Sriracha Beer Battle

Huy Fong’s Sriracha is the American Dream in a plastic bottle. The sauce was developed by David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee who came to the US with nothing more than his take on a famous Thai chile recipe and a vision to share his special sauce with the world.

Los Angeles is where that dream was bottled and dispensed across a multi-cultural landscape of restaurants, food trucks and grocery stores. It is the essential condiment (sorry Tapatio) to our city’s ever-evolving melting pot. Tran is now a multi-millionaire and Sriracha is a pop culture brand, celebrated in cookbooks, food festivals, movies and (du ma) Halloween costumes. Spicy food lovers can’t get enough of it and neither can capitalists, who’re infusing its harmonic blend of flavors into everything from potato chips, lollipops and now craft beer.

At first glance, Sriracha and craft beer seem like an odd couple, but a closer look reveals a destined romance. Homemade sauces and home-brewed beers are essentially folk products. Their recipes kept secret, passed around to friends and family by word-of-mouth or on stained notecards hidden in drawers. Both tell stories, not with words, but senses, giving us insight into the surrounding culture that they organically came from.

Sorry, I digress. This is a beer taste debate, not a history lesson. It’s just that the only thing I love more than beer is Sriracha… so respect the (Rooster) Cock. The point I’m trying to make is that on paper this seems to be the best of both worlds, like Shaq and Kobe or (Colin) Farrell and (Vince) Vaughn, and we both know how those turned out.

So, without further ado, here we go: Sriracha + craft beer = who brewed it better?

PEDIGREE Oregon’s Rogue Ales is one of the most popular and respected craft breweries in the country, known as its name implies for going against the grain. They have developed signature brands with celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto and Portland’s legendary Voodoo Donuts, both of which became clickbait on food and beer blogs. With this kind of pedigree, a team-up with Tran’s Sriracha Huy Fong brand was inevitable.

Among hopheads, homegrown Angel City Brewery is a bit of a fugazi, known more for their sprawling Arts District beer hall than the quality of their craft beers. Although they have a wide-selection at a fair price, they have yet to enjoy a breakout brew thus far. The Srirachelada, dubbed “Not your Abuela’s Breakfast Beer,” aims to appeal to the growing Asian and Latino markets.

Winner: Sriracha Hot Stout

BRANDING Oregon’s Rogue Ales was founded in 1988 by a trio of Nike executives so they know branding. Rogue’s Sriracha Hot Stout Beer’s 750 ML bottle is an exact duplicate of the trademark Huy Fong version, complete with a giant rooster, Chinese symbols and a green cap. It’s familiar and fun, immediately piquing your interest.

The Srirachelada, is a riff on the notorious Michelada, a daytime drinking favorite, featuring a Mexican lager spiced with tomato juice, lime juice, agave, Worcestershire Sauce and in this case Sriracha (which doesn’t have the Huy Fong stamp of approval). The generic art deco logo on their tomato-adorned 22-ounce bottles gives them a mass-produced look. There’s no real sense of what it is or who it’s for, other than a corny “Brewed to Share” tag.

WINNER: Sriracha Hot Stout

TASTE The Sriracha Hot Stout is made with Huy Fong’s original hot chili, which is noteworthy, considering that there are many imitators, but no equals to Tran’s brand. This is evident when you first pour the brownish-black stout, which gives off that instantly recognizable garlic-vinegar smell. The foamy, light brown head is malty, a preview of the stout’s heavy coffee-chocolate flavor to come. The heat of the Sriracha kicks in at the aftertaste. Overall, it was a slap in the face, not only for the $13 price tag, but because it was overpowering. Complex, but sadly, a bit too convoluted.

For the Srirachelada, I went with the Spicy version (it comes in Regular too). It wasn’t as fiery and bold as the Sriracha Hot Stout because the lager was stable, allowing the acidity of the tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce to set-up the garlicky heat of the Sriracha. It was salty, spicy and sweet, but not smooth. About half-way through, I put it in the fridge. When I tried it again later, I heeded the advice on the bottle and added some ice to it, which indeed chilled things out.

WINNER: Srirachelada (by an ice cold sip)

OVERALL I was hoping that both beers would be love at first sip, but they both felt like that empty feeling you get walking out of a Marvel movie. High expectations. Disposable memories. Still, my bitter beer face didn’t stop everyone around me from wanting a taste. That’s essentially what both these novelty brews are, conversation pieces that you bring to a party, barbecue, etc. In those terms, I would have to go with the Sriracha Hot Stout because the bottle is badass and I could envision using it as a marinade or in a crock pot dish… after a few sips (of course).

WINNER: Sriracha Hot Stout Beer


Originally published at www.lataco.com on October 5, 2015.