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Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 06/17/2009

'Tis the Season for Barbecue Fests

By Julia Beizer

More than 100,000 people crowd Pennsylvania Avenue for the Barbecue Battle each year. (Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle)

No one would argue that Washington has the same deep barbecue roots of, say, Kansas City or Memphis, but over the next two weekends, our town's getting a pretty hefty dose of pulled pork. Barbecue plays a supporting role in this weekend's Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival at National Harbor; the event's much more about sipping and people-watching. Then on June 27 and 28, the 17th annual National Capital Barbecue Battle returns with two days of ribs, brisket and music. I called up the organizers to get a sense of what booze-and-BBQ-seekers can expect.

Let's start with the important intel: what exactly does your admission fee buy you? At Bourbon, Beer and BBQ, you pay $35 ($30 in advance) to sample 60 varieties of beer and 40 bourbons. (Designated drivers and those under 21 pay $20. It's free for children under 12.) Barbecue tastes are not included in the the price of admission, but if you want to soak up the alcohol in your belly with something a little more substantial, vendors like Rockland's, Red Hot and Blue, Kloby's Smokehouse and others will be dishing up meals for $8 to $12.

The Barbecue Battle is cheaper -- $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 and younger, ages 5 and younger free -- and some ticket sales benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Free barbecue samples abound, but there is a catch: it can take up to an hour and a half to get inside the Safeway Sampling Pavilion. Spokeswoman Suzanne Tubis says the organizers plan ways to keep the masses entertained while they're in line; for example, one of the cooking demonstration stages is near the waiting area. Don't want to stand in that queue? Vendors will be selling food for $5 to $12.

National Harbor's event is more of an exhibition than a competition: bourbon and beer varieties aren't pitted against one another, they're just put out for tasting. Stupid human competition, on the other hand, is encouraged. Official rules of the Ms. Bar-B-Q-Babe Contest are posted on the event's Web site, but, basically, it's a bourbon-and-beer trivia competition between costumed participants. Want some couture tips? Direct your browser to contest rule number three: "Entrants must be properly costumed as a trashy Daisy Duke-ish hillbilly girl." There's a barbecue bean eating contest, as well. You can sign up for both on site.

Over the course of the Barbecue Battle weekend, 'cue experts will square off in three nationally recognized contests with official judges. Attendees (all 100,000 of them) are encouraged to vote for a fan favorite in the fourth.

Concerts & Entertainment
Bourbon, Beer and BBQ's has Junk Food and No Certain Troy performing. Barbecue Battle features Chuck Brown, EU, Junkyard Saints and Mambo Sauce. The clear advantage goes to the Barbecue Battle in this department, but if you're looking for some rowdy fun, the National Harbor fest will have a mechanical bull.

While National Harbor's event emphasizes alcohol, the sprawling Barbecue Battle goes for family-friendly appeal: kids can watch basketball games or play on massive moonbounce-like toys (which cost $5 to $8 extra).

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | June 17, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Events, Restaurants  
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God, I love BBQ. Me and my NAKID kickball team are going to show up for it, then head on over to a bar for beer and flip cup. If you want to join us for the party, join the Alcoballics team on the website for the Fall and we'll send you an email!

Posted by: effect1 | June 18, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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