Chow Town

Notes from American Royal barbecue: Butts, bones and Spotted Cow

Tim’s Full Belli Deli Wisconsin Beer Cheese Butt Dip: perfect for Royals & Chiefs tailgating.
Tim’s Full Belli Deli Wisconsin Beer Cheese Butt Dip: perfect for Royals & Chiefs tailgating. Special to The Kansas City Star

Meat, rivers and rails have fueled Kansas City’s thriving economy from the late 19th century to today.

Years ago, our stockyards and packing plants were second only to Chicago’s in size and production. Rooted in the West Bottoms, the 115-year-old American Royal Livestock, Horse Show & Rodeo and the annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue are special links to our city’s past, present and future.

The American Royal complex was transformed into a country of butts, bones, smoke and good times last weekend when more than 550 competition barbecue teams and thousands of spectators from all over America, plus Australia, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Austria and Japan, gathered to party, cook, eat and celebrate.

It was part Mardi Gras and part St. Patrick’s Day, fused with a Chow Town saucy, smoky accent.

On a more serious yet fun side, a combined total of at least a thousand judges took and fulfilled their oath to judge the invitational contest, sides and desserts contests, open meat contest and kids ‘cue contest. Results are posted online.

Tim’s Full Belli Deli from Oshkosh, Wis., is one of the many new teams I met. Its name and slogan —“People drive for miles to smell our butts!” — caught my attention.

When I saw that the team was from Wisconsin, I asked, “Did you bring some Spotted Cow?” To my delight, the team members said, “Yes!”

They pulled a frosty Spotted Cow from their cooler, popped the top and handed it to me. Spotted Cow Ale from the New Glarus Brewing Co. is one of my favorite craft beers. It is available only in Wisconsin. What a treat.

The team — Tim Schopp, Adam Schopp, Adam Heagle and Shawn Voight — work at a variety of day jobs: military transportation coordinator, drywall installer, industrial welder and heavy equipment operator. Each is responsible for cooking a meat category and preparing it for turn-in. Diana Wiechman, Jaclyn Voight, Liz Hegeman and Amanda Schopp do the go-for chores and run each entry to the judging area — a considerable distance from the team site.

Although Smokin Hoggz of Massachusetts — a great team of good people — took Grand Champion this year, Tim and his team did a respectable job in this, their first year at the Royal. They smoked a mean pork butt and made a lot of new friends. I hope they return next year.

I asked Tim if he had a beer cheese dip. Silly question to ask a cook from Wisconsin, but he politely obliged with his Wisconsin Beer & Cheddar Dip (Two Ways). Here’s my adapted version with barbecue pork butt added. I call it:

Tim’s Full Belli Deli Wisconsin Beer Cheese Butt Dip

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon garlic, thinly sliced

12 ounces strong ale beer (I prefer Spotted Cow or Boulevard Pale Ale)

1 1/2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2-3 teaspoons prepared horseradish

4-5 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cup sour cream

12 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese (plus 4 ounces for hot version)

1/4 pound barbecue pulled pork butt

4-5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced; reserve some for garnish

Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat, add the onion. Cook, stirring often, and add salt. Continue to cook, stirring the bottom of the pan till onions are caramelized. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add beer and raise heat to medium high. Cook until the beer/onion mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, then remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the onion mix into the work bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment, add mustard, cayenne, salt, black pepper, horseradish and Worcestershire. Pulse to a coarse puree. Add sour cream and cheddar, pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir or pulse in pork butt and scallions and transfer to serving dish, garnish with reserved scallions. Serve with crackers, pita chips or breadsticks.

Hot option: Shred additional 4 ounces of cheese; mix 3 ounces of the cheese with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Stir into the dip mixture. Transfer to a casserole dish and sprinkle with 1 ounce reserved cheese, bake at 400 degrees until edges are brown and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 14 to 18 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped green onion or scallions. Serve with crusty bread or crackers, or Wisconsin style with sliced bratwurst.

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’ Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of books on barbecue. His most recent release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”