New Houston Competition Showcases Sausage Mastery
Updated, April 5, 9:45 a.m.: According to event organizer Nick Rama, this is now sold out.
It’s finally time to find out how the sausage is made — or not. Many barbecue joints don’t serve sausage created in-house. The business of serving smoked meats daily means sometimes it’s best to “choose your battles.” Grinding and seasoning meat then stuffing it into casings is labor-intensive and time-consuming, so sausage tends the be the one meat that pitmasters often prefer to buy from a third party. So, those who do make their own are accomplishing a special feat. A new competition, Sausage Wars, aims to showcase these pitmasters. It’s happening on April 6 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Spindletap Brewery, located at 10622 Hirsch in northeast Houston. The winner announcements are at 9:15 p.m. (The brewery is open until 10 p.m.)
“You have to dedicate an entire day to just making sausage,” said competitor Ara Malekian of Harlem Road Texas BBQ in Richmond, Texas. “It also requires experience to make sausage. It’s a skill that comes with time. You can’t just follow a recipe and watch a YouTube video.”
Tickets for Sausage Wars are on sale now for a modest $25. (It’s $35 for a ticket that allows for admission at 5 p.m., an hour early. Only 23 of those are still available at press time). All ticket holders get sausage samples from the competitors, two beers and a chance to vote for the people’s choice award. Those with early entry tickets also receive a Sausage Wars sticker and a chance to try a new offering from Texas Pickle Company: the Whiskey Half Sour brined with Texas whiskey and post oak-smoked peppercorns. Tickets for kids aged five to 12 are $20.
The participating barbecue restaurants include some of Texas Monthly’s top-rated ones in the state, including Louie Mueller Barbecue (number five on the list and coming in from Taylor, Texas), Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue in Tomball (number six) and The Pit Room (also in the Texas Monthly top 50).
Another competitor coming to Houston from out of town is Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue from Pflugerville. Competing favorites in or relatively close to Houston include Buck’s BBQ, Harlem Road Texas Barbecue in Richmond, Reveille Barbecue Co. in Magnolia, Tin Roof in Humble, SpindleTap Brewery’s onsite pizza place, Texzas, Southern Q BBQ and Smokin’ Z’s BBQ in Hitchcock.
Each competitor’s sausage offering is being blind-judged by a panel that includes Phaedra Cook, editor and publisher of Houston Food Finder (yours truly), Hank Lewis of the blog Hank On Food (also a Houston Food Finder contributor), Leo Longoria of SpindleTap Brewery and the Texas Beer Experience and Shane McAuliffe of The Texas Bucket List.
Nick Rama of the popular Facebook group Nick’s Local Eats (who also recently started another group about local barbecue, burgers and beer) says he and Bryan Norton of the Tales From The Pits podcast came up with the idea. Rama credits the name to barbecue fan Hirotishi Mugen, who Rama believes coined the hashtag #sausagewars when visiting barbecue joints.
“We really wanted to showcase sausage, because the game has changed,” Rama said. “Just as a few examples, Tejas Chocolate + BBQ introduced their Chile Rellano Sausage and Bryan and I were blown away. The Pit Room already had three different kinds of housemade sausage and Southern Q has some great housemade Boudin and sausage. Reveille BBQ Co. is making Taco Sausage and a Double IPA sausage. Brek Webber recently started to make a great jalapeño pepperjack sausage at Tin Roof BBQ. With so many places making sausage with original recipes, it was time for this event.”
Rama also thinks that a brewery is an ideal venue for this kind of competition. “Beer and sausage is a perfect combination. James McFarland of Reveille Barbecue Co. introduced us to Leo Longoria of SpindleTap Brewery,” he said. “We loved the space because the connected warehouse space is huge and if it does rain, guests will be covered.”
Live entertainment is by Buck Yeager, a two-time Country Music Association of Texas winner who, in 2015, received Male Artist Of The Year and Song of the Year in 2018.
Several other vendors plan to be at the competition, including Bundt Cake-A-Holic, Trinity Rub & Sauce Co., Segura Cigars and Otto’s Sodas. Rama says that Vidal Jackson is also selling a limited edition cake made with SpindleTap Brewery beer.
Visit the Sausage Wars Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on participating barbecue restaurants and the ticket purchase link.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.