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St. Croix Valley Brew-B-Que: A Q&A with Damon Holter

Croix Valley Steak Sauces, Lift Bridge Brewing Company and Heritage Liquor of Maplewood are throwing the inaugural St. Croix Valley Brew-B-Que Festival at Lift Bridge Brewery on May 26.

Do you have the best BBQ on the block?

Well, prove it.

, and Heritage Liquor from Maplewood are throwing the inaugural St. Croix Valley Brew-B-Que Festival, benefiting Valley Outreach.

The rib and wing BBQ competition will be held at in Stillwater on May 26 from 3-8 p.m., and is open to the public.

Damon Holter, owner of Croix Valley Steak Sauces in Hudson, is seeking cooks from area restaurants, catering companies, BBQ teams and the backyard grillers alike.

"Everyone thinks they have the best BBQ in the world, whether they do or not," Holter said. "Here's their chance (at their next party) to say, here's my ribs and there's my trophy saying I have the best BBQ on the block."

Here are a few links for more information:

Patch recently sat down with and asked him a few questions about the event. Here’s a snippet from that conversation:

Patch: What’s a brief history into the St. Croix Valley Brew-B-Que Festival?

Damon Holter: I started Croix Valley Steak Sauces in 2010 with three varieties, and as things progressed, I came out with a BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce led me into BBQ competitions and becoming a lot more familiar with the art of BBQ—the slow, low-heat cooking with lots of smoke, spice and that sort of thing. I’ve always been interested in beer, too. I’ve known the Lift Bridge guys for some time now, and the obvious connection between brew and BBQ got us thinking, which eventually got us to the St. Croix Valley Brew-B-Que.

Patch: For those of us who haven’t been to a BBQ competition before, what do the spectators get out of it?

Holter: BBQ competitions vary. There are professional competitions that are sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society where pro teams cook chicken, brisket, pork and ribs and turn them into judges, but the public doesn’t really get involved. What we’re doing involves the public. People will get to sample the food. It’s a party/festival type atmosphere. We’re doing ribs and chicken and with the cost of admission, people will get tickets to taste what they want and have beer samples. There will also be live music, a brat-eating contest, chicken races, beer dunk tank and more.

Patch: I’m not going to let you get off the hook without talking about those chicken races …

Holter: That’s something Brad from Lift Bridge has pulled together. He knows a woman who has chickens and asked if we could use her chickens to have races. She said: “Absolutely, let’s do it.” Basically, we’ll fence off an area, put numbers on the chickens and let them go. People will have the chance to come down and root for their favorite chicken. It’s just going to be a spectacle—feathers flying and the whole works.

Patch: What about the music?

Holter: Blues are typical with BBQ, so we’ll have a great blues band. We are looking to have two acts, possibly some bluegrass to go along with the blues.

Patch: This competition is open to backyard grillers and professionals alike, right?

Holter: Absolutely. Both professional and amateur teams are welcome and they will be competing on one level playing field, which I believe will make everyone work harder. The backyard griller wants to prove he has the best BBQ on the block when throwing a party and the restaurants and catering companies want to prove they are the best because they want the business.

Patch: What are the details of the competition?

Holter: We will be supplying the meat, but there are a couple of caveats. One being they have to use one of the Croix Valley sauces in their BBQ and the other being they have to use a Lift Bridge beer in their BBQ. They can bring in whatever else they want. It doesn’t matter what ingredients they throw at it, as long as they incorporate one sauce and one beer, which will make the competition tougher with regards to using the mystery ingredients.

Patch: Why did you choose Valley Outreach as the beneficiary of this event?

Holter: Croix valley Steak Sauce and Lift Bridge Brewery have both done other events to promote Valley Outreach and we feel it is a good charity that serves the local community and helps people in need. The other part of this is that Valley Outreach is right behind Lift Bridge Brewery, where the festival will be held, so people can actually take a tour of Valley Outreach and see what they are supporting, because it is an unique place. So many times you do something for charity, but never see where the money goes. Given the location, this is a no-brainer because people will be able to go in and see it’s like a giant grocery store.

Patch: What are you most excited about?

Holter: It’s going to be fun. It’s all about the food, the beer, the music and the BBQ. Our intent is to start small, get a handle on the event and possibly in subsequent years this becomes a much larger community BBQ and Brew festival that we may have down here at Lowell Park.

Patch: What advice would you give the public as they judge the People’s Choice category for BBQ?

Holter: It’s obviously a matter of personal opinion when it comes to choosing the best meat. Everyone’s tastes are different and it’s completely subjective—one person likes spice and another likes sweet. That’s what makes it so difficult for competitors to anticipate what everyone will like. BBQ is all about the flavor of the meat, it’s not about the sauce or rub, those are the things we use to enhance the flavor of the meat. So from a layperson’s point of view, they should be looking for a nice combination of smoke, spice and texture. If someone bites into a rib and the meat slaps them on the chin, it’s probably overcooked.

Bethany R. May 01, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Already got our tickets! This looks like a blast.
Jerry Weiss May 01, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Awesome idea for a great cause. Valley Outreach does great work for the community and who doesn't like beer, chicken wings and ribs? Buying my tickets this morning!
EddieM May 01, 2012 at 11:50 AM
What time is the brat eating contest?
Damon Holter May 01, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Eddie, the Lift Bridge Beer Brat Eating Contest will take place around 4:30-5:00. This is open to the public and will be conducted on a first-come basis. We will sign people up as they arrive and limit the number to about 20 or so participants. Come early and get signed up - these are some TASTY brats made with Lift Bridge Chestnut Hill!

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