Q in the Lou, the annual festival celebrating all things barbecue in St. Louis, is happening this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. It's just gonna look a little different.
The festival will take place – virtually – on Sat., Oct. 6 across the city. While Q in the Lou usually invites diners near and far to hang out downtown and try all sorts of barbecue, the pandemic makes that iteration practically impossible. Instead, the event will take place in attendees' own homes, with online programming from some of St. Louis' favorite pitmasters and the ability to order barbecue right to their door.
Brian Wahby, producer of Q in the Lou and other barbecue events in Kansas City and Denver, says that although this year's version is online, the goal of the event is the same: to celebrate the city and celebrate the art of barbecue.
"We want people to continue that tradition and learn a little bit more about what some of those tricks of the trade are, and employ them when cooking in their own backyards," he says.
The event includes a lineup of cooking demonstrations filmed around the city from pitmasters from Pappy's Smokehouse, BEAST Craft BBQ, Sugarfire Smoke House and Salt + Smoke, with Pappy's managing partner John Matthews cooking from the iconic Anheuser Busch brewery, which is one of the few perks of not being able to gather in-person.
"I've been to the brewery several times when I was younger, but going back and actually being able to cook right there in front of where the Clydesdales live in the stables ... It was just such a beautiful venue to be at," Matthews says. "We were very proud to be there."
The fest has also partnered with Square to help provide delivery at a lowered cost for those who want to enjoy barbecue while learning about it. Participants will be able to order barbecue day-of right from the Q in the Lou website, possibly giving them the chance to try barbecue from a place they wouldn't otherwise.
In addition to the barbecue, there will be live music from local bands, cocktail recipes from Jack Daniel's and a rib-eating contest that will happen virtually around the country. And even though it's a hard year for the fest and for the restaurants participating, it is still a way to unite people and celebrate the spirit of St. Louis.
"One thing about barbecue is that is brings people together," Wahby says. "When we have the normal Q, it's so refreshing to see so many people from all over the region, all over the city, and frankly, all over the country, coming together and eating barbecue. So hopefully you can grab your friend or neighbor, sit down, watch it, eat some barbecue, drink a Bud Select or a Jack Daniel's cocktail and enjoy the weekend."
Virtual Q in the Lou is free to attend. Those interested can RSVP online.
Q in the Lou, qinthelou.com