For the Record

A quest to brew the world’s spiciest beer.

August is craft beer month in Virginia, so crack open a cold one or enjoy a fresh draft pour, and say cheers to the more than 200 craft breweries across the Commonwealth.

Maltese Brewing Company in Fredericksburg will spend the summer anticipating big news from Guinness World Records—a brand appropriately named after Ireland’s legendary draught and brew house.

Ray Parrish (no relation to the writer), coowner of the firefighter-founded brewery, is determined to lay claim to the world’s hottest—that is, spiciest—beer. Last December, Parrish became curious if anyone had set such a record. When he found nothing of the sort in Guinness’ online database, he turned to his alma mater and Maltese’s neighbor, the University of Mary Washington, for help.

Parrish enlisted fellow UMW alum Sarah Smith, now a UMW chemistry professor, and junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki, to determine the heat content of Maltese’s Signal One 2.0 beer, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper (according to Guinness, of course). Smith and Ebenki tested the beer’s level of capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their eye-watering spiciness.

Just how potent is Maltese’s spicy beer? A jalepeño’s hotness measures 2,000–8,000 units on the Scoville Heat index, a scale that calculates chili intensity. The Carolina Reapers used in Signal One 2.0 clock 1,200,000–2,200,000 units, falling just behind pure capsaicin.

While Parrish awaits official results from Guinness, he’ll happily cheer you on in Maltese’s Signal One 2.0 Challenge: Down 10 ounces of the blazing brew in 10 minutes or less, a feat only 35 people have achieved in the taproom, earning them a place on the Wall of Flame.

“What I would really love to see is another brewery get into this fight so we could have a back and forth with the record,” says Parrish. “If not that, getting a Guinness plaque on the wall would fulfill a childhood dream and be reward enough in itself.” MalteseBrewing.com


This article originally appeared in the August 2021 issue.

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