Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review: Happy Trails Sauce

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Happy Trails Bar-B-Que Sauce

Manufacturer Okie BBQ Inc.
Website www.okiebbq.com

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3.5 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3.5 out of 5)

Appearance **** (4 out of 5)

Packaging ***** (5 out of 5)

The majority of the sauces reviewed on the Home of BBQ website are tasted alone and on pulled pork or brisket. On occasion the sauce will be tried with ribs or chicken. If a sauce is labeled as multipurpose it will often be tried with a burger or fries. We always attempt to match the sauce with what it is recommended for on the label. Sadly, I will never try a sauce on steak. It would be an insult to any steak worth eating.

Regular readers know that in my not so humble opinion, one of the prime ingredients in any BBQ delicacy should be a bit of Americana. BBQ is as much a cultural touchstone as it is a culinary description. Happy Trails adds more than a touch of what we would like America to be to their sauce. The sauce has a history that reaches back to depression era Oklahoma. The recipe has been handed down to family members and has become a vital part of their personal history, enjoyed at important family gatherings.

The ‘Happy Trails’ in the name comes from the song by Roy Rogers. The owner of Okie BBQ has had a long relationship with both the late Roy Rogers (and Dale Evans) as well as the Roy Rogers Museum. Their friendship led to the morphing of what was then known as the Okie Sauce to the Happy Trails sauce.

The third aspect of the ‘Americana’ aspect of the Happy Trails triumvirate is the support that the company shows the troops and the support for the product that is reciprocated by our men and women in the military. The manufacturers were kind enough to send along a ‘testimonial’ from a soldier in Bagdad who shared some of the sauce with a local Sheikh. The soldier had carefully packaged some bottles and brought them to Iraq. He is bringing one back with him to present to Okie BBQ as a bottle that had seen service in Iraq.

Although it is a nice bonus, if a sauce is subpar no amount of cultural importance can save it. So how does Happy Trails stack up?

With a label that would look just as appropriate on a 1950’s lunch box, the bottle has a strong statement to make. Its slightly anachronistic look hearkens back to an earlier time and denotes the history inherent in the sauce. A painting of Roy Rogers astride Trigger and Dale waiving from a ranch entrance immediately put you in mind of what is in store. It is an iconic image while still being idiosyncratic enough to stand out from the crowd. The bottle is a thick glass that contains 18oz. of sauce.

The aroma is enjoyable and offers a hint of the moderate spice you will find in the taste. It has the same ‘base’ smell as most catsup based sauces without the overpowering sweetness that often ruins both taste and aroma. The aroma is fairly strong and lingers. Although the aroma is pleasant, for those that would prefer to appreciate the aromatics of the meat, this might interfere.

The sauce is a deep red without being opaque (in use, not in the bottle). There are variations to the sauce that add to the appearance, such as the black specks of pepper and the small ‘bumps’ of tomato (that also add to the mouthfeel).

Thick without being gloopy, the sauce adheres well to the meat while adding another slight layer to the food.

Tasting the sauce offers what you would expect from a catsup based sauce but also adds new layers that are sadly missing in many of their competitors. As mentioned, the lack of over pureeing provides a nice, varying texture to the sauce. There is a bit of heat and a bit of tang that pull you away from the ‘catsup’ mindset. I’m also pleased to note that in line with the aroma, the sauce avoids the overly sweet taste that is a particular annoyance to me (and hey, reviews are subjective).

Happy Trails sauce is not going to shock anyone with its flavor profile. It’s a bit off kilter for a KC style sauce, but it is closer to that then a Memphis style. Where it excels is in its execution. After enjoying the sauce on BBQ I also used it on a burger and with some fries.