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High altitude barbecue in Beaver Creek

Charlie OwenVail, CO, Colorado
AE BBQ fest 3 KA 5-26-07
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Beaver Creek resident Brad Austin takes barbecuing so seriously his nickname is BBQ Brad. I thought, like most people, that grilling and barbecuing were synonymous, Austin said.But according to him, theyre not even close. To purists, real barbecue is cooked by smoking the meat a slow, low-heat method of cooking on a closed grill that allows the smoke from woodchips to permeate and flavor the meat. In contrast, grilling is done on an open grill with flames constantly searing the meat until its cooked. Austin lived in Memphis, Tenn. for a time, which is where he picked up his passion for barbecue. He worked for a hospital that held barbecue competitions every year. He competed for six years, then became a licensed barbecue judge. The four basic ingredients they teach you to look for is taste, texture, tenderness and appearance, Austin said.Then theres also the simple matter of different marinades, rubs, bastes and sauces each affects the taste of the meat in a unique way, Austin said.

Those are just some things to think about when you head up to Beaver Creek this weekend for the annual Blues, Brews & BBQ festival. Attendees can sample food and beer from more than 20 food vendors (most of them BBQ) and 30 beer vendors. The food and the beer and the music, theyre the centerpiece of this. Its a three-ring circus. We give them all special attention, said Tony ORourke, executive director of Beaver Creek Resort Company.ORourke considers the festival the unofficial kick off of summer and the barbecuing season for the valley. He just hopes the sun stays out. In the past that hasnt always been the case, but according to ORourke, thats never kept people from coming out. In fact, he said there has been a steady increase in attendance at the festival since it began five years ago. We all know that weve come through a rough mud season. People need to be rewarded with good food, beer and music, ORourke said.

And if the weather holds there will be plenty of ways to quench your thirst. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is hosting the largest exclusively Colorado microbrewery beer tasting in the state on Saturday. It takes place in the Gerald Ford Hall (formerly Village Hall) and features 35 breweries offering more than 100 of their own concoctions on tap to help you stay loose throughout the day. Brewmasters will hold classes on what to look for in taste, color and style as well as suggestions for food pairings. Dont forget about that commemorative mug you get to keep once all that beer is drank (just in case you need a reminder you were there). Youll be drinking for charity too, since a portion of the proceeds for the tasting event go to the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Live music will guide your steps while walking around with BBQ sauce smeared across your lips. Donna Jean and the Tricksters, Marc Broussard and Marcia Ball will provide the blues portion of the weekend with free concerts throughout both days.Just like theres more than one way to spell barbecue, theres more than one way to enjoy the festival. But if youre like BBQ Brad, its all about the food. He recommends trying a little bit of everything to broaden your knowledge of what good barbecue really is.If you make yourself get out of your box your comfort zone and go try these little things, you can do a little informal judging yourself, Austin said.High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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