Brian - I met and hung out with Syd at the PDX Hot Sauce Expo and Alefire's grand opening. Syd answered some of my questions about starting Ballyhoo Hot Sauce with his partner Gavin.
- What were your first memories and influences with hot sauce?
Early on, as someone that loved spicy food, I fell in love with sauces that had more heat than your typical big brand hot sauces. I really dug El Yucateco and thought it was cool how many flavors they had. About 15 years ago I worked at a restaurant in Orange County that carried Gringo Bandito. This opened my eyes to the world of “craft” hot sauce and like anything (beer, food, etc.), there could be smaller companies that are doing rad things.
- What's the story behind Ballyhoo's first hot sauce?
My partner Gavin, made our Habanero Citrus sauce about 10 years ago and let me try it when my food truck would come to his brewery. He casually asked me if I liked hot sauce and wanted to try his. After trying it, I ran into his brewery and said we should sell this someday. About 7 years later we made it happen. The first sauce he made he actually used some brewing techniques like fermentation.
I knew when I tried Gavin’s sauce a decade ago at some point we would package it. I’m happy we made it work out and three years later we are producing multiple sauces and private label bottles.
- What were some early lessons and decisions?
One of the big things, that some companies may disagree with us about is using fresh vs. dried peppers. For us consistency is important and we found using fresh peppers there was a lot of variances. For special releases and limited runs we still like to use fresh peppers, but for our mainstays we tend to use dried peppers.
- What are some of your favorite moments making with Ballyhoo Hot Sauce?
I really love doing the private label sauces. We just did one for Jagermeiseter where we used Jager in the hot sauce and it turned out great. We’ve also done some wedding labels where the bride and groom gave out our hot sauces as their wedding gifts, and that’s pretty special.
- What's the craic with the Seattle hot sauce scene?
I’m really lucky because I help put on the Seattle Hot Sauce festival last year, so I got to meet a lot of the local guys. As a new company on the scene, we didn’t want to step on any toes or appear to be on anyone’s “Turf”. Luckily there is more than enough room in Seattle for all the different companies and styles. I’m really excited to be able to share information with other brands and help each other out.
- Why do you Ballyhoo?
Coming from the food truck scene, the hot sauce industry is just more fun and personal. I love doing tasting events and having people dig what we make. Our sauces are unique because we are actually more on the medium side and we are looking for flavor and enhancing foods. I love crazy hot stuff, but for our company, we wanted something more friendly for everyone that restaurants could carry. As Ballyhoo, we have kind of a fun story with both Gavin and I coming from the music industry. Gavin was a guitarist in a band called “This Providence”, and I was a tour manager/merch guy for years. When we first met we knew a lot of the same people and we were both cut from the same cloth. What's really fun right now is we are doing some sauces with bands for album releases. We can’t talk about it yet, but I’m really excited to see it come to fruition.
- Any advice for hobbyists that are interested in scaling and starting a hot sauce company?
Spend money on a graphic designer. No one wants to see a skull and crossbones or a dudes ass on fire.
- Where can you find out more about Ballyhoo?
Thanks Syd! Great stuff and check out Bollyhoo Hot Sauce.
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