K2 Brothers Brewing in Penfield is bringing back one of the most bizarre, and oddly popular, beers in the Rochester region. But first, an anecdote.
It’s summer of 2019 and I’m holding up a handful of freshly harvested ghost chilis in my parents’ kitchen. It was a challenge, a test of strength for my father, my brother in-law Rich, and myself — strength, or sheer stupidity.
Three nibbles and 30 minutes later: Rich is holding his chest, wheezing and mumbling about ambulances; my dad is finding creative new expletives to sling at me, and I’m fruitlessly guzzling water into the burning, oily chasm of my mouth.
How hot can one little pepper really be? Really hot, it turns out.
But how hot can one beer be? Turns out, also, really hot.
K2’s XXX Cream Ale is an amped-up take on the brewery’s quasi-flagship Jalapeño Cream Ale. The latter beer blends about one jalapeño per gallon to the cream ale base, resulting in a pleasant, herbal character with a mild warmth on the finish. The XXX version replaces jalapeños with the second hottest pepper in the world, the Trinidad Scorpion.
For scale, a jalapeño’s heat measures about 8,000 Scoville units on the high end. A Scorpion measures roughly two million.
“Personally, I’m still a little amazed how much people love spicy beer,” said Kyle Kennedy, who co-owns K2 with his brother, Brad. “It’s really fun.”
This year, the Kennedy brothers brewed a seven-barrel batch of XXX featuring a full pound of powdered Trinidad Scorpions, working out to 60 cases of beer. Last year’s batch sold out in roughly a week.
“We kicked up the heat a little bit more this year,” Kennedy said. “I was still at least able to drink it and enjoy it.”
For K2’s second birthday party late last year, the Kennedy brothers brewed up eight different varieties of outrageously spicy beers, each with a different chili, as a flight challenge (I did it, and have the t-shirt to prove it).
It’s part of the ethos K2 is trying to cultivate — make beers that are fun, a little over the top, and unpretentious. The company’s fruited sour series, which at this point has featured virtually every fruit under the sun and is more akin to a set of cocktails than anything else, has become one of the breweries biggest mainstays.
“I think one of the things we’re trying to do is brew beer that anyone can enjoy, and get those people that may not traditionally be beer drinkers,” Kennedy said.
As for the XXX Cream Ale, it’s certainly not a drink for the faint of heart. But Kennedy has some ideas if you don’t like it.
“If you can’t drink it, it’s at least good in chili,” he said.
Gino Fanelli is a staff writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to CITY's arts & entertainment editor, Rebecca Rafferty, at email@example.com.