When it comes to sausage-making, Brian Hines got a late start. He taught himself to cook in his mid-30s, and it was only a year ago that he started the Proper Beast Charcuterie. But Hines is happy with his progress. He sells his handcrafted meats at local farmers markets. Everything in Hines’ stall is made from local ingredients — from his bratwurst to his chorizo dip. And local establishments including Crudo and La Grande Orange have incorporated Hines’ products into their menus.
The Proper Beast logo features a pig in a suit and top hat. With time, Hines hopes to open a storefront, and one day that gentleman hog may hang above the sidewalk. Until then, Hines is enjoying the grassroots circuit.
How did you start out?
I was working in the corporate world, nothing to do with food. I worked in finance, as an analyst. It was nothing that I ever wanted to be doing. When I ended up getting laid off, I thought, “All right, this is the time for me to jump ship and do my own thing.” I taught myself how to cook and found that I really loved cooking. I never imagined that that was what I’d want to be doing.
So how did you learn?
I watched a lot of TV. Cooks Illustrated. PBS. Food Network, of course. And I just read on the Internet, trial and error. A lot of oranges got thrown against the wall trying to make things that were above my pay grade.
Now your focus is on meats, right?
Right. Here, I’m just doing sausage. When I first realized I was going to do my own thing, I thought, “All right, what’s not being done in Phoenix?” There are so many great companies here doing food, and I didn’t want to do what everybody else is doing. When I started out, I wanted to have a cafe, then it was a food truck. I started looking into the costs and things, and I thought, “All right, let’s do farmers markets and make sure this thing is gonna fly.” I just looked around and saw there was no one doing Arizona-raised meats with only Arizona products. We use Arizona Angel red wine in our Italian sausage and Kilt Lifter ale in our beer brats. All our spices are from a local company. It took a few months to figure out how to do it, learning about the health codes and everything. It's been kind of a whirlwind.
A lot of people think of sausage a just a bunch of crap in casings. But what does sausage mean to you?
I only use the shoulder cuts of the pork — and fat, of course — but I don’t use any leftover bits. I make a scrapple, which lots of people know as Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple. Usually it’s gray, it’s weird, it’s made from what they swept off the floor. But for that, I use a breakfast sausage, which has an unsweetened cinnamon apple sauce in it. Even our scrapple is the good stuff. All of our hotdogs are all good cuts of meat. I’m not using any of the junk. None of the innards or head or anything like that.
Is there a typical type of customer?
At the Phoenix market, it’s a lot of students, younger families that have just moved into the area. A lot of tourists come by, and they’re great. Nobody comes to a farmers market in a bad mood. It’s one of the things that I hated about the corporate world and that I love about this job. I know that when somebody shows up, they’re going to be happy I’m here. They’re not going to be miserable or yelling about something. We have markets in Gilbert and Ahwatukee, and those are more neighborhood markets. It’s fun to see a lot of the same people week after week and develop a rapport with them. Half of the job here is socializing.
Where does name Proper Beast come from?
We made it up. We had put together a huge list of names, trying to figure out what sounded good, without limiting ourselves to doing one thing. We were sitting around with a friend and we said, “What about the Proper Beast?” And we thought, “That’s kind of perfect.”
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Does it mean anything to you?
No. It’s just a great name. My husband [Thom Barbour] does all the graphic design and our online presence. He’s a photographer and graphic designer, so that’s his thing. And then a friend of ours who went to art school did the logo — the pig drawing. I wanted [the pig] to be almost like an 18th-century French dandy. I Googled images of those and sent them to our friend. The name and the pig bring a lot of people in, even vegetarians. They’re like, “We don’t want anything to do with [the meat], but we love the pig.”
For more information about the Proper Beast, including the menu and weekly schedule, visit www.theproperbeast.com.