Posted April 7, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Pour it on: Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce

Pour it on: Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce comes to Spring Arts and Craft Show
by Linda Braden Albert
of The Daily Times Staff

A bottle of Don Colyer’s Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce accompanies him whenever he goes out for a meal. At breakfast, lunch or dinner, the Kingston entrepreneur pours on the sauce and generously shares it with other patrons as well as restaurant workers and managers.

He gets some looks, but he knows if he can get people to try his special brew once, they’re hooked.

“Why don’t you put some of my sauce on your salad?” he urged a couple at an adjoining table recently in a Maryville restaurant. “It’s good on salads.”

Russ and Gloria Salmans of Seymour tried it — and liked it.

“I thought it was great,” Gloria Salmans said. “A little tangy, a little smoky. I would buy it.”

Colyer’s marketing method may be unorthodox, but it certainly bears fruit. He said seven out of 10 people who try his sauce, buy it. The popularity is not limited to individual purchasers of the 12-ounce bottles: Colyer also sells by the gallon to restaurants to use in cooking ribs and other specialties.

Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce comes in mild or spicy flavors and costs $5 per 12-ounce bottle. It is sold at most East Tennessee winery gift shops and at Rocky Top Markets in Lenoir City, Clinton, Oak Ridge and Kingston, and will soon become available at several Blount County and Knox County establishments.

Colyer and his wife, Dwain, also sell the product at craft shows. They will set up shop at the Maryville, Alcoa, Blount County Recreation and Parks Commission Spring Arts & Crafts Show Friday and Saturday at Foothills Mall, making history as the first food product ever accepted into the juried show.

Versatility, ease

“Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce is not your typical barbecue sauce. It is more versatile, a sweet sauce,” Colyer said. “It meets most people’s palate and offers something for everyone. You taste the flavor first and then get a little bit of heat.”

Colyer said the sauce is both lady-friendly and kid-friendly. He demonstrated this by having a waitress bring him some packages of mayonnaise, a few spoonsful of pickle relish and some clean spoons.

He then mixed Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce, the mayonnaise and pickle relish along with mustard already on the table, and offered a taste to the Salmans.

“That’s hot dog relish,” he said with a grin, then mixed more of the barbecue sauce with mayonnaise alone for a hamburger dressing in lieu of catsup. He suggested substituting the barbecue sauce for catsup when making meatloaf and in other dishes.

“Kids love to dip their french fries in Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce,” he said.

The product has received accolades at several competitions. Ribs cooked in the sauce won a first-place trophy at a North Carolina competition last June and a barbecue baked beans recipe won first place in another competition in September. Colyer will share the recipe — but only if you buy a bottle of his sauce first.

Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce also took the fourth place People’s Choice Award in Atlanta in a national competition sponsored by the National Barbecue Association. Colyer said 47 competitors from across the United States participated in the event.

Colyer produces his barbecue sauce in Hancock County in a commercial kitchen, where he can stir up a batch of 50 to 100 gallons at a time. The product is listed on the Pick Tennessee Products Web site at www.picktnproducts.org.

Career change

Colyer began his new business venture two years ago at the age of 64. He and his nephew, Chuck Colyer, developed the barbecue sauce because they couldn’t find a sauce that suited their taste buds.

“My nephew came up with the basic recipe and said for me to take it and tweak it,” Colyer said. For over two months, he measured and cooked, remeasured and recooked, threw batches down the drain, and finally came up with what is now known as Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce.

At first, the product was used at cookouts at the sawmill the younger man owns but soon word spread and people were asking for the sauce to take home. Colyer made batches and put the product in any jars he had handy, then gave it away. He soon realized that he was going to have to charge for the product to recover some of his costs, so he and his nephew got a business license and began selling the sauce.

Colyer said he was apprehensive when they bought their first 150 bottles and bulk ingredients, but as demand has increased for Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce, his fears have subsided. He plans to continue marketing the barbecue sauce throughout East Tennessee and across the nation in the near future.

If you go

The Maryville, Alcoa, Blount County Recreation and Parks Commission is sponsoring the Spring Arts & Crafts Show from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Foothills Mall. In addition to a variety of handmade arts and crafts, the show will feature a food product, Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce, for the first time in its history. There is no admission charge. For more information about the show, call 983-9244. For information about Tennessee River Barbeque Sauce, call Don Colyer at 376-5695 or 382-3747, or write him at 322 Edgelake Dr., Kingston, TN 37763.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog