Beer-pairing dinners attract the most devoted of beer snobs. Only true craft beer lovers would drive down from Fort Lauderdale for one. Especially when the beer involved Tampa brewer Cigar City and the chef happens to be the one who opened the Cigar City brewpub in 2008.
Cigar City rep Eddy Torres joined chef Nicolay Adinaguev at Verde last night for the restaurant's first beer pairing. Short Order was invited to attend the dinner.
The communal-style dinner included people who asked questions as Torres walked them through every beer, praised Cigar City, and exchanged preferences.
A hamachi sashimi amuse bouche burst with citrus flavor and had just the right amount of acid. A cucumber saison balanced it out beautifully.
Because all Cigar City beers are unpasteurized, they have a 90-day time frame before the natural ingredients in them begin to decompose. To see where your beer falls in the spectrum, simply flip it and check the date on the bottom.
For those who wonder where the name Florida Cracker comes out, Torres let us in on the secret. "It's not cause were racist." The beer is actually named after Florida's cracker cowboys, who were settlers during the colonial times. In order to eat, they would have to herd caddle by whipping cow hunters, thus Florida cracker.
A white ale made with unmalted wheat and orange peel, Florida Cracker has a spicy note to it. It paired perfectly with a mahi-mahi ceviche served on carrots and aji Amarillo sauce.
All of Cigar City's beers have something to do with Florida. Their newest addition to the core brews, Invasion, is named after Tampa's popular Gasparilla festival where pirates invade the city. It's Tampa's version of Mardi Gras.
The citrusy and tropical beer was nicely contrasted yet balanced by tempura corn fritters.
Everyone knows Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA. Their first and most popular gets its fruity taste from all the hops. This beer pairs wonderfully with anything fried or spicy.
Chef Adinaguev paired it with fried grouper cheeks, grits, and a spicy mustard sauce that's flavor was enhanced thanks to the beer.
Maduro brown ale is actually quite light bodied and contains no coffee or chocolate in the beer.
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Instead, we got our coffee and dulce de leche fix with the dipping sauces that accompany Verde's donuts.
As a surprise, Torres brought a little something extra for everyone -- Cigar City's Imperial Stout. The special limited release is made in a small batch once a year on March 8. This year 9,000 people showed up for 3,500 bottles -- you do the math. Riots ensued for the beer that's anywhere from 15-18% in alcohol content. The beer sells out immediately and is resold for upwards of $100. "It's sold for ridiculous amounts you should not pay." Definitely not when you can have it with a five-course beer pairing dinner for half the price.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha