British Columbia

A sriracha shortage is upon us. Meet the B.C. man who can hook you up with some hot alternatives

Southern California-based Huy Fong Inc. told customers it would be forced to suspend sales of its famous sauce this summer because of poor pepper crops. But fear not, Vancouver lovers of spice have plenty of alternatives.

The popular rooster-branded bottle is going to be hard to come by this summer due to poor U.S. pepper crops

Andrew Betteridge, owner of Lucifer's House of Heat, browses the shelves at his Vancouver store on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Hot sauce is one of those polarizing condiments: You either like the spice or you wonder at the fascination of those who do.

If you're in the latter camp, then talk of a sriracha shortage may not have registered. But for fans of the hot stuff, the news is hard to swallow.

According to the Associated Press, Southern California-based Huy Fong Inc., which produces the popular topper, told customers in an email earlier this year that it would suspend sales of its famous spicy sauce over the summer due to a shortage of chili peppers.

The company sources its peppers from various farms in California, New Mexico and Mexico, and says weather conditions are affecting the quality and quantity. High temperatures and a historic drought across the western United States have been taking a heavy toll on California's agriculture industry.

Huy Fong Foods processes and bottles its sriracha chili sauce at its factory in Irwindale, California. The company has warned customers it will not be able to produce the popular sauce this summer. (Nick Ut/The Associated Press)

But while British Columbians who like it hot may have to cool it on the California export for now, there is no need to despair. 

Like craft beer, there is a wide variety of small-batch alternatives to the big brands and you can find many of them at Lucifer's House of Heat in Vancouver's West End.

The Early Edition's Lisa Christiansen dropped in to check out the 1,000-plus products and speak with shop owner Andrew Betteridge about finding the perfect sriracha substitute.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What have you heard about the great sriracha shortage?

I heard that their crops got messed up and they won't be able to ship any products after May.  The company is going to try and resume sales in the fall if they can get enough peppers by then.

Most of what I sell comes from small batch brewers in B.C. and Canada, with a few from the U.S., and our products are not affected.

You're a sauce aficionado, what is your take on sriracha? Is it a good hot sauce?

Yeah, it's good. But once you venture out into the world of all the other hot sauces it will probably drop lower on the flavour scale for you. Heat wise, it's pretty mild and we have some that are much, much, hotter.

Hot sauces line the shelves at Lucifer's House of Heat in Vancouver's West End. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

So, if someone comes in this summer panicked they can't get their beloved sriracha, what would you suggest?

We have multiple sriracha sauces here that are not made by Huy Fong. Burns and McCoy (Colorado-based) makes a sriracha sauce. There's even a local Vancouver company called Sriracha Revolver that uses sriracha peppers and has other flavours made with habanero and chili too. 

Ok, but how hot are some of the sauces you carry?

Well anything with the Carolina Reaper pepper, and when companies use extracts, that's when things can get really hot. The two hottest sauces in the store are probably Doomed and Hellboy of the Right Hand of Doom by Hellfire (Wisconsin-based). I've tried Hellboy once and won't again.

Well I'm clearly going to have to try it then...

I wouldn't. It literally gave me cramps within 20 minutes.

Lisa hesitates, tries a couple of fruity mild sauces. Enjoys them. Contemplates upping her game ...
Some of the hottest sauces at Lucifer's House of Heat include Doomed and Hellboy of the Right Hand of Doom by the Wisconsin-based company Hellfire. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

I have to try the Hellboy! When you say it's the hottest...

I really wouldn't ...

Lisa goes for it ... sputters ... mutters incoherently. Collects herself.

Oh my gosh that was not enjoyable. It's going to linger for awhile. Thank you for having me.

Interview abruptly ends.

Lisa Christiansen met up with Andrew Betteridge at his hot sauce shop which is called Lucifer's House of Heat for some replacement options and some tasting.

Primary interview by Lisa Christiansen with files from The Early Edition


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