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Barrel of Monks' Brewery Versus Brewery Showdown: Cigar City Challenges the Home Team

On a day when the business is usually closed, Barrel of Monks Brewing in Boca Raton opened its doors this past Monday, January 25, to host the first of a series of monthly events that pits its beer pairing knowledge with that of another guest 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. They don't know what food is being prepared, nor what what beers the other is bringing until about a half hour before the event. It's the most intellectually stimulating beer-pairing dinner you can witness. For those paying attention, it can be quite the learning experience following the reasons why the guest brewery rep (this month the esteemed Andy Rattner) and Phil Palmisano, Barrel of Monks Brewing's marketing/brand manager and certified cicerone, chose certain beers.

For the inaugural session of this monthly event, Barrel of Monks Brewing invited perennial Florida powerhouse Cigar City Brewing along with food prepared by Mucho Gusto in Delray Beach.

Each side was given two minutes to sample the surprise dish, think about which beer of the four that 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.

Course One:

Scallop Crudo featuring watermelon radish, grapefruit, grapefruit vinaigrette, chimichurri, caviar, almonds, and hazelnuts.

Paired with Invasion Pale Ale (Cigar City) and Nuance Saison (Barrel of Monks).

Phil (BoM): "The high carbonation levels of Nuance will pair well."

Andy (CCB): "I want to highlight the smoother qualities [of the dish] without being boring. Invasion will be citrusy and aggressive upfront but smooth at the end."

With this dish, the citrus really blows up Invasion's hop profile and accentuates the pithy bitter nature. Nuance's subtle floral fruitiness upfront and cleansing carbonation hold up to the light seafood flavors.

My verdict: Barrel of Monks Brewing

Course Two:

Goat Blue Cheese Mousse featuring sherry beet compote, truffle honey, baked parmigiano, shaved parmigiano. 

Paired with Lager (Cigar City) and Quandrum (Barrel of Monks).

Phil (BoM): "I'm going to highlight the sweet quality from the cream, giving a silky-sweet kiss from the rum. It's an unorthodox pairing."

Andy (CCB): "Some of that earthy, green-oniony Continental hop flavors should be to complement and cut through the cream."

Cheese is a great beer pairing no matter what, and these two different approaches showed the range that can be afforded to complement flavors. Cigar City's Lager, of which this event happened to be the official launch party for the beer in the South Florida market, expertly complemented the fluffy and surprisingly approachable blue and goat cheese mousse. Quandrum, Barrel of Monks' rum barrel-aged quad, was a bit too sweet and strong, slightly overpowering the lighter cheese offering.

My verdict: Cigar City Brewing

Course Three:

Ropa Vieja featuring fried cheese, green chili jus, cotija, radichio, home-made Fritos.

Paired with Satyr Bock (Cigar City) and Amarillo Dry-Hopped Endless Enigma (Barrel of Monks).

Phil (BoM): "Sort of an unusual pairing. With the little bit of heat in the dish, the hops will amp that up. I also want to pull the roastiness out of it."

Andy (CCB): "With this classic German bock, I want to use the fat cutting character and accent the herbaceous undertones."

The use of a bock with a meaty, beefy dish like ropa vieja worked out well for Andy. It's bready and rich lager characteristics cut through this dish fantastically. With the dry-hopped Endless Enigma, the heat that was present was accented. This was a tough one, as both had flavors that held up to the dish and accented their different areas. 

My verdict: Cigar City Brewing

Course Four:

Espresso Bread Pudding Custard featuring red wine blueberry compote, chipotle dulce de leche.

Paired with Dirge Double Porter (Cigar City) and 1801 Vanilla Saison (Barrel of Monks).

Phil (BoM): "This is our brand-new, ready-to-release beer made with Subculture coffee and vanilla beans. With the compote, I want this to help break through the sweetness."

Andy (CCB): "The subtle undertones of dried fruit in the beer will accent and complement."

The addition of coffee flavors to the saison, and its use here, really added another dimension to this fluffy custard course. The blueberries had a bit of decent sweetness to them that 1801 was able to recognize and join in the conversation with something new that wasn't overpowering. The Dirge Double Porter added an extra roasted chocolate complexity, which elevated the experience.

My verdict: Barrel of Monks Brewing

In the end, after all the votes were tallied, Barrel of Monks Brewing was declared the winner.

The battle will continue in February with MIA Brewing, followed by Copperpoint Brewing Co. in March and 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 should be going on sale today.

Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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Doug Fairall
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