Brewers and brewery employees always talk about the industry being in a mode of "friendly competition." That friendliness is about to get a little more fierce.
The fourth Monday of every month, Barrel of Monks Brewing in Boca Raton opens its doors to host the Brewery Throwdown, an event that pits its beer-pairing knowledge with that of another guest brewery. The first matchup last month saw Barrel of Monks go up against Tampa's iconic Cigar City Brewery.
It all goes down over four courses, with eight beers being represented. But it's not an easy process. Each brewery knows only what beers it wants to bring. It doesn't know what food is being prepared or what beers the other is bringing until about a half-hour before the event.
For the second installment, Barrel of Monks Brewing invited friends from MIA Brewing Co. along with food prepared by chef John Thomas of Tryst in Delray Beach. Phil Palmisano from BoM and Eric Rodriguez from MIA were the respective brewery's spokesperson.
Each side was given two minutes to sample the surprise dish, think about which beer of the four they brought would work best, and then execute that decision. After each dish, diners will cast their vote for which beer paired best with the food. At the end, the brewery with the most pairings voted for wins.
Key West pink shrimp curry salad on Belgian endive with golden raisin and pickled lemon peel.
Paired with White Wizard Wit (Barrel of Monks) and El Cuco IPA (MIA Brewing Co.).
Phil: "The high carbonation will cut through the creamy fattiness of this dish. Look for the lemon peel to shine."
Eric: "The citrus of the dish will complement the hops. The wheat [in the beer] will complement the sauce here."
The pairing here ended up showing right up-front the power of beer as a food-forward accompaniment. White Wizard's spicy and yeast-centered flavors built upon the innate sweetness of the shrimp flesh while joining with the curry. El Cuco's bitter hop profile acted as a counterpoint to the sweetness of the dish, resetting the flavors after each bite, yet lending a complement to the raisins.
The eaters voted for a tie.
Paired with Regresa A Mi (MIA Brewing Co.) and Three Fates Tripel (Barrel of Monks).
Eric: "This Berliner should pair well with the melon; this couldn't have been a better pairing."
Phil: "Sweetness of the melon will be cut by Three Fates; the dryness will let you go back for another bite."
On this dish, the carbonation of the tripel works in its favor, but the delicate flavors of this melon are run into, and it struggles to keep itself balanced. The intense guava flavors of Regresa A Mi, one of the brewery's Berliner weisse, amplifies the character of the melon and really engrosses this dish and serves as a leader in this tango.
The eaters voted for MIA Brewing Co.
Backyard smoked chicken thighs on pilsner-stewed root vegetables, pickled red cabbage, crispy bacon.
Paired with Tartan Monk (Barrel of Monks) and Kilty Pleasure (MIA Brewing Co.).
Phil: "Our Belgian-styled scotch ale will pair nicely with the roastiness in the chicken."
Eric: "This scotch ale has peated malt, so the smokiness of the chicken and bacon will do well; the curaçao will go with the root vegetables."
As was expected, a scotch-ale-versus-scotch-ale battle reared its head. Kilty Pleasure lovingly expands upon the flavors present in the smoked dish and adds some sweetness to it as well. Tartan adds to the chicken and expands upon it, not by approaching the smoke but by calmly pushing it aside.
The eaters voted for Barrel of Monks.
Roasted NY Strip on Belgian-styled mashed potato, cipolline onion agrodolce, foie gras butter.
Paired with Edenboc (MIA Brewing Co.) and Hazelnut Pazuzu (Barrel of Monks).
Eric: "The crisp finish of this beer will cut the fat and hopefully it wins your heart over."
Phil: "The earthiness of the hazelnut and roasty character will complement this dish."
Chef JT decided to throw a curve ball at the pairing and presented two "entrées," forgoing a dessert course. Left with the only two beers they had, each brewery hoped for the best and ended up giving us something of interest. The hazelnut aromas and flavors of the Hazelnut Pazuzu (of which this was the first public unveiling of this beer, soon to be released to the BoM taproom) were strong, much like a coffee, but surprisingly worked superbly with the mashed potato. It lended itself to the steak as well but was checked by the intense flavors of the foie gras butter. Edenboc, the MIA doppelbock, did the steak justice with its wonderful cutting capacity.
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The eaters voted for a tie.
In the end, each brewery won a course, while drawing for two. Since the rules demand a full vote count to determine the winner in that event, after all the votes were tallied, Barrel of Monks Brewing was declared the winner — again.
The battle will continue in March with Copperpoint Brewing Co. followed by Saltwater Brewery in April. Expect the series to continue through the end of the year. Check back to the Barrel of Monks Facebook page for tickets; they are now on sale.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2009. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.