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Grillers on the Go

Madison's ACME BBQ team is
becoming a serious threat

Newly renovated smoker truck is giving them an edge

(August 2015) – You have to wonder what possesses a group of grown men to spend 11 weekends a year traveling to various destinations around the Midwest and stay up all night just to cook meat. The Madison, Ind.-based ACME BBQ team of Joe Craig, Pat Stack, Paul Rosenberg, Mike Hensley and Adam Craig do just that.

Photo by Nick Meacham

The ACME BBQ team consists of (from left) Adam Craig, Mike Hensley, Pat Stack, Paul Rosenberg and Joe Craig. They are known for their pink “pig” smoker truck.

Traveling by RV and a pink “pig truck” that is equipped with a recently renovated smoker on the back, these men have become quite a fixture on the Kansas City Barbeque Society circuit in Indiana and Kentucky. In addition to their string of successes in various cooking categories, their pink pig truck attracts lots of attention.
But you still have to wonder – what is the motivation?
“This is our golf or fishing trip that other guys might have together. Only we go cooking,” said Stack, 60, a pediatrician at KDH Hospital. “Just spending time together and meeting lots of great people is fun.”
Rosenberg is an orthopedic surgeon at KDH Hospital, Hensley is the Jefferson County Superior Court Judge, and Adam Craig works at the Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp.’s power plant.
The team has been together for 12 years, starting in 2004 when they entered their first amateur cooking contest at the Madison Ribberfest. They competed for four years in the Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast until finally graduating to the pro circuit in 2008.
Once they turned pro, they began taking their smoker on the road to compete in several regional contests. This year, they plan to participate in 11 contests in Indiana and Kentucky.
“We’re doing this because we like to barbecue, and secondly, we enjoy the people we are competing against. It’s like a big family who help each other out, even though they are competitors,” said Joe Craig, 60, whose family owns Craig Toyota. “Everyone lends a hand when somebody needs a hand.”

Photo by Nick Meacham

The newly renovated ACME BBQ team’s pink “pig” truck features two new smoker boxes and two fire boxes, while keeping with the distinct pink tail.

While this cooking adventure for the ACME BBQ team began as a fun way to spend a weekend, the team in recent years has become more serious about competing. In the early years of pro competition, they were mentored by another Madison team – Pig Pak, made up of John Branigan and Merrill Nay. Pig Pak has been a longtime competitor at the Madison Ribberfest but is not competing this year.
Craig said his team also was coached by Jeff Hacker of Hoosier Favorite BBQ team in Versailles, Ind. Hacker is a seasoned veteran of the KCBS circuit, where he has enjoyed much success. And just this year, Stack traveled to Bowling Green, Ky., to take part in a two-day barbecue cooking class by pitmaster Donny Bray of the Warren County Pork Choppers team. Bray is a former national champion in KCBS.
“With the new smoker on the truck we are getting more serious this year,” Craig said. “I told the guys no drinking until after the turn-in (of meats for judging).”
The new smoker has elevated the team’s skills by providing more efficiency and consistency in maintaining the temperature in the smoker, Craig said. The 1984 truck belonged to Stack when he was a medical resident. It was first converted for use as a pink pig truck smoker in 2003, complete with ears and a nose made from a 55-gallon barrel. Craig sketched out the nostrils using his wife’s sandals. The truck even gained national attention a few years ago when famed Canadian griller Danielle Dimovski, a.k.a. “Diva Q,” filmed Craig with the vehicle in a short segment while in Owensboro, Ky., for her Travel Channel show “BBQ Crawl.” The clip is still linked on the ACME BBQ team’s Facebook page.

Photo provided

The ACME BBQ team members learned to weld and fabricate steel to make these new smoker boxes and two fire boxes for their pink “pig” truck.

“The truck served us pretty well all those years, but it started rusting in a few places and it needed an overhaul for us to be going to all these contests,” Stack said.
So this year, the team learned to weld and fabricate metal to create and install two new smoker boxes and two fire boxes onto the back of the vehicle, which has a Chevy S-10 frame. Now instead of adding wood every one or two hours, the team only has to add wood once per night. They also installed an electrical system designed to maintain constant temperature.
“Now we can get more sleep, and at our age, we need that,” Craig said.
Armed with their “Our Smoke’s No Joke” T-shirts, their newly rebuilt high tech smoker pig truck and a newer RV, the team has high goals for retirement by traveling out West to compete, Craig said. “We might even try to go overseas to compete internationally.
Of course, he would have to arrange for a smoker to be waiting on the other side of the ocean because, as we all know, pink pig trucks don’t fly.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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