UML Partners with Lowell-Based Company for Special Edition Hot Sauce

Bottles of Mill City Red, UMass Lowell branded Craic sauce

By Brooke Coupal

Whether sprinkled on top of a bagel with cream cheese or mixed with honey and soy sauce to make a marinade for salmon, hot sauce can give any dish a spicy kick. Lowell-based Craic Sauce has been producing locally sourced hot sauce since 2017 and most recently teamed up with UMass Lowell’s Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy to grow peppers on campus for a UMass Lowell edition of their Mill City Red hot sauce. The process, which is outlined below, took nearly one year to complete and involved the help of UML students.

Seeding | Planting | Harvesting | Production | Tasting


Last winter, Craic Sauce founder Brian Ruhlmann and his crew trudged through the snow to plant a variety of pepper seeds in UMass Lowell’s greenhouse on East Campus. The 3,600-square-foot greenhouse, which is operated in partnership with the Lowell-based nonprofit Mill City Grows, doubled in size during a recent expansion.


Three months later, the Craic Sauce team joined forces with student eco reps from the Rist Institute to move the growing pepper plants from the greenhouse to the rooftop garden at O’Leary Library on South Campus.
“This was an amazing experience to have as an undergraduate at UML,” says Sam Schofield, a senior environmental engineering major from Londonderry, New Hampshire. “I think that it is super-important to be involved with the community around the university and be involved with nature, especially in an urban environment, and this checked both of those boxes.”


During the summer, students helped harvest the peppers for Craic Sauce and got to sample a freshly grown Hungarian wax pepper.
“I got to learn about how peppers grow, how to tell when they are ready to be picked and how to actually pick them without damaging the plant and the pepper,” says Abraham Mudoola, a junior industrial engineering major from Dracut, Massachusetts. “I'm excited and grateful to have played a role in the making of the UML-branded Craic Sauce.”


Ruhlmann and his workers took the peppers harvested from the rooftop garden and brought them to the UTEC Community Kitchen in Lowell, where the peppers were either slow-cooked (for hot sauces including Aji Punch) or fermented (for hot sauces including Mill City Red’s UMass Lowell edition). The sauces were bottled before being transported to the company’s North Chelmsford office for labeling. The labels were designed in partnership with UMass Lowell's Office of Brand, Communications & Creative Strategy, the Rist Institute and Craic Sauce.
“The end result is a hot sauce made with peppers that were grown and cooked in Lowell,” Ruhlmann says. “It's really fulfilling that we can do this all in our city.”


The UMass Lowell edition of Craic Sauce, which has a medium heat, is now available for purchase at It’s served as a condiment at both Fox and South Campus Dining Commons and can be found on the tables at several Lowell restaurants, including Gormley's Cafe, The Old Court, El Potro and Warp & Weft.
"Tasting UMass Lowell’s hot sauce for the first time was a full circle event,” says Victoria Wisniewski, a master’s atmospheric science student from Elmwood Park, New Jersey. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with Craic Sauce and watch the product come to life gave me a new appreciation for local businesses."

Where can I get UML Craic Sauce?

The UMass Lowell edition of Craic Sauce, which has a medium heat, is available for purchase at You can also find it at: