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Cannery brews up hot sauce

The Prince Edward County Cannery & Commercial Kitchen has again distinguished itself as a rare option in this region of the U.S. for small-scale production.

This time, the cannery is working with Devils Backbone Brewing Company to create and bottle a special hot sauce based on the company’s flagship beer — the Vienna Lager.

Devils Backbone, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch, has two locations, both in Virginia. Its original location is in Roseland and is called the Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows. The company’s second, smaller location is the Outpost Tap Room & Kitchen in Lexington.

Employees with Devils Backbone and Virginia Food Works were busy Thursday, Feb. 27, and Friday, Feb. 28, on the third full-size production of the Devils Backbone hot sauce in Prince Edward.

Jessica Carter, agritourism manager for Devils Backbone, said with each production run, her company is able to keep the sauce in stock for about three months, so the expectation is there will be four runs in Prince Edward a year.

“As things change, as we sell more or if we’re able to increase what we do in a production run here, then that might change,” she said. “But our last run was in November. Before that it was August, so we’re looking at about every three months or so.”

She said 30 gallons of the sauce are made in one production run.

While she said the location of the Prince Edward cannery is not especially convenient for Devils Backbone, as it is an hour and a half away, it is still the only option in the area.

Virginia Food Works Production Manager Kathleen Gregory said she has clients that come from New Jersey to the Prince Edward cannery because it is the only small-scale option.

“We are the only option that is affordable. Let’s put it like that,” Gregory said.

Prince Edward County Public Information Officer Kate Pickett said the county is proud to be home to one of the eight total and one of only two commercial canneries in the state.

“The cannery is utilized by both large-scale companies and individual citizens alike and the partnership with Devil’s Backbone brewery is a testament to the great job that the folks who run the cannery are doing in keeping it clean, safe and up to regulatory standards,” she stated. “The cannery is an asset to the county, as it allows citizens to process value-added goods, which benefits them and their businesses and, in turn, the county’s economy as a whole.”

Gregory explained the process that was unfolding Thursday and Friday in the most recent Prince Edward production run of the Devils Backbone hot sauce.

“We spent yesterday reducing 45 gallons of beer in half,” she said Friday. “And then they take their peppers that they grow on their farms and boil them into beer and then we turn them into pulp and then add that back in, so we’re using pretty much everything, a little vinegar, a little salt, that’s pretty much it.”

Friday’s work involved waiting for the sauce to reduce and then bottling it.

The sauce will be available at both Devils Backbone locations.