The hottest item these days at Uberbrew isn't the beer.
Days before Valentine's Day, Uberbrew rolled out a limited-release hot sauce, featuring sinister-sounding Trinidad Moruga scorpion peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt, honey and a dash of their popular White Noise Hefeweizen beer.
The spicy sauce is the creation of Blind Hot Sauce, a small weekend hot sauce outfit operated out of the Whitefish area by Brian Lind, a regional manager and culinary director for MacKenzie River Pizza. Uberbrew co-owner Mark Hastings and managers Troy Soulsby and Paul Morup have known Lind since their time working for MacKenzie River Pizza prior to the opening of Uberbrew.
The Trinidad Moruga scorpion pepper comes in at 401 times hotter than a jalapeno, according to the Scoville Scale, which measures the levels of the spice-creating chemical compound capsacin.
“You can go online and see pictures of them, how evil they look,” said Brian Lind, operator of Blind Hot Sauce. “I mean, they look hot.”
For years Lind has brought his latest batches into Uberbrew for testing during work trips to Billings. The tradition sparked conversations about the commingling of sauces and suds, eventually leading to his most recent creation.
“A lot of times it’s just sitting around talking beer and talking hot sauce,” said Hastings, Uberbrew’s head brewer who described himself as one of Lind’s primary guinea pigs. "We'll try his latest hot sauce on some wings, then we'll go in the back and drink some beers and try to find some beer to parallel what he's doing."
Hastings admitted Lind’s most recent creation packs a punch.
“I put three big dabs on a tortilla chip,” Hastings said. “You know it’s hot when it gives me the hiccups.”
Six months ago Lind became legally licensed to distribute hot sauce after several years of collecting and then four years of making hot sauces, of which he said he’s made around 150 varieties during weekend free time. Early experiments with hot sauce-making had him at times considering trips to the hospital, so these days he wears gloves and eye protection.
The 24 five-ounce bottles holding his batch of “White Noise Hefeweizen Hot Sauce” arrived at Uberbrew from Whitefish last week, but the idea had been simmering for some time.
Lind was in Billings when White Noise first hit the shelves in November 2014. Picking up a case before heading back west, he said he had the idea to combine the two “as a joke to say ‘Hey, look what I did to your beer, your award-winning beer.”
The White Noise hops provide a touch of bitterness to the sauce and a slight beer flavor, said Lind. He makes most of his hot sauces with honey, which gives them a deceptive sweetness.
“It’s the sweetness that catches you first — and then, depending on the pepper I’m using, you get to feel the heat of it.”
Lind said Angry Hanks representatives have expressed some interest in the idea of a hot sauce involving their Street Fight red ale. He and Hastings have discussed aging hot sauces in casks already used for Trailhead Spirits whisky and Uberbrew aged beers.
“We’d be pulling the hot sauce, the hot pepper character, out of those staves and into the beer,” Hastings said, adding that he’d also like to see Blind Hot Sauce concoct batches involving some of Uberbrew’s black and double black ales, like the Alpha Force Double Tap and the Alpha Force Tactical IPA.
Uberbrew has made chili beers in the past, including a ghost chili black ale and a pepper saison. Trips to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver often bring Hastings and Uberbrew staff closer to southwestern breweries, where chili beers are more popular.
“One of our favorite things to do is grab a turkey leg and just sample chili beers,” Hastings said.
Lind said that he’s noticed a national enthusiasm for spicy things, sauces included, in recent years due to the popularity of hot pepper-eating and growing competitions and food challenges. He doesn’t currently have his website setup for online sales but hopes to sell online starting this summer.
Some of Lind's other hot sauces, like the Montana Smoke Jumper and Habanero Smoke can be found at King's Ace Hardware on Zimmerman Trail, his only local carrier in addition to Uberbrew, where the White Noise sauce sells for $9 in five-ounce bottles. Uberbrew conveniently sells a variety of extinguishers for the sauce as well, including the beer inside it.
“White Noise has always been good to put the fire out,” Hastings said.