Hoff BBQ Original Barbecue Sauce
I came by the Hoff & Pepper brand when looking for the right hot sauce for a ghost pepper wings recipe and their Smoken Ghost sauce seemed to fit the bill. While I was at it, I saw they made a barbecue sauce too and added it to my order. Hoff & Pepper is run out of Chattanooga, TN and the name refers to the two founders, Aaron "Hoff" Hoffman and his wife Michelle, aka Pepper. Aaron had always had an interest in spicy foods since his young years growing up at home, but he didn't transform that into something more until 2013 when he and Michelle began crafting and bottling hot sauces as gifts for family and friends. From there, their endeavor took a familiar route through small batch operations and local sales, but eventually grew to a point where they could both quit their day jobs and run the Hoff & Pepper business full time. Today Hoff & Pepper products can be found in stores nationwide and online with three unique barbecue sauces and seven different hot sauces in their line-up.
A very familiar barbecue aroma greets your nose with an upfront tang and smokiness that has a strong sweet and fruity tomato base. Continuing that trend, the sweetness has an unmistakable molasses depth to it, and a heavy spice layer introduces the common garlicky and peppery notes. What's notable is those peppers have more complexity to them than a standard sauce and don't immediately smell like they're only going to deliver heat, but also add complexity by way of earthy, fruity, and smoky qualities.
Thickness & Texture
This maroon sauce is semi-glossy and opaque, and those traits combine to visibly hide a lot of the spices save for some small black and white specs here and there. The sauce's thickness hits right at the medium mark, while the consistency also hovers in medium-syrupy territory. From a suspended spoon, the sauce first falls in one large drip followed quickly by a lot of smaller ones. Those stop falling within a second or two, and after a couple slower drips release, the pour stops and a medium coating of sauce is left adhered to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
A very tangy upfront tomato flavor gains quick depth by way of molasses in the initial taste of this sauce. While there's some sweetness to the molasses, vinegar remains prominent and keeps the sauce clearly definable as "tart." More complexity is introduced as the sauce settles on the tongue and those chiles smelled in the aroma add earthy and smoky notes, while garlic also mixes in to add an extra bite. The spices linger as the vinegar ramps up when the sauce begins to exit the mouth. At this point, all remnants of sweetness are lost and the peppers release a mellow heat. This creates an aftertaste akin to a mild hot sauce, but with a good amount of tomato also mixed in.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce brushed onto the chicken in a medium layer whose unevenness remained as it baked down well over indirect heat. When moved directly over the coals, there was very little caramelization and a lot of sauce loss, leading to a final brushing being a pretty necessary step. A boost of sweetness after being cooked brought the sauce into a better sweet, fruity, and tangy harmony with a decent depth of flavor thanks to molasses and peppers. It took a few bites to get all those tastes to come into play, but once they were, the chicken had a good standard barbecue profile that wasn't so strong that it overpower the meat.
Put to Use
I was really looking forward to trying this sauce because I was quite impressed with the Hoff & Pepper ghost pepper sauce that was able to deliver some strong heat while having a good depth of flavor beyond the peppers alone. Since I'm a hot barbecue sauce lover, I was hoping that ability to deftly work with peppers would translate equally well into a barbecue sauce, but I was left a bit disappointed when what I tasted out of the bottle treaded a fairly standard barbecue profile. Getting beyond that initial reaction though, I appreciated that this was a well crafted sauce with a tart tomato tilt that allowed the spices to still come through. A little added sweetness after cooking made it a bit more pleasing to my palate as well. Still, if I'm being honest with myself, you're getting a pretty standard bearer out of this jar that's going to serve you well, but doesn't reach into the true heights of barbecue sauce greatness. The Hoff & Pepper website recommends this sauce for brisket, meatballs, bbq sandwiches, sweet potato fries, meatloaf, pork and beef ribs, which is a pretty broad spectrum that I agree with because this is the type of barbecue sauce that can deliver on pretty universal usage.