I’ve been making my own barbecue sauce for a long time. I initially looked up recipes on the internet and tried a few different ones before settling on what I liked. Ever since, I just sort of mix things as I go and do it by taking lots of samples along the way. So, it was tough to come up with an actual recipe for this post, but as with most things, I encourage you to use this as a starting point and figure out what fits your own tastes.
For this recipe, I used my Spicy Old Man Chipotle IPA along with ketchup as the base. I’ve made BBQ sauce with and without beer and it makes a big difference, but the sauce can work either way. This particular beer is completely dominated by the heat of the peppers it was aged with. For that reason, I skipped my usual additions of Cayenne pepper and/or chili powder. If you use a different beer, I would add a small amount of Cayenne pepper for a similar effect.
You can also use different styles of beer for drastically different sauces. A big malty beer like a bock in a sweet sauce will work well. A roasty stout with some smoked meat will work in a dark BBQ sauce. Even something hoppy could work with will work with a hotter, spicier sauce. Like I said originally, just experiment and figure out what you like or what will work in a specific situation.
This time, I was making the sauce for some pulled pork I made for a family get together. I wanted to make something that would be good for a lot of different people with a lot of different tastes. My spicier BBQ sauces might be perfect when I’m grilling chicken for myself, but little kids coming to this event probably wouldn’t go near it. Mentioning that when the sauce I made uses a very hot beer might seem strange, but I used the beer instead of adding other hot spices to give a subtle balance to what is otherwise a pretty sweet sauce.
To make it sweet, I added brown sugar, which is my usual go to. Maple syrup, honey and molasses are popular as well. I love maple syrup but it’s usually prohibitively expensive for this type of recipe. I’m not as crazy about molasses, I like to get some more subtle molasses flavors from brown sugar instead. You may feel differently.
Some barbecue sauces call for onions and garlic. I used some fresh garlic this time, but I normally avoid onions. I don’t like too many chunks of stuff in my BBQ sauce. I just as often use powdered or granulated garlic, but I decided to use fresh this time. To replicate the onion flavor without having to try to dice onions small enough to not bother me, I used onion salt. If including onion salt, don’t forget the salt portion. You probably don’t want to add any additional salt.
Some recipes call for lemon juice, some vinegar. I always use apple cider vinegar. Either option will give you some acidity. Beer will add some as well, so for sauces without beer, I use more vinegar. The decision to use apple cider vinegar is partially convenience because I always have it around from various pickling and canning projects and partly just because I like the flavor.
Soy sauce and worcestershire sauce add more complexity. I usually use a lot more soy sauce than worcestershire sauce. In this particular case, I skipped the worcestershire all together. You may want to add some for your own barbecue, though.
Other spices I use are dried mustard and ground ginger. Dried or ground mustard has the same tang as prepared mustard, the condiment. You can substitute some of your favorite mustard instead. Honey mustard might be good in a sweet barbecue sauce, spicy brown in a hotter one, et cetera. The ginger is a recent addition to my my own sauces. It gives a really nice tang. I like it more to balance sweeter barbecue, it may be too much in a spicier version.
There are tons of different ways to make barbecue sauce, but all of mine are ketchup based. I’m not well versed in the various regional barbecues, so I don’t know how this works in but it compares favorably to anything you find labeled BBQ Sauce in a grocery store’s condiment section. The recipe for my latest batch is below. I will probably not repeat this recipe exactly, it can be used as a good starting point, though. This was also a very big batch. I used to make very small batches for individual meals. I’ve recently taken to making bigger sums of sauce and saving them in ketchup bottles in the fridge. I’m not sure how long it is good to save this way, but I haven’t hit the limit yet.
Spicy Old Man Barbecue Sauce
12 oz bottle of Spicy Old Man (or other hot pepper beer)
5 cups ketchup
2 cups light brown sugar
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tbs dried mustard
3 tbs ground ginger
2 tbs onion salt
2 tbs olive oil
Add the beer to a pot over high heat. As it heats up, add the garlic. Stir as it begins to boil and continue for five minutes. Then, turn down the heat to medium-high and add the mustard, ginger, onion salt and oil. If you are using a different beer, you can add a teaspoon or so of Cayenne pepper as well. Keep stirring and once all the spices are evenly mixed in, add the sugar and keep stirring. Once the sugar is mixed in, slowly add all the rest of the ingredients, stirring them in as you go.
After everything is in, turn the heat down to simmer and begin tasting the sauce to make adjustments for you personal preference. Once you’re happy with it, turn off the heat and let the sauce cool, unless you’re using it immediately. Once cool, you can use a funnel to add it to your emptied ketchup container. It will, of course be more volume than the ketchup so you can store the rest however you want, but I normally try to plan on using all of the overflow immediately.