Chow Bella

Massive Barbecue and Beer Fest Going Down Saturday in Chandler

West Alley barbecue will be a can't-miss vendor at this weekend's festival.
West Alley barbecue will be a can't-miss vendor at this weekend's festival. Chris Malloy
Fellow lovers of smoked meat, you may want to clear your Saturday schedules. A barbecue festival will be going down around these parts. This Saturday, at Dr. AJ Chandler Park in downtown Chandler, the ninth annual Great American Barbecue & Beer Festival will be opening its smokers to the masses.

There will be 40 pitmasters. They will be serving food from noon to 10 p.m. Last year all told, revelers devoured more than 20,000 pounds of meat. General admission tickets cost $20, and $25 on Saturday.

Nearly every festival vendor is based in Arizona. San Tan Brewing Company will be furnishing the event's local brews.

One of the local highlights will be West Alley Barbecue, a recent import from Tennessee that is serving some of town's best ribs (baby back and smoked over almond wood). Attending the Great American Barbecue & Beer Festival a few years ago coaxed West Alley into opening a location in metro Phoenix.

The range of smoked meats will be thrilling. There will be your usual brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and sausage. But each vendor will bring its own flair.

Drivewood Fired Grill will be serving tri-tip, a cut from the end of sirloin. Farmboy Smokehaus will be offering up pork from a whole hog spit. Thrill Your Grill will be plating meat from game such as bison, rabbit, elk, antelope, and venison.

Not all meats at the festival will be barbecued (taking "cooking with smoke" as our definition of "barbecue"). Whether you want classic barbecued chicken or something novel like grilled quail, this festival should have the right food for you.

The festival will also feature a kid's zone, VIP zones, eating competitions, and country music performances (for people who dig country). You can sign up for eating competitions from noon to 4 p.m. The range of eating competitions is somewhat alarming and includes wings, brats, ribs, and pie.

Again, tickets start at $25. They top out at $175 for the VIP package.
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy