Beer Review: Night Shift’s Viva Habanerna

I mentioned in my post about the HopHead Throwdown that I was interested in brewing a beer with hot peppers. I’d had Night Shift’s Viva Habanerna before and remembered liking it so I figured I’d pick up another bomber for some additional inspiration.

From Night Shift:

Rye ale brewed with agave nectar and aged on habanero peppers

Brewed with rye malts that bring their own natural spice, this invigorating cerveza gets its zesty kick and peppery flavor from habanero peppers that we add after fermentation. Agave nectar, produced in Mexico, helps to sweeten and lighten the body, while our Belgian house yeast strain tempers the beer’s fiery disposition.

The website also has tasting notes by batch. I checked my Untappd to see if I could date my initial tasting, but apparently I never logged it! I remember it being pretty spicy so my guess is either Batch #1 or Batch #5. My bomber is Batch #17, so here’s the closest notes:

Batch #13

Bottled on 4/2/13; Alc. 7.5% by Vol.

Same pepper routine as last time, same amount, but less spice. Something closer to mild-medium. So interesting to rely on ingredients that are naturally variable. 


Beer Advocate: 86, N/A
RateBeer: 73, 84
Untappd: 3.74

So was it as good as I remembered?

Appearance: A dark copper color that almost looks like a hazy brandy or dark whiskey. A pleasant-looking beer with some orange highlights in the light. The head is razor thin and a bit off-white.

Smell: The girlfriend person said it smelled “yeasty.” I disagree. I get a nice hint of pepper up front on the nose, but it isn’t as strong as I remember. There’s also some hints of rye there as well if you sniff for it. I guess you could say there’s a bit of clove/yeast character, too.

Taste: Mmm. The habanera dominates here, but doesn’t overpower. The pepper comes up front and leaves a nice bit of heat that you can feel on your lip and mouth. There’s some caramel sweetness in there as well, and some mellow rye flavor.

Mouthfeel: This leaves a feeling in your mouth like you’ve just had some decently-spicy buffalo wings and washed them down with a beer. There the tingle of habanero spice. Other than that the beer is medium-bodied and smooth.

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5. Try it.

Here’s my nonsensical critique of this beer: it is both too spicy and not spicy enough. If it were more spicy I’d like less of it, but I feel I’d enjoy the beer more, the way you enjoy the atomic hot wings. I’d also enjoy the beer more if it were less spicy, and there was more of the sweet character to balance the spice and heat of the habanero. As it is, this is a very good beer. I’ll have little trouble getting through this bomber. it is also super-interesting. I would definitely recommend giving it a try; but bring some friends in case it’s not your cup of tea beer.

This is definitely a good inspiration for my upcoming pepper experiment.



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