[image-1]The Annual Charleston Brown Water Society BBQ Invitational is a gluttonous affair that many Charlestonians practically trip over themselves to attend. People in this city will queue up for hours under the unbearably hot sun for a small plate of smoked meat that will satiate our hunger just long enough to merit getting back in line all over again. Sure there’s bourbon and beer at this event, too, but the buzz this weekend was all about the tent serving the most succulent ‘cue. And, according to those in attendance, every pitmaster was a winner.
To be present at an event that features prominent members of the Fatback Collective — Rodney Scott and Sam Jones — and some noteworthy newer upstarts is an experience as unique as the smoked meats we had the privilege of enjoying. Each pitmaster’s meats were paired with creative and tasty bites catered by Spero. Apart from the scorching 85-degrees-in-the-shade weather, the CBWS Invitational was the barbecue event of the season.
The first and only tent to come complete with its own soundtrack belonged to King Street’s newest resident, Rodney Scott. His signature pit-cooked, whole-hog pulled pork was as sensational as ever, served alongside the cracklins he’s so famous for. The fact that Scott’s grand opening in Charleston — in the former Chick’s Fry House — is just around the corner is such amazing news that I couldn’t help but tell him about 15 times how excited I was for him. His hotly anticipated second location is going to absolutely crush it when he opens the doors before the end of the year (fingers crossed) and collectively we can’t wait to be there.
[image-8]Next up was Bryan Furman, the “B” of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Savannah. Bryan informed me that he was a welder by trade who had a dream of opening a barbecue joint, a feat he accomplished in 2014. When asked if he had come from a family of pitmasters, he replied, “No, ma’am. I just started this myself a few years ago.” The man smokes ribs like he’s got barbecue sauce in his veins. Speaking of sauce, his signature is a mustard and peach concoction that he has recently contracted with Heinz to start bottling. The future looks bright for B.
The great smell wafting from the middle tent was courtesy of Mueller’s BBQ out of Taylor, Texas. Wayne Mueller prepared short ribs so tender that a knife was completely superfluous to their consumption. A peppery exterior crust encased a piece of beef so tender and juicy that we had to get in line for more after our first few bites. I know that we are filled to the brim with barbecue joints in the Lowcountry, but I selfishly hope that Mueller has plans to open another location that’s at least closer to South Carolina than Texas.
No well-rounded barbecue event would be complete without brisket and Anthony DiBernardo of West Ashley’s own Swig & Swine. DiBernardo provided oh-so tender cuts of beef. The meat was sliced to order and I noticed multiple people grabbing a plate and then immediately getting back in line to score another fresh cut. DiBernardo kindly offered me the opportunity to get a better look at the enormous four-door Swig & Swine mobile smoker brought to the event. When it comes to meat, size does matter — and this thing was intimidatingly huge. Luckily, DiBernardo doesn’t have to travel with his smoker to feed the Lowcountry natives. We’re lucky enough to be within a short drive of his home base.
[image-6]The last tent of the day was Sam Jones of Skylight Inn BBQ out of Ayden, N.C. I have had the pleasure of enjoying Jones’ chopped whole-hog ‘cue on several visits to Ayden and it never fails to disappoint. His Eastern North Carolina preparation is given a little extra family signature flair: crackling pieces of skin chopped right into the pork. The result is the stuff of legend, almost creamy in texture with crispy bites sprinkled throughout. We got there in time for the chop and if you have never been right next to a grown man swinging two enormous cleavers simultaneously then drop what you’re doing and head to Ayden right now.
It is my understanding that the previous two years of the CBWS BBQ Invitational were not as large as this one. After having attended this year’s celebration, the bar has officially been set. I can’t wait to see what the guys over at the CBWS have in store for us all in 2017. If it’s anything like Sunday’s event, I will most definitely be in attendance. In case you missed it, set an event reminder in your Google Calendar now for next year and keep your fingers crossed that you’ll still be able to get tickets. You’ll thank me later.