A week after a good showing in St. Peter’s, Team MLG turns attention to the Hermann BarBQ and Brats Festival. It’s about an hour from where I live, but I heard this event was tons of fun.
Our daylong trek didn’t disappoint, we had dry and chilly Fall weather. The drive there was filled with colorful foliage and hills like a roller coaster. The closer we got to our destination, the denser the vineyards became. It was a good thing we brought our own bottle of Malbec, we would have felt out of place.
We arrived around 8am and started to set up. Tony got there as soon as my wife and I did, so we got right to work. The Hermann City Park was already packed with mobile homes, covered trailers and toy haulers for the KCBS competition going on at the same time as the backyard competition.
Already, I’ve been hearing stories about what transpired that night, lets just say everybody had a great time enjoying the festivities. While we set up, event organizer, Olan Stemme inspected the meat we brought to win today. He made sure that all the meat was in the original packaging. I was lucky I decided against trimming the chicken the night before, I could have been disqualified.
This is our fourth event competing and we are moving like a well oiled machine to set up. The ribs get rubbed and on the smoker at 9:00am. Next, the chicken got trimmed and marinated. With the smoker steady at 250 degrees, we leave our site to go check out the scene and visit some friends.
We talked with our boys from the Mad Moose and Crew BBQ team. I met team member Billy Edgar when he organized the Route 66 Challenge in Cuba, MO. In Hermann, I got to meet Moose and John who make the other team members. John was excited to be there because he earned his first KCBS ribs cook by winning the ribs category the week before at a backyard contest.
After our walk, we went back to our site where I checked the ribs. Just then, Olan and Herman the German show up in the golf cart to welcome us to the cook out. We all received an apron and a 10lb bag of Fire King lump charcoal.
Of course, I’m not letting them get away without a picture! However, I got the bunny ears treatment from Herman the German. Nice!
With turn-in fast approaching, Tony and I tend the ribs again and start to prep the chicken while Jamie starts building the boxes. Our buddy and fellow BBQ enthusiast, Don Parr, shows up for some support. He wasn’t competing on this day, so I was showing him how I was preparing my chicken. I don’t mind showing my methods, it’s not much of a secret to me because I learned it from the BBQ Brethren forums.
After that, it was all business, the chicken and brats went on the grill simultaneously.
The ribs were about to be taken out of the foil, which is full of liquid goodness…OH CRAP! I unwrapped the first slab of ribs and they are overcooked already! The rack broke in half as I tried to pick it up. My hopes of winning sunk to the pit of my stomach, my wife and Tony stood there, shocked and silent.
I was extremely careful with the other two slabs of ribs as I unwrapped them and placed them back on the smoker. My WSM had been uncharacteristically steady all morning, so I checked the temp with my Thermapen…it was running 30 degrees higher! That explains the acceleration for the ribs.
Turn-in times were near and my team was right there to pick me and continue on our mission.
Bratwursts turned in? Check.
Chicken turned in? Check.
Ribs turned in? Well…
I did the best I could to save them. The sharpest knife I had couldn’t’ make clean cuts, it was tearing off the bone. Nonetheless, I found half a rack (out of 3 whole racks) that held together, sliced it, and then boxed it. I even put an extra “bone” in there for the judge who would like the overcooked meat. My hopes were that all the judges would prefer “fall off the bone ribs”, this would never pass for a KCBS event.
Tony turns in the last box and we hope for the best.
Despite the rib debacle, I was happy with our effort and how smooth everything went. I find that one day cooks are often hectic from start to finish, but this day was much more relaxed.
MLG celebrated early with our wine, cheese, sausage and crackers as we enjoyed the views and landscape of Hermann, MO. Tony left during this time and Jamie and I waited for the awards.
We saw folks gathering around near the play ground. This is fitting because it was such a family oriented event. There was a kids grilling contest right next to our site, all the participants were honored and the winners received cool awards.
After all the side contests were out of the way, it’s down to business…with the backyard contest. I came to find out during this presentation that the brats were not part of the backyard contest, everybody did it, including KCBS teams! When announced, MLG was not called. I’m fine with that because it was our first brat entry, I wasn’t sure what to do with brats…still don’t!
About 15 teams entered the backyard contest and only the top 10 were getting calls. Chicken was announced first and 10th place through 6th were called quickly, nothing for me. I got nervous because this was my first chicken entry, but I hoped to fare much better than my bratwursts. Olan slowed the pace down for the top 5…
5th place…not me (anxious)
4th place…nope (defeated)
3rd place…Major League Grilling!
I’ll take it! Nothing wrong with 3rd place on my first chicken attempt. Now I don’t need to worry about going home with nothing because 3rd place comes with a small plaque.
The prized ribs category was upon us and I’ve had good results in the past, but I never won this category and I may have turned in my worst ribs to date. Again, 10th through 6th were called quickly. As soon as Olan got to the top five, I knew I had no shot.
Olan announced 2nd place….NOT ME!
My wife and I look at each other and shrugged as if we said “maybe next time”.
1st place…Major League Grilling!!! HO-LY CRAP!
I first heard my wife yell…”are you kidding me?” Then I heard all the cheers from the crowd and I gave some high fives. I got my bigger plaque, posed for a picture and headed to my seat when I looked up and saw Mad Moose and Crew were hootin and hollering for me, those guys are great!
I was so shocked that I didn’t notice Olan calling the overall placers! Then I heard my name called for a third time! At this point, I don’t know if I had won Grand Champion or Reserve GC? I posed again for a picture and got my biggest plaque of the day, I look down at it and it says “Reserve Grand Champion”.
Sweet! I couldn’t have asked for better results. This was a day I’m going to remember for a long time, not only for what team MLG won that day but the amount of quality time we had with everybody there. Thanks Herman the German, see you next time!