Pork and (No) Brew Festival
This weekend was the 7th annual Pork and Brew Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Held at the Santa Ana Event Center in Rio Rancho (which I, and apparently many others, confused with the Santa Ana Star Casino), this is a BBQ circuit competition bringing the world of BBQ to the Southwest. Being a southerner by birth I couldn’t resist the temptation of some great food from home, coming to the West especially accompanied by some awesome craft beer.
Unfortunately, someone at the sponsoring beer company screwed the pooch and did not get the local picnic licence required in New Mexico so there was not a drop of suds to be found. Speaking with a couple of the grillers, this was not the only SNAFU of the weekend. Ouch! And I must say that in trying to find info on events and attractions, I found only one thing. The City of Rio Rancho needs to hire a competent I.T. Tech to babysit their website and event calendar.
So, my post on craft beers was shot (something I wished I had at this point). Well, to hell with it: let’s eat!!
The Good Stuff Off the Grill……..
I love BBQ!! And the food was amazing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering New Mexico is not a place of destination for BBQ, but I as I ate my way from booth to booth, I found a couple of real gems.
This was a family friendly event complete with down-home attractions including a Bouncy House, wood carving, a train ride for the kids, and local artists showing their stuff. The Pit Masters showcased their culinary talents with pulled pork, ribs, beef brisket, chicken, sausage, turkey legs and “the redneck burrito” alongside kettle korn, shaved ice, ice cream, funnel cakes, and deep-fried Oreos.
One of my favorite things is the humor the fun that accompanies cook offs. Every team has a little playfulness whether it be the name or in the game. “Grillers in the Mist” was a personal favorite along with the huge banner designed as a Jolly Roger (pirate) flag replacing the skull with a pig’s head and a slogan that read, “Get Boned!” Oh, behave!
Next up…. Chef Dave, a BBQ pit master from South Carolina, on tour making some incredible bites. His outfit was a kitchen trailer decorated as a log cabin and line about 30 people long. I started nosing around his set-up and found off the side a couple of his team making homemade fresh potato chips. Now, one thing that still tickles me is country ingenuity. And cutting up the potatoes was a Good Ole Boy from Louisiana with a custom slicer made a heavy gauge homemade blade, and (ready for this??) a drill! A couple of prongs attached to the end of a drill bit completing the rig, set your potato against the blade, pull the trigger, and BAM! sliced potatoes ready to fry. Alton Brown’s gor nothing on this guy!
But my personal favorite was Ryan Deaton’s pork spareribs. Ryan was schooled in Georgia and brought REAL BBQ to this festival. Working off of two barrel smokers with the chimney just shy of half open, he attended his ribs as a true master of the grill. His ribs glistened brick-red, and the flavor was a perfect balance of char, smoke, and tenderness accented with apple cider and spice (a challenge to my own family’s sauce that we have sworn to be the best for years). If you are a circuit pro, this is a guy to watch for in the future!
Though my hopeful post on brews with BBQ turned into just the “Que”, The day was a blast and I look forward to next year. It was good to spend the day eating so many amazing grill master’s work, and a great time was had by all. I do hope that the beer guys and the city sponsors get their act together for the next one.