Five Barbecue Lessons Learned this Summer: Putting the “becue” Back in Beerbecue

I realized recently that beerbecue is in danger of having its name revoked for for want of barbecue posts. I aim to remedy this.

The Haybag, a vegetarian, bless her heart, got me a new 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain for our anniversary. I shall call him Darth Smoker.

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Now, I smoked me plenty of meats this Summer. We even had the First Annual Beerbecue Invitational. And if this blog is good for anything (and the jury is still out on that) it’s that readers can learn from my stupidity. Thus, the Five Barbecue Lessons Learned:

Lesson #1: The Weber Smokey Mountain is the pig’s knuckles.
The Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM as the kids like to call it) has serious cult following and vast amounts of Intertube space dedicated to its glory, including the inimitable Virtual Weber Bullet. If you’re thinking about a charcoal smoker, get a WSM. They hold a low temp well, they’ll smoke for 15+ hours without a charcoal change, and they crank out awesome BBQ.

Sure, you could get a similarly-sized XL Big Green Egg, but most small countries couldn’t even afford one of those. Comparatively, with the money you save on a WSM you could: (1) Buy an 8 ball of cocaine and blow up two cows with an RPG at a Cambodian firing range (airfare not included); (2) buy round-trip airfare to Cambodia and blow up one cow with an RPG; or (3) pay for three weeks of a toddler’s daycare in Northern Virginia.

Looks like you live to moo another day, cow.

Looks like you live to moo another day, cow.

Lesson #2: Size may not matter, but people dig the fatty.
My BBQ is good. Sure, I’ve flubbed my ribs a time or two. I’m human. But let me tell you something: You can deftly smoke a Boston Butt for 10 hours and some spare ribs for six like a BBQ zen master, but invariably you’ll get just as many compliments (sometimes more) on a fatty that you threw on as an afterthought for two hours. Fatties get a lot of flak from the BBQ fascists on the forums, but they’re crowd-pleasers. So flatten out some sausage, wrap just about anything with it, then wrap it in bacon. People love that shit.

Lesson #3: To foil or not to foil.
At what point, if at all, should you foil your butt (giggles)? This is the subject of much debate. Butts have a lot of fat. If you’ve kept the temp reasonable, it’s not gonna dry out. I only foil in one of two instances: (1) I don’t want the bark to get any darker (bark is the yummy crust that forms on the outside of your BBQ that is a mix of heated dry rub and fat emitted from the meat and some other sciencey BS that happens to the outer layers of meat when cavemen cook). (2) Sometimes toward the end of or after the plateau if I’m freaking out about finishing before the hungry throngs revolt. However this may or may not speed things up, especially because to do it you have to open the smoker and let heat escape. But at least it looks like you’re doing something to finish it faster (Hushed whispers, “Just think how long we’d be waiting if he didn’t wrap it in foil. He’s a genius”.)

I’m not going to touch the foiling ribs debate. It’s too heated. I only do it to save the bark, or if I have to finish them in the oven. Some people swear by it. Some people swear about it. Just remember when developing your own foil policy, the point is not for the ribs to fall of the bone, just come clean from the bone.

Lesson #4: Smoke2D2 makes a great salmon smoker.
With the arrival of Darth Smoker, Smoke2D2 had to prove himself or get kicked to the curb. He has performed admirably as a salmon smoker, holding 160-170 degrees like a champ. More on that, along with a smoked salmon recipe later.

Lesson #5: Still haven’t found a better beer with pulled pork than Rodenbach Grand Cru.
Period.

The Haybag: Lesson #6 appears to be yet unanswered…How many times will I have to save your sorry ass before you realize that I should always make BBQ sauce?

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NC Beers and Wieners

Next up, various North Carolina brews and smoked wieners. Why? Because I realized lately that I’ve been dropping more North Carolina brews than Sr Walter Raleigh loses colonies.

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Plus, shortly North Carolina brewers Natty Greene’s and Mother Earth will be distributing to Northern Virginia. Yay, more beer selection.

Several of the brews came from a friend of mine whose family just moved here from Charlotte. He had to take a trip back, and he volunteered to mule some NC beer back up here.

The other brews were brought over by the Sports Glutton during a collaborative blogging effort between the Glutton, beerbecue, and dangermenparenting. The Glutton wanted to do a DC-themed half-smoke with chili for his MLB Recipe Series. So, I supplied the smoker. Dangermenparenting lugged over beers. And the Glutton brought over stuff to make chili, a couple Natty Greene’s beers, and some half-smokes and tequila marinated sausages purchased from Eastern Market.

Of course, this afforded me the opportunity to say things like, “Wow, these wieners are are softer than the other ones”, “I haven’t seen this many wieners since…”, and “Who wants to insert the temperature probe into this wiener?”

Now, I have only smoked sausage once. I used store-bought, and I smoked at the usual BBQ temps. But upon further research, the consensus seems to be that sausage is to be smoked at a pretty low temp (160F) so the fat doesn’t melt and drip out. Also, if you’re stuffing your own wieners, you’re apparently supposed to include cure so you don’t get botulism. That sounds complicated. I guess you could roll the dice, and end up with redneck Botox.

Even stranger though, I also read that after smoking, the sausage should be dipped in cold water to avoid shriveling and shrinking. This flies in the face of all I thought knew about sausages and cold water.

shrinkage

We smoked at around 210 and we didn’t dip in cold water. Despite the higher temp, they were nice and juicy. I will admit, however, they did shrivel a bit by the time the wieners were inserted into the buns. The half smokes and Sport-Glutton’s chili turned out great. Now, enough wiener entendre…on to the beers.

NODA Hop Drop and Roll – This was the best of the group. An IPA with some serious citrus hop character. It’s got late addition Citra and Amarillo, and it had a little tropical fruit character, but the Amarillo seemed to be really kicking off some grapefruit.

Foothills Hoppyum – A solid IPA. Some citrus and pine and fairly bitter, but not overly so. Just enough for a hophead’s fix, with a nice carmel malt backbone.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Captain James Jack Pilsner – A rock-solid pilsner. Drinkable, smooth, snappy, floral and spicy noble hops, and biscuity malt. I don’t often sing pilsner praises. This is definitely one.

Natty Greene’s Wildflower Witbier – I’ll be interested to try this again after my tastebuds have not been ravaged by drinking copius amounts of Port City’s Maniacal IIPA. But there didn’t seem to be much there on this one. I think the Glutton claimed to catch some of the camomile, however, I take pride in not knowing what the hell camomile tastes like.

Natty Green’s IPA – This could fly as a big pale ale, and I would have been happy enough. There’s some citrus and pine there, but it comes across with lots of malt and a fair amount of bitternes (I’m looking at you, Chinook hops). I look for a little more hop flavor and aroma in my IPAs. I would be willing to give it a second shot, but I wasn’t crazy about it.

The Haybag: Ahh, yes. The chili collaboration in the blazing heat of August. You forgot to mention beerbecue daycare’s crack childcare effort, when you left our 1.0 and dangermenparenting’s 1.0 alone in the house to “make potions” with our spice rack in the bathroom sink and unload every single item from the closet onto the floor. Good fun.

Beerbecue Daycare: Day 5 and Lessons Learned

Day 4 was July 4th. Beerbecue Daycare closes for Federal holidays. So, on to Day 5 and lessons learned.

We could never afford me as a stay at home parent (even at my current salary): Going out every day for lunch and craft beer is not cheap. In fact, the Haybag politely suggested that perhaps Day 5 could entail lunch at home and a beer from the fridge. So, I got $20 of take-out from Pork Barrel BBQ and drank a Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager from the fridge. I spent the rest of the afternoon drowsily admiring my fiscal restraint.

Maybe just one...

Maybe just one…

With my special edition Beerbecue Daycare facial hair, sunglasses, and my generally disheveled look derived from my need for a haircut, slovenly sartorial decisions, and inconsistent showering, I look like a degenerate…with a Baby Bjorn: Melissa’s hair stylist saw me walking around, and commented to the Haybag that with the Baby Bjorn I reminded her of the Hangover. I don’t think it was a compliment.
There is one guy here whose looks one should aspire to. I missed the mark.

There is one guy here whose looks one should aspire to. I missed the mark.

I was unable to infiltrate a stay at home mom group: I never really saw one. At Pizzeria Paradiso, I did hear a woman order a margarita over the racket of several kids, but that does not a mom group make. Besides, interaction with the fairer sex is not my strong suit. Had I actually tried to infiltrate one, I probably would have made some awkward joke and received some blank stares a la high school…college…law school…life.

Babies are self-absorbed sociopaths: Listen, I don’t want some protracted comment from some idiot about how poorly I understand basic psychiatric diagnoses (I’m looking at you 500-word Nietzsche rant guy), but clearly Clara meets several of the criteria for dissocial personality disorder: Callous unconcern for the feelings of others; disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations; and very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression.

She demonstrated this behavior consistently, but never more pronounced than when I met the Sports Glutton for a beer at the Curious Grape (a short walk from our place). She was blurting out babbling baby non sequiturs without regard to topic or who was talking, squawking loudly in a situation that clearly called for a conversational tone; and writhing, squirming, and throwing baby ‘bows the whole time I held her. Hopefully she grows out of it.

And now for the beer…
Vienna Lager

This decorated beer is a Vienna Lager, appropriately named “Vienna Lager”. It pours a clear amber, with a fairly dense head that hangs just long enough to get used to it (like it leaves its toothbrush at your place and has a half a dresser drawer), then suddenly it’s all like “It’s not you. It’s me.” And it’s gone without a trace. It smells like a beer (that’s all I got. 2.0 was screaming for more pureed pears). It’s got a nice toasted bread and slightly sweet malt character with some caramel peeking in. The bitterness is pretty low (only 18 IBUs), but it’s just enough to finish nearly clean and crisp with a slight malt sweetness lingering.

The slight sweetness of the brew goes nicely with the sweetness and caramelization of the piggy. I had it with a mustard-based sauce, but I imagine it would work with about any sauce.

The Haybag: Yes. Get $20 of takeout. That’s exactly what I was thinking.

Beer and BBQ Pairing: Rodenbach Grand Q a/k/a RodenQ

It was brought to my attention that I am neglecting the BBQ element of the blog. Fine. A couple weeks ago, I took off work, performed several Haybag mandates, and smoked a 4.5 lb pork shoulder in the Smoke2D2. I also tried out something I had been cogitating on: Rodenbach Grand Cru and BBQ. You heard me, people.shock

The Duchesse de Bourgogne pairing worked. Why not Rodenbach Grand Cru pairing AND sauce? More assertive and complex than the Duchesse, Rodenbach Grand Cru has flavors that are great with piggy: Cherries, sherry, soy, red wine and sherry vinegar, and oak. And the acidity and carbonation cut through the pork fat nicely.

But first things first. As always at beerbecue HQ, we need our blues. And today we have the Velvet Bulldozer, Albert King. Known for his signature upside down and backwards Gibson Flying V guitar, Mr. King is a little cleaner sound than beerbecue typically goes for. But his less-is-more style is a breath of fresh air in a forum marked by self-indulgence; and his aggressive, screaming bends heavily influenced Hendrix and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan.Albert king After some admonitions against a vinegar-based Rodenbach sauce from the Sauce Diva (the Haybag) and some experimenting (drinking), it was determined that Rodenbach Grand Cru stands up to and is a great complement to mustard. So, I threw together the following:

2 cups mustard
8 oz Rodenbach Grand Cru (this was all that was left of the bottle designated for sauce-making after “experimenting”)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 TBS brown sugar
1/4 cup tomato purée
1/2 tbs ground pepper
A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1tsp salt
Dash of cayenne (held back to see just how much the beer came out)

BBQ sauce

I thought it was good. It does need some perfecting (two people found it a little too mustardy and two didn’t). I posted it anyway as an “open source” recipe. You could definitely taste the Rodenbach. And together with a glass of Rodenbach and the BBQ, I would say it was very good.

Next time, I’m upping the Rodenbach by at least 2 oz., adding honey or replacing 1/4 of the regular mustard with honey mustard, and adding 1-2 more TBS brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cayenne.

As for the piggy, the cook time was seven hours with hickory and apple wood, and it turned out great.Rodenq

Rodenq2

On the whole, I was pleased. With a couple tweaks to the sauce, I think Rodenbach Grand Q can get the beerbecue seal of approval.

The Haybag: The problem with the sauce was that I didn’t make it. And isn’t it a little tacky to give your own sauce the beerbecue seal of approval?

Programming Notes: BBQ season; super secret project; beerbecue seal of approval

I missed last week’s post. This week, I’ll be posting on thisiswhyimdrunk‘s new super-secret collaborative blogging project. Also, if I manage to get over this Hanta Virus that daughter 2.0 gave me, I hope to take a day off and smoke some meat, pair some beer and BBQ, and maybe make a new sauce. A little teaser: It will likely involve Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Also, new for this BBQ season, I have adopted the Beerbecue Seal of Approval for especially solid beer and BBQ pairing selections:

seal of approvalNo doubt breweries will be falling all over themselves for this prestigious award. I anticipate a Good Housekeeping-esque empire.

The Haybag: What about the Haybag Seal of Approval?

Beerbecue Election Day Picks Revealed

Every four years I manage to get myself way too worked-up over the Presidential election. In fact, my beerbecue posting has suffered partly as a result of my preoccupation with election coverage. I apologize. And clearly I owe it to you, dear readers, to reveal to you my election day choices.

Meet my Hope, Change, Believe in America, and Love of Country all wrapped into one.

I chose Spare ribs and Stone Smoked Porter. What better way to take my mind off the election than to get it all smokey, smokey up in here. Also, if my candidate of choice doesn’t emerge victorious, I still had ribs and beer today. That’s better than most people can say.

I’m always a little hesitant to have a smoked beer with my ribs, which are dry rubbed and done low ‘n slow with 1/2 Hickory and 1/2 Cherry. I don’t want to feel like I just gravity bonged a campfire. But Stone Smoked Porter’s smoke is subtle enough to work. And the slight sweetness and the chocolate and roasted malt character went well with the dry-rubbed ribs. (I used my usual dry rub, without the cayenne and with 1 TBS of garlic powder added.)

I’m beerbecue, and I approve this message.

Self-Basting Ribs: Beware the moral pitfalls and soul-wracking guilt of self-basting

For some this lesson may go without saying. It probably should have for me. Self-basting ribs: Ribs that come injected with a briny concoction.

Now, some people brine their ribs. That’s fine. But I think spare ribs have plenty of fat to come out juicy and yummy without it. Therefore, I don’t brine ribs, and I don’t buy “self-basting” or “flavor enhanced” ribs.

For whatever reason, however, you may someday end up with self-basting ribs (maybe they’re the only ribs available or you’re in a hurry or you’re distracted by your 4-year-old throwing ribeyes into her shopper-in-training cart and loudly proclaiming that she only eats Harris Teeter steaks). If you do end up with them, then cut the salt from your dry rub! That shit will be salty enough already.

Ultimately, they ended up tasty. Although, I am pretty tolerant to salty food. Unfortunately, the combination of sodium and the humidity and ball-busting heat of the weekend made it a little hard to remove my jewelry for the next few days.

Next BBQ will likely be in August. I am going to try to come up with a new rub that is a little less zippy and that has some ginger in it. I am open to suggestions. Now excuse me while I go pry off my bling.