Fierce competitors set aside their differences in the name of barbecue and a good cause as some of Kentucky’s finest distilleries and cooperages gathered at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Ky,. on Saturday for the inaugural “Great Distillery BBQ Cook-off.”
Ten four-person cook teams, representing The Bardstown Bourbon Company, Barton Brands, Independent Stave Company, Jim Beam Distillery and Wild Turkey Distillery, competed in ribeye, St. Louis-style ribs and chicken legs. Teams smoked, sauced and seared their way through the day as a prestigious panel of certified barbecue judges and select master distillers determined winners based on overall presentation, taste and tenderness.
“Here in Kentucky, our Bourbon is the world’s finest,” said Fred Noe, seventh generation Jim Beam Master Distiller. “But our barbecue is also a force to be reckoned with. That’s why we decided to make history with an industry throwdown.”
Fred Minnick, bourbon expert and author, helped award “The Smoking Barrel Boys” of The Independent Stave Company the grand champion prize – bragging rights and a Deep South GC28 Smoker for future team use. Winners in individual categories included:
• Ribeye – “The Boston Butts” – Jim Beam Booker Noe Plant
• St. Louis-style ribs – “The Clermont Grillers” – Jim Beam Clermont Plant
• Chicken legs – “The Smoking Barrel Boys” – The Independent Stave Company
“These teams stepped away from their day jobs and poured their hearts and souls into this barbecue competition,” added Noe. “It may have been an amateur competition, but these teams were on fire. And the camaraderie we distillers have forged over the years remained.”
The competition not only celebrated America’s native spirit, but also supported Operation BBQ Relief, a nonprofit consisting of volunteers from competition barbecue teams who provide hot meals to displaced families and emergency personnel in areas impacted by natural disasters. The organization is currently deployed in Texas and soon Florida providing relief to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.