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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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When barbecuing with beer, most people think of marinades, sauces, mops and bastes infused with the flavors of fresh ales or lagers.

But in an unusual twist, a Wisconsin native, Joseph "Joe" Durante, pioneered a new way to barbecue with beer-bathed wood - using smoke from the beechwood used in brewing Budweiser beer.

"We call it "signature smoke," " says Durante, now the executive vice president of the four-diamond Kingsmill Resort, a luxurious facility that includes a conference center, premier golf courses, tennis, spa facilities, and more. The resort's posh Eagles Tavern at the Golf Club is the sole site for the signature-smoked prime meats and seafood. The Kingsmill Resort is one of the properties owned by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and shares the 3,000 acres along the James River in Williamsburg, Virginia, with the regional brewery and Busch Gardens.

Joe Durante began his career in the culinary arts in Milwaukee at the Pfister Hotel. "Marcus had just renovated the Pfister when I started in the kitchens, right out of college," says Durante. "At the time, the English Room was the most phenomenal place to start a culinary career. Within a year, I was entering culinary competitions with the Pfister team."

After moving from Milwaukee, the chef worked in hospitality operations from boutique hotels to large Marriott International properties. Durante found new challenges when he became the executive chef for the Kingsmill Resort in Virginia in 1995. Kingsmill's 110 cooks and chefs prepare a wide spectrum of meals, from hand-held fare for 100,000 fans during PGA events at the golf courses, to elegant dinners for executives at the resort's conference center.

"The Eagles Tavern is a gorgeous location, but we wanted to bring a new dimension to the menu, which was mostly chophouse specialties, such as steaks, veal, and seafood," Durante recalls.The view from Eagles Tavern at the golf club, Kingsmill Resort

After touring the nearby Anheuser-Busch brewery, Durante wondered what happened to the beechwood after its use in the brewing process (beechwood is used in the lager fermentation tanks). For a brewing operation that receives beechwood shipments by the truckload, sparing a few handfuls was no problem for head brewer, Dan Driskill.

Durante experimented with the flavor produced by cold-smoking beechwood into prime beef, imported seafood and Provimi veal. Beechwood strips are soaked in Budweiser for the seafood, Michelob's Amber Bock for the beef and pork. The cold smoke process uses convection ovens from Alto Shaam of Menomonee Falls. That way, smoke circulates throughout the temperature-controlled chamber, and more of the flavor permates the food, not just charred on its surface. Joe Durante and the beechwood-smoked shrimp, Eagles Tavern

Nearly eight years later and after thorough testing and refining, Durante's brainstorm to adapt the wood chips for cooking has produced a one-of-a-kind signature smoke. It launched in the Kingsmill Eagles Tavern this summer - to sizzling reviews. The local Hampton Roads magazine starred the restaurant in a feature on golf course dining.

Though mesquite, hickory, maple and other types of wood including beechwood are often used for BBQ cooking, charcoal and smoking, only Durante has access to the Bud-bathed wood. So, for home beercooks, Durante recommends cold-smoking with milder fruitwoods, and finishing grilled foods with beer-based marinades, mop sauces, and BBQ glazes.

"We rub our Bud beercan chickens with barbecue spices before grilling them," says Durante. "On Labor Day 2002, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Williamsburg brewery with a giant barbecue. And on our two 6-ft. long rotisserie grills, we'll have Bud-injected turkey breasts roasting and some locally made beer brats."

"It'll be my own little piece of Milwaukee, imported to Williamsburg," says Durante.

BBQ SPICE RUB from the Kingsmill Resort

1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1/3 cup chili pepper (choose mild Anaheim, medium Chipotle, or a blend of your choice)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix all ingredients. Use as a rub on chicken, pork or ribs. Yields 1 cup.

This article first appeared in the August 21, 2002 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Section.

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