‘Beer n’ Balls’ puts new taste on the table

Observing what goes into preparing Rocky Mountain Oysters. Photo taken by Zach Armenta.
Observing what goes into preparing Rocky Mountain Oysters. Photo by Zach Armenta.

Sliders, stuffed jalapeños and a bowl of chili made from mouth-watering bull calf testicles, also known as the Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Wait … what? I have to eat those things to graduate? Why me?

Yeah, you heard right, minus the mouth-watering part. The event is named Beer n’ Balls and has been held at the Four Deuces Saloon in Tombstone for the past six years.

The drive from Tucson to Tombstone seemed to be one of the longest hour-and-a-half of driving I’ve ever done in my life. I was not at all thrilled to have a few mouths full of testicles.

Not really the ideal way to spend my Saturday afternoon. But I will do what I have to do to get a good grade in this journalism class.

When I arrived at the festival, I felt a bit like an outcast. Everyone around me was dressed in Wild West attire. From 10-gallon hats, to chaps to the rattle their spurs made as they walked on dirt paths.

I felt like I traveled back in time.

As I walked around the small festival, I noticed an outdoor cooking area just aside of the Four Deuces Saloon. I crept up slowly in hopes that it was not the testicles making noises of popping on the grill.

I felt like a lion stalking its prey. Except in my case my prey was unwanted.

Raw testicles at the Beer N' Balls event. Photo taken by Zach Armenta.
Raw testicles at the Beer N’ Balls event. Photo taken by Zach Armenta.

The variety of preparation varied — from being breaded and fried in cooking oil, to chopped up into bits and put into deseeded jalapeños with cheese to make jalapeño poppers.

A cook made a patty with testicles and melted cheese, while adding grilled onions and a bread sliced in half to make a slider. Lastly, a pot of boiling testicle chili looked surprisingly appetizing.

Oddly enough since its beginning six years ago, the Beer n’ Balls festival has had nothing but success in popularity and consumption of the star of the show, the testicle itself.

“We first started the event as a way to get more business coming in the door,” event coordinator Ron Boan said. “I first began by ordering 25 pounds of it and this year I ordered about 125 pounds, so every year my order increases.”

Each dish was set at a reasonable price, with a“Bowl of Ball Chili” listed at $5. Sliders were $2 each, and the sampler plate was only $5.

As I continued to walk around and talk to Boan, he showed me their most popular versions of the dish, which were the chili bowl and jalapeño poppers.

Boan treated me with those two dishes, but of course I could not stop there.

I dreaded those two dishes in hand, but as a journalist I thought I should try whatever they offered.

I chose an outdoor table and set up every plate. I wondered what people thought as I placed my food to feast in front of me. What was I getting myself into?

I took a spoon, I filled it with chili to begin and it was not bad at all. The testicle had the consistency of cooked ground turkey. The spicy flavors made it all that much easier to eat.

Next up was the jalapeño popper. I went in for a bite. Crunch! Something oozed out. Cheese I think. The popper was not bad at all. The cheese seemed to overpower any other taste.

I realized it was all in my head. If I never knew what was in the food I ate, I would have thought it was really good.

I took a bite of the slider. All of its flavor was owed to the melted cheese and grilled onions. One of the best sliders I have tasted by far.

As the sun beat down my back, I sat there staring at my last dish, which was the sampler.

Taking a bite out of the sampler. Photo taken by Zach Armenta.
Taking a bite out of the sampler. Photo by Zach Armenta.

The sampler had crisp testicles, looking almost like chicken nuggets. As I slowly chewed and heard the crunch sound, it hit me again — I had worked myself up for nothing.

After days of nervousness, anxiety, and a few playful comments from my classmates and professor who gave me this assignment, it was finally over.

I felt a sense of accomplishment, oddly enough, because not many people can say they’ve stepped out of their comfort zones to try a sort of exotic food. Taking yourself out of that zone can reveal things you might have not known before.

Try Rocky Mountain Oysters at least once in your life, just to say you did it. You might be surprised by its taste and how much you like it. You might even get a funny story to share years later with your friends.

Or maybe not.

Arturo Robles a Reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at arobles94@email.arizona.edu.

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