The weather may have put a dampener on last year’s barbecue season, but there’s a growing number of diehard BBQ fans who won’t let a little thing like the weather put them off.

“I barbecue pretty much all year round - snow or rain doesn’t put me off,” says Bryn Hardcastle, an IT manager from Surrey whose team, Nom Nom BBQ, will compete for the first time at May’s Grillstock Festival in Bristol.

“We entered Grillstock for a challenge really. I’ve been a fan of low & slow cooking for years, and when I heard there were team places available at Grillstock I got a few mates together and signed up.”

They’re not alone. Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival will be the biggest ever, says festival co-founder Ben Merrington, with 200 competitors taking part in a weekend-long cook-off that’s expected to attract 12,000 visitors.

“Demand has almost doubled every year,” he says. And in addition to the Bristol event (on 11-12 May), this year there will be a second festival, in Manchester (on 8-9 June).

Grillstock attracts a mix of home-grown BBQ talent and music fans, as well as shipping in such BBQ ‘celebrities’ as trucker turned US king of the grill Dr BBQ and a musical line-up that was last year topped by veteran US bluesman Seasick Steve.

“The idea is to bring people together to enjoy good food and good music,” he adds, with teams cooking dishes in the US low & slow style, including pulled pork, beer can chicken, ribs and brisket. There’s even a barbecued pudding course.

Real BBQ aficionados wouldn’t dream of buying into most low & slow offerings in supermarkets. Entrants to Grillstock also pride themselves on cooking up their own sauces and marinades. But in an indication of the wider commercial opportunity, Grillstock is looking for retail partners to stock its new range of BBQ sauces, to be launched in May (rsp: £3.95). It already sells rubs and other seasonings on a dedicated website (www.grillstock.co.uk/shop).

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