Queensland’s biggest barbeque competition is returning this July. But it’s also on the move.
Last year, the Brisbane BBQ Festival packed out South Brisbane’s Wandering Cooks and Fish Lane with its giddy mix of cooking competitions, food stalls, craft beer and live music. So in 2016, organiser Dominique Bird is shifting proceedings to the Brisbane Showgrounds. “We wanted to refine the event and make it even better,” he says.
The Brisbane BBQ Festival will take place on the Showring 2 side of the precinct, closest to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital. “It’s a beautiful spot, with the green oval, marquee and the line of old Moreton Bay Figs,” Bird says. “Capacity will be 6,000 in 2016. The venue can actually hold 12,000, but we want to make sure it’s manageable and everyone has plenty of space.”
The day will include a meat and barbeque expo with special guests Jess Pryles, Hillbilly Wes and The Shank Bros; 10 food stalls from vendors such as Ze Pickle and Rangers Texas BBQ; pop-up bars from Newstead Brewing Co, Fortitude Brewing and Buffalo Trace Bourbon; and two stages of live music headlined by The John Steel Singers.
There will also be the centrepiece Brisbane BBQ Championship, 40 teams working over 12 hours to prepare slow-cooked ribs, brisket, pork and poultry for an expert panel of judges. It all taps into the sense of education and community that Bird says exists in the barbequing scene. “It’s definitely a community. Everyone knows each other and is up for being friendly and promoting barbequing in general,” Bird says. “It’s a great place for people to come and learn about barbeque and maybe take some ideas home with them.”
Bird is perhaps best known as one half of the duo behind The Local Mobile Deli food truck. The idea for a barbeque festival came to him in 2013 when he toured as a musician to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. “I got to experience amazing barbecue,” he says. “When I came back I saw some small barbeque events popping up in Australia, and wondered why something wasn’t in Brisbane.”
In its first year the Brisbane BBQ Festival was plagued by its own unexpected popularity, a whopping 25,000 Facebook users RSVPing for a free event that was initially intended for just 400 people at the Wandering Cooks warehouse space. Bird had to change tack, ticketing the event and opening it out to Fish Lane in order to make space for the 2,500 who eventually attended, but it was still more crowded than he wished, with long lines and food shortages hampering the first of its two days.
2016 is in part about addressing those shortcomings. “That’s what people deserve, to have a big barbecue festival that everyone can enjoy,” he says. “The Showgrounds are built for these sorts of events. It has that infrastructure and a lot of support — it’s going to be a great event.”
The 2016 Brisbane BBQ Festival takes place at the Brisbane Showgrounds, Saturday 2 July. Tickets on sale now via brisbanebbqfestival.com