"When I lived in Des Moines, there was a really popular rib place, and I'd see people leaving with these long, skinny packages wrapped up," recalls Jacob Viers. "People loved those ribs, and I realized I wanted to make something people would love, too."
That was back in 2007, and in the intervening years, Viers has gone from rib fan to pit master of his own barbecue company, Seasoned Swine. Inspired by the pros, he started out by learning how to smoke ribs. "I got really passionate about it...but it took me seven years to get a good slab of ribs that I was happy with," he notes. "It seems like it should be easy, but maybe most people overthink it. It's really just a skinny piece of meat with a few bones in it."
During that seven-year stretch of R&D, Viers moved to Colorado, and when he decided his ribs were right, he got the ball rolling on his own barbecue business. "I purchased an old Twinkie truck in 2014," he says. "I'd never driven a big-box truck before, and I was terrified of it."
That was the beginning of Seasoned Swine, which officially launched in 2017. Viers started out selling ribs, Prime brisket, pulled pork and other specialties straight from the truck to anyone drawn by the smell of smoke before branching out to catering and special events. Along the way, he developed a dry rub that he uses on all of his meats and in his sauces (which always come on the side, not directly on the meat). The dry rub has a touch of sugar in it, and one of the signature sauces is blueberry-jalapeño (made with cider vinegar, smoked jalapeños and fresh blueberries cooked down for hours), so Viers's description of his style as "sweetish" rings true.
Viers has also developed his own smoking preference, which differs from standard St. Louis and Texas styles. "I noticed that everyone talks about hickory and oak — they all use hickory, oak or mesquite," Viers notes. "But I use primarily cherry wood. There's something about the color you get from cherry and the way the smoke smells that made me say, 'This is the one; this is it.'"
The choice makes sense geographically, too. Mesquite and hickory don't grow in Colorado, and oak is rare, but fruit trees grow in abundance, especially on the Western Slope. Seasoned Swine's cherry wood currently comes from Michigan, but Viers would like to switch to wood from a cherry orchard in western Colorado that he's found. The switch, he says, will be easier once he opens the brick-and-mortar version of Seasoned Swine, which could happen by the end of January.
Viers currently parks his food truck and smoker (a brand-new Ole Hickory that can hold up to 96 racks of ribs at full capacity) at 15800 West Colfax Avenue in Golden, and he's in the process of remodeling what was until recently Smiley's at that address. Once open, Seasoned Swine will have a full bar and menu expanded well beyond smoked meats by the pound and sides.
A liquor license wasn't part of the original plan, but Viers says he couldn't pass up the opportunity, especially after the building owner told him he'd be taking over the sixth-oldest liquor license in Colorado. "If that liquor license could talk, I'll bet the stories would be great," he says. "The history of Colorado is amazing. When I drive my Jeep on trails and see all the old mining sites, I realize that some of those miners could have been drinking at my bar."
Viers is working on recipes for a fresh-squeezed margarita and a house Old Fashioned for that bar.
And if they were around today, those miners would also be able to enjoy barbecue tacos, heaping sandwiches and nachos topped with green chile queso and smoked brisket, pulled pork or chicken. Or they could sample two kinds of mac and cheese or baked beans that cook beneath the rib racks to catch the drippings.
While Viers needs his final inspection and outdoor signage before he can open the actual restaurant, he's offering food from the Seasoned Swine truck from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily — usually at the restaurant site in Golden, but also at nearby breweries and bars such as the Pour Tap House and 6 and 40 Brewing.
Visit the Seasoned Swine Instagram page for the latest schedule; you could soon be heading home with your own long, skinny package of ribs that Viers is certain you'll love.
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