The Tastiest Takeaway from #ASAE12

The Bent Buckle Barbecue Rub from the Visit Dallas team at the ASAE 2012 Annual meeting

ASAE’s 2012 Annual Meeting had many amazing things. Thought provoking sessions, controversial speakers, an expo that included a carousel, an amazing opening session… and food.

So while more thoughtful posts are marinating, this is a good opportunity to share perhaps the tastiest takeaway I got from this year’s annual meeting.

You see, I love to grill and barbecue. So as I walked past the Visit Dallas booth (aka @visit_dallas), my taste buds did a double take as I saw they were handing out a Texas Barbecue rub.  I couldn’t resist.

I’d been dying to make another attempt at a smoked beef brisket and this was just the opportunity. So after a few days of recovery and with a bit of preparation, I embarked on my journey this past weekend to make my first official “ASAE Annual-Texas Beef Brisket.”

The recipe is below, and I hope you your brisket turns out as great as mine. More important, be sure to share. And when you dig in… think of Dallas and the 2012 ASAE Annual meeting.  I did for sure.


  • One bag of hickory smoking chips (also a good idea to have a smoking box but you can use aluminum foil if you have to).
  • Aluminum foil pan about the size of the brisket (to put under your brisket when cooking).
  • A roll of cling wrap and a roll of aluminum foil
  • Oven thermometer
  • Meat thermomenter
  • Barbecue Sauce Mop


One 7 – 8 pound beef brisket. Be sure to get at least USDA choice graded meat. If you can find it vacuum packed that’s even better.

Seasoning Paste

  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons beer

Mop Sauce

  • 1 quart apple juice
  • 1 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 table spoon salt
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

Rub and Seasonings

  • Authentic Bent Buckle Texas Barbecue Rub from the Visit Dallas booth at ASAE12
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce


The night before, make sure to prepare the brisket and get it ready for a day of slow cooking.

  • Trim the fat cap on top the brisket so it is about ¼ inch thick. Place the brisket in a deep dish or on a cookie sheet with a raised edge.
  • Prepare the seasoning paste mixing together the ingredients. It should have the consistency of slightly runny pancake batter. Add a smidge more liquid if you need to.
  • Slather one side of the brisket with seasoning paste and let sit for 15-20 minutes
  • Flip the brisket over and slather the other side. Let sit for 15-20 minutes
  • Prepare several sheets of cling-wrap to completely wrap up your brisket. I cut 4 sheet long sheets of wrap and put them on the counter setting them up so I can fold them over the brisket both lengthwise and across.
  • Transfer the brisket to the cling wrap.
  • Generously cover your brisket on both sides with the Bent Buckle Texas Barbecue Rub rub.  I ended up using about 1/3bottle of rub.
  • Wrap the brisket tightly in the cling wrap and place in the refrigerator over night.

The next morning, you are ready to start cooking. Yes, you read right. MORNING.  Start early – around 8 AM – by setting your grill for indirect cooking and getting things ready.

Here are the steps I follow on my gas grill:

  • Soak about a handful of smoking chips for 15 minutes.
  • Get your grill going on high.
  • Place the smoking chips in a smoking box or make a foil pouch for your chips. If making a foil pouch, put a hole in them. If you are lazy (like me), just put the chips on a piece of aluminum foil and crunch it up so it looks like a garlic bulb, leaving about an inch opening at the top.
  • Let the chips start to warm up until they are smoking.

Now it is time to get the meat going.

  • Start by turning the gas off on the grill. Remove one of the grates and place your aluminum pan under the area where your brisket will be (hint: with indirect cooking, it will be the area without the heat.)
  • Turn the heat back on and keep the flame low.
  • Unwrap the brisket and place it fatty side up on the cooking grate.
  • Now, close the grill and keep the temperature low.  This is where the oven thermometer comes in. You want to keep the temperature between 225 and 250 degrees for the next 4 to 4 ½ hours.  While it is cooking, take the following steps:
  • Check the temperature two or three times an hour to make sure it doesn’t get too high.
  • When you do so, go ahead and baste it with your mop sauce.
  • Every now and then, add more smoking chips (I generally do not soak these chips as I did the first batch). To get the chips smoking you might want to turn the heat up higher (to around 350 to 400 degrees). But keep the grill open so the temperature of the meat doesn’t get too high.  Once the chips start smoking, turn the heat back down and close the grill.

After about 4 hours – or when the temperature has hit around 150 degrees, it’s time to switch gears and finish your brisket in the oven with a process called The Texas Crutch.

  • Baste the brisket in your favorite barbecue sauce and place on several sheets of aluminum foil with the fat side up.
  • Baste one more time with your mop sauce, and wrap the brisket tightly in the aluminum foil.
  • Place it either in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet with a raised edge and put it into the oven at 225 degrees.
  • Let it finish in the oven for the next 4 ½ hours or until the meat gets to 190 degrees.
  • When you check the temperature, feel free to drain off some of the juices (save it) and either baste the meat in the juices or a bit more mop sauce.

Once the meat hits the right temperature, unwrap the brisket, place it on a serving platter, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Now you are ready to serve. Thinly slice the meat across the grain and serve. Put out the juices you drained off and/or a bit of barbecue sauce.

For some other serving suggestions, it goes great with my favorite Baked Potato Salad from Wegmans and corn on the cob (cooked on the grill is even better). Some people like to serve it on a bun and make a sandwich, but it’s also wonderful just by itself.

So there you go. My tastiest takeaway from ASAE’s 2012 Annual Meeting.

Yes, everything in Texas was bigger. And the Authentic Bent Buckle Texas Barbecue Rub courtesy of the Visit Dallas team made sure a bit of the meeting made it home to my family and friends.

Rediscovering The Value of a Session Beer – Brawler Ale

I picked up some Brawler Ale from Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia over the weekend and opened my first bottle the other night.  I was quite impressed by the malt flavor and overall color and experience of the beer.  It presented well, very balanced and was real enjoyable…. and yet I kept feeling like something just wasn’t quite right.

As I prepared dinner this evening my wife was enjoying a Brawler and commented how much she liked it.  So I reached in and grabbed another.  As I opened it I actually bothered to read the label this time (yes, like most men I don’t always RTFM) and then I realized why it had struck me as odd.

“crafted in the style of English session ales”

Ahh…. that explains it.  I’ve been on a Dogfish Head trip lately enjoying Midas Touch, 60 Minute IPA and others all that have higher alcohol levels. So as asession beer crosses my lips are like “hey! were’s the rest of the beer???”

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this beer.  Good flavor and enjoyable to drink as I sit here writing this post and watching a hockey game.  I think just in knowing that it is a session beer made a difference and makes it a complete beer experience.

Lesson learned?  Read the full label and know what I’m buying and drinking.  Also, not every enjoyable beer has to be super hopped or high alcohol.

(Oh and if you’re wondering what a session beer is, here’s a great article from Beer Advocate.)

Beer Named After a Town like Durango Better Be Good

Durango is a small town with a huge personality.  Surrounded by beautiful mountains with a vibrant river flowing through it, Durango conveys a bold attitude and fresh perspective that this mid-Atlantic suburbanite finds intoxicating (everytime we visit, I long to quit my job and just move).

So you can imagine the expectations that go with a beer bearing this town’s name.  Sure enough, the fine brews from the Durango Brewing Company live up to the spirit of Durango.

I had the pleasure sampling two wonderful Durango Brewing Company brews during my trip — the Durango Amber Ale and the Durango Wheat Beer. 

According to the company’s Web site, the Amber Ale as a “deep amber color, medium body, and mild hop bitterness making it a well balanced refreshing beer.”  Personally, I found the Amber Ale to be better tasting than  most ambers, but compared to the the other fine ambers I’ve sampled lately it didn’t really stand out above the rest. Definately worth tasting again but nothing to warrant another trip across the country.

As for the Wheat Beer, I DID find it unique enough that it stood out.  To many people when you say “Wheat Beer” they think “Hefeweizen” in the German tradition.  But as I learned at a recent evening at DC’s Churchkey, the “Wheat Beer” label goes way beyond that pale expectation.

And Durango’s Wheat Beer follows this tradition with it’s “American-Style Wheat with domestic barley and wheat malts.”  In just looking at the beer it has the same appearance as a standard smooth flowing lager.  But upon putting it to your lips you realize that it not only combines a good drinkability with additional flavor and personality.  The combination just makes it memorable.

Apparently this beer is a 2007 Colorado State Fair winner — and I can see why.  If I could have brought some home, I would have snuck it into my luggage.

My one regret with this brewery is that I couldn’t spend any time at their facility.  We stopped in the restuarant/bar for dinner and it looked like a fun place with a focus on good beer.  Tables are set up for socializing and drinking with not much emphasis on food (although they do serve food).  The environment just begged for a session beer and spending time with friends and enjoyable brews.

Alas, as I was with my family and mother-in-law this was not quite the environment suitable for a family dinner.  However, as a beer drinker I longed to escape from our hotel and venture back to sip a few brews.

On our next trip, this place is definitely on my to-do list.

Good things come to those who wait

A break from my reviews of beers from my recent trip to Durango, CO. But instead a lesson learned from home brewing.

As you may remember, I’ve been experimenting with brewing my own beer with a Mr. Beer home brew kit. Back in July I brewed up a batch of German Hefeweizein.  It was an interesting experiment because it uses a mix of some standard Mr. Beer recipes but also adds some hops pellets during the fermentation.  The instructions for this recipe also recommend lagering the beer for at least a month.

So I dutifully let it ferment the proper amount of time (I generally go a week longer than any given recipe recommends), bottled it and let it lager for the one month recommended period.  And when the day came to open it and savor my labors I was ….. underwhelmed.

Flavor was bleah… flat… limited…. nothin’.   It was the first batch I’d brewed that I really didn’t want to drink.

So I remembered back to my reading about lagering improving the flavor and let it sit.  Each time I walked by I was thought about giving it another chance but decided against it.

Last night, after letting it lager for 4+ months I figured it was time to give it a shot.  And you know what?  IT ROCKED!   It didn’t pour like a standard hefeweizen (with the unfiltered cloud) and looked almost like an amber in the glass.  But it not only tasted like a full hefeweizen but also finished off with enough hint of hop that it had a very pleasant aftertaste.

And the lesson learned?  Have patience.  Not every batch/beer/project is going to be perfect right off the bat.  But it’s okay to experiment and give things a chance.  And now I’m really looking forward to the rest of this batch.

Long travels with a rich reward

It’s been a long long travel day. Our flight from BWI was delayed by 2+ hours even after we got to the airport mongo early to account for 5 people checking and security.

So there went my plan for a leisurely repaste in the haven of Dallas-Ft Worth airport.

Upon landing in Albuquerque a family sitting near me on the plane
offered up an excellent recommendation for local food and brew. So with everyone checked into the hotel and the rental vehicle loaded up we ventured out to Il Vicino — known for their wonderful flatbreads pizzas and microbrews.

Oooo. Yeahhhhh!! Great choice. The menu had a great selection of pizzas which took us a good 8 to 10 minutes to order. The beer list was shorter and was an easier decision.

Although the server recommended the IPA I opted for the Slowdown Brown
(I think Dogfish Head has spoiled me for IPA’s so the bar is pretty
high now).

The Slowdown Brown was a great way to start the meal. It had that
wonderful malty flavor you expect from a good brown ale. And I really
appreciated he smooth finish.

 My wife had ordered the Rob’s Amber and didn’t enjoy it.  Being the chivalrous dude that I am…. I switched with her.

And what a good call that was!  At first sip I could see why she didn’t like it.  The glass was filled with what looked like a standard amber ale, but the taste buds revealed a hoppy flavor that really took this beer someplace special.  It really provided for a complex experience that was like finding a hidden surprise (much like when you find an extra 5 bucks in your jeans, but tastier).  My only regret is that I could have only one.

Oh well, this gives me another reason to come back some time.

Not Quite Yet, but Texas is Already on my Mind

First stop on this sipping sojourn is a hotel in Baltimore before we fly out of BWI in the morning.

Considering our schedule we (wisely) decided to just have dinner at the hotel. But alas where my heart had already been planning for a Clipper City or Natty Boh there was no local beer to be had.

However amid the bland choices of watered down Miller or Bud there emerged an interesting choice…. Shiner Bock.

Now truth be told this was my ace in the hole for tomorrow as our flight has a layover in Dallas and I had already planned this one out. But in light of the situation I had to act.

And Shiner never disappoints.  When trying to step away from the ordinary, she has a way of popping up and saying “there’s a better choice”. Tonite was no exception. Paired with a buffalo chicken sandwich it was a perfect way to start the journey.

What’s interesting is that this is the one Shiner brew that seems to have escaped the great state of Texas.  What’s up with the other fine Shiner brews?  The web site mentions a blonde ale. That should surely be worthy of export. But the faithful Bock is the only one that people outside of Texas seem to able to sip.  I’ll have to investigate further.

Of course now the quandry that faces me is…. What’s waiting for me in Texas tomorrow? It’s a worthy challenge.

Starting in the Old Dominion with Starr Hill’s The Gift

We haven’t quite left home, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start my beer journey.

So for lunch, I took the opportunity to crack open a bottle of The Gift -Winter Bock Lager from Starr Hill Brewery.  I love this beer for two reasons.

1)  It’s the last of the truly “local beers” in that it’s brewed in Virginia.
2)  Other than sneaking in a Bell’s Christmas Ale, it’s been my holiday beer of choice for 2009.

It’s got a great blend of tastes that really mix it up and take it out of the category of lagers (I owe that to the Bock style) so don’t let the “lager” category fool you.  Or as Starr Hill says on their website:

  • A German-style Hellerbock with a few twists, The Gift is Starr Hill’s holiday offering. The beautiful golden color only hints at the fire inside. Made with two-row and Munich malts and balanced with German noble hops, The Gift is the perfect accompaniment to any holiday event or festivity.

Either way, it’s been a perfect compliment through the holidays as I’ve been cooking, cleaning and spending time with family.  So it seemed a fitting way to start this journey.

Next stop, Maryland where we stay before flying out of Baltimore tomorrow morning.  

Beer Travels Well (or is that it makes travels better, i’m not sure)

I’m heading out today for a family trip which will take me through at least 4 states with a final destination in Colorado.  So what does any good beer drinker do?  Look at travels as an opportunity to sample local beer.  Keep an eye out for some upcoming posts about where we have ended up and what beer I’m sampling.

Variety is the spice of life. Hand me a turtle!

Or so they say about things in general. And in looking at my fridge right now I’m one spicy kinda guy. I have at least 5 different beers in there and that doesn’t even count my home-brew that’s lagering.

But the one that has captured my palette tonight is Big Hoppy Monster from Terrapin Beer Co. A friend was visiting from out of town last week and brought this one over because her husband is friends with the brewmaster. I’ve been drinking a good bit of Dogfish Head lately so I wasn’t to hopped up about hops so I held off until this weekend and had another tonite.

OMG!!! What was I waiting for? At first glance when pouring it into the glass it had all the appearance of a mix between an amber and a porter with a lovely tone to it. And then… and I swear I’m not making this up… it seemed to be almost have texture just in looking at it. Ahh… and the first taste. Yep. Hoppy just like the name. But not overpowering like some IPAs are. It was just right and provided a perfect balance of malt and hops to top off the evening.

So, I have two thoughts I look at my now empty glass:

1) Gotta run to Whole Foods and pick more up (that’s where my friend found it)
2) I really need to go visit my friend and her husband so I can go visit the masters of this brew.