Thousands come out for Texas Monthly BBQ Festival

Thousands come out for Texas Monthly BBQ Festival

The Texas Monthly BBQ Festival is to meat aficionados what Jazz Fest is to music lovers. It was a cool Sunday morning in Austin and smoke was in the air — as was the anticipation of eating some of the best barbecue on the planet. Those lucky enough to get VIP passes were let in an hour early to sample from their choice of the 24 joints that were serving up small portions of their award winning que. With roughly 4,000 attendees, you would think the lines would be long for samples, but the Texas Monthly folks had everything spread out, and other than the line for Franklin’s, there was seldom a wait time of more than a few minutes.

Almost all of the barbecue purveyors served brisket, but we tried several additional items, ranging from the Best in Show pork belly from Killen’s to many different sausages and delicious ribs. There were several booths serving sweet treats including Gordough’s Donuts, Tiny Pies and Crown Royal Cupcakes. All were excellent. There were booths for swag and even Don Julio Tequila was there giving away four unique tequila drinks out of a refurbished Airstream. 

And what would an event in Austin be without live music? They had a stage where several local artists were playing great music. It really just provided a perfect background to an already exceptional event. Daniel Vaughan and the TMBBQ staff did a heck of a fine job putting this entire festival together.

The attendees were all there to have a great time, sample some great food and just have a nice afternoon. They are always very curious about what booths you like and if you had any hidden gems for them to try. Everyone seemed to agree on the big names they already knew: Franklin’s, Louie Muller, Pecan Lodge, etc. It was remarkable to me that not one of the Central Texas connoisseurs we visited with knew about Killen’s. Apparently word got around as the day went on and Killen’s became the second busiest booth at the festival. I was very happy for Ronnie Killen, who is one of the best guys in the business. It’s just a short trip from Beaumont to Pearland, and I suggest that if you like traditional Texas style barbecue, you make the trip.

Once we made our primary strike and were starting to feel the burn, we were able to relax a bit and then go back for seconds at our favorites. The most pleasant surprise for me was Freedmen’s BBQ from Austin. The brisket they served was competitive with any of the highly rated places. Most of the joints lived up to the hype and were able to duplicate the high quality of their product cooking on pits they do not use every day. It just reminded me that these pitmasters are true professionals. I struggle for consistent cooks on the same pit every time in my backyard. These guys can really humble a backyard aficionado like myself.

One thing that always impresses me when talking to some of the best pitmasters in the barbecue business is that they are all very modest and seem like the nicest folks you would ever hope to meet (or is it meat?). They are perfectly willing to discuss with you all matters of barbecue and are very open for pictures or autographs. Frankly, I think most of them are amazed that they are getting rock star treatment for smoking meat. I have yet to come across any purveyor that was less than friendly or a guy you wouldn’t want to spend some time with.

Overall, I had one heck of a great time attending this November festival. I hope I have the opportunity in the future to do so again. I am already looking for more festivals to enjoy in next year, and I encourage others that it is a perfect way to try samples from multiple joints while being able to stay in one place.