Wing and Brew Fest!

Farm Forum

Many years ago, when I first heard the term “buffalo wings,” my initial reaction was, “What? Buffalo can’t fly!” My second thought was, “But if they could, just think of the mess they would leave on our windshields!”

Buffalo wings is now a generic term for a part of the chicken that used to be considered generic. Some buffalo sauces pack enough heat to burn through concrete. Consuming wings soaked with such sauces can numb the mouth for extended periods of time.

Things were different when I was a kid. The first part of having a chicken dinner was running down one of the chickens that were running around our farmstead. Once the grisly business of converting a live chicken into processed poultry was handled, the chicken was handed over to Mom, who used the bird to create her tender and succulent creamed chicken.

Making creamed chicken is fairly straightforward. You roll the disassembled bird in flour and brown it in a hot skillet. Toss the chicken into a roaster, throw in a chopped onion, pour on a generous amount of cream and you’re off to the races. If you can set an oven to 350, you can make creamed chicken.

Mom’s creamed chicken wasn’t the least bit spicy. Her seasoning program involved waving a shaker of black pepper in the general direction of the roasting pan.

Buffalo wings have become extremely popular as of late. Numerous cities now hold wing festivals, a weirdly appendage-centric celebration of food.

My wife and I recently attended our local wing festival. It was actually called the Wing and Brew Fest, a clever multilevel marketing gambit. The idea is that you eat some spicy wings, which makes you crave something to put out the fire, so you drink a beer, which makes you wish for something to eat. Repeat until you are so full that it feels as if every molecule of your being has been crowded out by poultry and/ or beer.

The Wing Fest featured numerous booths where one could sample a rainbow of zesty avian flesh. The event was nonpartisan, with an equal number of right and left wings being offered.

Some booths were run by massive chain-type restaurants that crank out buffalo wings by the metric ton. I have a soft spot for the lowly underdog, so those were the booths I visited first.

One such booth was operated by The Ridge, a little restaurant located in a nearby small town. I ordered some of their Sweet Thai Chili wings and chatted with Scott, the proprietor of The Ridge. I asked Scott how one goes about developing a wing sauce.

“Everyone has a basic buffalo wing recipe,” he replied. “You begin with that and just keep on tweaking things. It’s a process of trial and error. We added wings to our menu a while back and it’s gone over really well.”

Scott’s Thai Chili wings were sweet with a nice back note of heat. Even so, they didn’t leave me longing for the extinguishing relief of chilled barley extract.

The next booth I visited was operated by Watertown Brewing Company. I opted to try their Beer BBQ wings, a name which implies that a person is getting two things with one wing. I found them to be smoky and savory and delectable. After mopping some stray sauce from my mug, I spoke with Don, one of the guys who operates WBC.

“We source as many of our ingredients as we can locally,” said Don. “We grow our own hops in a plot located a mile north of town. Our chicken wings came from a local grower and we’re working with a neighborhood farmer to begin supplying our barley. Our belief is that you don’t have to leave this area to source good food.”

I asked Don how he developed his wing sauces.

“You experiment until you find something that you like,” he replied. “Little things can make a big difference. For instance, our secret weapon today is that we’re smoking our wings with wood that’s been soaked in our beer.”

This might have been viewed as a waste of perfectly good beer, but one cannot argue with the scrumptious results.

There were so many different wings available at Wing Fest, a guy would have to be a glutton for punishment to sample them all. After I’d munched wings for nearly an hour, I had to wave my smeared napkin in surrender. But before I left, I had to try one last wing: the Century Sauce (Extra Hot) from The Ridge.

It was quite delicious and very spicy. I hope to regain the feeling in my lips any day now.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His new book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.