The up-until-now undefeated four-and-oh host brewery Barrel of Monks Brewing fell to one of South Florida's titans of brewing, Due South Brewing Company, last night in the fifth of a series of monthly beer and food pairing events slated to roll on for all of 2016.
The event pits two breweries in friendly competition against 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 was the illustrious Chef Ryan Lorenzo of the Foxy Brown in Fort Lauderdale).
Each course is paired with a beer from both breweries. It's a feast of eight beers over four courses with only one winner.
Chef Lorenzo brought a lot of raw food to this challenge, which proved to be a curve ball to the contenders and a welcome twist from diners. The opening dish of a watermelon summer salad with feta cheese and jalapeños sent Due South into go-big-or-go-home mode, where they paired the salad with Category 5, their double IPA. It worked surprisingly well, the malt backbone and incredible hop aromas complementing everything about the dish.
"It will hold up," Due South Brewing's Mike Halker said. "And it's a beer that I like to drink all the time."
The next course brought wahoo tartare, another raw dish, full of arugula and Sriracha, the heat of which was expertly calmed by a special early release from Barrel of Monks; Single in Havana, a guava variation of their Belgian pale ale, lent fruity sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the course. Or as Phil Palmisano, Barrel of Monks' brand manager, put it, "The sweetness will complement the fish nicely."
For the entree, Chef Lorenzo decided on Korean BBQ pork belly and a Brussels sprout slaw infused with peanuts. Due South's Caramel Cream was an obvious choice, and everyone was glad that it was used here. The rich umami flavors of the pork were cut down by the caramel-forward malts of the beer and were accented by the savory sauce.
Finally, as a decadent finish, a chocolate beer pudding was served, topped with Tahitian vanilla cream and toasted coconut. Luckily for Due South, they brought their Cafe Ole espresso porter made with fresh Argyle Coffee Roasters coffee. Barrel of Monks was left with their delicious but not spectacularly dessert-friendly Toccata, a Belgian amber ale.
As a result, the visitor defeated the home team for the first time in five months.
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The next throw down is scheduled to take place Monday, June 20, with Barley Mow Brewing Company out of Largo.
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.