The monthly event pits two breweries in friendly competition with one another in a beer-to-dish pairing battle of the minds, giving diners the opportunity to eat four courses prepared by a guest chef. This month featured the illustrious chef Jaime Jaramillo of 3rd and 3rd in Delray Beach.
Each course is paired with a beer from both breweries. It's a feast of eight beers over four courses with only one winner.
The dishes this month were a true challenge for the contenders — not because of the usage of complex flavors, but because of the presence of some nonstandard ingredients. The opening salvo of round one involved a watermelon, papaya, and sweet chile cold soup built on a foundation of yogurt and crème fraîche.
26 Degree paired the soup with their 'Merica Pils, a traditional German pilsner, while Barrel of Monks opted for their Endless Enigma Belgian pale ale. The slightly hoppy nature of the Enigma pushed it into the lead, as its flavors were able to cut through the cool sweetness of the soup.
"The bit of sweetness and dry hop presence will balance the saltiness of this dish," said Phil Palmisano, marketing and brand manager for Barrel of Monks.
Next was another cold dish: a citrus-heavy lionfish ceviche full of lime, sweet bell peppers, and aleppo peppers with a side of far-far chicharróns. Barrel of Monks chose to pair citrus with citrus, putting forth their Pinky's Swear passion fruit single while 26 Degree picked their American Wheat.
Ian Gibeault, assistant brewer at 26 Degree, explained their choice: "It's light and earthy and will bring out the peppers."
The third course came with a disclaimer as it included an unusual ingredient not many Americans have sampled. Chef presented a stew of tripe and local black-eyed peas in a tomatillo sauce spiced with vanilla, cinnamon, and star anise. There was an audible murmur from the audience at the description, but once they put spoon to lips, their minds were changed.
For this one, Barrel of Monks paired it with their Quadraphonic Quad, while 26 Degree opted for their IPA1A India pale ale. Here, the quad began to overpower the dish, while the IPA gave a pleasing complement and cutting power to what was happening on the plate.
"The use of dry hop will go very well with the complexity of this dish," Gibeault said.
Finally, with the brewers left with no picks and simply required to serve what remained, the fourth course arrived: a blueberry and nectarine blintz. Luckily for both teams, their final beers were geared toward dessert.
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26 Degree swung for the fences with their Ziko's Rage imperial stout, full of roasty and chocolatey notes, with Barrel of Monks teasing the crowd with a just-finished-this-morning-treatment of Irish Coffee Tartan Monk scotch ale. Here, the coffee flavors helped to propel the beer into an incredible pairing.
As a result, the home brewery managed to sneak by with a win in each category, making them the overall winners of the night.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger dedicated to educating the public about all things beer, with a focus on Florida brews. He is the Brand Marketing Manager for Due South Brewing Company 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.