Barrel-aged beers are all the rage lately, and barrel-fermented hot sauce has been around for longer than you may realize. Now, a local hot sauce company is combining the two for a new kind of sriracha.
Isabel Street Heat’s Tony Stoy (pictured below) had already barrel-fermented his lineup of seven hot sauces, but wanted to do something different. He got his chance when attending Bent Brewstillery’s Heat Up Your Life event last October.
“We drank about it,” Bent Brewstillery owner and head distiller Barltey Blume says. “It just seemed to be a logical progression [of the event]; let’s collaborate on a good pepper sauce. Tony came up with the idea of the sriracha.”
Stoy prepared 250 pounds of the sriracha-style sauce for aging in a charred oak bourbon barrel that had previously held a version of Bent’s Dark Fatha imperial stout. “That kind of gives some more oak tones, and you get some nice undertones of stout in the sriracha,” Stoy explains.
“It’s just the right amount of heat without being overly hot; if you can stand sriracha, you can handle this,” Blume adds.
While the craft of barrel-fermenting hot sauce is nearly 148 years old (beginning with Tabasco red pepper sauce), Blume and Stoy hope the local ingredients in their product set it apart. The jalapenos, ripened to a deep red, are from Harris, Minnesota. The cloves of garlic plopped into the concoction are picked mere blocks away from Stoy’s home, where they grow above the Wabasha Caves of St. Paul.
Stoy and Blume’s hot sauce adventure won’t end when the sauce gets released on March 19 at Bent Brewstillery’s taproom. Stoy will also sell sriracha flakes—the dried seeds and pulp left over from the sauce-making process.
Finally, Blume will take back the barrel to put either a beer or spirit into its spicy interior. Blume, a constant tinkerer, expects that whatever is aged in the sriracha barrel will pick up the same pepper and spice flavors. Bent Brewstillery showed prowess with pepper beers in the past with its El Guerrero stout, spiced with merkén peppers, but Blume admits he’s having a hard time deciding what to use the sriracha barrel for. His head is swimming with the possibilities, but that’s nothing new.
“We’re always looking for the next biggest and best thing,” Blume says. “It’s kind of the way of life over at Bent Brewstillery. We’re doing things a little bit differently than other people are doing it, and we’re trying to do things that other people are not doing yet.”
For the next sauce, they could use Bent’s sour beer barrels. Although those may have more “uncontrollable effects” than the stout barrels, “it’s something to explore,” Blume says. That, and straight bourbon barrels, or spiced rum barrels: “There are just a million opportunities and a million different options.”