This is a paid, sponsored post presented by our friends at Alchemy Peppers.
It all started with an experiment gone wrong.
While trying to create an aromatic jalapeno cloud, Alchemy Peppers Founder George Altshuler accidentally made a pepper spray, clearing out an entire bar with the noxious vapors.
But sometimes it’s our greatest failures or mistakes that lead to our best successes.
According to history, Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Legend has it that a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered coffee after he noticed his goats become highly energetic while eating the berries from a certain tree. Even beer itself was purportedly discovered accidentally, when ancient Egyptians and Sumerians found fermenting wild grains and barley in liquids changed their properties entirely.
Similarly, when Altshuler tasted failure (literally) he didn’t bow to defeat, but rather…turned up the heat.
Altshuler took a pilgrimage down the sweeping pepper path.
After much experimentation, he finally found a way to wrangle the fiery fruit, founding Alchemy Peppers in 2021.
The crazy new company takes peppers full of possibilities and hops full of hopportunities and marries them together into a line of delicious hot sauces.
Or should we say…Hopp Sauces.
This new line of sizzling hot sauces has proved that hops (although hot in craft beer) aren’t just for beer anymore.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
Altshuler’s journey into peppers began in high school while working at a bar called Cafe ArtScience. Known for molecular gastronomy, the bar specialized in creating innovative cocktails featuring unique vapor clouds created using a culinary humidifier. “Imagine putting in any liquid and spitting out vapor,” says Altshuler. The droplets were large and heavy enough to sit on top of a drink. The idea would be to complement cocktails such as a Manhattan with an orange scented cloud.
Solely responsible for these aromatic garnishes, Altshuler made concoctions that ran the gamut. For instance, the über popular cinnamon roll, toasted marshmallow, and mojito. Or the straight-up head-turning such as hot dog, lobster roll, and rotisserie chicken.
The experimentation sparked something in Altshuler.
One day, he decided to create an aromatic jalapeno garnish to accompany a spicy margarita. But when he put the extract into the humidifier device, “it spat out straight pepper spray and got the whole bar choking,” laughs Altshuler. “I’d never run that directly into failure before. I’ve never accidentally created a biohazard.”
Intrigued, Altshuler rose to the challenge, experimenting with a technique that would extract flavor from the pepper without any of the noxious heat.
Hot on Peppers
Over the next few years, Altshuler’s love of peppers only grew hotter. He analyzed and researched different peppers, learning everything he could about these fierce fruits.
He went from testing extractions from jalapenos, which register a mere 5,000 Scoville Units (a scale used to measure a pepper’s heat level) to those from ghost peppers, where “you’re getting into the hottest of the hot,” says Altshuler. “The result was super flavorful with these floral, tropical, fruity notes that I would not have gotten from the ghost pepper before because you’re overwhelmed by the heat.”
Altshuler set out to capture those hidden flavors in a bottle. ”There is a secret, there’s something peppers are hiding from us,” says Altshuler. “How can I tap into that?”
But before he could go hotter…he actually had to go colder.
From Icy Cold to Fiery Hot
Altshuler knew that he wanted to pursue the mysterious, wondrous flavors in peppers. But what would be the best way to do that?
While presenting at a conference at Oxford on the use of spice in ancient cuisine, he prepared a series of sweet and spicy ice creams to taste. Including a chocolate ice cream with chipotle peppers and a few pepper-based sorbets.
Let’s just say the creations went over well, an incredible mix of sweet, spicy, hot, and cold.
“When people talk about the aromatic profile of peppers a lot can get lost,” says Altshuler. “But give someone a scoop of ice cream and they’re happy as a clam.”
Altshuler realized that he had hit on something: food as a vehicle for bringing his mad-scientist pepper extractions to the real-life consumer.
“I wanted to create a wonderful flavor experience that balanced flavor and heat, but at the same time I was fascinated by unusual formats and combinations,” says Altshuler.
Teaming up with John Lamppa, a self-proclaimed craft beer nerd and former colleague at in the Boston culinary scene, the two started to brainstorm.
“I was blown away by George and his pepper expertise and formulations,” says Lamppa.
While musing over different ways to use peppers, someone threw out a pun: “Let’s make a hop sauce because it sounds like hot sauce,” says Altshuler. “At first, it seemed like a joke, but actually we thought maybe there is something there.”
Pick a Peck of Peppers…and Hops
The idea stuck.
The pair noted many similarities between what Alchemy Peppers wanted to do with peppers and what the craft community has done with beer. “There is a lot of elevating the product and focusing on flavors that are adventurous but also delicious,” says Altshuler.
Plus, hops and peppers share a lot in common. Depending on the variety of hop, you can find citrusy, piney, spicy, and dank flavors. Similarly, depending on the pepper, you can find everything from tropical to earthy notes.
The trick became: How to pair the two together.
A pro at peppers, Altshuler admittedly didn’t have much experience with hops considering he had just turned twenty-one years old.
On the other hand, Lamppa knew a thing or two about beer. First getting into craft beer in his early twenties, Lamppa’s love of beer quickly became an honest hobby. He shipped rare beer releases to other craft beer connoisseurs around the country and even dabbled in homebrewing. In fact, a few of Lamppa’s craft beer buddies have since gone on to open their own breweries.
With Lamppa’s craft beer chops and Altshuler’s pepper prowess, the two had the perfect storm of knowledge to move Alchemy Peppers forward.
If You Can Stand the Heat, Get in the Alchemy Peppers Kitchen
Altshuler and Lamppa consider every step to concocting the Hopp Sauces from how they acidified the sauce (they swear by using citric acid as opposed to a vinegar base) to adding fruit purees to intensify the flavor. But perhaps most importantly, they learned the importance of selecting the right pepper and the right hop to work together.
“We had some success right off the bat,” says Lamppa, referring to the duo’s Jalapeno + Citra and Fresno + Simcoe sauces. “So we thought we could mix and match anything, but there were definitely some duds.”
Beyond that, dialing in how the hops are added to the sauce became crucial.
While Altshuler and Lamppa are keeping the exact technique for how they add hops into the sauce under wraps, they would share that “ultimately, we got to the point where we were combining a number of different hopping techniques,” says Altshuler.
All these careful considerations took time. According to Altshuler, Alchemy Peppers’ first ever Hopp Sauce simply called Fresno + Simcoe went through four different versions before launching at the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) last year.
But so far each of these painstakingly perfect pairings have hit pitch perfect.
“It’s a really fresh take on hot sauces,” says Lamppa. “We really tried to optimize every part of the sauce.”
Taste Testing All Three Alchemy Peppers Hopp Sauces
The idea behind the Hopp Sauce line is to feature a single hop alongside a single pepper.
Hence, Fresno + Simcoe, followed by Jalapeno + Citra and Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic.
Three sauces ranging from mild to spicy, all guided by a simple principle: to be pepper forward. “What we really want to talk about and think about is the balance of flavor and heat,” says Altshuler. “How do the two come together for an enjoyable experience?”
He continues, “We want to bring forward those fresh pepper notes that sometimes get forgotten about. That’s a theme throughout all three: very fresh and staying true to the pepper in its fresh form.”
Jalapeno + Citra
For example, with Hopp Sauce’s mildest flavor—Jalapeno + Citra—that means playing up the citrus profile. “It’s not quite sour, but the notes you get are primarily citrusy and vegetal,” says Altshuler. “People describe it as very green and not just because of the color.” For people who can’t handle much heat, this sauce is very much on the milder side.
And how do the hops complement the pepper? The Citra provides a bright citrus note without adding too much bitterness. “We were trying to amplify those juicy citrus notes…[which] pairs nicely with the peppers,” says Lamppa. “The pairing is exquisite.”
Lamppa likens the Jalapeno + Citra to a salsa verde with a nice citrus bomb and zing of lime juice.
Jalapeno + Citra is kind of like the gateway Hopp Sauce. “This is an introductory sauce for people [who are] not necessarily IPA lovers or who [don’t] have the highest spice tolerance for pepper,” says Altshuler.
Fresno + Simcoe
Moving along the pepper spectrum, the Fresno pepper and Simcoe hops bring a distinct earthiness to this Hopp Sauce. “It screams earthiness and savoriness,” says Altshuler. In fact, some people even say they taste tomatoes even though the fruit doesn’t show up here.
Uniquely though, the fruit that does show up is a fresh strawberry puree.
To amplify the flavor, Altshuler and Lamppa include various fresh fruit purees in all their sauces.
Here, the strawberry “brings a sweetness on the tongue,” says Lamppa. Using fruit purees gives a complex sweetness to the hot sauces without adding straight-up sugar. “The strawberry played nicely and allowed for a slightly more savory profile with a touch of sweetness,” says Lamppa.
The use of garlic also helps reinforce the umami in this sauce.
In Fresno + Simcoe, all the carefully selected ingredients come together to create a pretty cool, complex experience.
On the heat scale, Altshuler says this one reaches the level of Sriracha. So not too hot at all, but definitely upping the tingle factor on your tongue.
Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic
The hottest of all the Hopp Sauces, Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic is actually Lamppa’s favorite one.
According to Altshuler, the Scotch Bonnet “is one of those peppers where people, even those not into peppers, love Scotch Bonnet. Often associated with Caribbean cuisine., the Scotch Bonnet has a reputation for its sweet, tropical notes accentuated by a hotter spice level.
“We thought about the tropical nature of the Scotch Bonnet and wanted to play with that,” says Lamppa, who added one of his favorite hops to this sauce—Mosaic. “To me Mosaic has strong berry notes and a little bit of melon,” says Lamppa. “Paired with the Scotch Bonnets and a little bit of pineapple juice creates this fun, slightly funky flavor profile.”
Perhaps what Altshuler and Lamppa wrote on the label for Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic says it best: “Our wild child Hopp Sauce.” Very fruity, but also a crazy mix of flavors, this one is just a bit different. Which might be why Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic is Hopp Sauce’s top seller and a fan favorite, according to Lampaa.
In reality, since debuting at CBC last year, all the Hopp Sauces have been in hot demand, making the future full of endless pepper possibilities for Alchemy Peppers.
What’s Next for Alchemy Peppers Hopp Sauce?
There are big things on the horizon for Alchemy Peppers Hopp Sauce. While Altshuler and Lamppa couldn’t give too much away at the time of publication, they did offer a few hints at what’s coming down the pipeline.
Joining BeerAdvocate at Extreme Beer Fest in the Bay Area on Friday, Aug. 26th, and Saturday, Aug. 27th, 2022, Hopp Sauce will debut a couple new products.
For instance, Lamppa hinted that they’ll be dropping a flavor even hotter than the Scotch Bonnet + Mosaic. “Not only very hot but focused on flavor,” says Lamppa. “A few people who have tried the prototypes said: Wow, this really has some heat, but it tastes so good. They want to keep coming back for more.”
Additionally, taking a page from craft beer’s playbook, Lamppa said variants on existing sauces could also be in the works. “Leaning into the craft beer industry where you have your core beers and use new processes to bring out new flavors, we’re doing something similar with Hopp Sauce.”
All in all, Lamppa calls the R&D pipeline very strong at Alchemy Peppers.
Who knew that a total failure would lead to an utter success?
The future looks fiery for Alchemy Peppers Hopp Sauces.
Where Can I Find Alchemy Peppers Hopp Sauces?
The best way to discover these incredible sauces is to try them for yourself.
Head here to buy them online.
Or pop over Alchemy Peppers’ “Where to Buy” page to find the location nearest you.