy American Macro Lager with a touch of chili pepper taste.
I wrote about my trip to Humboldt County and how I enjoyed the Chili Pepper Ale of Six Rivers Brewery. Ever since then, I have been determined to make a chili ale of my own. I even got some advice from their brewmaster.
I figure that I'm going to blog about the whole process. Last weekend, I brewed up a batch of Blond Ale. From what I learned, you generally want to start with a beer that isn't really jam-packed with flavor as it is. You want something light and refreshing like a wheat beer or what I'm using. Anyway, it's fermenting as I type this. The weekend after next is when I start doing stuff to transform it from a Blonde Ale to a Chili Ale.
As of now, my plan is to put half of it in a secondary fermenter along with maybe about half a pound of peppers. I'll give it a little taste every day until it gets to the level of heat that I want. The other half I plan on bottling, but I'm going to stick some chilis into the bottles. This, of course, will involve me finding some good peppers that are thin enough to easily fit into a bottle. I'm also thinking that I'm going to try grilling a few of those to see what kind of effect I get from that.
Here's hoping that I get something good! At the very least, I should have a pretty decent spicy marinade.