In one afternoon, I managed to find not one, but two locally made adult drinks infused with ghost pepper, famous for its Scoville heat rating of over a million. As a fan of everything hotI had to delve into the veracity of these pepper drinks, just to see if they were the real deal.
Mountain West – Ghost Hard Cider: I don’t hit hard ciders here too often, because… well, I’m the Beer Nerd, and this is my gig. But every once in a while I come across something fun that challenges my palate and is frankly too tasty to ignore. I picked up a half growler of Ghosted at the cider house, and the staff couldn’t wait for me to try it. There’s one thing that always appeals to me about cider over beer: the brilliant clarity of the drink. It has a rich light golden color with a hint of orange highlights (probably chilli). The carbonation is champagne-like but not pungent – much smoother, but effervescent. The aroma is fresh with what resembles McIntosh and Granny Smith apples, flowers and vegetal red peppers. I’m no apple expert, but the chili/apple combo seems to work well together.
I took a rather large sip; more of that McIntosh-ish green apple and apple tartness gets you started. It’s that typical Mountain West flavor profile, with ghost pepper flesh. It’s fruity and earthy for the most part, with a bit of spicy tang in the back of the throat. I wouldn’t consider this hot, but your experience may differ. On the finish, there is a lingering flavor of red apple, with lively acidity and moderate tannins on the finish.
Globally: These apples have a very distinct aroma and flavor, and that definitely pops and shines in this cider. This version limited to 6.8% offers all the flavors of ghost pepper with only a slight amount of pungent spice on the finish. This cider balances the spice with the full-bodied apple base. Inventive and tasty.
Grid City – Ghost Pepper Mango Azacca Whole Flower Dry Hopped Nitro Pale Ale: Our second ghost pepper drink is a nitro pale ale at its base. It has that classic honey-amber color with a dense foam head. The sides of the foam are a glossy white, but the top is definitely tinted a mango color with orange hues. It smells very much like citrus lager with a noticeable vegetative peppery tinge from fire, plus a floral hop with just a hint of malt. There is no huge Mango presence here, but very welcoming.
Let’s see how heat builds up in flavor. Azacca hops are full of flavor; citrus fruits and herbs abound. The heat is definitely real and will bother those who aren’t fans of spicy foods and sauces, but it adds yet another pleasant dimension to an otherwise typical pale ale. I would set the heat to double that of the Sriracha sauce. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied and very creamy, with a moderately strong hint of heat when the beer sits in the mouth. As you continue into the beer it stings the lips and slightly numbs the mouth.
Globally: If you don’t like hot food, you can’t stand this beer. Me? Everything I eat is hot, so it’s a good treat for me. As always, try it for yourself and draw your own conclusion.
The Grid City bartender immediately offered to cut the Ghost Pepper Mango Azacca Whole Flower Dry-Hopped Nitro Pale Ale with some of their homemade nitro pale to reduce the amount of heat. If you can handle it, go for the full version. It is only available internally on the Nitro Grip for a limited time. The Ghosted Cider can be enjoyed at the Mountain West cider house or taken away from half-growlers. This is also a limited batch, so don’t wait too long. As always, well done!