Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brotherton BBQ/Leroy & Lewis BBQ -
Pop-up Event at the Growler Bar (Pflugerville, TX)

Leroy And Lewis BBQ Webpage, Facebook, & Twitter
Evan Leroy's Webpage & Twitter 

Brotherton BBQ Webpage, Facebook, & Twitter 

The Growler Bar Webpage, Facebook, & Twitter  
John Brotherton of Brotherton BBQ and Evan LeRoy (former pitmaster at Freedman’s Bar) teamed up for a popup event at The Growler bar in Pflugerville. These are two of the best pitmasters in the area, although neither has a brick and mortar or permanent trailer spot at present (but each have plans in the work as I understand it?). But they keep their fans happy with events such as this (and judging from the line I suspect the Growler Bar is pleased with the business it brings in as well).  

There’s a nice crowd. I arrived at 3:45 and was about 25 spots back in line. I was joined by my friend James, and had a nice conversation with Tim (and later his friend Jeff) whom we ended up sitting with.  When I left at 7:15, I’d estimate there were still 70-80 people in line.  

The meat menu for this event is a combination of classics and unusual. John is providing brisket, pork spare ribs, and a bacon cheeseburger sausage. Evan offers up arroz con pollo boudin, boudin stuffed quail, and a bacon chop. I’ll be trying everything, and you’ll get ratings from James, Jeff, and Tim (guest scoring) based on their orders. 

Bacon Cheeseburger Sausage: We all agreed this was well-made, with a nice snap to the casing. It was juicy and tender without being greasy. But for some reason the flavor didn’t really wow any of us. It was good, but felt like it was missing something that kept it from being great. On the way home I finished off my last bite and I think I figured out what it was (IMHO): it’s TOO much like a cheeseburger. I’m tasting the beef, and the cheese, but I’m not getting that spice flavor that makes me think sausage. This may be a case where too much accuracy wasn’t ideal.
Scoring Disclaimer: We all agreed that the quality of the preparation was well done. It was flavor that was the weak link for us. Tim - 6.0/10, James, Jeff, Tom – 7.0/10. Avg: 6.75/10. 

Bacon Chop: The bacon chop had an excellent flavor. There was some nice smoke and spice. It was a bit tough on the outside parts, although more tender as you got closer to the bone. The toughness was more of an issue to some than to others. Jeff – 6.5/10, Tim - 7.0/10, Tom – 8.0/10. Avg: 7.17/10.  

Arroz con Pollo Boudin: A nice snap on the casing. Could be a bit more tightly packed, as it is a hair soft even for boudin, but it has an excellent flavor. There some nice pieces of pepper to compliment the spices. Tom – 8.0/10.  

Pork Ribs: The ribs have a nice crust. There’s pepper, but also a nice sweetness at the finish. There’s a lot of meet on mine, and the flavor goes to the bone. Tim – 8.0/10, Tom – 8.5/10. Avg: 8.25/10.  

Brisket: I forgot to specify, and I ended up with lean. Despite that, it is extremely tender and flavorful. There’s black pepper but also something a bit hotter this time? I can only imagine what the moist was like, because this is close to melt in the mouth anyway. Tim and Jeff – 8.0/10, James and Tom – 9.0/10. Avg: 8.5/10.  

Boudin Stuffed Quail: I’ve always found BBQ quail to be very hit or miss, primarily because it is very easy to dry it out. Not in this case. It is perfectly juicy, with a nice crusty skin that is excellently seasoned. The boudin adds a wonderful flavor as well. This is perfect. I’d be happy eating nothing but these all night. Tom – 10/10.  

I’d heard someone in line wondering why two pitmasters would team up. Why aren’t they doing it by themselves to promote their own business? I can’t (and won’t) speak for their reason, but I do think a collaboration like this shows one of the best things about BBQ. There’s a lot of different things out there to try. No one pitmaster is going to be the best at every type of smoked meat or creative combination there is. A collaboration like this allows two excellent pitmasters to combine their skills to bring us an offering that is more than the sum of their parts. They get to show their talents to a potentially wider audience, and we…we get to taste the results.  

Can’t really do the normal summation since neither of them has a permanent location (yet). But if you can catch one or both somewhere, they are both worth trip distance (60 miles or more one way). 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kerlin BBQ Review (Austin, TX)  

Kerlin BBQ Webpage, Facebook, & Twitter  

Another weekend, and another new brewery. Scott and I were going to pay a visit to HiSign Brewing, and we figured it would be a good time to scope out Kerlin BBQ, especially since they’ve apparently started offering BBQ kolaches as a regular offering Wed – Sun from 9 – 11. We get down there about 10, with James meeting us for BBQ a little later.  

Kerlin has two food trailers (one for BBQ and one for kolaches) located on Caesar Chavez east of 35, a few blocks before reaching LaBBQ. They have a covered seating area. There’s no real line when we get there at 10. 

Kolaches: They list three regular offerings: a brisket and cheddar cheese; a pork shoulder and jack cheese; and a jalapeno sausage. They also do one special each day. Today’s was chorizo and egg (Sunday’s is scheduled to be spinach). They also sell drinks, water, and Ruta Maya Coffee, if you don't bring you own coffee.
Scott gets the sausage/cheddar and the chorizo, and I try the pork and the brisket.

We’ll talk about the kolaches in one big group here, and they're all outstanding. The bread has a nice sweetness that complimented the smoke in the meat. The cheese added a good creaminess to the pork shoulder and the chorizo was excellently seasoned. Scott really liked the jalapeno sausage. If there was any criticism at all, the cheddar in the brisket was almost a little overpowering, but it was still an excellent flavor.

(Incidentally, we know there’s a big debate over what is and isn’t a kolache (ahem...Wikipedia). Our response: This tastes good enough that if they want to call it a kolache we aren’t going to argue with them).

We discussed scoring as neither of us has had a BBQ kolache before (or more accurately any BBQ kolache experience we've had is so dated, that we'll start with a clean slate, assuming we know nothing (insert jokes here).) We decided on starting at 8.5/10. Not to say that they aren’t necessarily better than that, but you don’t want to set the bar too high on the first outing. They’ll certainly be the benchmark for future measurements. And in case you have any further doubts, I liked them enough that I put in a pre-order to take 24 to work the next day for my staff. Honestly, if James hadn’t been coming we probably would have just eaten kolaches all morning.

James showed up about 10:50 and the BBQ trailer itself opened promptly at 11:00. Interestingly, despite the good things we’ve heard about Kerlin there isn’t a line. We're the first at the order window. They have a small meat menu: brisket, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and sausage (we ask if it is jalapeno and the lady serving says yes). They do some sandwiches and a Frito pie as well. We get enough of a sampling to try everything. James also gets a chopped beef sandwich.

Sausage: As noted above, they indicated the sausage was a jalapeno sausage. However, the consensus among us was that on THIS sausage (as opposed to the kolache), none of us tasted jalapeno. There was some nice heat, but it seemed to be from red pepper. The sausage had a good snap and texture, but was a bit heavy on the grease. Scott and James didn’t mind this quite as much as I did. Scott and James score it 8.0/10. I give it 7.5/10 (just a tad too greasy for my taste).
(P.S: When I picked up my kolaches Sunday morning they clarified that the sausage is a hotlink (which matches what we were tasting). When they use them in the kolaches, they add pickled jalapeƱos. So we are no longer confused.)

Brisket: The brisket looks gorgeous, and has a wonderful smoke flavor. There’s a lot of nice pepper. Scott and I did each get one bite that was a hair dry, but the rest was perfectly moist and tender, that “melt in the mouth” consistency. All of us call this 8.75/10. (Scott's comment: Burnt end lottery winner!) 

Pork Rib: The ribs have a lovely pepper crust, yet there’s a nice sweetness as well. They have the right amount of tenderness and resistance, and there’s a lot of meat on each bone. The flavor includes some excellent smoke and goes all the way to the bone. One of the best pork ribs we’ve had. James gives it 9.0/10. Scott and I give it 9.5/10.  

Pork Shoulder: This is moist without being greasy. Looks like they use the same seasoning as on the rib, as there is the nice combination of pepper and sweet. No gristle to speak of in the mix. Scott and James give it 9.0/10. I give it 9.5/10.  

Kerlin is turning out some excellent BBQ. The menu may be smaller than some places, but everything is excellent. It’s worth checking out. I honestly can’t figure out why the lines aren’t bigger.  

Is it worth a visit? Yep. 

Is it worth a trip? Absolutely. Hell, I’d have called it a worthwhile trip just for the kolaches.  
To beer or not to beer?!
And while you’re in the area, detour a few miles east and check out Hi Signbrewing. They had their soft opening last weekend, and will have their official opening 3/16/17. They are making some great beer, including a Blood Orange Coffee Stout. We know it sounds strange, but it is really good!