By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor
BOZEMAN – In a commercial kitchen rented from Bozeman’s Roots Kitchen & Cannery, Jeff and Bryan Gill perfect their batch. Every weekend they clean, cook and purée fresh peppers harvested that week from local growers. Once the taste is just to their liking, they bottle the sauce into glass bottles that proclaim “Beehive Brothers … Small batch artisan hot sauce made with pride in Bozeman, Montana, using produce grown by small farmers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.”
The Beehive brothers bottled their first batch last summer and now their company supplies hot sauce to several Big Sky restaurants, including Yeti Dogs and Headwaters Grille at Big Sky Resort. Jeff and Bryan are also selling individual bottles at Big Sky’s Farmers’ Market every Wednesday night between 5 and 8 p.m.
“The spice comes from a compound called capsaicin, which is found primarily in the seeds and ribs of hot peppers,” Bryan said. “Dragon’s breath has recently become the world’s hottest pepper, overtaking the Carolina reaper … the hottest we use is habanero.”
Bryan said good stresses, particularly an increase in heat and a decrease in water, add to the heat of the peppers they use. “The peppers get hotter, and actually peak in hotness in late summer.”
Because of this tendency, the flavor and spiciness of each hot sauce batch may vary as the peppers develop through the season. “Our focus isn’t on the spiciness, it’s the flavor,” Jeff said.
“The key to getting that great taste is by using fresh, quality produce and by only using natural ingredients,” Jeff added.
Right now, the duo offers hot sauce in five flavors, listed from mild to spicy: jalapeno, cayenne, serrano, green glean and habanero.
“When we started making [sauce] last year, everything we made had hot sauce in it,” Jeff laughed. He enjoys using serrano with Asian dishes and cayenne or jalapeno for Mexican meals. Bryan likes to have any flavor on anything.
“I put it on literally everything. Especially on breakfast,” Bryan said.
Often, the brothers will cook tacos for dinner in order to taste test a new flavor or batch. “Tacos are hands down the best way to taste test,” Bryan said.
Particularly unique among the flavors, green glean is “a celebration of fall,” according to Bryan. Beehive Brothers takes peppers harvested in the fall just before frost and cooks them together into the green glean flavor. It’s a way of reducing wasted produce on the farm, they explained.
The brothers say they are dedicated to eating and sharing locally sourced food, and they avoid stabilizers and additives. Because of this, the contents may separate, but all it takes is a good shake.
“That’s just part of it,” Bryan said.
“Because we source everything regionally, the peppers are really only available June through October,” Jeff said. “We have to try to make enough hot sauce to last through the next June.”
“It’s a tough balance between not selling out and selling it all,” Bryan added.
Both Bryan and Jeff work at Big Sky Resort, Bryan as a snow reporter and Jeff as an accountant, and for now, they are keeping Beehive Brothers relatively small. In the future, the Gill brothers hope to expand into new markets and new flavors, possibly including a smoked line.
“We’re starting to build a local following,” Bryan said. “It’s really exciting.”
“We like connecting with our community,” he added. “To me, community always centers around food.”