Brew Blog: Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah

I know, I know. I just went on a rant about gimmicky beers, and here I go drinking a beer that seems like it was designed for YouTube reaction videos. I don't know if this makes it better or worse, but it was actually a case of mistaken identity. When I picked this one up, I wasn't really paying enough attention. I had run by D&Q, looking to pick up some interesting bottles, and in my haste, thought I was getting something else.

A few months ago, I attended a cask beer dinner at Down House. During that dinner, Real Ale Brew Master Erik Ogershok had mentioned a few new brews in the works, headed to Houston in the near future. Ghost Face Melter was one of them.

Yes, I know GFM isn't available in bottles. Yes, I know GFK is made by a completely different brewery. Yes, I know the bottle style and labeling of this beer look nothing like other Real Ale offerings. Like I said, I wasn't paying enough attention. It had been a long day, and I just wanted something interesting to drink.

I don't know that I'd say my mission was wholly unsuccessful. Had I said that I was looking for something good to drink, it would be a different story. Let's just get this out of the way right now. You don't want to try this beer. You don't need to try this beer. I'll stop just short of telling you not to try this beer, but you get the picture.

Ghost Face Killah pours a cloudy blond, with almost literally no trace of head. In my zeal to get some sort of foam, I poured a bit too fervently, splashing some back into my eye, resulting in a brief, slightly alarming burn that time-warped me back to the time I chopped a case of habaneros bare-handed, and had blisters for a week. I like the whole seeing thing, and would really like to continue doing it. Fortunately, a few blinks was all it took to reduce the angry scratching in my eyeball to a slightly annoyed pawing.

The smell is full of roasted jalapeños, or perhaps chipotles in adobo. There's also creosote, plastic, wood smoke, a faint chase of citrus, and just a whiff of electrical fire, like the time I plugged a 14 amp heater into a 12 amp extension cord.

The taste leads with smoke and a slight chile fruitiness. Then, the heat comes on. It's not overpowering, by any means. It's actually about what you'd get from really mild chipotles, though a bit fresher and less dusky. The heat fades fairly quickly, taking any trace of flavor with it. Interestingly, that fiery kick repeats with each sip, clawing its way down your throat before retreating almost completely.

As it warms, the smoky flavor comes out more, losing most of that dusky chile fruit that was so slight to begin with. It was at this point, a good 20 minutes in, that I offered a sip to my wife. "It tastes like an ashtray," she offered, shoving the glass back at me. I kept thinking that maybe it tasted like roasted, peeled, and chopped green chiles, but then all of that washes out, and that acrid smokiness comes seeping back in. If you really focus on it, you might be able to get just a bit of musky fruit and green peppercorn lingering at the back of the finish, but you probably won't really want to do that.

The weird thing is, I don't even think this works as a novelty beer, because it's not even really that hot. If this beer came with capsaicin-induced hallucinations, or spontaneous projectile vomiting from your stomach's absolute refusal to allow entrance to something so face meltingly killingly incendiary, it might at least get the nod for being experientially worthwhile. As it is, thrill-seekers should ask for their money back, and (most) beer lovers likely won't find themselves in the position to need to. I have a couple of acquaintances from middle school whose Facebook walls are filled with photos of themselves drinking Bud Light, throwing up a deuce, rooting for sports teams, and making quasi misogynistic statements about all the girls with whom they will never, ever be having sex. I think you know the kind of guys I'm talking about, and I think that might be GFK's best-shot audience. Take that as you will, in its relation to yours truly.

Now before you accuse me of Straw-Man-drinking, I actually thought I might enjoy this beer. I'm a huge fan of chiles, and find their underlying flavors as much a reason for enjoyment as their heat, if not more so. Given my last experience with a chile-infused beer, I had somewhat high hopes that this might prove similarly engaging. The truth of the matter is, I only drank a few ounces over about half-an-hour, pouring the rest down the drain. I don't usually do that. I kind of feel about beer as Old Testament patriarchs felt about semen.

I don't know what this does to my evolving position on "gimmicky" beers. I still want to try Ghost Face Melter, and I've got a pink bomber of maple bacon doughnut beer in my fridge right now. I'm half convinced I'll like one, three-quarters that I'll hate the other. I think the takeaway is that any type of beer can be good beer and, just as importantly, any type of beer can be bad beer. I think it's fair to say, though, that some types are more likely to fall into the latter camp. This is surely one.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall