Monday, February 9, 2015

Van Cleave Dry Goods - Brisket Nuggets

van cleave dry goods
Van Cleave Dry Goods is a new brand of jerky having launched earlier in 2014. The brand was started by Adam Van Cleave, a former Michigan-based attorney.

Adam had been making his own home jerky and sharing it with friends. As demand grew, he found himself churning out 50 pounds of jerky each week, and spending too much time doing it. After a move to Texas, Adam launched his new jerky business.

Van Cleave Dry Goods offers two types of jerky, these "Brisket Nuggets", and "Steak Strips". We reviewed the Steak Strips last December. These "Brisket Nuggets" are made from 100% Angus beef brisket, cut into bite sized pieces, and marinated for 12 hours. They're offered in the same four flavors as the Steak Strips.

G Dub

Ingredients: Angus beef, Tamari, onion, garlic, spices, sugar, monosodium glutamate.

The first flavor that hits the palate is a strong soy sauce flavor, with touches of garlic and seasoning. The chewing seems to bring on the same taste, with perhaps a touch more seasoning.

The dominant flavor profile is the soy sauce. It's not over the top salty like other soy sauce-weighted jerky brands can be. It has much of the soy sauce flavor that a lot of people seem to like, without scorching the tongue with salt.

The chewing is much like the Steak Strips as well, mostly dry, with a normal level of chewiness, but still feeling quite meaty, and even steak-like. Unlike other brisket jerky brands, these nuggets handle cleanly, without clumping together. You could pour them out like a bag of nuts and snack on them just the same.

Rating: Good


Ingredients: Angus beef, Tamari, worcestershire sauce, spices, tomato sauce, water, garlic, smoked sea salt.

The first thing I taste on the palate is a saucy flavor, with bits of ginger. There's a light bit of cayenne pepper taste and burn. I can also pick up some beefy, fatty flavor in the meat.

The primary flavor profile is largely a mixture of soy sauce and worcestershire with a light ginger pungent taste. The cayenne pepper heats this up a bit. There's actually a bit more sweet in this compared to the G-Dub. Otherwise, it's largely the same Type-X flavor offered on the Steak Strips.

The heat in this doesn't seem to be as hot as with the Steak Strip variety. Perhaps the smaller bite sized pieces causes the heat to be disbursed more lightly? I don't know. I'd rank this as "medium" (level 3 out of 5).

The meat consistency feels a little bit more tender than the G-Dub, but still overall dry. It tends to leave a little more residue on my fingers, just enough to make me wipe them off on my jeans. I like the flavor that comes from the small pieces of fat I see on these nuggets.

Rating: Good


Ingredients: Angus beef, spices, orange, carrot, Tamari, tomato sauce, smoked salt, cilantro, lime, garlic

The company describes this variety as being made with 7 different types of chile peppers, comparable to the 7 signs of the Apocalypse.

The first flavor that I pick up on the tongue is a chile pepper flavor, along with touches of tomato sauce. The chewing brings on some tangy flavors of lime and cilantro. There's some heat building up. I can also pick up some unusual seasonings.

The dominant flavor profile is the unmistakable taste of chile pepper. But it's flanked with a touch of tangy citrus and notes of tomato sauce. The heat is considerable but not overwhelming, yet interestingly more hot than it's Steak Strip counterpart. I'd rank the heat in this as "medium" (level 3 out of 5).

The meat consistency still dry overall, but a little more tender, perhaps like the Type-X variety above. I don't see as much fat on these nuggets, and as a result it doesn't quite have that beefy flavor as the Type-X. But overall, it chews very meaty, and almost steak-like.

Rating: Good


Ingredients: Angus beef, Tamari, worcestershire sauce, honey, spices.

The first flavors I pick up is a lightly sweet, smoke flavor. There's a soy sauce and worcestershire combo that comes in right away too.

Being that this is described by the company as a Teriyaki beef jerky, it doesn't actually taste like Teriyaki. For the most part, I see it as a blend of soy sauce and worcestershire with a noticeable smokiness. It doesn't give off the classic Japanese teriyaki characteristics like ginger and that fermented mirin wine flavor.

There's a little bit of heat to this, just light. I'd probably rank it as "mild medium" (level 2 out of 5).

The meat consistency feels more dry than the other Brisket Nuggets, perhaps due to the real wood smoked nature. As a result, it beckons me to take some drinks of water. The acrid taste of the smoke also leaves of thirsting for a swig. I still like this flavor overall, but I think the Steak Strip variety is better, just for that sense of taking bigger bites.

Rating: Average

Final Verdict

These Brisket Nuggets are perhaps more snackable than their Steak Strip cousins, mostly because of their bite-sizes pieces. You can pop them in your mouth like nuts and seeds, and for that matter lend themselves to sitting in a Tupperware bowl on your desk to make the work day go by faster. Mostly dry, they still have a jerky chewiness and tend to feel like eating real chunks of meat. The G Dub and Apocalypse are perhaps best examples of this.

I thought that the "G Dub" was actually the best overall of the four varieties, offering a nice balance between snackability, chewing, and flavor. Even though it's a simple soy sauce flavor, I still found it very enjoyable. The Apocalypse has a nice complexity and a rich chile pepper flavor, which I also like. These two varieties offered the best meat consistency, though I really liked the fatty flavor of the Type-X.

Since both these Brisket Nuggets and the Steak Strips offer the same four varieties, which should you get? I actually like the Brisket Nuggets better for it's bite sized form factor, giving you the snackability of popping nuts and trail mix.

brisket jerky

brisket jerky


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