"BBQ Brad" Austin has a true passion for barbecue.A judge in the upcoming Beaver Creek Blues, Brews & BBQ event, he has active professional affiliations with the National Barbecue Association (NBBQA), Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), and Rocky Mountain BBQ Association (RMBBQA). He judges 4 to 6 competitions regionally and nationally per year, serves as a barbecue consultant in mentoring new pitmasters and with sauce/dry rub development, and writes barbecue related articles for local, regional and national publications.And he says when it comes to barbecue, Beaver Creek knows what's cooking."Beaver Creek is stepping up their barbecue game, making this a very prestigious, premier event, and offering generous prize monies and trophies to the top three winners in each category," he said. "Most of these vendors rely solely on barbecue catering, restaurant and/or retail sales for their livelihoods, they take it very seriously and have to stay at the top of their game to remain solvent and successful in what they do." Mark Tamberino is one of those hard working people depending on barbecue to make his living. The owner of the Vail Valley-based Kirby Cosmo's BBQ, he says taking pride in his product has fueled his success. After establishing a brand with his neighborhood-favorite Minturn location, Tamebrino opened a second shop in Edwards in 2010.Of all the many happenings in the Vail Valley throughout the year, Tamberino's favorite event is the Blues Brews & BBQ. "Between the great beer that's being served all weekend long and the great blues music, the barbecue's just a nice compliment to it all," he said. "It's just a great, fun family event."This will be Tamberino's fifth year as a vendor at Blues, Brews & BBQ. Five years ago, he didn't have kids. Now he has two girls, ages 3 and 4. "My kids just love this event," he said. "There's great music, they dance on the ice rink, and we have a large pig costume we put on and give out barbecue for free."
This year, Tamberino plans on stepping up his menu. For the first time at Beaver Creek, barbecue masters this weekend will be competing for $10,000 in cash prizes. Today a panel of professional judges will rate pork dishes in blind judging according to appearance, taste and tenderness. On Sunday, event attendees will determine the People's Choice winners. Selected winners will be crowned Saturday and Sunday at 4:10 p.m. on the main stage in Beaver Creek Plaza. Without revealing too much, Tamberino says he's been working hard on a few crowd pleasers."I plan on bringing something in that I think will stand out and put me aside from all the other barbecuers there," he said.BBQ Brad is looking forward to judging the entrants. And the barbecue expert has seen a competition or two in his day.While he lives in Colorado now, BBQ Brad claims Tennessee as his home state, growing up with Pope Taylor's BBQ between Woodbury and Murfreesboro, Tenn. His family lived in a dry county and Pope was not only a BBQ purveyor, he was an unbonded liquor bootlegger. Bennie Bedford Austin, BBQ Brad's father and a WWII veteran serving in the U.S. Army for 10 years under General Patton, was a regular customer and a young BBQ Brad got an education in the art of smoked pork. BBQ Brad later moved to Memphis, one of the world's top BBQ capitals, not to study BBQ but to complete a nursing degree. "The first May (1980) we were in Memphis we visited the up-and-coming Memphis-in-May (MIM) International Barbecue Competition down in Tom Lee Park right beside the mighty Mississippi River. From then I was hooked," he said. "I knew I that barbecue was going to play a major role in my life."He entered his first barbecue competition in 1981 under the name of BBQ Brad and went on to be a regular competitor in the MIM competition.In Memphis he regularly cooked for hundreds to thousands of people at fundraising events for non-profit organizations such as St. Jude, the American Cancer Society, the National Hospice Organization and many more.
Upon moving to Colorado from Memphis, BBQ Brad was asked to cook for 750 Vail Valley Medical Center employees at the annual summer employee picnic. He had sold his smoker, which could cook three hogs at a time, and was forced to borrow a friend's much smaller device."It took me three days to prepare the pulled pork, beef brisket and barbecue beans," he said. "The next year I had a new smoker which I still have. I named it after my father and call it The Bennie B. It cooks almost 500 pounds of meat at the same time with one side having six rotisserie racks, the other side having stationary racks and a smoke box in the middle."And in a way, BBQ Brad's story is an allegory for all of the Rockies. Barbecue in the region has grown rapidly throughout the last decade, with restaurants like Kirby Cosmo's second location in Edwards, Moe's second location in Eagle and the Wildwood Grill atop Chair 3 on Vail Mountain all opening."The word is getting out throughout the Rocky Mountain region about this evolving and quality barbecue event at Beaver Creek," says BBQ Brad. "I predict that there will be some great barbecue for the public to sample, as well as some top entries in the Pork category for the judges to evaluate. I expect the competition to be keen this year, and increasingly competitive in successive years with more entry categories and creative challenges in barbecue."
On Saturday the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek hosts the largest exclusively Colorado Microbrewery Beer Tasting in the state from 1-5 p.m. The event will feature more than 80 special concoctions from 35 Colorado-based breweries and participants will receive a commemorative tasting mug. Advance tickets are $35 per person and will be $40 per person at the door. The event also will be held outdoors this year on the back lawn, near the top of Beaver Creek's Grand Staircase above the ice rink.Kid Zones will be open from Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday providing activities and arts and crafts designed for kids 12 and under.For the blues component of the event, The Delta Sonics, Rory Block and Clay McClinton will perform live at scheduled times during the weekend. Wrapping up the weekend is the Cut and Slice Golf Event on Monday at the Beaver Creek Golf Club from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A shotgun start opens the day and golfers also will enjoy barbecue and craft beers around the course. Tickets are $90 per person which includes greens fee, golf cart, practice balls, tee gift and barbecue and beer on the course. Reservations can be made by calling the Beaver Creek Golf Club at 970-754-6212, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase tickets online at www.beavercreek.com.