After trying Ghost Scorpion Lager, Micah Siegmund lost the capacity for speech and coherent thought. The beer — made with two of the hottest peppers in the world, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and ghost chilies — was that hot. “Quite literally the hottest thing that has ever passed my lips,” Siegmund, 37, of Lewis Center, wrote in a review on Ratebeer.com. “After exploding into my mouth and making me see stars, I could track the progress of the liquid fire from my lips to my tongue, throat, esophagus and stomach.”
Ghost Scorpion Lager was created by the Elevator Brewing Co. and CaJohns Fiery Foods to satisfy pepper freaks at the Fiery Foods Weekend in Columbus last month. But the beer, originally served on draft with red pureed peppers still floating in the liquid, turned out to be too hot even for many chili heads.
Called undrinkable by some, Ghost Scorpion has quickly garnered a national reputation as possibly the hottest brew ever made. Both the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper and ghost chili far exceed 1 million on the Scoville heat index. For comparison, jalapeños rank anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. “We thought, why don’t we go over the top and make it wicked hot for this pepper festival,” said Jay Taylor, who handles sales and marketing for the brewery.
The brewers had to wear masks and rubber gloves when handling the dry chilies, which were steeped in the beer. The beer was taste-tested every day. Taylor and others initially didn’t think it was hot enough. So they pureed more scorpion and ghost peppers and added them. “Our big worry was that somebody was going to down it at the festival and say, ‘You guys are chumps. That’s not even hot,’ ” Taylor said.
“It has a great front lager taste and then it hits the back of your mouth and continues to burn all the way down and gives you a pretty good belly burn, too,” said John “CaJohn” Hard, founder of CaJohns Fiery Foods in Westerville. “I’ve never really had anything that when it got to my stomach created that kind of burn. It’s got a wonderful flavor. It’s got the flavor of beer and the flavors of the chilies but it has that belly burn.”
Elevator brought a firkin — a small cask of beer — to the event the first day. Only a handful of people were able to drink an entire 4-ounce sample. Some folks got sick. “It was so hot they asked us to not bring the firkin back the second night,” Taylor said. Instead, the brewery brought 12-ounce bottles, considered less hot because the draft beer was unfiltered and had those bits of pureed peppers. (Elevator had to hand-bottle the beer, since workers were worried about the chilies contaminating their regular bottling equipment.)
Siegmund, who tried both the draft and bottled versions, said the bottled was easier to drink. “While still scathingly hot, it is nowhere near the vertigo-inducing concoction I drank out of the cask,” he said.
Hard took some Ghost Scorpion to the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in New Mexico this month. Even at a gathering of heat seekers, no one was able to finish a bottle, he said. Hard offered this advice for anyone who wants to try it: “Get it very cold and start with a good deep drink, but hang on. And hopefully you can take another drink.”
Elevator made only a small batch of Ghost Scorpion. West Point Market in Akron expects to have 24 bottles — which feature a green scorpion on the label — to sell starting Friday night. The beer also is available at select stores in the Columbus area. There’s a good chance Elevator will make another small batch. But the brewery may scale back the heat next time, Taylor said.
CaJohns Fiery Foods is turning the remaining draft beer into Ghost Scorpion Lager Hot Sauce. The limited edition sauce should be available in Columbus in the next few weeks. “We need to challenge the Heat Seekers [personalities on the Food Network] to come and drink this beer,” Hard said. “It’s an experience. Like nothing I’ve ever had before.”