Barbecue and beer is an all-star pairing. Award-winning barbecue sauce maker Rufus Teague is taking the classic combination one step further with its new Can-O-Que, made in collaboration with Boulevard Brewing Co.
Not only does Can-O-Que incorporate Boulevard’s flagship Unfiltered Wheat beer in the sauce, but it's packaged in a 12-ounce beer can. The can’s red-and-yellow color scheme and flaming grill on the design is an unofficial nod to the Kansas City Chiefs' tailgating and football season. The novel packaging opens like a beer can and includes a replaceable cap.
“KC has the best football fans in the country,” Boulevard brand ambassador Kyle Hopkins says of the collaboration. “We wanted to bring something amazing to the game day experience.”
While based in the Kansas City area, the Rufus Teague brand isn’t tied to a local barbecue restaurant. The company sought to extend its market reach and raise the brand profile in Kansas City. Founder John McCone and chief marketing officer Brad Jungles conceived of the idea at a Royals game.
“John and I were at a Royals game drinking Unfiltered Wheat and simply discussing what would be really cool,” Jungles says. “We talked of beer-based barbecue sauce and then both said – ‘In a can!’– at the same time. Right then we knew we had to do it. We’re a lover of Boulevard and we’re both craft brands. We got in touch with Kyle and found a kindred spirit.”
“I love barbecue. When he brought up the idea, it blew my mind,” Hopkins adds. “It’s fun and unique.”
Development for the sauce recipe and packaging logistics took a year to refine. Hopkins provided Rufus Teague with 12 different beers for testing recipes. Testing led to the selection of Unfiltered Wheat for its citrusy flavor as a complement to the sauce’s sweet and smoky flavor with a hint of spice from paprika and chile powders. “We did a lot of tweaking to make the flavor profile work,” Jungles says.
Hopkins, who cooks often with beer, says that the flavor profile needed “a happy balance” so the sauce wasn’t too hoppy or thin. “Unfiltered Wheat is a flavorful beer,” Hopkins says. “The taste adds to the overall flavor. It adds an unmistakable quality. The Can-O-Que recipe is different than other Rufus Teague sauces. It was specifically crafted with Unfiltered Wheat exclusively for this product, making it a one-of-a-kind barbecue sauce.”
Hopkins and Jungles recommend using the versatile sauce on chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.
Nailing the flavor profile was only part of the challenge, as creating a viable package required additional research and development. “We had to make sure the sauce could live in an aluminum can,” Jungles explains. “We worked with an aluminum can manufacturer and a chemist so the sauce wouldn’t degrade over time. We wanted the sauce to keep its flavor profile.”
Can-O-Que’s sauce was formulated in Kansas City. Due to production challenges and unique machinery needed to package in an aluminum beverage can, including the addition of a resealable plastic lid, the product is packaged in Colorado.
Can-O-Que was released in June on a test basis. The sauce quickly sold out, prompting the demand for more. “The initial test launch was so successful that both Boulevard and Rufus Teague knew they needed to relaunch the product,” Hopkins says.
Rufus Teague produced a much larger quantity for this latest limited-release sauce. The limited-edition Can-O-Que will begin appearing in Kansas City groceries and specialty stores, such as Made in Kansas City, in time for the Kansas City Chiefs’ first home game on Sept. 22. Orders may also be placed on the Rufus Teague site.
Rufus Teague, rufusteague.com