The Making of Burnside Brewing Co.’s International Incident

On Saturday Burnside Brewing will finally release the first bottles of Kali-Ma International Incident. This imperial wheat ale or wheat wine was inspired by the Hindu goddess ‘Kali’ and her tongue-in-cheek tribute in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The beer itself is indicative of both, bold and fiery with the addition of Indian dandicut peppers.

Kali literally means “the black one”, though the goddess in Indian mythology is also considered a symbol of time and change as well as a mothering goddess. However, the more popular depictions show her as a darker and more violent image of vengeance and death and bloodshed. Historical artwork often depicts the goddess as being blue with 4 arms, standing over the body of Lord Shiva on a bloodstained battlefield. For the depiction on the label of Kali-Ma, the beer goes somewhat more traditional by depicting her as black instead of blue, also with the 4 arms and more of a tribute to the war goddess depiction of her.

You’re probably familiar with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, wherein the main baddies worship the goddess with offerings and by pulling out the hearts of their victims and setting them on fire. This is a controversial vision to Hindus, but it’s an image burned into the minds of many, including myself. The relation to the movie and this depiction of Kali was the subject of controversy when the beer was originally scheduled to be released back in May. For this reason the new bottles will be packaged in a white wrapping over the original label.

Burnside Brewing Co.’s International Incident starts out with the inspiration of the year-round offering called ‘Sweet Heat’, a wheat beer made with apricots and Scotch Bonnet peppers and fermented with the house Scottish ale yeast. After much prodding I convinced owner/brewer Jason Mcadam to make a bigger bolder version of this beer. After coming up with the name ‘Kali-Ma’, he agreed, and the name itself added inspiration to the recipe.

Hand-toasting the spices

Instead of simply imperializing the Sweet Heat, we would take an Indian influence by adding cumin, cardamom, and fenugreek, some of the main spices in Indian cooking and curries. Jason decided to hand-toast those spices on the brewpub stove just enough that the flavors and aromas crystalized.

Spices are steeped in the wort before the boil

Near the end of the boil on a mash of roughly double the wheat and barley used to make Sweet Heat, the apricot puree was added. Again, this was about double the amount of apricots in the Sweet Heat. These lend not only a fruitiness but a tartness to the beer that plays beautifully off of the peppers to be added later.

One small but very noticeable change in the beer was the fact that it was fermented with Upright Brewing’s house yeast strain, the Belgian Ardennes yeast, instead of Burnside’s usual Scottish. This adds a fruitier, more estery body to the beer, a character of Belgian yeast spiciness, and perhaps even citrus notes. All of this I think complements the additions of real fruit and pepper, yet takes the beer longer to ferment out and fully attenuate, especially with its especially high gravity.

The beer as it runs through the heat exchanger

After going through primary fermentation, the beer is pumped upon hundreds of pounds of both Indian Dandicut peppers and Scotch Bonnets to add the real fire and death depicted in the label. After conditioning now for many months, the heat of the peppers has really melded into the flavor of the beer and the body and alcohol of such a big beer are well hidden. Its color–an opaque bright orange–is deceivingly light for such a monstrous beer.

There will be just 150 1 liter sized swing top bottles available for purchase at the pub Saturday, June 21st, at 6pm at Burnside Brewing. I suggest trying the beer on draft and picking up a bottle. It should cellar very well and be comparable to future vintages of the beer.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact:


  • Anonymous
    Thu Jul 19, 2012 7:29 PM

    price per bottle?