The Austin Chronicle

Serious Business

The first Texas Barbecue Festival

By Virginia B. Wood, October 7, 2005, Food

Anyone who reads the Chronicle Food section regularly knows we take barbecue pretty seriously around here. So, when we heard that a group of Austin's professional pit masters were forming an organization to promote Central Texas barbecue as the iconic culinary and cultural phenomenon we consider it to be, we were all for it! The new association successfully recruited several of the legendary dynasties of the Central Texas Barbecue Belt as members, and we applauded that, too. Signing on as a sponsor for their first annual event was just a natural progression, giving us the opportunity to support and share one of our region's primary culinary assets and be partners in one hell of a great party in the bargain. We encourage you to join us at Austin's Historic Farmers' Market (6701 Burnet Rd.) from noon until 6pm this Sunday, Oct. 9, for the First Annual Central Texas Barbecue Festival. We can promise plenty of great barbecue, ice-cold beer, good Austin music, tons of fun, and enlightening conversation. Admission to this all-afternoon party is free: All you'll need to do is purchase tickets to redeem for barbecue and beer. Come hungry and stay all day.

For this first year, the Central Texas Barbecue Association has chosen to focus its attention on sausage, a unique and distinctive element of barbecue presentations hereabouts. When German and Czech immigrants settled in Central Texas in the 19th century, they brought with them a culinary heritage that included dry-smoking meats, making sausage, and distilling pilsner beer. All three of those gifts have had a definite impact on the barbecue business in this region. The numerous German and Czech meat markets are icons of the area, each proudly serving family heirloom sausage recipes. Sausage has become such a necessary element, in fact, that the ethnic heritage of the pit master is no longer really an issue – whether they are Anglo-Saxon, German, Czech, African-American, or Hispanic – Central Texas barbecue folks wouldn't dream of a menu without sausage. Take a stroll down "Sausage Alley" this Sunday afternoon and sample some of the best from Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que from Llano, Smokey Denmark Sausage and the County Line of Austin, Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse and Southside Market & Barbecue, both from Elgin, and Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales.

While sausage is this year's main attraction, there will be brisket, chopped beef, ribs, side dishes, and desserts in abundance. Visit the booths manned by folks from Ruby's, Artz Rib House, and Royer's Pies of Austin; R.O.'s Outpost from Spicewood; and Buda's new Big Oak Barbecue for some superlative eats. The folks from Shiner and Lone Star will have all the beer you can drink, and there'll be water and sodas available, too. An assortment of fine Austin string bands will provide tunes all afternoon. Between 2 and 4pm, the outdoor stage at the Brentwood Tavern will host some lively panel discussions about the history, diversity, and importance of Central Texas barbecue, as well as the century-old German/Czech tradition of making sausage. Bring your questions and your opinions (see a list of panelists).

The founders of this festival have long-range plans about what they'd like to see it become in the future. Perhaps it will one day be an attraction to rival Memphis in May, the Kansas City Royal, or the Jack Daniels Invitational Barbecue events. After all, Texas is home to one of the four great American regional barbecue traditions, so why shouldn't we have an annual barbecue celebration with a national profile? Join us on Sunday and you can claim bragging rights for attending another legendary Austin party in its very first year.

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