Breckenridge Hogfest celebrates bourbon and bacon with Tender Belly
Friday Aug. 26 — Woodford Reserve Four-Course Bourbon Pairing Dinner
6 p.m.: Woodford Reserve dinner reception begins at Quandary Grille
6:30 p.m.: Woodford Reserve dinner begins
Saturday, Aug. 27 — Breckenridge Hogfest – Bourbon & Bacon
noon: Day-of tickets go on sale
1:30 p.m.: VIP Old Forester Bourbon Educational Seminar and Tasting featuring Whiskey Row Series
2:30 p.m.: VIP ticket holders early entry
2:30 p.m.: Live music begins.
3 p.m.: Hogfest Tasting Begins.
6 p.m.: 2016 Breck Hogfest ends
It all started in a home garage with two brothers, one bacon recipe and a desire to be the masters of their own fate.
When Tender Belly founders Erik and Shannon Duffy each found themselves out of work, the two Iowa natives decided to team up and see if Erik’s bacon recipe would sell. It didn’t take long before Tender Belly bacon was making waves in the industry, and the pair quickly found themselves expanding their business to include a variety of pork products and distributing to a number of states.
The Denver-based business has grown tremendously since its humble beginnings in 2010, and it’s easy to see why. The brothers have jumped on the idea of two things America loves — bacon and the use of more natural animal products.
“Almost all of our stuff is antibiotic free, no gestation or farrowing crates, raised with access to the outdoors,” Shannon said.
Tender Belly will be the main pork sponsor at the inaugural Breckenridge Hogfest on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Main Street Station. The event will celebrate bacon and bourbon with chefs serving up pork dishes using Tender Belly products, and nearly 25 distilleries will be offering samples throughout the day.
ONLY THE BEST
Although the brothers didn’t grow up in farming themselves, their grandfather raised hogs nearby; so, when they started the business, they knew they wanted to use only the best ingredients. Tender Belly uses heritage-breed animals, specializing in Berkshire and Duroc pigs. They are committed to only sourcing animals from farmers who don’t use antibiotics or growth hormones, and who give their hogs access to the outdoors.
“That means they’re Old World pigs, based on old blood lines, not these newly genetically-formed pigs to grow up as fast as possible,” Shannon said. “It’s the Old World pigs that have a lot better fat and intramuscular marbling to make them taste better.”
Now Tender Belly sources from about 250 farms across the country, most from their home state of Iowa. A representative from Tender Belly has visited each of the farms the company uses, ensuring the products stick to the principles they have held since the beginning. They consistently sell to around 12 states, but their products have been purchased in every state in the country. Restaurants are where they focus about 75 percent of their sales, with the rest made up from grocery stores and online sales to customers. In Breckenridge, their products are used at Hearthstone, Relish and Modis restaurants.
When they first began this venture, Shannon and Erik had no idea how quickly it would take off.
“We started the job … we wanted to make the best possible bacon we could on the planet,” Shannon said. “Use the best ingredients, and sell it to people who really appreciated it. And take the amount of time we needed to do it, and make it a nice, easy living, which is great, and it’s blown up from that with the time commitment and the success we’ve had. It’s a blast, and successful, but, from what we wanted to do and thought it would be, it’s 10 times that.”
This will be the first of what organizers plan to make an annual event. Shervin Rashidi from Rocky Mountain Events wanted to throw a pork-themed festival in Breckenridge after his work six years ago helping organize the first Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour in Keystone. He and his team decided to add the element of bourbon and contacted Tender Belly to be the pork sponsors.
“We love what they do and the passion they have,” he said. “They have a cult following in Denver. … The difference between their product and other products is tremendous. Once we met them and saw the passion — and they have roots to Iowa — we just hit it off.”
Although the festival is touted as bourbon, it actually features all of the major brown spirits, including bourbon, whiskey, rye and scotch. Locally, Breckenridge Distillery is this year launching a single-malt scotch, which they will be bringing to the festival for sampling. There will be other tastings from nearly 25 distilleries throughout the event. Old Forester, Woodford Reserve and Tender Belly are the title sponsors of the event.
“Woodford Reserve isn’t manufactured; it’s crafted in small batches,” said Kristi McCoy, director of marketing at Breakthru Beverage Colorado. “This artisanal process allows us to craft using all five sources of bourbon flavor, giving it its distinct taste and crisp, clean finish.”
Friday night will feature a bourbon pairing dinner featuring Woodford Reserve’s Bourbon, Double Oaked bourbon and Rye Whiskey from 6–8:30 p.m. at Quandary Grille. Executive chef Dan Hoyle of Rocky Mountain Hospitality will be creating a menu featuring items like pork belly, a bacon-wrapped tenderloin and a bourbon-infused bread pudding. Brown-Forman whiskey brand ambassador Cathy Gassner will lead the education piece for the dinner and the VIP Old Forester Bourbon Educational Seminar on Saturday. For tickets, go to breckhogfest.com.
The Saturday event will feature a variety of dishes using Tender Belly products.
“We have Tender Belly doing bacon samples, and then chef Dan will be doing his own menu; and we’ve also partenered with Moe’s Original BBQ, and they are specifically using Tender Belly products for their menu items,” said Jason McCormack of Rocky Mountain Events.
Tickets will be issued for liquor sampling, giving participants the opportunity to try 15 tasters of the around 80 to 90 different styles on hand.
“We are at altitude,” said Patrick Smallwood of Rocky Mountain Events. “It’s a small pour, enough to taste the sample. … The town loves how we are doing it … making sure it’s safe is obviously the most important thing.”
Live music will be featured throughout the day, with local band Hollywood Farmers and bluegrass band Burn It Blue headlining the evening.
Casey Wallin, an award-winning mixologist from Phoenix, Arizona, will be mixing several bourbon-based cocktails including a bacon-infused bourbon specialty. For the non-whiskey drinkers, there will also be wine and beer from Great Divide.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Breckenridge Mountain Rotary Club. While Rocky Mountain Events doesn’t have to include a charitable component to its events like some organizations do because of permits, Smallwood said they choose to contribute to what they think is an important Summit County nonprofit.
“It was an important part of our goal and all the hard work that we do to incorporate them,” he said.
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