What better way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon than wandering the parking lot across from Tempe's IKEA, sampling barbecued meats and drinking beer? This past weekend, 33 teams from across the nation turned out for Que & Brew, an official Triple Crown Event BBQ State Championship.
The competition was the last in this year's BBQ season, which meant that it was the final opportunity for barbeque teams to earn points towards the Kansas City BBQ Society's national barbecue championship. Teams competing in the professional division (for cash & trophies) were challenged to deliver chicken, ribs, pork and brisket to the judges in provided styro containers -- one meat per hour. Five minutes prior to each hour of the contest, barbecuers were frantically plating dishes like it was the last seconds of an Iron Chef competition.
|This contestant used a Q-tip to clean up her plate until it looked perfect.|
Teams were given exactly five minutes of leeway in either direction. If you showed up with your dish at five minutes and one second past the hour, you would be disqualified from that round. Yeah, these suckers are tough. It was like the BBQ Olympics, complete with a timekeeper at the judges' tent to make sure teams didn't cheat.
"It gets really intense, especially when everybody's really scrambling for turn-ins," said Tracy Mescha of BBQPHX, the only all-woman team at the competition. "This is only our second contest ever. We did the one in Buckeye a few weeks ago and it was....an experience."
The bad news was that judges were preselected from a pool of barbecue experts, so most of the Average Joes there didn't get to try the winning entries. Of course, that didn't stop us from sampling some of the leftovers. Barbecue stations provided samples in return for $2 tickets which could be purchased at the front gate. A portion of proceeds was donated to the YMCA, so you could feel better about tossing your holiday money away on BBQ. A few teams, like Big Poppa Smokers, just gave away samples of their "reject meats." See, most of the teams cooked up multiples in each category, so they would have five or six racks of ribs or briskets to choose from. Their teammates would sample each of the meat slabs and choose which one was the best. That's the one that made it to the judges' tent. The rest were cut up as samples. The health inspector halted Big Poppa Smoker's brisket sampling until they brought out toothpicks or plastic utensils. Their meaty, tender brisket was worth the few minutes wait for a fork.
So who won this battle of the barbecue? Pellet Envy (whose name sounds a tad unappetizing to us) took first place, while Rhythm n' Cue followed close on their heels. Visit AZ Barbeque's website for a complete list of winners.
Feel free to live (and taste) vicariously through us via some more photos of Que & Brew.