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Brickstreet BBQ Festival and the Ohio BBQ Triple Crown

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 16, 2010

I recently traveled with @cmhtobias to Marietta to serve as a judge for the Brickstreet BBQ Festival. This was a very good event and an exciting time for BBQ enthusiasts in Ohio. This was the second year for the festival. In the first year, there were eight cook teams. This year there were thirty-nine entrants and a prize pool of $10,000. Cook teams came from as far away as Ontario, Florida and South Carolina. Attendance was good. There were many other events coordinated with the BBQ contest including bands, food vendors, bike rallys and more. Proceeds went to the Colony Theatre which is being renovated.

Teams must compete in each of four categories: Chicken, Pork (butt or shoulder), Ribs and Brisket. Teams are typically tending their smokers and/or grills for twenty four hours straight and need to make sure they have at least six judge worthy samples for each category at the designated time. On occasion, I have seen teams race an entry to the turn in table with seconds to spare.

I am a Kansas City Barbeque Society Certified BBQ judge and this was a KCBS certified contest. As a certified judge, I had to take a training class and must swear an oath before judging each contest. (The oath is not that I will eat as much BBQ as possible.). The judging is a double blind process. Cook teams are each given a number. They bring their entries to a turn in point. Here their entries are given a different number so that the judges have no idea what teams they are judging in each category. While this is a good way to ensure fairness it also guarantees heartbreak for judges because if we have an exceptional sample of BBQ, we do not know which team to go to in order to beg for more.

Each type of BBQ is rated in three areas: appearance, taste and tenderness. Each category is judged on a scale of two to nine. A two is considered inedible. A nine is considered perfect. The baseline is a six. An entry can be disqualified for several reasons.

Judges are given water and crackers and cannot discuss any entries until the judging sheets are turned in. We cannot make faces if we get a mouth full of gristle or spit out something that still has fuel on it so as not to influence other judges. Rating food is a subjective process but KCBS makes it as objective as possible which is good for the cook teams who are competing for cash prizes and invest a lot of time and money to compete.


This year, the Buckeye state has an Ohio BBQ Triple Crown. This consists of three KCBS sanctioned events. A prize is awarded to the team that competes in each contest and scores the highest number of overall points. The two other contests are in Kettering and Nelsonville.

So, yes, this is an exciting time to be a BBQ eater or cooker in Ohio. In some years Ohio BBQ contests have numbered none or one. I had to take my BBQ judge class in Indianapolis because none were offered in Ohio. I had to go to Indiana and Wisconsin just to have opportunities to judge when I first hit the circuit. This year, there are three ranked competitions and at least two judges’ classes were offered. These are all good things for BBQ and Ohio.

This better year of BBQ wraps up at the Ohio Smoked Meat Festival in Nelsonville on October 16th and 17th. This competition has been the premiere (and sometimes only) competition in Ohio for years. The competition will be fierce and the BBQ will be spectacular.

I want to give a couple quick shout outs about Marietta. I stayed downtown at the Lafayette Hotel. This historic hotel was canine friendly and located within walking distance of everything I wanted to do including a trail that follows the river (for relaxing and scenic walks). The Marietta Brewing Company (recently reopened) was just down the street to provide quick access to local microbrewed post BBQ beers and house made root beer. The Marietta Wine Cellars also recently reopened after being a victim of arson. It is now located next to a bowling alley which is a good pairing especially if one is impaired from a tasting. I also discovered Old Town Bakery that has a palate pleasing selection of pastries. Marietta has a lot of offer food, history and nature lovers. There is also a Gutzon Borglum sculpture in the riverfront park downtown.

Borglum sculpture

2 Responses to “Brickstreet BBQ Festival and the Ohio BBQ Triple Crown”

  1. Becke said

    Great entry, Jim. Fascinating look at what being a certified judge entails.

    I’ve never been to Marietta – looks like it has much to offer.

  2. Who won the competition?

    We went to in Tipp City the other day. On Tuesdays they have buck a rib and $1 pulled pork sliders. The sliders are great value and their pulled pork won the Ohio State Fair BBQ competition last year.

    CMH G. reply: The contest results can be found here:

    Overall Winners were Timothy T. and the BBQ Hi-Rollers (from nearby Lewis Center, Ohio)

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