CHAMPIONSHIPS OF NEW ENGLAND BBQ - BBQ WITH BEER!
of Windsor, site of the founding of the state of Vermont, is also
home to the Harpoon Brewery's expanded brewhouse. Bought from the
former Catamount Brewery, Harpoon's huge brewery and state-of-the-art
bottling line,with gift shop and visitor's center, borders the Connecticut
close by the shores of the serene river, billowed smoke and sparks
for two days straight as Harpoon hosted the New England Barbecue Championships.
In 2002, when I visited as a judge, more
than 25 teams from across New England set up camp kitchens, built
fires in BBQ pits, and pitched tents or spread sleeping bags in the
back of their vans and trucks.
shifts of cooks stoked their BBQ fires to stay "slow and low"
for the most succulent ribs, briskets, and more.
Now the event draws more than 40 BBQ teams from around New England and beyond. In 2007, the weekend of July 28-29 is devoted to the BBQ competition which is full. Tickets are available for attendees at $6 per person.
the Championship BBQ judges sampled fare that required less lengthy
tending, such as chicken wings, seafood, and the creative "chef's
the weekend, the Harpoon Brewery poured beer and soda fresh from the
brewery tanks. Brews on tap included the IPA, ESP, unfiltered hefeweizen
UFO, and (new to me) the Harpoon Summer Beer - a truly tasty Kolsch
set up a sound stage providing music (The Nobby Reed Project, Dr.
Burma, and Anything Goes), brewery tours and games (such as mini keg
bowling) for the kids.
Mark Gelo, officials certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society
judged four main categories - chicken, pork, ribs and brisket. Other
categories included sausages and a special competition to make a BBQ
dish with a beer-based sauce.
sported hilarious handles, such as Dr. Frank N Swine, Bare Bones,
Pork Floyd, and I Smell Smoke!
pork memorabilia on display also gave fest-goers the giggles - a crowd
favorite was the flying pig on display at the Smoke Ring of Cambridge.
Andy Husbands of Boston's Tremont 647 is a fan of Harpoon - his BBQ
crew takes the name, UFO Social Club.
led the crew to victory in several categories. Their pulled pork shoulder
sold most of our samples by mid-day on Saturday," said Husbands.
I can't eat it anymore - by the time you've stayed up all night, drinking
beer and tending the smoker, BBQ isn't high on the list."
Husbands, pictured at right, also shared his special UFO BBQ sauce
Schier, a member of "Uncle Jed" LaBonte's crew, also works
at Harpoon Brewery in quality control.
stayed up all night with the crew, tending the pit for the brisket,
which smoked for about 14 hours. Their team won several awards at
the championships (Schier, pictured with his daughter, Ali, at left).
ribs, pictured with a vibrant rub of paprika, cayenne and other spices,
were tender and juicy. "But I really like the Chef's Choice,
which is a flank steak mainrated overnight in Harpoon IPA, rice wine
vinegar, ginger, cilantro and garlic - very simple, very delicious,"
you think about it, a flank steak really is like a mini brisket -
it can take that tenderization from a long marinade."
'cue, so little time.
eating meat nonstop, it was refreshing to sample a yeasty flatbread
that was grilled by the great cooks at King Arthur's Flour and Baking
Center in nearby Norwich.
was topped with minced garlic, a fabulous olive oil imported from
Spain, and a bit of grated Vermont cheddar.
to his BBQ talents, Schier also taught a "baking with beer"
class at the King Arthur Baking Center. But that's another story...