As a food competitor and blogger, I love a food and beer pairing, which is what yesterday was all about. And as a teacher, I love a good field trip, and yesterday combined it all…food, beer, and field trips!
For our first field trip of the day, MillerCoors and World of Beer shuttled us across town to a beer & food pairing lunch at the Fowler Avenue World of Beer. I didn’t realize that WoBs were serving food, so it was a nice surprise.
First Course…GIGANTIC pretzel and Leinenkugel Beergarten Tart
Since we were seated at large communal tables, it only made sense to share appetizer plates. The first appetizer up was the largest, ginormous pretzel I’ve ever seen, which was paired with house made mustard, beer cheese, and a summery tart beer from Leinenkugel. I’m not usually a tart beer fan, but this one could change that. At only a 4.8%abv, its subtle sweetness and mild tartness makes it perfect for a Florida summer.
Second Course…Sausage & Cheese Tray and Blue Moon Belgian Table Pils
The tray of sausages wasn’t really my thing, but the cheeses and pickled green beans were phenomenal, especially the Danish blue cheese. However, the guys at our table cleaned out the sausages and left the cheeses to me! (win-win) As for the beer, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Everyone knows Blue Moon these days, but hardly anyone at our table knew what a Belgian Table Pils was. As it turns out, it’s simply a lower alcohol beer meant to be enjoyed with a meal…not over powering, slightly orange, malty, and balanced.
Third Course…Pork Schnitzel and FRESH Pilsner Urquell
Of course, the pork schnitzel was what had me excited about lunch. I LOVE German food, and this one didn’t disappoint. However, just before lunch, learning that our beer had been delivered straight from the Czech Republic a couple of days ago just for the event seriously impressed everyone and with good reason. I mean…seriously, who gets beer shipped from the Czech Republic just for an event!?!?! Too cool!
Fourth Course…Pretzel Bread Pudding and Crispin Cider
Maybe I’d had too much beer and food at that point. Maybe I just don’t like sweets that much. I’m not sure, but the dessert course didn’t do much for me. A salted pretzel bread pudding is probably quite tasty on any normal occasion, but to me it was dry and overcooked. The cider, on the other hand, was impressive and a welcomed sweetness at the end of the meal.
LIVE Beer Blogging
For our second field trip of the day, JJ Taylor Distributing invited us to their warehouse/distribution center for a speed dating style beer tasting with the brewers of several beers. Imagine 10 beer tastings in 50 minutes. Each brewer had 5 minutes to serve their beer, tell about their brewery, and answer questions before moving to the next table. The second part of the equation is that as bloggers we had 5 minutes to taste, ask, listen, and tweet our thoughts and pics. WOW! By the end, my head was spinning…in a good way!
Standouts in Speed Drinking
Terrapin Watermelon Gose, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, Saltwater Brewery, JDubs Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter (and the brewer in a cow costume), LaGunitas, Cigar City sharing an El Catador bottle, Florida Beer Company’s Florida Lager, and Crooked Thumb Grapefruit Gose
For our third field trip, we were shuttled around town on Brew Bus to three different local breweries for a progressive dinner and beer. Oh and Brew Bus gave us beer to sample during the ride to each brewery.
First Stop…Coppertail Brewing
Before we disembarked the bus, we were given tickets for FOUR beers. That actually scared me. How in the hell will I make it through the night if I’m expected to drink FOUR beers at every brewery…especially after speed dating at JJ Taylor. However, once in, it became clear. Each ticket was for a small pour–much more reasonable! And the food…WOW! Saltblock Catering served several Tampa-inspired tapas that were DELICIOUS! Bite size devil crab lollipops, tiny shrimp street tacos, smoked beef brisket & potato puree, and swordfish sashimi…a perfect first course.
Having been to Cigar City and Coppertail many times before, but never having visited Ulele, this is the stop to which I was most excited. Ulele is owned by the Gonzmart family of Columbia Restaurant fame, which has been a standard of excellence in Tampa Bay since 1905. While the Columbia Restaurant specializes in Tampa/Latin/Spanish foods, Ulele focuses on Florida food and serves food inspired and produced in Florida.
For our stop at Ulele, we were served charbroiled oyster (OMG GOOD!), beer mac & cheese, apple craisin chutney pork shank, and samples of Ulele Light, Magbee’s Honey Lager, and any other Ulele beers we were interested in.
Third Stop…Cigar City
We often joke that we’ve known Cigar City since they were a folding table and two taps, but it really is true and a testament to their success, because that folding table and two taps was only six short years ago. Today, six years later, Cigar City has 40+fermenters, a brewpub, a cider & mead location, and a members only El Catador Club (Yes, I’m a four year member).
Having their own brew pub, Cigar City knows how to pair beer and food, and being Tampa natives, they know Tampa food. The menu for the final stop was nothing new for us, but certainly qualifies as #FloridaComfortFood…Cuban sandwiches, black beans & yellow rice, salad, meats & cheeses, and a pint or flight of Cigar City brews.