ST. ALBANS — Chad Spooner was one of the first people in the fast-growing line at Smokin’ Butt’s Bar-B-Q here on a recent Friday evening.
Spooner, a St. Albans resident and city councilman, has quickly become a fan of Smokin’ Butt’s pork, chicken and beef brisket menu.
“The pulled pork and chicken at Smokin’ Butt’s were both very succulent, with the perfect amount of flavoring, and the fries the meat was covering were thick and tender,” Spooner said.
As a city councilman, Spooner has other reasons to appreciate Smokin’ Butt’s new presence in St. Albans.
“An authentic BBQ establishment in downtown St. Albans will fill a void, and offer an option for those searching for something distinctively different,” Spooner said. “Located within one of St. Albans’ main attractions, 14th Star Brewery, combines BBQ and beer for a win-win situation.”
That “win-win” is what Smokin’ Butt’s owners Dave and Terry Burbo envisioned when they became the official onsite catering service for 14th Star’s new event space, which is booked through January, according to Dave.
Since September, outside of event bookings — primarily on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (at least during the football season) — the Burbos have been serving their pork, chicken and beef brisket items from inside 14th Star, which had been looking for a stable food menu for some time.
Then, talks began between the Burbos and Andrea Gagner, 14th Star CEO.
“When Andrea spoke to us about this, it was a very easy decision,” Dave Burbo said. “Terry and I had spoken about this opportunity for many months and covered all of the ‘what ifs.’ Having 14th Star ask us to bring our business under their roof was definitely a compliment that made us feel good about the quality that we were providing to customers.”
The collaboration “is working out incredibly well,” Gagner said. “Not only does it give a unique dinner option to diners in St. Albans, the delicious food produced complements our beers very well. Additionally, Dave and Terry are just wonderfully good people. Having a partnership with people we can trust, and enjoy spending time with, was a huge factor in collaborating with them, and one that is proving to be invaluable.”
The Burbos moved to their current Georgia home in 2005 and wed in 2006. Terry has two sons: Ryan Collette, a senior at Milton High School (MHS); and Jayson, a 23-year-old graduate of Merrimack College and a 2012 MHS grad.
When Dave and Terry met, they discovered a mutual passion for cooking, whether in the kitchen or on the grill.
“This carried into many tailgating events while Jayson was playing football,” Dave said. “We would bring our little smoker around with us in the truck and put on a feast for family and friends.”
For Jayson’s graduation party in 2012, the Burbos cooked on a large smoker that Dave built with his father-in-law. That led to requests to cater other events — 12 that summer — and a brainstorming session between Dave and Terry about how they could go from backyard smoker to full-blown business.
During the winter of 2013-14, they decided to purchase a custom-built trailer, to cater events. Then came the business name, which was the result of a few beers at home one night.
“Terry said it — Smokin’ Butt’s — and it just stuck,” Dave said. “That’s what we’re doing — smokin’ butts.”
Smokin’ Butt’s averages 40 to 50 events a summer, with occasional parties that pop up during winter months. Their motto is “You do the bookin’ we do the cookin’,” and it’s all over their website, along with a menu, gallery and testimonials.
The Burbos are busy with Smokin’ Butt’s and their other jobs, so to ensure they did not lose time with their family, they made Smokin’ Butt’s a family affair. About 10 of Dave and Terry’s relatives are helping with the catering business and the operation at 14th Star.
“We have listened to our customers over the past years, which has helped us perfect our craft,” Dave said. “There are no shortcuts taken in this long process. Many people around simply put pork into a crock pot and call it pulled pork. Yes the pork pulls apart, but it is not authentic BBQ. Authentic BBQ is low and slow. Our pork butts remain on the smoker for eight to 10 hours depending on size — our ribs between 3.5 and four hours, and the brisket takes about 12 to 14 hours of total cook time.”
On average, Smokin’ Butt’s plates about 300 pounds of pork a week at 14th Star, along with 75 pounds of beef and 60 pounds of chicken — not bad for just three evenings of business per week. Smokin’ Butt’s pork and beef products are sourced from a food company, and most of the meat is from outside Vermont, to keep costs down for customers, according to Dave.
On a typical Friday, Smokin’ Butt’s serves 100 to 150 people at 14th Star — in only four hours.
“The feedback that we are getting is great,” Dave said. “Everyone is very excited that we are here, it’s something new in town and nothing else like it in the area. Everyone thinks this is a great marriage between the two companies.”
The Burbos have something else working for them: the current demand for pork BBQ in northwestern Vermont. Earlier this year, a pork BBQ restaurant opened in Milton, and another smokehouse/brewery is expected to open on Lake Road in St. Albans in early 2017.
“I personally feel that there are more people starting to get into the BBQ art,” Dave Burbo said. “Much like craft beers, it has become very popular with many people and they enjoy doing it. Everyone has their own way of doing their ‘Q’ just like everyone has their own way of brewing. You simply practice at perfecting your craft, find something that works and stick with it.”