Distributors play an important part in driving the beer industry, but how are South Florida craft beers promoted in the restaurant industry? The answer is beer dinners — like the ones Jason Arroyo has been putting on once a month for the last six months at Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen in Pembroke Pines.
"The primary idea of beer dinners is to promote local brewers," Arroyo says, adding that it's where craft beer meets the culinary world.
Arroyo works with Gold Coast Beverage Distributors' Phil Reese — who happens to be a neighbor and a friend — planning dinner menus designed to pair with selected beers from its portfolio. For his seventh beer dinner this Monday, Arroyo is featuring a five-course dinner paired with beers from Miami's the Tank Brewing Company.
Beer dinners are a frequent occurrence in the craft beer industry — and throughout South Florida. For Arroyo, they're also his creative outlet.
Before arriving at Russo's, Arroyo spent four years at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, where he gained valuable experience with cuisine and craft beer. Originally from Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, Arroyo has spent the last 14 years as a chef. He began his culinary education at Johnson and Wales University finished it Le Cordon Bleu — both in Miami.
Arroyo usually takes at least a week to compile a menu, tasting beers, and brainstorming ideas for flavor profiles. He tries to get the brewmaster to attend each dinner to aid in presenting their beers. Arroyo's past beer dinners have featured Miami's Biscayne Bay Brewing Company and Concrete Beach Brewery, as well as other nationally-distributed craft breweries.
The dinners are advertised as including six beers, but there's always the possibility of surprise extras. On June 20, for instance, Brooklyn Brewery was pouring the brews, including two of its rare, special releases Black Ops and Brooklyn Framboise.
"When you go to a Russo's beer dinner, you can also expect some giveaways, bonus beers, and fantastic service," according to Beer Drinker Rob, the man behind dailybeerreview.com. "The beers are mostly served on draft and refills come as needed, the best way to handle a dinner like this as every person is different."
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The dinners are usually held on a Monday or a Tuesday evening, when the restaurant isn't as busy. They cost $50. On average, Arroyo says the dinners have been attracting between 35 to 40 people. There is technically no end to the dinners, he adds, and what you get isn't usually on the restaurant's menu.
"It's a pretty good deal," he says. "The idea is to get the restaurant full."
The next beer pairing dinner at Russo's Coal Fired Italian Kitchen (14910 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines) is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25, featuring Miami's The Tank Brewing Company. For the menu, check out Tank Brewing's Instagram page.
For more beer dinners featuring local breweries at restaurants across South Florida, keep reading browardpalmbeach.com.