Next Monday, April 28, Ommegang Brewery will host its third installment of a beer-oriented cooking competition called HopChef at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. This will be the first year that contest has come down to South Florida.
Through the creation of beer-infused dishes, chefs from around the area will compete to make their way to the Belgium Comes To Cooperstown festival, which occurs every year at the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York.
Among the participants is chef Jason Pringle of db Bistro, who is himself a fan of craft beer. "I've been a homebrewer on and off for eight years, brewing one-gallon batches in my apartment in New York and wherever I was," he said. "Something like this was very exciting to participate in."
"Trying to use flavor profiles of the beer in the dish and the different malt characters are all considerations when cooking with beer."
Though most gourmet restaurants will have a deep wine cellar, the possibilities of a good craft selection cannot be ignored.
"The pairing between food and beer is sometimes better," he explains. "A great experience [I had] was a pairing of a wine with the dish and a beer with a dish. The beer paired better with what I was eating. It has a fantastic potential and something I'd promote in the future.
Lucky for Pringle that he was able to select Three Philosophers as his paired beer and will be creating a Three Philosophers-braised short rib with pickled cherry gremolata.
Ommegang's director of marketing, Bill Wetmore, explains the process. "The chefs get to choose a beer, and we ask them to look at five different pairing principles to working with beer: completing, contrast, and such. They come with the dishes, set up around the venue, guests will come in with a tasting glass, a map, and taste the samples and enjoy.
"From chefs and good food, a lot of people are looking towards beer. There are more diverse flavors than ten to 15 years ago, and [beer] has been a go-to beverage to pair with food. We're putting a spotlight on the beer and food combination."
Other area chefs participating include David Hackett of the Biltmore Hotel, Alan Hughes of the Embassy of Wellbeing and Debauchery, Jacob Anaya of OTC, Sean Brasel of Meat Market, Jeremy Goldberg of Route 9, Michell Sanchez of Latin House Burger & Taco, and Michael Meuse of the Doubletree Miami Airport Convention Center.
Interested in checking it out? Tickets cost $75 and include samples of each chef's signature dish and accompanying Ommegang beers as well as a commemorative Brewery Ommegang glass.
Make a night of it at the Biltmore. The gourmet sampling begins at 7 p.m. and is expected to last about three hours.
The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables is located at 1200 Anastasia Ave.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers 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.