Love barbecue? Put the Pork and Brew BBQ State Championship on your calendar for next year. The festival, put on by the Rio Rancho Convention and Visitors Bureau, is held outdoors at the Santa Ana Star Center. This year, their ninth, brought more than 50 barbecue teams from New Mexico and around the country to strut their stuff. The winner of the event, which is fully sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society, is eligible to compete at the Annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue® held in Kansas City, MO in October.
Some of the teams come just to enter their secret recipes in the competition, while others also set up and sell their ‘que to fair attendees. One insider, who preferred not to be named, said that the quality of what we get to buy and eat is about 60% of what they prepare for judging. It’s too labor-intensive and costly to give the same care to a commercial product. That doesn’t mean what you get to eat isn’t good; it means that what the judges sample is about 40% better.
There’s great camaraderie evident between teams. A lot of them know each other from the competition circuit or previous years at Pork and Brew. But make no mistake about it, they all play to win and this is serious business for most of them. Slow-cooked meat takes a long time and a lot of TLC. Most of those cooking won’t get much sleep the night before the judging. They’ll be busy stoking those rigs and paying attention to the meat and poultry inside.
There are some clever team names that caught our collective eye as we walked by: When Pigs Fly, Rubnwood, Barbwire McGuire’s Bodacious BBQ, Mad Max, If it ain’t Smoked don’t fix it, Two Slow Pokes One Fast Pig, Lotta Bull BBQ and The Flying Salami Brothers.
Food is sold only via BBQ Bucks (little pink tokens sold for $1 each) available at the entrance and near the stage. Food vendors don’t accept cash. This is a little tricky as they don’t give refunds. Over buy and you either over eat or have a souvenir when you leave. Under-buy and you may find yourself taking the possibly long walk back to buy more or doing without. Best strategy, look for free samples or go for the samples being sold for a BBQ Buck or two.
Besides the barbeque competition and food booths, there’s a beer garden tent, entertainment, vendors, a children’s area, a chain-saw artist and more.
Some of the great rigs we saw could fire up your BBQ envy:
The event runs from Friday through Sunday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho north of Albuquerque. There is a moderate admission fee. Come out and enjoy the food and fun. And, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen; it can get hot out there.
What’s your favorite BBQ competition in the country? Favorite style of ‘que? Favorite place to eat it? We love good BBQ and always want to know.