Back in 2017, when I first wrote about Big D Barbecue in Mansfield, owner Jordy Jordan told me about his upcoming project: Cowtown Brewing Co. would bring together his two loves of barbecue and beer. It opened last fall in Fort Worth, serving plenty of barbecue along with craft beers from head brewer Shawn Kidwell.
Ten beers were on draft when I visited on a Thursday afternoon. Rock Island Red had just come on tap, and the rest of the lineup ranged from a light Mexican-style lager to a heavy and high ABV Imperial Milk Stout, appropriately named Cow Topper. Jordan recommended La Cabra Dorada, a maibock beer to accompany the barbecue. They were fresh out of brisket, but the baby back ribs and country-style pork ribs stood in well. The only difference between Cowtown’s cuts and Big D’s is the Bewley smoker they run in Fort Worth (it’s an Ole Hickory in Mansfield), but the sweet rub and tender pork were familiar. I was plenty satisfied until Jordan informed me I’d arrived a day too early.
On Fridays, Cowtown serves a double-cut smoked pork chop with a side and a beer for just $20. Hearing that settled my lunch plans for the following day. Jordan cuts whole racks of bone-in pork loin down to forty portions and brines those overnight in a salt-water solution. Before they go into the smoker, the chops are coated heavily with Cowtown’s standard rub of salt, brown sugar, and paprika that has been amped up with black pepper and cayenne.
The chops have a pleasant heat and smokiness. It’s easy enough to get a little rub in every bite. Then there’s the sauce, which is a combination of their standard barbecue sauce and a raspberry milk stout called Canvas. They reduce the mixture down to what Jordan describes as “a sort of raspberry beer molasses.” It goes well with the pork, but it’s thick, so don’t dip too aggressively. To incorporate more beer into the process, they’ve tried using it in the pork brine in the past, but found the finished product inconsistent. The lean meat stays just juicy enough with the standard brine. Be sure to get there early enough because those forty portions usually don’t last through the afternoon.
Jordan said it has been rewarding to bring beer and barbecue together in one place, but more than either of those he enjoys providing hospitality. At Cowtown, that shows in the service style. You can order beers and food from the bar inside and take a seat at a table. Food runners will fetch your order from the food trailer out back that serves as the brewery’s kitchen. On a Friday, the pork chop is filling enough all by itself, but venturing into the queso with chopped brisket or the nachos topped with chopped pork country ribs is a good idea on any other day. No matter what barbecue you order, Cowtown will have a beer to pair with it.