Fort Mill Times

Full Spectrum in Fort Mill unleashes Carolina Reaper craft beer

If you’re like George Costanza and like your chicken spicy, there’s a new craft beer in town you might be hot for.

Last Thursday, Full Spectrum Brewing Co. debuted its Reaper Roast Amber. The co-stars of this new creation from brewmaster Troy Bigelow are locally sourced – Tanzanian coffee roasted by Fort Mill-based Forte Legato Coffee Co., and the Carolina Reaper from Main Street’s Puckerbutt Pepper Co. The Reaper holds the Guinness record for world’s hottest pepper.

Bigelow and partner Charles Bergman were excited about experimenting with a coffee-flavored beer.

“All of us love coffee and people are doing a lot of interesting things with coffee-flavored beers,” Bergman said. “We wanted to try to something a little different.”

The idea of showcasing other local business was part of the plan.

“The whole point behind doing it is how we can collaborate and do it all here and push people to other Fort Mill businesses,” Bergman said.

They were steered to Forte Legato owner Nick Peñaloza by Dave and Melanie Sills of Baxter’s Grapevine Wine Bar. The couple recently opened a new shop in Rock Hill’s Riverwalk, just on the other side of the Catawba River bridge, and Peñaloza supplies their coffee.

“I had a cup of coffee down there and said ‘hey – this is really good!” Bergman said.

“I told them we’re looking to do a coffee-flavored beer and Nick was recommended to us by Dave and Melanie. He’s extremely knowledgeable and it was a lot of fun.”

Peñaloza brought the craft brew partners three types of coffee to try and they decided one was just right.

“I brought in a typical espresso, a Cameroon Boyo, which was a little more acidic, and they ended up going with the the Tanzinia,” Peñaloza, who goes with a cold press method, said. “It has a lot of more berry in it. I think it adds the perfect contrast and should add a good layer of coffee flavor to that brew.”

The brewmaster agrees.

“We tried them all and said ‘that’s it! That has to be the one.’” Bigelow said.

Bigelow said coming up the Reaper Roast Amber was a bit of an experiment – but a successful one.

“The wild card was we didn’t really know what to do with that Reaper,” he said.

Even using only one teaspoon of dried pepper per barrel, the beer has a little more bite than Bigelow was anticipating.

“We’re going to dial it back some. It has a slow burn in the back. But we all really like it,” he said.

“On the nose, it’s all that coffee, you get that sweetness out of the gate,” Bergman said. “It’s on the back end you get the pepper flavor. (Bigelow) is the reason we are so wildly successful. I don’t know how he does it. Just a stab in the dark and it turned out just phenomenal.”

Ed Currie, creator of the Carolina Reaper, said beer isn’t the most unusual use of his prized pepper.

“Not at all!” he said.

There’s a Reaper soda and various “health tonics” he said, but there’s an even more unexpected use.

“The weirdest use anyone has sought our raw materials for is paint. It’s used in marine paints and industrial paints because microorganisms and mollosques will not adhere to the capsaicin. Ours is so strong, they use as much as they can get,” Currie said.

Other breweries have incorporated Currie’s peppers into their brews and all have gone on to win beer competition awards, he said.

Weighing in with an alcohol content of 7.4 percent, Reaper Roast Amber isn’t the strongest beer on the market, but it’s one of the strongest at Full Spectrum, which prides itself on having a craft beer “for everyone on the spectrum.”

The brewery, at 2168 Carolina Place Drive, Fort Mill (behind Lowe’s Home Improvement) will be open 4-9 p.m. today. For more, find Full spectrum on Facebook.

Michael Harrison: 803-547-2353, @fortmilltimes