The Local Tap – Hogs and Hops 2012

It was always my belief that when it came to events I enjoyed, nothing could beat a beer festival.  There’s just something fun about walking around, tasting beers, and talking to brewers and other beer lovers.  But Dover Police Officer Mark Hoffman and the people at Fordham Brewing have changed that.  Because as it turns out, there is a way to improve my enjoyment of a beer festival, or at least, a beer event – pair it with a competition BBQ – and call it Hogs and Hops.

Hogs and Hops continues the wonderful tradition that Fordham/Old Dominion Breweries have of giving back to the community.  It started with R2HOP2 in May, a music festival in conjunction with American Craft Beer Week.  The combination Beer Fest/Music Festival was a hit, and a portion of the proceeds went to local charities.

Mark then approached Fordham Brewing about having another event to benefit the local community service organizations.  The result was Hogs and Hops, a combination beer festival and competition BBQ whose proceeds would benefit the Emergency Relief Funds of the Dover Police and Dover Fire Departments.  With over 20 BBQs competing, and Fordham brewing pouring the beer, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to this event.

As an added bonus, the Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers were on hand for a group first – setting up a vendor’s tent at an event.

By the time we got there, the BBQ judges were already hard at work.
Squealing’ Big Time BBQ was one of the 26 teams to show up that day.
Some of the BBQ teams had some pretty impressive rigs.  Some were smoking in converted 55 gallon drums.
DCBaWL member Mike surveying the field.
The beer line.  Fordham/Old Dominion have stated that they went through 44 half kegs that day.
VIP ticket holders got a chance to vote for a People’s Choice award in pulled pork and ribs.  This was an awesome bonus as some events don’t allow people to eat the competition food.
A few DCBaWL members taking a break at the tent while planning which beer truck to hit next.
The rain looked like it might hold things back a bit, but after awhile the area in front of the band stand was full of dancers and mud sliders.
Even the kids were getting into the act.
Event Chairman Mark Hoffman (L), and Chad Messina (R) of Alpha-Q-Up BBQ, winners of the first Hogs and Hops Grand BBQ Championship

When I asked Chad if this was his first competition win, he shocked me by informing me that this was the first competition he’d ever entered. Way to start out!  Unfortunately, he wasn’t in my judging bracket for People’s Choice so I didn’t have a chance to taste his food.  However, Bang Bang BBQ was in my bracket and I really enjoyed their BBQ.  So much so in fact, that I voted for them in the pulled pork and over-all categories.  In the judged competition, they came in first in ribs, and second overall.

Being in the BBQ area was a blast.  So many times on TV BBQers are portrayed as a secretive, unfriendly bunch, but to be honest you couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people.  The folks at Troops USA were more than willing to spend 20 minutes with me outlining their brisket technique.  Others discussed wood varieties and how/when they would use them.  People were just throwing BBQ knowledge at me.  Maybe it was because I was smart enough not to ask about their rubs.  Although a few, having seen the Bad Byron’s “Butt Rub” shirt I was wearing, did call  me over and say in a low voice, “we use that.”  We even got a few invites to come back after the event for some food and beers.

There’s nothing like a BBQ competition to really demonstrate the diversity of this style of cooking.  It was great to get to taste how different teams approached their flavor profiles.  From spicy to sweet, light smoke or heavy, each team did their best to put their own stamp on their finished product.  Including one team who I swore mixed a little “Old Bay” into their dry rub (for the record, it didn’t really click with me).

Overall the event was a success with over 1000 ticket pre-sales and approximately 1000 walk ups [according to The Dover Post].  Mark is already thinking about next year’s event, and already has plans for improvements.  In fact, he already had an eye towards next year when we bumped into each other in the crowd that day, “I’m thinking one more beer truck for next year.”  Mark is also checking into the possibility of  getting the BBQ competition sanctioned next year with the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

Man, I can’t wait for next year!  Time for another beer…with some ribs!

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