Food

Hot, Hot Heat

Santa Fe’s Apicklelypse hot sauce hits the next level

Santa Fean David Ahern-Seronde is certainly no stranger to concocting large batches of things. For nearly 12 years, he worked as a brewer for mega -micro brand Santa Fe Brewing Co. (longtime readers might recognize him as the cover star from our 2017 beer cover story “The Craft”), but after much consideration, experimentation and consternation, Ahern-Seronde left the job in March to pursue his fledgling hot sauce brand Apicklelypse. If a mini taste test conducted during our interview at Santa Fe’s Kitchen Table commercial kitchen offers any indication, he’s really onto something huge here: Everything from Apicklelypse tastes absolutely delicious, and it’s hard to try a single variety without conjuring up tasty meals for which each type might work brilliantly.

“I love making beer and I love creating, but I guess I kind of got burnt out from brewing and hot sauce came up, so it was time for a change that was hard, but in the best way possible,” Ahern-Seronde tells SFR while showing off his flavors, including the garlic- and sesame-forward Werewolf Piss, the pickled relish-flavored Ooga Booga and, perhaps the crowning achievement in his hot sauce quiver, the Sasquatch Sweat with cranberry and red chile. “As of this month, it’s been two years in the making.”

And it started by mistake. As he says, Ahern-Seronde has always loved creating in the beer world, and when he turned his sights toward pickling and fermentation, the practice transferred. He learned a lot from Barrio Brinery’s Pat Block—who will shutter his business after nine years this month—Ahern-Seronde says, and he’s been making pickles for a long time. When he tried to create his own blend of veggies and fruit, however, it didn’t turn out how he’d envisioned. But it worked.

“It was damn good,” Ahern-Seronde explains, “and it evolved in its own way.”

Fast forward to today, and he’s learned how to scale up. Ahern-Seronde makes and bottles all Apicklelypse products himself at The Kitchen Table, and they’re shelf-stable for up to two years before opening. To achieve that, Ahern-Seronde no longer ferments himself, though through a process of trial and error, he’s managed to recreate those early flavors and then some. Apicklelypse has become, he says, “My full-time job, which is absolutely terrifying.”

It need not be, however, if we can drum up enough enthusiasm, Santa Fe. And we very much should. Unlike the dressed down simplicity of hot sauce hits like Tabasco and even Cholula, Apicklelypse sauces contain multitudes. Take the Lord of Extinction with mango—it’s sweet at the top and slowly reveals a deep and nuanced burn that transforms over time. Throw this on some pork tacos? Yes, please. The Shrunken Head variety with notes of jalapeño, avocado, cilantro and lime is a banger, too, and would go so well with rice (just throw some in the pot or cooker, Ahern-Seronde says) or a veggie burrito. Grave Sauce is a winner, too, thanks to its apple notes, and could work well with wintery cocktails. Each of the six varieties currently available are each wildly different but uniformly excellent.

The metal branding earns excellent marks thanks to artwork from Santa Fe’s Jed Jedlowski and his Cold Lantern Design.

“He pulled all of this out of my head,” Ahern-Seronde says while motioning toward his newly-arrived gift boxes, each replete with biohazard symbology crafted with images of chile and pickles. “Without him I could not have pulled it off.”

The branding makes it easy to find Apickleplypse on a shelf. But where must you go to obtain it in a world practically drowning in hot sauce options? Retail-wise, you’ll find Ahern-Seronde’s sauces in local spots such as Kaune’s, Back Road Pizza, Cake’s Café, Five & Dime and Gift & Gourmet; he’s even expanded to Albuquerque’s Salsa Saint and a few others (you’ll find a handy store locator at the Apicklelypse website).

Ahern-Seronde is also slated to table at a number of winter markets throughout the month, including the Shop Small market at Cake’s Café (227 Galisteo St., (505) 303-4880) on Dec. 16 and the Hip-Hop for the Holidays Market at Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery (2791 Agua Fría St., (505) 303-3808) on Dec. 22. He should also have online ordering up on the site in the next week or so if all goes well. Seriously, though, if you have a hot sauce fan in your life or are one, you need to try Apicklylypse.

“The market is blowing up,” Ahern-Seronde concludes. “I see it going the route of craft beer and cannabis, and my flavors are very approachable, I think. I believe in hot sauce—it’s something that’ll change your meal drastically in a second.”

Knock-Knock, Nuckolls

I’ve certainly been one to talk shit about the Railyard’s parade of craft beer businesses insofar as I wonder how many one little plaza needs, but having finally dined at the new-ish Nuckolls Brewing Co. from Violet Crown Cinema founder Bill Banowsky, I’m ready to admit I was wrong—at least about the food. This one can stay.

Nuckolls (1611 Alcaldesa Street, nuckollsbrewing.com) lives in a beautiful building at the edge of the Railyard that once housed a meat packing operation for Colorado’s Nuckolls Packing Co., the space is surrounded with big windows allowing for views of the picturesque downtown zone no matter where you sit; though that’s not counting the downstairs cocktail-forward speakeasy-esque lounge. The main floor, however, is bright and airy and recalls the general vibe of an Oktoberfest party with long communal tables and numerous draught beers waiting to be ordered.

The experience began with a 10 oz. Rail Ale, Nuckolls’ hops-heavy pale ale. This one bordered on an IPA almost, but its bitterness was far more subtle than the classics from that variety like Stone of La Cumbre. Head brewer Jen Treu comes to Banowsky’s biz from Rowley Farmhouse Ales and clearly knows how to craft a complex batch of suds. A+ on that, frankly.

The food, however, was the main draw, and Nuckolls might just have my favorite burger in town currently. A double-pattied Wagyu number that comes with the restaurant’s signature German sauce (think Thousand Island, frankly). At $16, it’s delightful, both in terms of flavor and value—and you can get a single patty version for $12; and yes, there’s a green chile version. My party also ordered veggie enchiladas ($13), the beet salad on arugula ($12) and a rice pudding for dessert ($3). In every instance, Nuckolls delivered big on flavor. The enchiladas, for example, were bursting with fresh veggies and just the right amount of chile and cheese; the beet salad was a crisp and earthy delight. Finding a well-made rice pudding in Santa Fe, though? Priceless. Not since the days of the Zia Diner has such a tasty version come my way. And with a check for two that clocked in at under $60, including tip, I’d consider the visit a win. See you again soon, Nuckolls burger!

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