The Jack is an invite only competition. The winner of the American Royal Open, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo BBQ and the Memphis in May World Championship receive an automatic invitation to the Jack, as does any team that wins 7 Grand Championships during the 12-month qualifying period. The remaining teams are determined by a state-by-state "Draw" from all the teams that won a State Championship contest during the qualifying period. After all the state draws have been completed the remaining teams get one last chance in a "Wild Card Draw" where one final and very lucky team is selected! In addition to the US teams, 18 international Championship teams representing 10 countries were also invited to this year's Jack.
The festivities kicked off on Friday, October 25th, with a judges certification class conducted by the KCBS, a requirement for those who are not certified judges. The folks at the Jack recognize the effort and work these top teams put into competing and bring in only the very best KCBS instructors to ensure all teams get fair and accurate judging and that proper judging procedures are followed.
This year's instructor was Mike Lake. Mike is the pitmaster for Rock River BBQ, a KCBS Master Judge and certified instructor. Mike and his wife Theresa are also the KCBS Reps for the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour Event. Mike is a top notch instructor and did a fantastic job making sure the new judges were very clear on the process and how to properly score an entry. Mike consistently and frequently emphasized putting your personal expectations aside, judging only what you are presented, judging each item for it's own merit and scoring each entry before moving on to the next!
|Parade of Teams|
- 1 part Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
- 1 part triple sec
- 1 part sour mix
- 4 parts lemon-lime soda
After the reception on Barbecue Hill, most of the teams headed back to the competition site to start or continue preparations for Saturday's contest. Friday is really the only day judges are permitted to fraternize with teams. Judges who fraternize with teams on Saturday prior to turn in's are immediately disqualified from participating on the judges panel. So Friday night, we visited a few of our friends who were competing to say hello and wish them luck. "Break a Rib", we say! Then, it was off to our hotel to get some rest for the big day ahead.
First of all, sauce is a category that is not typically judged at a BBQ Contest. For the sauce entries, the teams were required to use Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 in the sauce. Each contestant turned in one pint of sauce in a styrofoam cup. The judges were instructed to score each entry on appearance, taste and texture (as opposed to tenderness). For texture, you had to decide was it appealing or not, was it too thick, too thin, too chunky, to runny? Texture to me, was very subjective, and not something you typically consider as a judge. The judges were also provided some unseasoned pulled pork so that they could taste the sauce by itself and also with meat in order to get an overall perspective on taste profile. To me, all of the sauces were eerily similar. If I had to guess, I would say that most of the teams started with Blue's Hog original and Jack and tweaked it from there.
|Sunset at the Jack Daniel's Hollow|
Looking back at it all and taking it in, judging the Jack was an incredible experience. From the scenery of the Jack Daniels Hollow, to the hospitality of the contest organizers and staff to the rich traditions that are uniquely those of the Jack. If you ever get the opportunity to go as a competitor, judge or spectator, seize it! It's an unforgettable experience!
by Bill Grenko