ZZQ's Chris Fultz, left, and Alex Graf. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
If you're already a devotee of ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue, you know that its melt-in-your-mouth brisket, curls of cavatappi smothered in cheese and jalapeño, and forkfuls of tender blackstrap molasses collard greens all pair perfectly with crisp, cool sips of Ardent Craft Ales beer. If you haven't yet been inducted into the fatty, flavorful fold, now you know: The ZZQ and Ardent pairing is a match made in gustatory heaven, and it's why last year's monthly barbecue pop-up series was so successful that lines would form from the ZZQ tent all the way to the Ardent parking lot. Every time.
And so it's with great enthusiasm that we share this: Not only will ZZQ be popping up again this year at Ardent, ZZQ's husband-and-wife team will be bringing barbecue to the brewery every weekend until Thanksgiving, with a taste of what we can expect from ZZQ's forthcoming brick and mortar. Beginning April 30, every Saturday from noon until the food sells out, ZZQ will serve up at least three varieties of meat (and yes, the brisket will always be on the menu), plus sides. But here's where things get really fun: In the true spirit of Texas barbecue halls, and in a preview of what's to come, ZZQ will switch from à la carte meat pricing and small paper trays to charging by the pound and serving your food on butcher paper, complete with a slice or two of white bread and pickles.
“The first time I experienced that, we got a tray of food for the two of us and it’s just a little bit of everything," ZZQ pitmistress Alex Graf says. "It was a really magical experience and I just think it underscores community; you could sit down and have three or four people eatin’ off the same tray, and I love that.”
“It’s that kind of Central Texas meat market tradition that was just something that, while it’s familiar to me, is unique here," adds pitmaster Chris Fultz, a native Texan. "I think that’s part of what sets us apart, part of our brand.”
The butcher paper and tray format is a classic one that's deeply rooted in Texas, and allows for wrapping up unfinished barbecue to-go — handy, now that ZZQ's new format allows you to order four pounds of pulled pork and brisket at a time, so you can bring it on home to
hoard and scarf down share with others. Accordingly, the format will also be present at ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue's restaurant, which Fultz and Graf hope to launch in 2017.
Those by-the-pound meat prices will vary, as they'll adjust each week due to market cost, but sides will still be available for $2.50 each. And the ZZQ team will also be adding a few new menu items, to boot. You'll be able to find a new smoked, beef-based sausage made with pork fat and spices, and a few additional sausages further down the line — one a hot link, another possibly a cheddar and jalapeño flavor. When it comes to sides, you'll find butter beans crafted from Fultz's grandmother's recipe with a few tweaks, plus a new approach. “We’ve been thinking about the beans as a seasonal thing," Graf says. "You get your black-eyed peas during the winter, cowboy beans in the fall, and butter beans are your spring and summer bean dish. It’s sort of more about that rotation and how does that change in the bigger picture instead of every week it’s something different.”
Due to the barbecue team's overwhelming pop-up and catering success, Fultz and Graf commissioned a custom-made, Texas-built, 3,500-pound smoker with a 16-foot smoking chamber — that's four times the amount of smoking capability afforded to ZZQ by Mabel, the original smoker with only a four-foot chamber. You can catch the unveiling of Max (short for Maxine), the new smoker, at The Veil Brewing Co.'s opening party on Saturday, April 16. From there, she'll make her way to weekly Ardent gigs until finding a permanent home at the ZZQ brick and mortar.
You can also catch ZZQ at noon on April 9 at Strangeways Brewing, and at 4 p.m. at Ardent Craft Ales' Swine & Brine event.