Barbecue sauce, like so many other things, is prone to geographic tendencies. Generally speaking, barbecue sauce gets darker, thicker, and sweeter as you move from east to west. Eastern Carolina sauces are little more than straight up vinegar and pepper, while Western Carolina adds a little bit of ketchup. By the time you get to Memphis, the sauce is ketchup-based and usually involves some brown sugar. But barbecue sauce reaches its logical extreme in Kansas City, which is defined by sauces that are thick, dark brown, and molasses sweet. Funny thing is, though, that when I visited KC's two most famous barbecue joints last year, each had a sauce that was distinctly different from the KC Stereotype.
This week's sauce is much more like what I would expect a typical Kansas City barbecue sauce to be. Cowtown Bar-B-Q Sauce comes with quite an impressive KC pedigree. It's the product of one of the city's most touted barbecue restaurants of recent years - Oklahoma Joe's. The sauce won "Best Sauce on the Planet" at the 2001 American Royal. That's not some trumped up superlative, Dear Reader - that's a title from one of KCBS's premier events.
It's easy to see how this sauce could win over a judge's taste buds. It has a rich and tangy tomato-based taste with a very smokey accent (maybe a little too smokey in my opinion, but I understand that smoke sells in Kansas City). The sauce's sweetness is understated, and it has a very nice spicy kick that starts mild and swells to a medium burn in the aftertaste. The sauce is rust colored and thick, but still easily pourable.
In a sauce-lover's town, it's easy to see why this one has risen to the top.