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Ghost Hunting 

On the trail of two beverages with spirited spiciness.

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

In one afternoon, I managed to find not one, but two locally-made adult beverages infused with ghost pepper—famed for its Scoville heat scale rating of more than a million. As a fan of all things caliente, I had to delve into the veracity of these pepper-forward drinks, just to see if they were the real deal.

Mountain West - Ghosted Hard Cider: I don't hit the hard ciders here too often, because ... well, I'm the Beer Nerd, and that's my gig. But every now and then, 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 cidery, and the staff was eager for me to try it. There's one thing that always gets me about cider versus beer: the brilliant clarity of the beverage. It's got a rich clear, golden bright color with a hint of orange highlights (possibly from the chili). The carbonation is champagne-like but not prickly—much softer, yet effervescent. The aroma is fresh with what seems like McIntosh and Granny Smith apples, flowers and vegetal red peppers. I'm not an apple expert, but the chili/apple combo seems to work well together.

I took a fairly large swig; more of that McIntosh-ish apple and green apple tartness starts you off. It's that typical Mountain West flavor profile, with ghost pepper flesh. It's fruity and earthy for the most part, with a little spicy scratchiness on the back of the throat. I wouldn't consider this hot, but your experience may differ. In the back of the mouth there's a lingering red apple flavor, with lively acidity with moderate tannins in the finish.

Overall: These apples have a very distinct aroma and flavor, and it definitely comes through and shines in this cider. This 6.8 percent limited release offers all the flavors of ghost pepper with only a mild amount of hot spice on the finish. This cider balances the spice with the full-flavored apple base. Inventive and tasty.

Grid City - Ghost Pepper Mango Azacca Whole Flower Dry-Hopped Nitro Pale Ale: Our second ghost pepper beverage 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 brilliant white, but the top is definitely tinged with an orange-hued mango color. It smells much like citrus-forward pale ale with a noticeable vegetative peppery tinge of fuego, plus floral hoppiness with just a touch of the malts. There's not a huge mango presence here, but very welcoming.

Let's see how the heat stacks up in the flavor. The Azacca hops are full of flavor; citrus and herbs abound. The heat is definitely real, and will bother those who are not fans of spicy foods and sauces, but it adds yet another nice dimension to an otherwise typical pale ale. I'd put the heat as double that of Sriracha sauce. The mouthfeel sits medium- to full-bodied and very creamy, with a moderately strong hit of heat as the beer sits in the mouth. As you continue into the beer, it tingles the lips and slightly and numbs the mouth.

Overall: If you don't like hot foods, you won't be able to handle this beer. Me? Everything I eat is hot, so this is a nice treat for myself. As always, try it for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

The bar person at Grid City immediately offered to cut the Ghost Pepper Mango Azacca Whole Flower Dry-Hopped Nitro Pale Ale with some of their house nitro pale to reduce the amount of heat. If you can handle it, go with the full-on version. It's only available in-house on the nitro handle for a limited time. The Ghosted Cider can be enjoyed at Mountain West's cidery or to go in half growlers. This is also a limited batch, so don't wait too long. As always, cheers!

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