Ohio Brew Week contestants do BBQ, too
By MEREDITH JENSEN
Special to The Messenger
July 19, 2008
Much to the sticky-fingered delight of many Ohio Brew Week fans, the first annual Bikes, Brews, Brew BQ Cook-Off Cruise-In and Harley Day fired up Friday evening on the site of the historic Athens train depot on West Union Street.
Event-goers browsed the grills of four teams of meat maestros who served up creations that incorporated beers in the categories of ribs, pork brisket/butt and chicken. Vegetarian was an available category, but no team entered.
For $2, patrons received two voting tickets and two sampling tickets. Proceeds from tickets and $15 team entry fees benefited the Jon Sparhawk Memorial Scholarship and Community Fund. Sparhawk, a founder of Ohio Brew Week, died last year.
Prizes were determined by a combination of public votes and a panel of four judges, including Bob Skilnik, author of "Beer & Food - An American History."
Chicagoan Skilnik, a connoisseur on beer and food pairings (as well as foods that use beer as an ingredient), was selling and autographing his book on site. Skilnik says he tries to stay neutral and avoid judging contests, but the chance to visit to Brew Week was one that he could not pass up.
"It really is unique and that's what intrigued me," he said. "It's a week-long pub crawl."
Another of member of the panel, Jim Leverentz, had no problem judging. Leverentz owns Northfield-based Leeners, a company that sells kits for making fermented food and drinks.
"In a cooking competition with beer (as an ingredient), I look for whether or not I could tell there was beer in it, if I didn't already know there was beer in it," he said. "I look for a match in the taste of beer and food. I like a good contrast."
Kim Sands, sales director for Ohio Brew Week, announced the winners on the Toscano's patio during the final performance of local high-energy rock band, The Couch Slugz.
Millstone BBQ of Logan took home Best Ribs, Best Pork and Best Beef honors for its pulled pork, smoked ribs, smoked wings and beef brisket entries. General manager Adam Wetzel was a little apprehensive about forking over his secret recipes, a requirement for entry.
"I told (contest organizers) if that was the case, then we wouldn't take part," he said. "They know some, but they don't know all."
Best Use of Beer and Overall Best wins went to amateur grillers and sustainable brewers Great Lakes Brewing Co. of Cleveland.
The "Brews Brothers" - bar manager Pete Gerome and brewer Luke Purcell - entered the contest to have a little fun. Purcell wished the team's Gouda- and jalapeno-stuffed, bacon-wrapped marinated chicken breast could have been served with a sample of their Holy Moses White Ale.
"They need a permit (to serve alcohol) next year," he said. "The best way to promote craft beer is to cook with it and pair it."
Cranky Joe's BBQ of Athens went home with a win for Best Chicken. Chef Jeff Mente said he has been working on the signature dry rub for the past six months. Tasters tried two signature sauces - a tangy Pabst Blue Ribbon concoction and a sweet sauce made with Great Lakes Brewing Co. Eliot Ness Amber Lager. Missing was Cranky Joe's hot and spicy sauce, made with a secret spice that Mente says "can't be found in this hemisphere."
Although they didn't participate in the competition, current and former Athens High School students grilled bratwursts donated by Bob Evans restaurant to raise money for the Athens Youth Hockey Association.
While their hogs weren't edible, local Harley Davidson riders showcased their rides at the first annual Brew Week Bike Cruise-In sponsored by Athens Sport Cycles and the Smiling Skull Saloon.
"People can pull up, check out the food, the bikes and the microbrews. We're just happy to be here," Bill Kottyan of Athens Sport Cycles said.
Local radio station 106.7 WEAK FM entertained the Lions Club Vintage Car Show crowd with classic oldies and passed out trophies to winners in the categories Toscano's Choice, Ohio Brew Week Choice, River Valley Rods and Customs Choice, People's Choice and Random Choice, the winner of which received the "I Can't Believe It's a Trophy" trophy.