A pairing from a previous Beer & BBQ Challenge. Credit: Provided.

OLD IRVING PARK — The Beer & BBQ Challenge at St. Viator’s parking lot will return this weekend for the final time to showcase food and brews from 16 teams of pitmasters and craft brewers. 

Now in its ninth year, the event is 1-5 p.m. Saturday at St. Viator School & Parish, 3644 N. Kedvale Ave. 

General admission tickets are $85 and include one sample and beer pairing from each team, one additional beer and a commemorative glass. VIP tickets are $125 and include the same as the general admission ticket but allow people to enter the event one hour earlier. 

Tickets are available at the event’s website. A full list of this year’s teams can be found here.

Co-founders Jaime Guerrero, John Neurauter and Mike Brick launched the event to be a fundraiser for St. Viator’s school, parish and other charities, Guerrero said. They’ve raised more than $300,000 in its nine years, Guerrero said. 

The trio decided this year’s Beer & BBQ Challenge would be the last one, so they plan to “go out on top,” Guerrero said. 

“It’s been great, and people have loved it. We want to just kind of have our last one to be that way and not to get to a situation where people have done it and the challenge becomes lackluster. We’ve used the same model for all nine years. We haven’t changed it,” Guerrero said. 

Another reason for ending the event is because of capacity issues at the St. Viator parking lot, Guerrero said. With the exception of 2020, organizers have had to cap tickets sales most years, Guerrero said.

“We’ve kind of outgrown what we have. The model has to be different; it has to change. But we’ve loved doing this version and we’re going to keep supporting the community and the church,” Guerrero said. “We’ll continue to support them as much as possible.”

Old Irving Park Beer & BBQ Challenge Credit: Image courtesy Maggie Matuszewska.

As in previous years, each team has a pitmaster and a craft brewer who will present a unique barbecue dish paired with a beer. Attendees vote on the best pairing.

All barbecue must be smoked on-site, so cooking begins Friday night.

For example, Haymarket Pub & Brewery is pairing its Leon’s Salad Toss — a French saison-style beer based loosely on a popular summer salad brewed with malted and toasted wheat, cucumber and watermelon juice, lime zest and a touch of hops — with Up In Smoke’s Sweet Heat Summer Salad, a salad tossed with fresh watermelon, cucumber, lime, mint and honey mixed with slow-smoked pork with a hint of heat, Guerrero said.

“These are drink and food experiences that are unique to our festival and might be the only place to try them,” Guerrero said. 

As the organizers sunset the beer and barbecue event, they are brainstorming a new fundraiser that would focus on some other type of food and drink pairing, Guerrero said. There are no firm plans for that event yet. 

“It’s not that the challenge is going away. It’s just time for us to kind of look at different ways to drive the same objective,” Guerrero said. 

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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park reporterrnrnalex@blockclubchi.orgnnLincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park reporterrnrnalex@blockclubchi.org Twitter @avhndz