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Hastings native makes award-winning barbecue sauce

Lee Moeller (left) took home the Grand Champion award at the 2015 and 2016 Deer River Bar-b-que & Brew Fest. Christine Siem and Todd Hendricks help him carry his awards after the competition. (Submitted photo)

Lee Moeller watched his neighbors smoking something on their grill and thought, “there’s got to be a science to this.” That is when his interest in barbecue began. Now, he is a veteran in barbecue competitions and has his own barbecue sauce called Snaptail Smokers BBQ Sauce.

“It just has a unique sweet hickory with just a little bite at the end,” Moeller said of his sauce.

Moeller has entered his sauce into some competitions, and he said the judges typically write on their scorecard comments like “unbelievable sauce!” or “just enough bite at the end.” Moeller said he credits the success of his sauce to some trial and error. He would make the sauce and bring it down to the local bar where he would have everyone try it. People were honest with him.

“I don’t swallow it real well, but criticism I do take, and I take it to heart,” Moeller said.

He did what he could to make his sauce better, and it turned into Snaptail Smokers BBQ Sauce.

Moeller, who lives in Grand Rapids, is originally from Hastings and didn’t move away until he retired in 1997. He began making his sauce out of his home in Grand Rapids, but he eventually needed to branch out to produce the amount that was in demand. Snaptail is now made and bottled outside his home and is sold out of 12 stores in Grand Rapids.

“I want to expand because now I have the Grand Rapids area flooded,” Moeller said. He hopes to get into the Duluth area or even Hastings, where he has his family roots. However, Moeller said the ultimate goal would be for Snaptail to become the signature sauce for a restaurant.

In addition to his sauce, Moeller participates in barbecue competitions. One of the first competitions he won he thought, “I be darn, with my little grill I got first place.”

He has continued to improve his barbecue skills with practice and by getting the opportunity to learn from Johnny Trigg, a celebrity chef and competitor on the barbecue circuit. Moeller learned some new tricks, particularly involving his smoke.

“You don’t want the ugly white smoke,” Moeller said, but that is what he was getting. He learned how to get the clear blue smoke and his barbecue has really improved.

On July 16, Moeller participated in the Deer River Bar-b-que & Brew Fest where he won the Grand Champion title. The Grand Champion gets a free ride to the state competition in Albert Lea. He isn’t sure if he will be able to make it to state this year, but he does have more competitions lined up. Moeller plans to continue participating in barbecue competitions with two coming up in September. He will be at a competition in Nevis on Sept. 10 and another competition scheduled for Sept. 17.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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