Sunday, September 14, 2014

Texas Monthly BBQ Fest 2014

Sampled 9/14/14
Thanks to my buddy Dave in Austin, this was the 4th year we've landed VIP tickets to the biggest Texas BBQ event of the year.  I always seem to be off bass fishing on ticket day so Dave sits there and pounds his enter key hoping to get into the site in time to get us VIP tix for the 5 minutes or so they last.  His luck has been amazing, as he's 4 for 4, so we were off for another Q filled day in Austin.  Scott finally managed to get loose for this one, so this was his first time at the big show. 
As usual I prepared by fasting the day before.  Well, mostly.  On the way down Saturday we made a stop at Miller's in Belton where I grabbed 2 pounds of moist brisket for the cooler.  The devil made me sample some and it was outstanding, as it always is.  That's why we stopped.  After that we detoured east to check out a new place in Bartlett (see post below) and once again I was forced to break my fast to sample some very good BBQ.  Dang it.  We hadn't even made it to Austin yet and I already had 5 lbs of smoked meat in the cooler.  Some of you are not surprised.

Sunday we met up at Dave's place at 10 am and made it down to the festival in record time.  The parking attendants weren't even in place so we got a free spot in the garage.  We ended up 7, 8, and 9 in the VIP line a full hour and a half before opening.  Like last year, they didn't start processing vip packets til around 11 am so we took turns in line while everyone went and got their wristband and packet.
We spent the next hour standing around with our stomachs growling, waiting for the action to commence.  The folks at the front of the VIP line were the same ones that got "promoted" to VIP from the general admission line last year by Daniel.  I thought that was neat.  Next year (if we're lucky to get VIP tix) we may have to follow their lead and bring along a chair for the waiting part.  We visited with Justin Fourton from Pecan Lodge a bit and The Snob also came by to say hello.  The worst part of standing in that line for an hour waiting is smelling the smoke from all the pits wafting around the crowd.  That last 5 minutes seemed to take forever.
While we stood around waiting we discussed various plans of attack and settled on a "diversion and deep strike" method.  We made sure everyone around us knew that Franklin BBQ was at the end of the booths downstairs.  Our plan was to race upstairs while everyone else turned right, get our "sign pictures", then head to the last booths and work our way backwards.  When the gate finally opened, it worked like a charm and everyone turned right.  We walked right up to Killen's, Opie's, and Hatfields, and probably had our first 3 samples done while most of the other VIPs were still standing in line at Franklin's.  Our overall goal was to get down as many samples as we could before the general admission crowd came in at 1 pm.  We managed to finish 21 of the 25 places in attendance before the hordes descended.  The 4 remaining we had sampled many times before so we really didn't see a need to go stand in those ridiculous cues for que.  By 2:30 we were out of there and on our way to our next adventure.  Yes, there was another adventure.

As usual there was a huge variation of what was served in both quality and quantity.  I only sampled 2 joints that were just plain bad.  Most was good to excellent quality BBQ.  As we do every year, we took a bite or two of each sample, bagged the rest for the cooler, and went on to the next samples.  Anything sub par just didn't make it into the bags.  Some places gave you tiny little samples.  Others would load you up.  I swear one place gave me half a pound of meat.  The single best piece of meat I had all day was from Pecan Lodge.  As I was walking up to the booth the server was saying "That piece may kill somebody".  Being a certified BBQ warrior, always in search of death by brisket, I accepted that challenge and did indeed glimpse brisket heaven.  Good Lord it was perfect.  I had some more good brisket at the fest but nothing else even came close to that.
Stiles Switch had a really nice beef rib sample.  Good pork ribs were found at Opie's, Cooper's, and Buzzie's.  I had some great jalapeno sausage at Louie Mueller's (no surprise) and some tasty beefy sausage at Hatfield's.  We actually stopped by Louie Mueller's pit twice to see if they were selling that jalapeno sausage.  They had several bags of it sitting on coolers by the pit.  The first time we stopped by Wayne was in heavy conversation with another BBQ enthusiast.  When I came by later Wayne was gone and the other guys didn't know if they were selling those shrink wrapped packages or not.  Guess I'll just have to visit Taylor.

When the general admission line came in we were sitting near the entrance with lots of meat trying our final samples.  We sat there for 15 minutes watching folks stream past us and there was still a long line when we headed back upstairs to finish off our day.  It looked like they had almost 3000 general admission folks. 

The 4 joints we skipped were Black's, La Barbecue, Snow's, and Franklin.  All we have had multiple times before, and will again.  We did not leave hungry.

Below are a couple of posts of just booth photos and food photos.  As always click on any photo for a larger view.

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