Kentucky Barbecue Festival: Q&A with Shane Baker

Article by Fred Minnick

In case you missed the most recent Bourbon+ Magazine issue, where our writer Steve Coomes picked the perfect bourbon pairings with BBQ, it’s no secret: we love barbecue. So much so that we’ve signed up to become the official media sponsor for the Kentucky Barbecue Festival Sept. 6-8, where our writers and editors will be curating seminars at the Wilderness Trail Distillery and eating a whole lot of barbecue.

Our editor-in-chief Fred Minnick caught up with distiller and festival board member Shane Baker, founder of Wilderness Trail, for a quick Q&A.

How long have you been a barbecue fan? 

Probably since I knew how to say it.  BBQ has always been part of my family growing up and I just cant pass it up when its on the menu.

Kentucky Barbecue Festival is an under the radar festival for this state. It’s in your backyard. What makes it so special? 

A lot of things make it special, the volunteers it takes to put it on, the charity it benefits and the lives it touches but beyond that, its about the best BBQ you can find in one place from world award winning BBQ chefs, they are celebrities from all over and when you combine the good food, famous faces, good music a little Bourbon.. there just isn’t a better place to be.

How many visitors will you get during the festival? 

We generally see around 35,000 people come and enjoy the 3 day event.

What’s your favorite piece of barbecue?

All of it…seriously Brisket would have to be my kryptonite

Do you like your sauce spicy or mild? 

Spicy all the way

Seriously, is barbecue chicken worth it? Or is it just chicken? 

It’s worth it, you can get Smokey richness with juices in every bite with a piece of chicken from a frying pan.. its like Bourbon, it takes time to get it right!

Do you like to pair bourbon with your barbecue? If so, what’s your favorite pairing? 

I am partial to Wilderness Trail, if its really spicy like Lucky Dog BBQ’s sauce with brisket, then I like to go with our Single Barrel Bottled in Bond wheater, it balances it out with a little sweetness.  If I am going for some chicken with less spice I might go for our Rye Whiskey to pull it in another direction.   Throughout the 3 days however, I believe I go through a full flight of food and whiskeys each day..

What makes this festival special?

While all of the food, famous people, fancy BBQ smokers, great music, games and such are here to enjoy, the real take-away is the money raised each year to help kids and seniors through United Ways great programs here in the Bluegrass.

Get your tickets at https://www.kybbqfestival.com/tickets/

It’s no secret: we love barbecue.

Michael Eman
Official Contributor
Kevin Gibson is a free-lance writer who writes for numerous publications, including Bourbon+ magazine, Thrillist, and Alcohol Professor. He also is author of Louisville Beer, Secret Louisville, and several other books. In his three decades as a professional writer, he has won numerous awards but doesn’t know where most of them are now (they’re probably in the basement). He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his dog, Atticus.