Working with Cheshire Pork Heritage Farms!!

I am ecstatically excited to announce that the Ivey family of Goldsboro, North Carolina is supporting my mission to bring old school Carolina whole hog BBQ to New York! I will be serving as Cheshire Heritage Farm’s NYC Pitmaster bringing together heritage hogs with heritage BBQ.

Cheshire Farms specializes in the Chester White breed and is raised under very strict Japanese requirements. Why Japanese? Well while we, as a nation, were cutting corners in our porky race to the bottom, the Japanese continued to demand the best. They demanded Chesters from us with their pale pink hues, deep deep marbling, and nutty flavor. The Japanese then set up extensive testing to ensure that no funny business gets into the pork. Everything is tested – the feed, the blood, heck I think even the oink gets an inspection. No steroids or growth hormones.

We might want to adopt these checks on our athletic doping tests to weed out folks like Lance Armstrong!

This level of transparency is really what we need. We have too many products out there labeled organic, free range, etc which are basically meaningless. While we take them at face value, the folks over in Japan got a PhD crack team ready to ensure quality.

I will talk some more about the Chester Whites tomorrow. In the meanwhile check out their website and pick up some the best pork in the country. Plus how cool is their logo? A pig and the North Carolina flag – absolutely genius. As a person who has driven down to North Carolina several times, it is virtually impossible to find a t-shirt with the flag! Contrast that to Texas where even soda straws have a Lone Star flag on it.

More exciting stuff to come with me and Cheshire Pork. Stay tuned!!

North Carolina BBQ’s secret menu – Outside Brown

Source: Garden & Gun Magazine Sam’s actually Tennessee BBQ but you get the idea

Who doesn’t love a secret menu? In it lies treasures reserved for the elect. Meals bespoked for regulars rather than the usual hum-drum fare dished out with all the passion that a cog in the machine can muster.

In the Piedmont region of North Carolina where Lexington style BBQ reigns this secret menu item is “Outside brown”. Outside Brown refers to the meat that’s exposed to the smoke.

The apex of stupid comments on Carolina BBQ is that the meat doesn’t get smokey because we use wood coals rather than raw wood in cooking our meat. If you stood next to some glowing wood ember for a few minutes your shirt will smell like smoke for a month. Imagine then a pork shoulder spending almost 12 hours over these cinders?

So where does this reputation for not being very smokey come from in North Carolina BBQ? The first culprit is that the vast majority of Carolina joints cook with gas or electricity while still advertising their baked pork roast as BBQ. The second issue is that even people who do smoke with wood leave the brown stuff to the side!!!

This is largely because many older folk prefer the inside white meat which is leaner and softer. So when you order a plate of BBQ in Lexington or Winston-Salem, you’re getting inside meat not the good stuff.

If you want that deep dark meat. The ones where the smoke is embedded it hits the most primal nerve in your brain. You’ll order outside brown. This term exists only in North Carolina. The rest of the country refers to it as bark, where the maillard reaction of meat changes the texture of that calls to mind caramel.

Top 10 Hits Whole Hoggin’ in 2013

Generally it’s a bad idea to do a wrap up of your year on the last day of the year. Realistically there should be a few days of introspection. Clear the co-webs, untangle the strands, sensationalize victories and come up with excuses for failures. Nope none of that here. Been busy fighting down to the wire to get all my goals accomplished for this year. Alas the final goal of signing a lease on a spot alluded me. I expect to get there in a few weeks.

So here’s some best hits of Uncle Ho’s year in BBQ and what a year it’s been.

#1 My hair is gone! 

For those who know me, I’ve always had a full head of hair. My hair style itself has remained more or less unchanged since college. So when 2013 began I declared that this year will not only be different, it will be RADICALLY different. Now for a budding BBQ guy there isn’t much radical revolution one can do the freezing January 5th weather, so I shaved my head. Certainly not the craziest thing one can do but I wanted to start off the year completely different and so my long locks had to go. The theme of making this a dramatically different year, I actually quit my long time job to focus full time on the Swine. Despite years of attempting to get canned it seemed like my employer loved me enough to keep me around and continually promote me. So if I was gonna make a change I was going to take the plunge into the uncertain BBQ waters.

#2 The public gets to know Arrogant Swine – aPORKalypse 2013 

I did my very first public appearance as the Arrogant Swine at Alewife’s annual aPORKalypse event where my pork was featured with a whole host of other chefs doing fancy things to pigs along with pours of great American craft beers. Following the Steve Jobs’ philosophy to shamelessly steal great ideas, I decided then and there that to best honor the religion of Carolina whole hog BBQ, it must always be a party. Whole hog BBQ has and will always be in the context of partying with those you love. My BBQ will not be a foodie BBQ. It will not be there to serve the short attention spans of those who constantly seek out the latest culinary hit. My BBQ will not be divorced from the assembly of friends and strangers to one place. A place where the beers flow with laughter and the music is only extra sauce you need. This seed was the vision for the Hog Days of Summer.

#3 The SWINE trailer shows up at the Big Apple BBQ Festival 

Like Xmas, our favorite time of year rolls back around when the Big Apple BBQ block party comes back to town. This time however the massive Arrogant Swine trailer cooks with my teacher, the Godfather of North Carolina BBQ - Ed Mitchell. It threatens to rain every single year at the BABBP but this year the storm definitely delivered! Cascading downpours drenched us to to core on the Friday before the big day and the storms delayed the rest of the pit crew and their pits coming in! Good thing we had my smoker there to get things started. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any hog to serve when the doors opened at Team Ed!!

#4 The Hog Days of Summer!! 

Now if you’re an intelligent person, you would do small pop-ups. 20/30 person ones where you test your system and see how it holds up. You avoid sticky issues like pouring alcohol and letting folks drink as much as they want. An intelligent person wouldn’t try and pull off 14 sessions of beer + BBQ + music events where seatings ranged from 80 to 200 persons! Well we all know where I fell on the intelligence scale. As a full testament to the fact that God watches over children, animals and fools, we managed to pull off some pretty respectable events by taking over construction lots, getting the wonderful folks over at Founder’s Brewery to supply us beer, and bring in some awesome musicians like Blind Boy Paxton and Garage Sale. Every session got their own 220-260 pound heritage breed hog from Tamarack Hollow farms. Without the support and love of Josh and Philip of John Brown Smokehouse none of this would have been possible.

#5 Keeping up my duties at John Brown Smokehouse 

While Arrogant Swine is my main shop I still function as the resident Whole Hog guy for John Brown Smokehouse. So if you place an order for hog there, you’ll see me pull up with my smoker. Definitely the best catering we’ve done ever has been this wedding by the beach in July. JBS pitmaster Josh Bowen and I packed up the smoker and drove up to Connecticut for 2 days to cater. In between shoveling hot coals under my hog, I took naps next to the beautiful Long Island Sound. There are worst ways of making a living than getting paid to lounge around listening to calling gulls and breathing in ocean breezes.

#6 Getting some press! 

Seems like some people like what we’re doing! We got picked up by one of NYC’s largest food sites Serious Eats being named one of the Editor’s best bites of 2013. The New York Daily News listed us as one of the best ways to end the summer. We also got a whole lot of blogger love from We Heart Astoria, Tastoria, Chopsticks & Marrow, the Food Network blog, Local Bozo, Harmonious Belly, Fooditka,

Oh if that wasn’t fun enough I got my own ARBY’S VIDEO!!!!! Arby’s Sandwiches started a national campaign to promote their new BBQ sandwich. As part of that promotion they decided they were going to feature several experts to talk about their regional style. I got to represent Carolina whole hog. I hope I did my faith the justice she deserves.

#7 Keeping up with the events circuit 

I like being part of events and got to cook for several including the 2013 NYC Hot Sauce ExpoQueens Summerbeat in Sunnyside Gardens with Edible Queens, QueensTech Bash at PS 1 MoMA. Chief among this was my collaboration with THE authority on Mexican cuisine – Zarela Martinez when we cooked for this year’s PIG ISLAND event. I even threw in a fun Jewish pork dinner called Sacred & Profane

#8  Starting my catering business 

It’s fun to have a hobby but it’s even more fun to get paid for it! I got to do a fair bit of catering all around town this year. Included with this were corporate clients including Crossfit Queens, real estate giant Jamestown LP, national accounting firm McGladrey & Co, and the Bronx Zoo.

#9 Making new friends 

Along with a whole host of fun food business friends I made over the year I got to make friends with local pitmasters Bill Durney (Hometown BBQ), Matt Fisher (Fletcher’s BBQ), and Frank Davis (Beast of Bourbon). That they count me as a peer is an honor indeed.

#10 The SWINE is coming!

I still haven’t got a lease signed yet. That’s the one really crappy part about real estate hunting, you fall in love with a space and the landlord flakes on you. A space we put in a ton of work doing environmental research for the landlord in Greenpoint just died on the vine. Turns out the landlord got cold feet on having a food business tenant and won’t say yes. Also turns out the jack off isn’t getting any bids for his potential superfund site so he’s holding on to us just in case. We have to bids now on some very exciting spaces even more exciting than my original target so fingers crossed. Either way, the Arrogant Swine is coming and we’re hoping to finally have a permanent home to fly the flag of Carolina whole Hog BBQ here in NYC.

The year started with no more detailed plan than “this year is gonna be dramatically different” and well I went for broke. I left behind all that was familiar and comfortable. I tossed slow and steady for the tumultuous chaos of entrepreneurship. A college mentor gave me the greatest life attitude which has been good to me – Constantly imagine yourself climbing up a forbidding mountain. It looks like you’ll never get to the top but looking down you realize you’re farther along than when you first started and you’re higher up than you ever imagined you could have gone when the adventure first started.

I have much planned for 2014 I hope you’ll like it. Hope to feed you some swine soon.

North Carolina Whole Hog BBQ video

I’ve always wanted to make some videos. What I’ve never dreamed up was making videos with me on camera. So this was a fun way for me to tip my toes in the water. The black & white photos are from the North Carolina State Archives of an old school pig picking. Midway thru the video I added some of the work that we’ve been doing to bring North Carolina whole hog to New York. So the video is an attempt tie the past of our great tradition with our current work. Hope you enjoy!

North Carolina Corn Pone

Carolina BBQ NYC - Skylight Inn

 

All over world there’s people trying bring traditional Italian country fare to the public. Much of it is romanticized farce. Are you imagining duck egg yolk pastas handmade with a shower of graden vegetables? Long simmered meats heartily piled on a family platters? Nope didn’t exist. They might have existed for Counts and Papal vassals but for the most part life for country folk sucked. In fact, what’s very striking is that a core staple of country life – the chestnut polenta – has completely disappeared from menus. Now you might have an oddball here or there that will roid the dish up with rich ragus, perhaps some aged cheeses or even truffles. The fundamental fact is the dish sucks. It’s dry, chalky, and looks like explosive diarrhea. Hence why no one really serves it anymore.

Like the much discarded chestnut polenta, cornpone really isn’t found anywhere anymore. It’s caveman primitive in its construction. Grind a grain, add water and lube it up with grease so that we don’t break our teeth on it. There’s no leavening agent to make it nice and fluffy, no yeasty aromas to trigger our brain’s ancient lust for bread.

Cornpone is not the same as hot water cornbread. A dish universally reviled by Northerners and used by Southerners as a credo of culinary orthodoxy.

As you can see above from my photo at the Skylight Inn, it really isn’t that attractive either.

So why a post on the dull antiquated cornpone? Well for one, there’s a possibility at the joint I’m opening featuring North Carolina BBQ, there won’t be any access to a kitchen hood – hence no frying. No frying = no hushpuppies/cornsticks. To not have a corn bread element would be to eliminate 1/3 of the glorious Carolina triad – Hog + Slaw + Puppies.

So my mind back to the humble cornpone. How can we make this utilitarian dish into something worth serving at the finest of breadbaskets?

The cornpone does have something going for it – LARD. Yes indeed, when you’re cooking that much hog you’re bound to be left with a lot of extra lard. Because modern pigs are a bit leaner, pitmasters have had to supplement commercial lard. This helps contribute to it’s blandness. There’s a difference between lard which have been boiled out of meats to one that’s been roasted out of hogs. It’s the same as why clarified butter is fairly bland but brown butter offers that deep toasty butter goodness we all love.

So step one is to use long cooked rendered pigs fat and perhaps even chop some of resulting cracklin’ into the mix. This will enhance the meaty flavor that this bread is supposed to have.

Step two is figure out a way to throw in a few more contrast flavor notes to offset the uniform blandness. I have two items in mind which I’m still working on. More to come later.

Step 3 is to hold fast to tradition i.e. no sugar. It’s strong temptation to appease a Northern’s palate by offering a cake-like corn bread. Now for most other styles of BBQ I don’t see a contradiction. If we’re going to be faithful to the Carolina profile, a sweet baked corn bread just doesn’t seem right with hog.

It’s too bad we might not be able to offer hush puppies. But with some tweaks, going back to roasted fats, rendered crackings, and textural contrasts, this long discarded old maid of hog cooking can become the hot sexy slut we all crave. Stay tuned.

 

North Carolina Banana Pudding

Banana pudding is North Carolina’s most iconic dessert. Unfortunately of us Carolina stylists it’s also one of the world’s dullest looking dessert. It also happens to be the very best way you can end a hog picking meal. When she’s at her best it’s warm vanilla pudding, flecked with vanilla seeds, coating slices of banana and vanilla wafers topped with a fluffy meringue.

‘Nana puddin’ suffers due to it’s simplicity. Desserts which are simple are often victims to indifference. Take for example strudels, flaky rolled pastries found in Germany & Austria. There’s nothing fancy about them. They’re basically thin dough wrapping a fruit filling served with side of whipped cream. But when done right, strudels possess a dignity unrivaled by any confection in the world. Too bad cuz most of them suck. Even when I was traveling in Vienna, the strudels weren’t just bad, they were awful. Most looked like soggy rags and had a texture that came pretty close to their aesthetics.

The same goes for the humble banana pudding down in tarheel country. Now I haven’t had any that tasted bad in my travels. But many of them came with shock that someone who have the audacity to charge me money for what was basically instant pudding mix.

Even in the authoritative North Carolina BBQ book Holy Smokeout of like 5 generations old recipes for banana pudding only one didn’t require an instant mix. Even the legendary Mama Dip uses a packaged mix!

Now I’m not one of those folk who believe that you need to make everything from scratch. I think people making their own in-house ketchup just got too much time on their hands. But for something that’s so stupidly simple it seems absurdly lazy to just use a prepacked mix. What’s even dumber is that this crap is actually quoted as part of people’s “secret family recipe”. That’s equivalent to me holding with pride that my grandma’s legendary lasagna was made with Prego pasta sauce.

The second problem we encounter is the meringue itself. Many people don’t even bother with the meringue – appalling. Some folk actually substitute the meringue for whipping cream/whipped “topping”. The latter being just as sacrilegious as substituting Coors Light for the wine at a Catholic Mass.

Along with serving the dish warm, the meringue is what makes banana pudding a distinctly Southern dessert. To either omit or substitute it we might as well call it Yankee Pudding. In the war of custards the 1865 white flag is waved every time this humble dessert is served either naked or with whipped cream.

I wouldn’t go as far as Alton Brown and make the vanilla wafers (recipe below). His rationale being that manufacturers have started cutting corners with the cookies themselves and have started making artificial “nilla wafers” which contain no vanilla. I think they’re just fine. And rather than put in that extra effort just spend a bit more money and use REAL VANILLA PODS in the custard itself. It will add both explosive flavor as well beautifully contrast the yellow.

The custard is essentially a traditional Creme Patissierie. Making your own custard is slower than the box mix BUT you get jazz her up a lot more. By boiling the milk with the scrapped vanilla pods you get a deeper layer of flavor that you simply can’t do with the mix. You can cheeky with the custard and add either a rum-based banana liqueur like BOLS or just your favorite rum. Rum trading being very historically significant in Southern BBQ history as well.

For the meringue I substituted the traditional baked meringue for an Italian meringue. This gives you the added benefit of not having to pop the pudding into a stove to brown it. Italian meringues are made by beating hot syrups into egg whites which a pinch of constarch. They are silkier, more stable, freeze nicely, just all around more awesome. All it took was a few seconds with my trusty blow torch and we got the effect you see at the shot above.

In tray you see above I also added layers of peanut butter crumble over half the pudding. So half traditional half peanut butter. Peanut butter and banana being such perfect partners.

Banana pudding – Nilla wafers, Custard, Bananas, Meringue. Simple. Better to adorn a beautiful woman with the finest of lipsticks than to mar her face with the entire cheap makeup kit from Walgreens.

Alton Brown’s Vanilla Wafers 

Ingredients
7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions
Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

I’m in an Arby’s Video!!!

So ARBY’s, the awesome roast beef sandwich shop, came up with a new BBQ sandwich – The SMOKEHOUSE BRISKET sandwich.

To promote their new offering they partnered up the national food site Serious Eats to create an interactive BBQ “Map” where they got the expert pitmasters of every stylistic region to talk about how they smoke their meat.

I got tapped to do South Carolina whole hog. Now too bad I didn’t get to rep North Carolina but the cooking for North & South Carolina whole hog is the same. In the eastern part of South Carolina they use vinegar pepper just the same as the rest of us. For the shoot however, they wanted to highlight the distinctive mustard sauce of the Central Carolina region. Good thing I had plenty of mustard sauce on hand! Check the video out!

btw- couldn’t resist any chance to add a fat man GIF

 

BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Hursey’s BBQ – Burlington, NC

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More Photos Below!!

Back in the spring I took some friends down to North Carolina on a mini-food tour. As I was out to pick up my new smoker anyway I figured some company and gas aid would be beneficial. I’ve long used the NCBS Historical Barbecue Trail map to find my next destination. Now to find new places to eat keeps getting harder and harder as I’ve eaten at over 50% of the list so the places are getting more and more obscure.

Thus we made our first stop after a solid 9 hour drive from NYC to Hursey’s Barbecue. Being that Hursey’s was the unknown joint, I planned for us to hit the legendary Allen & Son’s immediately afterwards where I knew the BBQ to be amazing. Good thing too as we might not have left my guests with as great of an impression of NC BBQ at stop #1.

I’ve always said that the “Triangle” area of North Carolina (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill) was a good divider of the Eastern and Western BBQ styles of the State. Hursey’s is like Allen’s in that they combine features of East & West. Whereas Allen’s leans East, Hursey’s definitely leans West.

The one good thing about Hursey’s is that it still cooks over wood, a laud worthy characteristic in a region that long forsaken its BBQ heritage.  According to  the trail map they cook a mixture of shoulders (80%) and hams (20%). The sauce is a tomato based Western sauce but the pork is paired with an Eastern style creamy slaw. I didn’t find the pork all that flavorful as it was lacking in both smoke and moisture.

As was the practice throughout our entire BBQ tour we basically ordered everything on the menu so that we can all get a little sample of what the joint has to offer. One of the regrettable choices was to get the babyback ribs. Almost without fail in North Carolina, it’s a really really bad idea to order the ribs. Whereas traditional BBQ guys in the State are very stringent on their cooking methods for whole hog or shoulder, ribs are not considered BBQ are therefore are fair game for short cuts. The one exception to that rule might be 12 Bones in Asheville, a favorite of President Barack Obama.

As I should have expected, the ribs were boiled and then painted with sauce. Now normally this doesn’t work out all that badly as the Chili’s babyback ribs are boiled and sauced with little issue. The problem is that the “sauce” used for North Carolina BBQ is very thin and doesn’t really adhere to boiled ribs. Caveat Emptor on ribs in North Carolina!!

Other items on the menu were wonderful. We had some juicy broasted chicken. Broasted chicken, for the uninitiated, is chicken that’s fried in a pressure cooker. We finished off our meal with a fantastic peach cobbler and a properly done banana pudding.

I wouldn’t place Hursey’s on a must try category. But if you’re ever in the area it’s worth a stop in. It’s the only BBQ joint for a few miles I believe.

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BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : B’s Barbecue – Greenville, NC

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More photos below!!

Complimenting a barbecue joint’s chicken is akin to trying to pair a smoking hot girl with your ugly friend by telling her “he got a great personality”.

As far as I know there’s only only two major joints in the country whose chicken shares place of pride – Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, AL & B’s Barbecue in Greenville, NC. Big Bob’s largely because of it’s unique practice of dunking the entire finished bird in their trademark white sauce.

B’s is a well known fixture in the whole hog world. They clear through an average of 40 hogs a week cooking all night over charcoal. They make a very tasty hog. But interesting enough many many people have high praises for their chicken!

So what is the deal with this chicken? I wasn’t even planning on ordering it because, quite frankly, who cares about chicken?? My gluttonous friends on the other hand had to have it, so we got a spread of corn sticks, hog, slaw, and chicken.

Taking a bite I finally got what people were saying about the chicken. It was crispy, toasted, juicy and very very well seasoned. But there’s something else there. A secret ingredient. An edge. I took another bite and didn’t sense anything unusual in terms of spices. But then I sniffed the bird. AAAAAAH. That’s it! The secret. The single reason why everyone loves B’s chicken. That little extra something that no one could articulate. It’s HOG FAT!!!!!!!

You see, the chicken goes on in the morning after the hogs come off the pits. These hog have been sitting over glowing coal all night dripping juice and grease into the ashes. So when they fire up new coal to cook the chicken, they’re smoking up the residual hog grease back up into the birds giving them a porky aroma!!

Well there you go. I just gave you the secret recipe to B’s chicken. Step 1 smoke a few hogs…. Anyone want to steal that?

B’s cornsticks are the single best in North Carolina. I’m not normally a fan of corn sticks as they’re normally dense and hard. These were fried to flaky shattering work of art. I still won’t order cornsticks when I visit other BBQ joints but if you don’t get them here at B’s you’re missing out.

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Reflections on the Hog Days of Summer

See all the photos HERE

Thus far we have completed three Hog Days of Summer events. And with the craziness relatively contained I figure it’d be a good time to write some reflections.

First off, it’s an otherworldly feeling to see “your” event. I’ve been part of many other people’s events as my own table. Whether it be the Hot Sauce Expo or aPORKalypse 2013, I was part of the show and not the producer. So to see a massive banner produced by the award winning Founder’s Brewery bearing the words “Arrogant Swine Presents” – otherworldly.

One of the things that surprised me was that I actually have repeat guests. My picture was that people would come to the events and make it one of many different fun things they’d would be doing this summer. It’s extremely flattering that not only people like the event; they actually keep coming back for more!

It’s still an oddity when someone comes up to me afterwards and thanks ME for putting the events together. People are spending their hard earned dollars and their free time to join me for a Saturday afternoon or evening. If anything I’m the one who should be thanking THEM!! And indeed I am extremely thankful that people are willing to share in my craziness.

Cooking hogs once in a while and doing it for several events and caterings in a row is night and day. I’ve been able to pick up lots of new tricks this summer – Everything from how to transport the animal to modifying the preparation for line service.

Our hogs seem to be a hit all summer with people coming back on line for 3 or more servings! It’s also a confirmation that people of New York do indeed appreciate traditional North Carolina BBQ the way it was intended to be served. Many “Carolina-style” places seem ashamed of the traditions and seek to doctor them up with sugar and thickeners.

Founder’s selection of craft beer continues to be a hit all summer and we are most definitely blessed that a brewer of their caliber agreed to partner up with us for these events. Their All Day IPA is unquestionably THE BEER of the summer. Full of flavor yet perfect for a hot summer’s afternoon.