The Beach Bums Barbecue team has grown from grilling on the sandbar beach on Five Island Lake to competing on the Kansas City Barbecue Society tour and -- feeding the Iowa Hawkeye football team.
Six years ago the Beach Bums started out with a small Traeger grill. Bill Bramley and Deb Weir, Steve and Becky Finer soon became masters of the grill. The team's first competition was the Hog Wild BBQ Competition at Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Emmetsburg. They earned reserve champion in one of the categories and that got them hooked.
Beach Bums won the Wild Rose competition last year and will be competing there again this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24. The cooking begins on Friday and a public tasting starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The Beach Bums are one of 35 teams in the competition.
Beach Bums Barbecue
Steve and Joni Cody have since joined the team with Bill and Deb, Steve and Becky. They compete in three or four contests each year and spend the first weekend in June feeding the hungry Hawkeye football team.
"We have met a lot of really fun people at the competitions," said Steve Finer. "We all get together before we start grilling and congratulate everyone after the awards. They're our kind of people."
On The BBQ Tour
The Beach Bums have graduated from their wood pellet grill to a full kitchen in a decked out trailer. The trailer is equipped with two stainless steel smokers, refrigerator/freezer, counter tops and cupboards, sink and water.
Their grilled products have evolved, too. Bill Bramley attended schools in Kansas City and Tennessee to learn barbecue techniques. The team took that knowledge and changed up the recipes to suit their own taste.
Beach Bums Barbecue is a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).
"We try to go to bigger contests," said Bramley. "The bigger the contest, the better the teams. At first we kind of struggled, but now we can hold our own. You know the Pit Masters on TV? We compete against these people."
The Beam Bums specialize in pork shoulder, ribs and beef brisket. Their normal competition menu consists of six racks of ribs, four pork shoulders, one brisket and 25-30 pieces of chicken.
Last year, the team earned first in ribs (and seventh overall) at Up In Smoke, the largest contest in Iowa at Mason City.
This year they competed with over 70 teams in the Minneapolis area and came away with third place. They won brisket and placed in pork shoulder and ribs. With this third place win, the team scored over 700 points which gets the team nationally recognized in the KCBS magazine and website.
Feeding the Hawkeyes
For the past three years, Beach Bums Barbecue team has spent the first weekend in June at the University of Iowa feeding the Hawkeye football team.
"Our family has been season ticket holders at the University of Iowa for five or six years and we have attended most of the bowl games," explained Bramley. "We wanted the opportunity to serve our barbecue, but it's hard to break in to the shell."
While attending a bowl game in Arizona, Bramley took the initiative to see Paul Federici (Director of Football Operations) and stopped at the football operations office.
"He remembered my e-mails and Austin (Bramley's son) and I sat down and talked about it," he said. "They are allowed to do two feeds each year, according to NCAA rules. We were invited to do one and the Iowa Pork Producers do the other one."
The University of Iowa makes application for the Beach Bums to be certified with the NCAA to serve the football team.
Bramley said the Beach Bums are the first to cook all of their food on site. They arrive at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday afternoon and serve the team on Monday. In the mean time, they have free reign of the stadium.
"We parked our camper in the southwest corner, inside Kinnick Stadium, this year," said Finer.
The team prepared 347 pounds of pulled pork, 175 hind chicken quarters, cheesy potatoes, beans and corn. Food is piled on rectangular-shaped plates, with larger size buns for the pulled pork. They served from 125 to 150 football players, their coaches, wives and families. This year they timed it -- service time lasted 48 minutes, from start to finish.
"We always cook enough food so they can have second helpings and also take food back to the dorm," said Bramley.. 'The linemen are the first to get in line and Coach Ferentz is the last to go through."
This is the third year the Beach Bums team has fed the hungry Hawkeyes.
"This year the team felt more comfortable around us," said Bramley. "They are all super respectful and make sure they tell us Thank You. They are really fun to be around.
"Feeding the Hawkeyes is one of the highlights of our year," he added. "It takes a lot of planning to feed that many people."
Last year, in addition to feeding the football team, the Beach Bums fed broadcasters of the Iowa Radio Show at every home game.
The Beach Bums sponsors are Farmland Foods and the Iowa Pork Producers.
"Feeding the Hawkeyes is the most fun part of our season," said Steve Finer. "We have met a lot of great people and look forward to going back next year."
From the three families involved in the Beach Bums Barbecue team, three of their children have attended the University of Iowa: Josh Finer, Mandy Bramley and Austin Bramley.
The Iowa Hawkeyes first home game is Aug. 31.