I want to try brewing a beer infused with Red Pepper. My original idea was to infuse it with Tabasco sauce but have read about it going wrong or having a vinegar taste. Being from Louisiana I feel this would be a fun little beer to pull out at parties for my friends to try. Can anyone offer some suggestions as I've never tried to make an infused beer before.
You tagged with first-time-brewer... if this is true, I would caution against making an infused beer right out the gate. Fancy beers can be a tricky proposition.
That said, my best guess is that you could do an infusion similar to using vanilla, since it seems like a similar plant. See this question & answers about vanilla. There's some discussion about making chili beers in the ever-popular HomeBrewTalk forum as well.
Finally, I don't mean to discourage you with that first bit. I've had some chili beers that were amazing, and it's a pretty neat style. Best of luck!
I asked a while back on adding peppers and was given a link to an excellent article on adding chillies to beer. I went with the dry hopping technique, and used chipotle peppers instead of the original plan of jalapenos or habaneros because I wanted the smokey flavor and I was not at all disappointed by the outcome. In fact, I loved it. I want to do it again with a smoked porter.
I'd highly recommend getting fresh peppers of your choosing in case you were contemplating getting flaked red peppers from your store's spice aisle. Reason for that recommendation is because I assume you know your peppers coming from the Louisiana, so you know exactly what you want as far as flavor, seeds vs no seeds, etc. Plus, it's just cooler to roll your own pepper combo instead of some generic pre-done McCormicks bottle of red peppers. Be creative and get a mix of peppers if you want a nice zinger of a beer. Rinse them, chop them up, add them to a small glass of vodka (just enough to cover them, not too much) for a night to help kill off any gunk that might still be on them, and throw them in after fermentation has completed (very important to wait for primary fermentation to complete) in a cheese-cloth-like bag that you'd use for dry hopping. Also, toss in the vodka left behind too, it'll have a lot of the spice in it. Leave them in for a week or two depending on how much of a punch you want to pack, then take the bag out and bottle.
Another idea for you that just came to mind. Since I've already done the chipotle pepper dry hop, next time I may kick things up a notch and even toss in half a teaspoon of cajun spice into the vodka for extra flavor.
The November/December issue of Zymurgy magazine has an article on adding chiles to beer. They recommend pairing a dark beer, like a brown ale, with dried red chiles. They cited examples of brewers either adding the chiles in the boil kettle, or using a dry hopping technique (adding chiles as an ingredient in the fermenter, usually during secondary fermentation).
Like any spice, I think subtlety is the key to drinkability. Also, because peppers are highly variable in terms of heat, even from pepper to pepper, you probably should taste them before deciding how much to add. (For example, I tried to add slices of Serrano pepper to a Belgian golden ale at bottling and the results were overpowering.)
One trick to determine spicing level is to make a tincture by soaking the spice in vodka for a week or more. Prepare 4 oz. of a neutral, all-malt beer (e.g., Michelob). Remove the spice, and add the tincture, drop-by-drop to the glass until you get the taste you like. Remember to refill to 4 oz. each time. Then to get the final amount to add, multiply: (the number of drops) x (32) x (number of gallons in batch that is going into the fermenter). Note: unless you fill a new four ounces, remember that you are slightly diluting the prior concentration when you refill to four ounces and adjust for that.
I sometimes put a whole Serano pepper in each bottle. This is similar to Cave Creek's (www.chilibeer.com) chili beer.
The heat varies depending on the pepper and ranges from insanely hot to crazy insanely hot. Try to get straight peppers that go in and come out of the bottles easily.
After 12 weeks or so the peppers started disintegrating. It's probably best to not let it sit that long.
Putting the peppers in the bottles has the advantage that you can try this with as few as you like instead of risking the whole batch. You don't need to boil or otherwise prepare the peppers cause the beer at bottling time has hops and alcohol for preservation against some wild yeast that may stuck be to the pepper.