Mention brisket, and most people think of low-and-slow-smoked beef. Here in Denver, however, hotter and faster makes a little more sense. At least according to Tony Roberts, veteran barbecue champion and co-founder of Proud Souls BBQ & Provisions, housed in what was once an old tire shop on Federal Boulevard. In 2017, Roberts and his partner-in-all-things-barbecue, Dan Casey, opened Proud Souls, a specialty barbecue supply store that also offers after-hours ‘cue classes.

But back to the brisket. Roberts is standing in front of a class of 25, some taking notes, most drinking beers brought from home and munching on Colorado Craft Butchers’ sausages, candied Tender Belly bacon, and smoked jalapeño poppers. This is Brisket 101, designed to impart the skills and expertise it takes to cook the holy grail of the cuisine. “We saw that Denver was underserved from a supply and knowledge standpoint,” Roberts says. “We wanted to change that.”

The students are mostly customers who, having purchased their Yoder, Traeger, or Green Mountain Grills from Proud Souls, are now looking to gain some barbecue chops. Over the course of three hours, while Casey diligently prepared appetizers and side dishes, Roberts took attendees through the duo’s award-winning brisket recipe step-by-step. We learned the difference between a pellet and an off-set smoker, where the common hot spots are on various models, and what is the best buy for someone planning on catering versus a Dad who works full-time. “It doesn’t matter what your equipment is,” Roberts says, “WeÆre here to teach you technique.”

Photo by Kiran Herbert

Next, we talked about cow anatomy, meat sourcing, and butchering. As we watched Roberts expertly trim and season his brisket, he offered tips on everything from injecting (use a checkerboard pattern; stop when the beef broth squirts out) to getting a more intense smoke ring (make sure the meat hits the grill cold; finish it on the smoker wrapped in butcher paper). Perhaps most crucial to those of us living a mile high, he spoke to altitude’s effect on cook time and how our lack of humidity makes 325 degrees Fahrenheit a better smoking temperature than the traditional 225.

Finally, after showing us how to test for doneness and explaining rest time, we sliced (against the grain) the three briskets and burnt ends Roberts and Casey had begun preparing at 9 a.m. that morning. The first we sampled was a Snake River Farms Wagyu served with its jus. It was melt-in-your-mouth good, the smoke and seasonings perfectly enhancing the flavor of the meat.  There was also creamy, Mexican-style corn, vinegar-based slaw, homemade pickles, panko-topped mac and cheese, jalapeño cornbread, and of course, barbecue sauce. Still, the brisket was the star. And conveniently, all of the products we used in the class, including the meats and seasonings, are sold in the Proud Souls store.

The comprehensive, meal-included, $60 lesson was, more than anything, fun. Roberts and Casey have cultivated a community in Denver around a shared love of barbecue, and their events are run through with that congenial vibe. “We wanted to give people an option other than Ace Hardware, somewhere they could come in, look around, and learn something,” Roberts says. Although I left feeling confident I could execute a worthy brisket, I personally don’t own a smoker (yet). But when the time comes, I know just where to go.

Check out the upcoming classes at Proud Souls

The Basics: Brisket, December 6 and January 24
Master (and taste) the holy grail of barbecue.

Holiday Prime Rib, Tri Tip, and Double Smoked Spiral Ham, December 13

In this holiday-themed class, you’ll learn to craft a show-stopping meal using your smoker. In addition to three hours of instruction, light snacks and festive side dishes will be served alongside all of the meat.

2485 N Federal Blvd, 720-612-7324