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It was probably 2011 — roughly — when a friend and I stopped into Birdsong Brewing before a My Morning Jacket show in Charlotte. The first beer I tried — the Jalapeño Pale Ale — might still be one of my favorite craft beers ever.

It’s everything you could ever want in a pepper-based beer, simultaneously cooling and warming.

It’s also NOT HOT. As someone who, shall we say, sweats profusely when I taste peppers (or any heat really) this is a big plus. I love the flavor of peppers, particularly jalapeños, but usually suffer the heat-related consequences (10-15 minutes of a warm, self perspiration shower) associated with the flavor.

Not so with Birdsong’s signature pepper offering. Birdsong brews Free Will Pale Ale and then loads it up with seedless jalapeños, giving the brew heavy kicks of the pepper flavor without the actual post pepper kick.

There’s something delightfully dangerous about catching a massive whiff of jalapeños and bracing for a heat that never comes. It leaves you diving back into the glass (or can!) for more.

Calling it pepper methodone is probably inappropriate but COME ON MAN I JUST NEED A HIT ALREADY.

There’s not the annoying heft of many pale ales (Free Will is a very good beer by itself) and its sufficiently muted ABV wise (5.5%) that you can comfortably drink a few. Drinking one doesn’t cook your taste buds either.

Compare it other pepper-based beers and there’s no discussion for me. Stouts involving peppers are too chocolatey and the majority of pepper beers are heavy handed with the heat.

Birdsong has a perfect pepper beer on its hands and wisely decided to start canning the beer. The results are a perfect blend of quality pale ale and pepper flavor.

Maybe I’m biased because of nostalgic reasons — plus a pepper obsession — but it’s hard to find anyone doing better work in the genre than this.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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