Nothing pairs better with summer cookout fare than savory, slow-simmered BBQ sauce — and, of course, beer! This year, we partnered with three of our favorite breweries to create a new line of BBQ sauces featuring a not-so-secret ingredient: craft beer. Our Southern Tier IPA sauce has its roots in genuine Western Carolina barbecue, where mustard sauce reigns supreme. It’s bright with three kinds of mustard – tangy yellow, spicy brown, and whole grain – and the complex, hoppy taste of live bottle conditioned pale ale from Southern Tier Brewing Company. Here, we talk to Phin DeMink, Southern Tier’s founder and president, all about summer beers, BBQ and more. Read on!
Tell us about your background. How did you get into brewing, or what’s the story behind Southern Tier?
I first started home brewing while going to college. It quickly became an obsessive hobby for me. Every weekend my roommate and I would make five-gallon batches of beer on our stove. Shortly after finishing school I found a magazine article about a course you could take to become a professional brewer. At the time it seemed like a great way to defer entering the workforce! I headed out to California to take the class. That’s where I was able to network and get my first professional brewing job at the Ellicottville Brewing Company in New York. While in Ellicottville, I met my business partner and wife, Sara, who was also working at the brewery. After four years at EBC I decided to go back to school at the Seibel Institute of Technology to further my brewing education. Upon graduation, I took a job with the Goose Island Brewing Company. I worked there from 1998 to 2002. Sara and I decided to leave the Chicago area and head back to her hometown of Lakewood, New York, to start a business and a family. In early 2003, the Southern Tier Brewing Company was born.
What’s special about the beers you make? Can you tell us a little about the different beers?
Our beers are unique because we push the envelope when it comes to flavor. We like to think out of the box and stray from the traditional brewing ingredients by using things such as lemongrass, pumpkins, chocolate, rose hips, coffee, grapefruit peel and other non-traditional beer ingredients. We also happen to be huge hop-heads, which shines in the numerous hoppy beers we produce.
What are your favorite beers for summer? Any specific styles?
When I think about drinking summer beer I usually turn to some of the more sessionable styles, lower ABV beers. Although it’s available year round, my absolute favorite is our Live Pale Ale, the beer you chose to make your Carolina BBQ Sauce with. Wheat beers are some of my personal favorites. I’m pretty much addicted to IPAs year round, so this year we made a summer seasonal, sessionable IPA we call Farmer’s Tan.
Why is beer best for BBQ and grilling?
I could not imagine standing over a smoky pit of burning coals and wood with a glass of red wine. There is nothing more American than a a backyard barbecue and some nice cold craft beer.
Any tips for pairing? What are the best beers for foods on the grill?
First off, hoppy beer pairs well with anything. I love good weizen beer with grilled bratwurst. Nothing beats good pale ale with a 12-hour slow smoked pork shoulder. A light, sessionable American wheat is absolutely delicious with a good old-fashioned charcoal grilled burger. One of my favorites is IPA paired next to a grilled ribeye seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper and garlic.
What’s the story behind your partnership with Williams-Sonoma?
Out of the blue we got a phone call asking if we’d be interested in collaborating on a line of craft beer barbecue sauces. Being huge fans of Williams-Sonoma, we were instantly excited — Sara especially, who worked for Williams-Sonoma while we lived in Chicago. They told us the sauce they intended to make, and we suggested nothing would work better than to use Live Pale Ale.
Describe the BBQ sauce — flavor notes, etc. What’s special about it, and what do you love about it?
It’s a delicious Carolina mustard sauce. Sweet, tangy, with a sharp mustard flavor and a little bit of smoke and peppery finish.
What are some of your favorite ways to use it?
It’s a very versatile sauce. It goes great to glaze meatloaf, and couldn’t be more fitting for a delicious pulled pork sandwich with some fresh vinegar slaw. It works well as a chicken marinade and also on shrimp skewers.
Any tips for amateur brewers?
If you brew what you like to drink, you’ll find you’re not alone.