Beer and sausages have been paired together for what seems like time immemorial. So why change things? Checkers Old Munchen, a Pompano German-American staple for years, doesn't think we should either; every third Friday of the month, it puts on a German-beer-pairing dinner that will leave you full and satisfied.
We arrived at the restaurant this past Friday to find the establishment already packed, with patrons finishing their standard dinner service and fans of this event getting settled with a beer list and raffle ticket (we'll get to that later). After a short wait, we were seated and awaited the procession with bated breath.
Beer 1: Bitburger Pilsner
The evening begins with a crisp and clean icon of the German pilsner style, Bitburger. The waitress for our section emerges from the back with an enormous tray of probably two dozen tasting-sized glasses of beer -- perfect to get a handle on the flavors of each entry but not too much, to keep the place from becoming a bacchanalia.
Beer 2: Shiner Ruby Redbird
Quickly, I learned that the beers were coming out every ten minutes, seemingly on the dot. By the time the Ruby Redbird, an interesting citrusy but not-too-sweet grapefruit-treated lager, arrived, generous portions of bratwurst, smoked pulled pork, and liverwurst and munster cheese were ready for plundering. Regulars to this event showed us the way.
Nick Hoffman, who has attended these beer dinners for the past few months, says the event has "perfect food" and is "a great way to sample some unique beers."
Beer 3: Konig Ludwig Weisse
This one is spicy but light and goes great with my plate of bratwurst. Hoffman points out that I had forgotten one of the best things at the buffet: the bacon-wrapped dates. He makes sure that's remedied, though, and I realize he is absolutely correct. Those things are heavenly. So I grab a few more.
Copper colored with some wet grain flavor, this is a classic in the Oktoberfest style. It's become evident that the clockwork in which these beers arrive is a reminder of the fleeting nature of the perception of time. After tasting each beer, eating a bit of food, and having a short bout of conversation, the next installment is being brought out into the dining hall like a miniature Oktoberfest. It's enjoyable to get a little lost in the atmosphere.
Beer 5: Dogfish Head 60 Minutes
Not all of the beers are from Germany (see the Texan above as well), but they all run the gamut of showcasing certain styles of beer. The Germans are not known for their IPAs, if that surprises you at all, so it only makes sense that in order to show that style, an American would be picked. Dogfish Head 60 is an enjoyable and, again, classic example of the style being showcased.
Beer 6: Köstritzer Schwarzbier
This is a dark lager, or more specifically a schwarzbier, or "black beer." These are light beers, so don't let the color fool you. There is very little roast character evident, instead being only slightly malty and leaning more toward the hoppy side of flavor. It's during this time that I notice the plaques hung beneath all of the steins perched on wooden rails across the entire restaurant. They had names on them.
"Those you can earn," Hoffman, my learned Checkers patron, informed me. "Drink 30 beers from the list they have, in a boot, and at the end, you get to pick a stein to drink from every time you come in." That explains the three people at the bar with massive liter steins...
Beer 7: Bischoff Doppelbock
As the meal is heading toward the finish line, some of the sweeter beers are coming out. The Bischoff has a sweet caramel malt flavor; there's something highly enjoyable about the doppelbock style.
Beer 8: The "Bernie Langer"
The last one is out already? I must have been enjoying that doppelbock too intently. In any case, the final beer of the evening is a concoction that owner Matthew Moore has been serving to much success. "It's a blend of cider and a wheat beer," he told me, explaining that the name is a German play on the American drink "Arnold Palmer." Langer, being a famous German golf player, was the perfect choice for this. It's refreshing and would be a perfect hot summertime beer blend. I could see a few friends who might choose the cider/wheat combo over a snakebite, that most common of pub blends the cider/lager.
With the beers done and my appetite thoroughly pummeled like the first lines of Belgian defense during the Blitz, I thought the night might be coming to a close, but that would be wrong.
It's raffle time!
As numbers were being called out, enthusiastic patrons were being handed practically half of the restaurant. Six-packs, T-shirts, a giant boot, shots of Underberg (a bitter digestif drink made with herbs) all went out in a seemingly endless stream. One lucky man was given an empty six-pack and told to "go shopping" behind the bar and pick up six bottles of any beer he desired from the wall. Needless to say, he thoughtfully selected his favorites.
"We started doing this event three years ago," owner Moore said. "We were seeing winetastings and thought that this would do just as well... and we've had a great turnout ever since."
But Matt, I said, you're practically giving away half your bar with these raffles.
"People have a good time with the raffles. Yes, we just give things away, but people love it."
It's an exciting monthly event that lasts between 90 minutes and two hours and is well worth the $19 for the beers, all the German food you can eat, and a chance to basically win your money back.
The beer dinners happens every third Friday of the month (meaning the next one won't be until August 16), and reservations are highly recommended. This place will get full very quickly.
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