Homebrew Recipe: Saison Fatalii

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This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.


This issue’s homebrew recipe blends one of Europe’s oldest beer styles with a New World surprise that packs a serious punch.

By Michael Dawson

At this time of year, as I sit to write this month’s installment, a pumpkin ale would be an obvious choice. The seasonal synchronicity—not to mention those nutmeg-cinnamon aromatics—would go down nice and easy. But, as Tina Turner said in her talking intro to “Proud Mary,” we never do nothing nice and easy.

This spring, I brought home a fatalii pepper transplant from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa and put it in the garden. Now that it’s bearing fruit, I’m of the opinion we should be looking to tailgate chili, not pumpkin pie, for an inspirational fall seasonal.
We never do gourds, either, Tina Turner. This harvest-beer season, we bring the capsicum, citizens.

What Makes It Tick

Bucking the trend of amber-colored and clean fall seasonals, our base beer will be a pretty simple black saison, with lots of fruity yeast character that can trade riffs with the pepper, and enough heft and gravity to balance the zing of the capsaicin.

As to replacing a pumpkin pie-spice profile with that of chili pepper, I agree with Scott Russell, who, in an article on the topic in Brew Your Own magazine, wrote: “First and foremost, a chili beer must be a beer. The chili is secondary. The beer itself must be sound, solid, balanced and worth brewing.”

Fatalii is an heirloom chili pepper native to Africa and they bring up to 400,000 Scoville units of mouth-hurt close behind a bright citrus flavor. So in keeping with Mr. Russell’s precepts, a little will go a long way and discretion is the better part of this saison. Plus, we don’t need any repeats of Homer Simpson’s Guatemalan insanity pepper-fueled vision quest. We’re going to look for a citrus pepper flavor integrated with yeast esters and a background murmur of chili heat amidst the soft roastiness of dehusked Perla Negra malt (or at least I am—you can dial it up in your batch, it’s your damn beer).

Fataliis are similar in both flavor and heat level to habaneros, which would probably be the closest substitute, but feel free to use whatever chili variety looks good in your garden, root cellar, or co-op. Dried chilis could be utilized here too—the raisiny quality of pasilla or ancho would go nicely with the dark malt, while the sweet cherry tones of tien tsin or chipotle morita would interplay with the yeast for this recipe.

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