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Food and Beverage

Proposed increase in alcohol tax rejected by committee

in Food and Beverage/News/Taxes
alcohol tax
2339

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have doubled the alcohol taxes in Wyoming was rejected on Wednesday by a legislative committee.

The bill lost by one vote, with seven members of the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee voting against it and six members voting to move it forward to the full Legislature.

The bill considered by the committee during its meeting in Cheyenne would have doubled the excise tax on alcohol — from three quarters of one cent to 1.5 cents per 100 milliliters of wine, from 2.5 cents to five cents per 100 milliliters of spirits and from one-half cent to one cent per liter of beer — for three years. 

The money raised from the increase, estimated at $1.9 million a year would have been split, with half going to the Department of Health to fund behavioral programs that provide mental health and substance use treatment. The other half would have been used by the Department of Corrections for the purpose of providing mental health and substance use treatment for parolees and people who have been released from an institution. 

It would have been the first increase in alcohol taxes since the end of Prohibition in 1933.

Even with the increase, Wyoming’s alcohol taxes still would have been the lowest in the nation, Rep. Mike Yin,  D-Jackson, pointed out during the meeting. 

The discussion drew passionate pleas from both elected officials and members of the public, with Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, being one of the major proponents of moving the bill forward. 

“We’ve identified a real need for substance abuse treatment for the public and our inmates,” he said. “By identifying that need, we should fund it.”

According to a University of Wyoming study, alcohol abuse cost the state more than $840 million in 2010 due to lost productivity, health care costs and criminal activity.

However, some legislators simply did not support any tax increase.

Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne, admitted before the vote even took place that he would say “nay” to the proposed bill. 

“We don’t need to be taxing one group of people,” he said. “I said it last year when they tried to raise the tobacco prices. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ‘No new taxes.’”

Others expressed concern that the tax income, once raised, might be used for purposes other than what were intended.

Mike Moser, executive director for the Wyoming State Liquor Association, argued other resources are available for those suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems.

“We’re asking responsible consumers of alcohol, the vast majority, to be forced to pay for substance abuse when so many of these cases don’t have anything to do with alcohol and mental health programs,” he said. “This isn’t apples and oranges. I believe we’re targeting a select, responsible few to cover the entire gamut.”

Moser also argued that the tax increase could hurt alcohol sales to “price-sensitive” Wyoming consumers and said those along Wyoming’s southern border might drive to Colorado to purchase their alcohol.

Wyoming is one of 17 “control states,” meaning that the state has a monopoly over the wholesaling or retailing of some or all alcoholic beverages.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said the bill’s supporters seemed to imply that alcohol was bad, yet the state has a monopoly on selling it.

“We’re not saying alcohol is inherently bad,” Scott replied. “We’re saying that it has a risk and somebody has to pay the price of it. That risk should be taxed.” 

Beer tasting on tap in Saratoga on Saturday

in Food and Beverage/Travel
2180


By Cowboy State Daily

Beer lovers with a taste for Wyoming and Colorado brews will want to head to Saratoga this weekend for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s sixth annual Snowy Mountain Brewery Beerfest.

More than a dozen vendors offering up their beers and spirits will be featured at the beer tasting festival inside the courtyard at the resort on Saturday.

Tiffany Jones, the director of marketing for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, said the annual event will draw people from around the region, with some coming from as far away as Casper and Colorado to attend the event.

“We’ve had one couple from Rock Springs come to every one,” she said.

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a golf tournament, which is open to the public, at the resort’s 9-hole golf course, which crosses the North Platte River several times.

The beerfest will begin at noon. Each attendee will pay $30 for a pint glass, decorated with the event’s logo, which can be used to sample as many beers as the holder wishes.

“Some beerfests only give samples,” Jones said. “We have no restrictions. We give you a pint glass and you can have as many beers as you like.”

The beerfest is named for the Snowy Mountain Brewery, which is located inside the resort’s main building and operates a pub there.

The beerfest will feature live music by Third Rail, a Cheyenne band performing country and classic rock.

This event is open only to those age 21 and over.

For more information, visit the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s website.

Laramie food truck wins top honors at national wing contest

in Food and Beverage/News
1997

The owner of a Laramie food truck was recognized recently as creating the best traditional buffalo wing sauce in the country in a national competition held at the home of the buffalo wing.

Trent Weitzel, the owner of “Double Dubs” food truck, which specializes in wings, won four awards at the Buffalo Wing Festival held in Buffalo, New York, over the Labor Day holiday.

“The big one is the traditional medium sauce category,” said Drew Cerza, the celebration’s founder who has earned the title ‘Wing King.’ “That was the original sauce created in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. (Double Dubs) won first place in that. That’s a really good one.”

Double Dubs also placed second for traditional barbecue sauce and third for extra hot traditional sauce and claimed the event’s “rookie of the year” title.

For Weitzel, the appearance at the festival was the result of several years of work and a good word from a former customer.

Weitzel, who started his food truck business about six years ago, had contacted Cerza for the past four to five years to see if he could get a spot among the restaurants competing at the festival.

“At the end of the day, he didn’t have anybody to vouch for me for how good the chicken wings were,” he said.

So Weitzel contacted an old customer — former University of Wyoming Quarterback Josh Allen, who is now the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills football team — to ask him to put in a good word for him.

“(Weitzel) called me this year and said ‘Before you give me a no, hear me out — have you ever heard of a guy named Josh Allen?’” Cerza said. “Five minutes later, don’t I get a call from Josh Allen. And Josh introduces himself and says ‘I’m Josh Allen and I just wanted to put a plug in for my boys out there from Wyoming.’”

As a result, Double Dubs is the first food truck company to have competed in the contest, Cerza said.

Cerza said the most impressive award for Double Dubs was the first place for best traditional medium buffalo sauce.

The sauce must be based on the original recipe created in Buffalo, which was a mixture of Frank’s Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce and butter, Cerza said.

The sauce was one of eight Weitzel took to Buffalo for the competition.“All of the sauces I’ve created and made are 100 percent one-offs,” he said. “The original recipes and everything.”

Weitzel’s path to glory in the wing set began more than 14 years ago, when he started cooking wings in his back yard. He then expanded to providing wings for backyard barbecues and football parties before opening up the Double Dubs food truck about six years ago.

“My specialty is the sauces I create,” he said. “I tell people I’m retired. I really don’t work. This is a lot of fun to me.”

And The Wiener Winner Is…

in Community/Food and Beverage
1963

Labor Day Hot dog Eating Contest in Mills

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

MILLS — On a hot Labor Day afternoon, crowds gathered at Riverfront Park, on a bend of the Platte River. Some were there for food trucks, cold beer and a car show. But most were there to witness a ritual of Labor Day, a hot dog eating contest.

Last year saw the first annual “Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship,” organized by food truck owner Ticker Lock. The event’s first champions were Billy Floyd of Casper and Stephanie Wu of Carson City, Nevada. Floyd ate an amazing 13 wieners and buns while Wu ate 11 to win the men’s and women’s competition and set the mark to beat for the second installment of the holiday classic.

Winners were competing for custom made belts, but mostly for bragging rights. 

Before the competition would begin, there was a car show put on by “Pop In The Shop.” a Christian mentoring group that teaches fatherless boys age 7 to 17 about classic car restoration in the group’s shop on Yellowstone Highway in Casper. The show attracted nearly 20, hotrods, rat-rods and fully restored vehicles.

The contest itself began at 6 p.m., as contestants gathered around tables, bins loaded with hotdogs and buns. The rules were simple — eat as many wieners and buns in 11 minutes as possible. As the countdown to b begin reached zero, the food fight for the belts raged. 

The seven men and two women competing gobbled their way to hot dog immortality. There were different strategies at play. There was the “grab and squish,” trying to make the bun and wiener as compact and easy to consume as possible. Others went for the multi-bite attack, taking a series of rapid bites before briefly chewing and swallowing. 

The most popular method was the “dunk and down,” Bottles of water on the tables were used to soak the buns and make them less bulky both in the mouth and more importantly, in the stomach.

While the frankfurter fighters did their best, two men emerged as the ones to beat — reigning champion Billy Floyd and contender Johnny Haase. When the countdown ran out, Floyd had consumed 11 wieners but it was unclear how many Haase ate, which resulted in a protest being lodged. 

There was only one way to settle the matter — a sudden death eat-off. One minute was put back on the clock as the two went head-to-head to see who could eat the most. Floyd, a slim man, did his best and ate one complete bun and wiener, but Haase had room for two to take the title.

On the women’s side, the battle was less dramatic but nonetheless impressive, with Kiera Grogan of Orange County, New York, taking home the belt with a total of six hot dogs, edging out her competition.

UW beer and wine sales go well when teams win

in Food and Beverage/News
UW football beer sales
1911

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Saturday marks the start of the third year of beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games. And if Saturday’s attendance at Wyoming-Missouri football opener nears a predicted sellout, it could be a big day for beer and wine sales inside War Memorial Stadium.

Instituted to create a new revenue source for UW Athletics and a way to enhance the fan experience, beer and wine sales grossed $505,000 in 2017 and $460,000 in 2018. The 2018 sales numbers dropped largely due to fewer fans attending Cowboy football games – 73,076 fans attended football games in 2018, compared to 97,300 in 2017.

Revenue is split between UW Athletics (55 percent) and local pouring rights vendor Roxie’s on Grand (45 percent). UW Athletics transfers the first $30,000 from beer and wine sales each year to the Office of Student Affairs on the UW campus, according to Billy Sparks, UW Senior Associate Athletic Director-Business Operations.

Sparks said Roxie’s on Grand in 2017 was selected as UW’s pouring rights vendor for three years, with an option for two more years.

“As the pouring rights vendor, their responsibilities are to provide manpower and enough beer-wine product to sufficiently serve fans at our football and basketball games,” Sparks said.

Roxie’s responsibilities include adhering to and supporting UW’s rules and regulations regarding ID checks and service limits — serving only 2 beers or glasses of wine per person, with a maximum of 4 total beers per person per game.

While the national average of fans buying beer and wine at sporting events is about 50 percent, Sparks said the figure is lower at UW football and basketball games.

“Anecdotally, stories float around about how much Wyoming fans drink at bowl games and conference basketball tournaments, but the actual numbers at home games have shown about 30 percent to 35 percent are actually buying beer and wine,” Sparks said. “On average, sales numbers show Wyoming fans are drinking two to two and one-half beers per game.”

Sparks said beer and wine sales at UW football and basketball games are adding to the fans’ experience.

“The game atmosphere and entertainment aspect for fans has been enhanced,” he added. “In a time where attendance numbers are lower (around the country), every effort has to be made to give fans reasons to physically attend the games versus staying home and watching games on television or watching portions of games on smartphones, tablets, etc.”

Sparks said beer and wine consumers will see changes beginning Saturday.

“Mostly aluminum bottles will be sold, instead of draft beers,” he said. “We believe this will speed up the lines, eliminate partially used kegs, make it easier on the hawkers and should speed up their transactions, allow flexibility to open some express sales locations for larger crowds, and keep the beer colder for a longer period of time.”

Roxie’s staff will also be more proactive this year in checking IDs and distributing wrist bands outside the stadium prior to games.

Finally a product change for this fall includes increased availability of Budweiser products (Budweiser, Bud Light, Kona, Becks IPA, etc.)

“Roxie’s has also increased staffing for this upcoming year,” Sparks said. “Last year at the Washington State game, Roxie’s staff numbered about 90. This year, the plan for the Missouri game is to have about 150 staff members.”

Law enforcement presence remains strong, vigilant at UW games

UW Police Department Chief Mike Samp is a 22-year UW police veteran (the last eight years as chief). Samp and his officers have seen a bit of everything in his time at UW, but the chief is encouraged by trends in drinking by Wyoming fans.

“Generally, we are seeing fewer attempts by people trying to sneak beer and hard alcohol into the (War Memorial) stadium,” he said. “We are still seeing some underage drinking attempts inside the stadium, but most underage drinkers are consuming outside the stadium and then trying to enter the stadium.”

UW’s arrest and ticket records support this notion, “largely because we aren’t writing large numbers of open container tickets.

“All in all, selling beer at our events has gone rather well,” he said.

One thing that remains consistent, Samp said, is the fact that when the Cowboys are winning, fewer problems are seen.

“We see a lot of correlation between winning and losing,” he said. “As long as UW is winning, things tend to go well. So ultimately, it’s a ‘Go Pokes’ mentality.”

Samp remains optimistic about beer sales and football inside War Memorial Stadium, much like UW fans, boosters, coaches and players.

“By in large, given the population of folks who are attending our games, beer sales themselves haven’t created any larger issue,” Samp said. “We are continuing to monitor overconsumption. We don’t want people drinking and driving when they are leaving the stadium.

“We often see medical issues related to alcohol where we have games with rather high temperatures,” he continued. “Combine that with folks tailgating starting at noon or earlier, the longer time for people to consume alcohol, and the evening start, it’s obvious that actual consuming inside the stadium won’t be much of an issue this week.”

With Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. kickoff, longer-than-normal pregame tailgating is expected. This may lead to more alcohol-related medical issues than during normal midday kickoff time on Saturday.

Saturday’s forecast also calls for a high of 83 degrees in Laramie, and 80 degrees is forecast at kickoff.

Samp credits a team-oriented approach to successful law enforcement on game days, such as Saturday when highly-touted Missouri and its energetic fans of the Southeastern Conference come to Laramie.

“We’ve got a minimum staffing of 42 officers for any game, and that includes officers from UW, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Albany County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Laramie,” Samp said.

Inside War Memorial Stadium, law enforcement presence varies according to attendance, Samp added.

“We are hoping to have 60 officers for Saturday’s game, and those numbers will be augmented by contract security people on site.”

Fun in a bun: Wyoming’s Hot Dog Eating Championship to be held in Mills on Monday

in Community/Food and Beverage
Hot dogs
1892

For those with a soft spot in their hearts for the epicurean delight that is the hot dog, Mills is the place to be this long holiday weekend.

The second annual Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship on Monday will feature feats of gastronomical bravery as competitors face off in an attempt to eat the most hot dogs — including buns — in 11 minutes.

Organizer Ticker Lock, owner of Casper’s Rockin’ Burgers ’n Dogs Food Truck, said he created the championship and accompanying activities to give residents of his hometown of Mills something to look forward to at the end of the summer.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “There’s nothing to do on Labor Day. So I created it. I wanted to give the community something to look forward to.”

Competitors simply have to register at no cost on the day of the event. However, only seven men and seven women will be allowed to enter — although one extra spot is automatically awarded to the winners of the 2018 competition if they choose to enter this year.

Separate competitions will be held for men and women. Last year’s champion in men’s competition ate 13 hot dogs, while the women’s winner, who came to Casper from Nevada, ate 12, Lock said.

Competitors must eat not only the all-beef hot dogs, but the accompanying buns as well, he added.

“A lot of them bring their own Kool-Aid or water to dunk the bun,” he said. “It saves on a bit of chewing.”

The winners will each receive a custom-made championship belt.

The hot dog contest is the highlight of the full-day celebration at Mills River Front Park. Activities begin with a car show at 4 p.m. sponsored by group “Pop in the Shop.” The fee for putting to put a car on display is $10 and the proceeds will be used to help Pop in the Shop in its work to mentor young men.

Also on hand will be several food trucks, including Rockin’ Burgers n’ Dogs, Deb’s Fudge Kitchen, I Scream for Ice Cream and Miss Sara’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, along with vendors, all beginning at 3 p.m.

Live music by Chad Lore, “Wyoming’s One-Man Band,” will begin at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit Rock’ Burgers n’ Dogs Food Truck’s website or see its Facebook page.

Cheyenne’s Edge Fest Scores Hot Acts, Cool Vibes for Fifth Annual Event

in arts and culture/Community/Food and Beverage
1844

Cheyenne residents and visitors from all over the region are in for stellar performances, great food and a happening party this Saturday, August 24 as Edge Fest takes over the new Civic Commons Park and Amphitheater on Cheyenne’s West Edge.

Genre-bending/blending singer K.Flay and rock and roller Billy Raffoul take the stage in Cheyenne for what promises to be the biggest show in Edge Fest’s five year history.

Edge Fest essential details:

Who: K. Flay and Billy Raffoul + epic cross-section of food trucks and vendors

When: Saturday, August 24 | Doors open: 5:00pm | Party Ends: 10:00pm

Where: Civic Commons Park located in Cheyenne’s West Edge

What: Edge Fest is a free, all-ages event. No tickets are required.

The Best Carnival Food at Cheyenne Frontier Days

in Community/Food and Beverage
1687

Corndogs and turkey legs and deep-fried Oreos, oh my!

Hang on, Dorothy, the variety of iconic carnival food available at Frontier Park this week staggers the imagination!

From funnel cakes to rattlesnake bratwurst, the carnival midway is filled with deep-fried, smoked and sugared treats.

Just to give you an idea of the high points, Cowboy State Daily’s Jim Angell visited the midway to try 10 different carnival foods and rank them according to his preference. Take a look at his gastronomical journey and watch to the end to see his top 10 choices.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for this, so don’t be afraid to offer up your own rankings on the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page.

Bon appetit!

Daddy of ‘Em All is BIG for local business

in arts and culture/Economic development/Food and Beverage/News
1644

Tourism officials in Cheyenne are predicting that the city’s annual Frontier Days celebration will bring at least as many people to Cheyenne as showed up for the 2018 event.

Darren Rudloff, president and CEO of Visit Cheyenne, said he understands that ticket sales for the 10-day rodeo are at levels about where they were last year, when about 105,000 people visited the city and reports indicate most hotels rooms in the city are full for the event.

“So far, rodeo tickets are on par with where they were last year, concert tickets are up about 10 percent from what I hear and the weather is going to be great as well,” he said. “So it’s looking like it’s going to be a great Frontier Days.”

Jim Osterfoss, owner of the Warren Nagle Mansion Bed and Breakfast, said his facility is booked to near capacity for the rodeo.

The annual boost for business provided by the extra visitors is always welcomed by businessmen such as George Kallas, who owns the Albany Restaurant in downtown Cheyenne with is brother Gus.

“It’s our Christmas,” he said.

Kallas noted that anyone in Cheyenne during the celebration would be challenged to be bored.

“People come in (to the Albany), they buy package (liquor), they buy food, they buy drink, they go to the (Depot) Plaza, there’s some nice bands on Friday and Saturday night, they go shopping and then they go out to the rodeo,” he said. “And then they go to the night show. And they enjoy all of that. If you can’t find something to do (during) Frontier Days in Cheyenne, there’s something wrong with you.”

Chugwater spices things up at 34th Chili 🌶 Cook Off

in Community/Food and Beverage
1510

Cooks from around the country converged on the tiny town of Chugwater, Wyoming this weekend for the 34th annual Chugwater Chili Cook-off.

Red, green, and salsa judging paired with cold drinks and big fun.

The annual event benefits local nonprofit groups including Chugwater School Student Organizations (FFA and FBLA), Chugwater Volunteer Fire Department, Chugwater Historical Unity Group, Chugwater Housing and Economic Development and the Chugwater Community Center.

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