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  • Outsourcing an Arizona icon

    Posted on April 22nd, 2009 schell No comments

    There are any number of reasons for migrating to (that part of Mexico’s vast and mysterious Sonoran desert which we now call) Arizona.

    But if there was ever a single, compelling argument for staying, it used to be Crazy Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer — handcrafted at the wild edge of metro Phoenix by Crazy Ed Chileen since 1989.

    With the first taste, you’re immediately quenched and refreshed by the beer, then lit up by the chili infusion which leads to a glowing sensation accompanied by an intense desire to have another swig.

    If you’ve never tasted a chili beer, imagine a cold, crisp lager of Corona’s caliber, in which a fresh hot serrano pepper has been marinating since it was bottled. With the first taste, you’re immediately quenched and refreshed by the beer, then lit up by the chili infusion, leading to a glowing sensation accompanied by an intense desire to have another swig. Maybe it’s the desert heat or maybe it’s the chili but, in some of our tests, we have found that this cycle of consumption can continue for quite some time without a measurable reduction in the level of enjoyment.

    hot serranoAdding to the allure is its scarcity: Cave Creek Chili Beer has always been underdistributed. The connoisseur learns to snatch it up whenever it makes one of its rare appearances, as few retailers routinely stock it.

    Sadly, Crazy Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer has been outsourced. It’s now called simply Chili Beer and brewed in Tecate, Mexico. This might have been good news given the town’s reputation for producing Tecate beer, hugely popular in the southwest.

    Way back when, we used to buy Tecate at Gemco in North Hollywood and often remarked at the condition of the containers — speculating that each can must be individually imported by rolling it across the border. I mention this only because it appears that a similarly heavy hand is applied in Tecate to the making of Chili Beer: The lager seems less crisp, the chili doesn’t seem so bright on the tongue, and the glow fades quickly to Maybe-I’ll-have-another-in-awhile, instead of a craving for the next cold one.

    The upside may be a Chili Beer that finally gets the distribution it deserves. Unfortunately, it’s not Crazy Ed’s Chili Beer anymore.   §§§