On March 17th, 2018, I hosted a St Patrick’s Day themed hot sauce tasting and Irish Taco pop up out of the commercial kitchen I rent in Arlington, Massachusetts. Attendees were able to sample about 30 different hot sauces from Burns & McCoy, Paulman Acre, Benito’s, Jersey Barnfire, Born to Hula, Culley’s and dozens of others. They put these hot sauces all over their Guinness braised corned beef and cabbage tacos while we all hung out and I spoke about the sauces and the stories behind each one.
It was also there, on Saint Patrick’s Day, where I finally released my own brand of hot sauce called Craic Sauce (pronounced Crack) to the public. I’ll get to the name of the sauce later, but it all really began about 4 years ago.
During the summer of 2014, my Dad grew some golden ghost peppers in our garden. These were some really tasty, fruity and hot peppers. When I first tasted them the heat built up gradually for a minute and the sweet flavor evolved with the heat. That summer I left my job selling season tickets for the Boston Celtics and moved to Dublin, Ireland to work at HubSpot. I had one month off between jobs.
So naturally, when you’re unemployed and have ghost peppers in the garden, there’s only one thing to do… make a homemade batch of hot sauce! I took some of the peppers from the garden, bought some jalapenos, carrots, ginger and onions from the local farm and cooked up my first batch without any guidance or expectations.
While it wasn’t the best hot sauce I ever had, I had succeeded in crafting a flavor I had never encountered. A passion emerged (along with heat in my mouth) thinking about homemade hot sauce and the different flavors I could create.
During the first day at my job at HubSpot in September we were prompted to start a website about something we're passionate about, start blogging, create an email list and engage an audience using the HubSpot marketing software that I’d soon be selling to corporate companies in the UK and Ireland. While many people ditched their personal project and website after the first month of training, I continued blogging, podcasting and learning about craft hot sauce. Salamander Sauce from Brooklyn was our first Craft Hot Sauce profile and I visited Jonathan from Crazy Bastard Sauce on a long weekend trip to Berlin. Jonathan was our first ever podcast guest.
Between learning about craft hot sauce and speaking to experts (and getting the occasional craft hot sauce bottle sent from the states to my door in Dublin...Thanks Oso and Dadman Farms!) the passion continued.
In 2017 I was back in the states in Boston and I started the Craft Hot Sauce Subscription Box where I take some of the best small batch hot sauces and send them out to hot sauce enthusiasts each month. It was around this time when I decided I was going to launch my own brand because I was missing out on too much fun and couldn’t repress my entrepreneurial spirit any longer.
Everything started to come together during the Harvest season of 2017. I bought about 150 pounds of peppers from Hutchins Farm, an all organic farm in my hometown of Concord, MA. After getting a crash course from the owners of my commercial kitchen, The Local Fare (thanks Caroline and Michelle), I got certified, insured and ready to rock and roll.
The first sauce I created was the Golden Pumpkin, which I had been working on for a few years. This sauce has fresh pumpkin, habanero, ghost pepper, carrot, ginger and spices like nutmeg and allspice. My second flavor, 40 Shades of Green Chilli, is a verde hot sauce that uses four types of green chillis along with apple, tomatillo and cilantro.
Production was well underway, but I still needed to finalize my brand name and label. Since I have a lot of family in Ireland and lived there for several years, I wanted some Irish infused in my hot sauce. After all, Ireland was where I first developed a passion and love for small batch hot sauce. I didn’t want any cheesy Shamrocks or Leprechauns that American’s think embodies the Irish culture, but I wanted a name and label that I’d be proud of and is authentic like the hot sauces I create.
Something I noticed when getting lit up by eating a ghost pepper or participating in the Volcanic Peppers & I Love It Spicy Pizza of Hell Challenge, is that you let your guard down (as you see in Hot Ones) and enter a state of euphoria when you push your capsaicin limits. There's a very commonly used Irish word called "Craic" which doesn't really have an English equivalent. But like letting your guard down when eating hot peppers, it's another way to describe having a good time or laugh with friends. It’s also not pronounced craaay-ic as all the Yanks say. It’s pronounced CRACK!
Good Craic is having a good time, catching up and having a good conversation with friends, family or strangers. It could be having a pint of Guinness with the lads or for others having a cup of tea with a good friend. You might also say “What’s the craic?” to someone.
To me, my brand and values were solidified when everyone was having good craic at the St. Paddy’s Day Hot Sauce tasting. Throughout my whole time working on Craic Sauce and CraftHotSauce.com it’s been all about having a good time while bringing people and ideas together.
Right now it's my family and friends and I cooking the sauces, creating the artwork and coming up with new ideas. This year I’m working on distribution (aka I have no space left and how the hell do I sell all this) and planning for the 2018 harvest season while moving to a larger kitchen to produce bigger batches.
I welcome you to try out some of the first few batches of Craic Sauce. I’m working on a fermented Louisiana style sauce, which will be coming out this summer, but she’s resting and aging right now.
Here’s to the next year in the development of Craic Sauce and spreading the good word and flavor of craft hot sauces all over the world!