Champions crowned at Monmouth Park’s annual BBQ & Craft Beer Fest (PHOTOS) –

OCEANPORT – Beer, barbeque and horse racing. It’s a Labor Day trifecta.

The annual BBQ & Craft Beer Festival drew thousands of visitors to Monmouth Park Racetrack during the three days of Labor Day weekend.

Those visitors had more than 40 craft beers and roughly two dozen food vendors to sample from.

MORE: BBQ and Craft Beer Fest for Labor Day revelers

East Brunswick resident Amanda Berelman said the festival is what brought her group of friends to Monmouth Park on Saturday.

“We’re here for the beer,” Berelman declared. ” The variety is really good and the value is pretty good, at $10. My favorites so far are the pumpkin beers. Leinenkugel has a pumpkin beer that was really good.”

For others, however, the event was all about the variety of tasty barbeque options.

“So far we’ve loved everything. I liked the Whiskey Tango Slider and right across from that was a pulled turkey that was really good,” said Travis Baskerville, of Avenel. “Having a festival like this is great because it is going to bring people out to Monmouth Park, I think having beer and barbeque together is a perfect match.”

On Sunday, judges crowned winning food vendors in five categories:

  • Best Ribs: Jersey Shore BBQ
  • Best Beef: Jersey Shore BBQ
  • Best Chicken: Mac’s BBQ Truck
  • Best Pork: Mary Queen of Pork 
  • Best BBQ Specialty: Five Sisters Catering  

Mary Erbe, the owner of the Burlington-based Mary Queen of Pork, said she was surprised when the judges called her out of the former newspaper delivery truck she converted into the food truck and presented her with the festival’s “Best Pork” award.

“I’ve been to a lot of these and never won before. I know there’s always a lot of competition, but I always just thought the judges didn’t like my food as much,” a beaming Erbe told the judges. “Now I’m definitely going to have to get a (BBQ champion) sign like everyone else has.”

Douglas Walsh, the owner of the Belmar-based Jersey Shore BBQ & Catering, was not as surprised to win “Best Beef” and “Best Ribs” on Sunday.

Jersey Shore BBQ has won several awards at Monmouth Park’s BBQ & Craft Beer Festival over the years, including “Best Pork” in 2013, “Best Brisket” in 2014 and it is the two-time defending champion of the “People’s Choice Award for Best Pitmaster.”

“Were very proud,” Walsh said. “There’s a lot of good competition and there’re a lot of good barbeque people here, but local and from out of state. So we’re very pleased and honored to be here and very glad to have won.”

This year’s “People’s Choice” award is expected to be announced Monday, which when the three-day event concludes.

Rob Spahr may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheRobSpahr. Find on Facebook.