It all goes down over four courses, with eight beers being represented. But it's not an easy process. The breweries have no idea what food will be prepared when they select which beers to bring.
Each side is given two minutes to sample the surprise dish, think about which beer of the four they brought would work best, and then execute that decision. After each dish, diners cast their vote for which beer paired best with the food. At the end, the brewery with the most pairings voted for wins.
For the fourth installment, Barrel of Monks Brewing invited friends from Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach. The food for the evening was prepared by another Delray Beacher, chef Jake Hébert of Mucho Gusto. Phil Palmisano from BoM and Dustin Jeffers from Saltwater were the respective breweries' spokespersons.
Cold pad Thai, peanut-ginger sauce, black garlic, and crushed peanuts paired with Endless Enigma from Barrel of Monks and Salty Buddha from Saltwater Brewery.
Jeffers: "Salty Buddha comes out Thursday, so this is a sneak peek. It's a sour gose, kettle-soured and brewed with six gallons of ocean water that we reduced. The acidity will go well with the meat and cut it down."
Palmisano: "I'm going for the hop presence [of Endless Enigma] to counterbalance the meat... contrast and complement."
Here, the sourness of the gose really built upon the pad Thai sauce, furthering its character, while the Belgian pale ale cut through the complex combination of flavors and gave the dish new life after each bite.
"Soup and Sandwich," grilled corn gazpacho, bacon and egg club, paired with White Wizard Wit (Barrel of Monks) and Screamin' Reels IPA (Saltwater Brewery).
Jeffers: "This is one of my favorite beers to pair with food. It's a little earthy, a little dank."
Palmisano: "There are a lot of flavors going on in this dish. [White Wizard] is going to play in harmony, with the carbonation able to clean between each bite."
A lot of what the gazpacho is bringing to the table is accented well by both beers, but the cleanliness of the White Wizard really showcases the nuances of the egg, bread, and surprisingly the bacon as well. However, Screamin' Reels ends up a killer companion to the gazpacho.
Apple-hoisin-glazed braised pork, cheddar grits, pickled red onion.
Paired with Rumplestiltskin (Barrel of Monks) and Sea Cow Milk Stout (Saltwater Brewery).
Jeffers: "We make Sea Cow like a Florida stout — more crushable. The roastiness will go really well with the pork."
Palmisano: "This beer will be a little sweet and a little tart, hopefully accentuate the onion, bring out the sweetness that's present in the dish."
Sea Cow has a lot of roasted character that does what it can to meld with the pork but hits a bit of a wall with the grits. The rum-barrel-aged sour from Barrel of Monks is able to point out the inherent sweetness of the pork meat but sometimes begins to overpower with its sour notes.
Bacon-fat cookie muffin, "very dark" chocolate, rosemary-infused pastry cream, butterscotch sauce.
Paired with Mocha 1801 Saison (Barrel of Monks) and the Black Current (Saltwater Brewery).
Jeffers: "This is a big American strong ale with black currants and aged on seagrape wood. Expect to get some fruit topping flavors."
Palmisano: "This beer is brewed with Subculture coffee, should sweeten up this dish, and bring coffee to this dessert."
For this unique hybrid dessert, which made everyone audibly gasp when it was explained, Saltwater's Black Currant complemented superbly, doing everything it could to act as the fruit end-cap to the dish. If that wasn't enough, the Mocha 1801 provided an accented and rich coffee-like experience.
In the end, Barrel of Monks Brewing was declared the winner.
The battle will continue in May with Due South Brewing followed by Barley Mow Brewing in June. Expect the series to continue through the end of the year. Check back to the Barrel of Monks Facebook page for tickets.
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.