In this weeks blog we were lucky enough to chat to Pete from Balefire. Balefire is a hot sauce company based near Middlesborough. Started by twin brothers Pete and Jim. They create amazing hot sauces using a wealth of industry knowledge. From brewing to cheffing. And with a little media production thrown in.
Find out more about this small independent hot sauce producer by reading our interview with them below.
Hi Peter, How are you today?
Not bad at all, how are you?
I'm good thanks. Are you having a good morning?
I'm actually in the middle of making some sauce at the moment!
Which sauce are you making today?
It's the signature one. Our Soul Fire. We've been getting through loads of it at the moment. We've sold 200 units in the last month. So we need to do a few more batches.
Yeah it's going really well. It's been so busy. We've had an awesome weekend. We did 4 markets. And we've been catching up since then.
Wow. Lots to do then. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your company Balefire?
My names Peter. I've been a chef for 15 years now. Once I left uni (I studied media production) I immediately became a chef. I love food and have always been passionate about cooking. I jumped in the kitchen and never left really until my child was born about 5 years ago.
So I decided to retire from cheffing. I was after the 9-5 kind of life. I tried it for 6 months but it wasn't really for me. After that I got a job in a brewery. Which was fantastic. I learnt a lot about brewing and the brewing process. I've always been a keen home-brewer as well as a chef. I did that for about 3 years.
After that I decided to start Balefire as it ties in a bit of everything. We make our own beer that goes in to the hot sauce. We turn the beer in to vinegar which goes in to the majority of our sauces. It's an amalgamation of everything I've done. The brewing and the cheffing. Plus the media production gives me the experience to make and design all our own labels. All the photos and videos online are all made by us.
That's where it all comes from for Balefire.
So all roads lead here then! That's awesome that you could use all that knowledge and experience.
What does Balefire mean? And why did you choose it for the name of your hot sauce company?
It's an Anglo-Saxon word. It means a large bonfire. Or a funeral pyre. We wanted fire in the name. Hot sauce and fire go hand in hand. Because it's an Anglo-Saxon word it has strong ties with the North East. We're from the North East and based up here. So we wanted to tie it all together.
It works with our branding. With Celtic/Runic lettering and Anglo-Saxon knot patterns on the logo. It all works well for our identity. And It's a cool sounding name!
You run the business with your twin brother Jim. How does that relationship work? Do you butt heads a lot? Or do you tend to have similar ideas?
We've got exactly the same mindset. It's really good having him as a helping hand. He's just like me. He can do all the same stuff I can do.
I wouldn't say we butt heads. But we definitely challenge each other. So if he doesn't think something is right or I don't, we'll say and we are happy to listen to each other. And usually he believes what I say.
But no we don't butt heads. We are both easy going and relaxed. Just laid back. He's a pleasure to work with. I'm not sure he'd say the same about me. I'm a bit of a control freak.
What makes your sauces stand out from other hot sauce producers out there?
I want to say passion. A lot of the other small batch hot sauce producers have got the same sort of passion we have. I've met a lot of them and they love what they do. And it shows.
As a branding thing we shout about fermentation. So unlike a lot of hot sauce producers we ferment our chillies. It makes a huge difference, we think. We can get a lot of different flavours out of the chillies.
Fermentation creates a natural glutamate. Which are natural flavour enhancers. It's also a great preservative. We age our chillies for 3 weeks. And it gets rid of certain undesirable flavours. You can get beautiful fruity flavours from the chillies by fermenting them.
I think that helps our sauces stand out. Also not a lot of producers use beer in their sauces. About 90% of our sauces have beer in them.
I was going to say having beer in the sauce must make them stand out!
Yeah. Like I say. Why use water when you can use beer!
So there are a few things that help us stand out. Also our branding. I really like it and we get a lot of compliments on it. We also wax dip our bottles. That's a bit of a niche thing as well. It looks cool and helps sell the bottles.
That's the great thing about doing markets. You get instant feedback. And the customers seem to really love it.
Speaking of markets. Which is your most popular sauce?
It's got to be our signature one. Our Soul Fire. That's the one I'm making at the moment. We're very small producers at the moment. We're going to be upping production in June. Going from 200 to 600 runs. It's going to make a huge difference.
We are making 10 different sauce at the moment. So if we are only making 200 bottles at a time we are constantly making sauce. So it's kind of a balancing act in that respect.
Sorry back to your question. Our most popular sauce. It's got to be Our Soul Fire. We get through loads of that. For good reason. It's brilliantly balanced. It's everything we know and love. Our beautiful vinegar. Mixed with fermented Habanero chillies. Which have this gorgeous fruity flavour. Sweeten that with pineapple. Roasted garlic. Roasted peppers. Fresh lime juice.
Wow you are making my mouth water just describing it!
I'll have to send a bottle down.
We'd love that. We love trying our customers products.
Recently you helped us with a marmalade blog for our website! The recipe made use of unwanted oranges and also helped a charity. Do you do a lot for charity and ethical initiatives?
Sustainability is so important to us. At the moment we are trying to go zero plastic. Including the plastic that is coming in to the company. We're trying to ask our suppliers not to package anything in plastic. They have all been fantastic at that.