And I know just the place to start doing that. Harry’s Poolside Bar & Grill at the Rosen Centre Hotel is now hosting a series of beer-pairing dinners, Harry’s Brewmaster Series, that are both fun and incredibly educational, even after you’ve sipped and slurped and tasted your way through five complete meal courses and six exceptional beers. That’s right, I used the words ‘fun’ and ‘educational’ in the same sentence; but did you also notice that I’m talking about drinking beer? Kudos to the culinary braintrust at the Rosen Centre who concocted this unique event, which actually is an extension of their still very popular Vine and Dine at Rosen Centre which I’ve also written about here. Except that having attended one of each, I have to admit that the beer pairing seemed to hold the edge on the fun factor. Why? I don’t know, just trust me on this one. Maybe it was the combination of the more casual but chic, poolside location of Harry’s Bar & Grill. Maybe it was because when your first course is Steamed Pork Belly Buns and your last course is Beer Battered Granny Smith Apples (with a chocolate rum dipping sauce) it’s just more fun to talk about. And eat. Or, maybe, possibly it’s just because drinking beer itself tends to invite more colorful conversations (even without having a ball game blasting away in surround sound on ten different TV screens). Whatever the reason, the night was lively, and at only $50 per person it’s a steal of a dining out deal. Here’s the review in pictures and all photo credits go to professional photographer, Richard Pabis (what, like you thought I could be trusted with a camera while eating and drinking all this?):
And for this event, Cigar City Brewing was the featured supplier of all the ales, so that’s where the learning part snuck in, just like the subtle tropical fruit hop finish from our opening Jai Alai India Pale Ale. (Yeah, I was still able to take readable notes on that first round. . . ). As each new course was skillfully presented in front of the diners, Eric Loy, whose business card lists him as El Lector from Cigar City Brewing but we now know him as El Cicerone – more on that title in a minute, was overseeing another pouring of the selected beer into our (surprise!) very cool souvenir beer tasting glass. Actually, it was one of two souvenir glasses we left Harry’s with that night, plus a Harry’s Bar & Grill tee shirt so yes, we got to eat, drink, and grab a goody bag on the way out.
Now, about El Cicerone, did you know there is actually a three part Certification Program that educates beer professionals in order to elevate the beer experience for consumers? Well now you do, and Eric is already on level two of that process. Which explains how terminology like ‘hoppy ale with tropical aromas and bitterness’ roll off his tongue when describing Invasion Pale Ale, and why I just called it, um, really good stuff? In fairness, I use the same descriptions about the wines I enjoy – good, better, best – and leave the adjective laden commentary to the sommeliers.
But there’s another man who knows it all when it comes to pairing this with that – Chef Emeterio “Tello” Luna, the mastermind behind those aforementioned pork bellys, the bacon & balsamic crusted scallops that followed along with all the rest of that goodness that kept coming out of the kitchen. When he’s not working magic with beer pairings, Chef Tello is the Top Chef at 98Forty located in the hotel lobby where he regularly pairs rare and premium tequilas with incredible tapas. And you don’t even have to wait for a special invitation to enjoy those because they’re available every night of the week.
So it’s affordable, delicious, and educational, and if a beer-pairing dinner sounds like your ‘mug of choice’ (sorry), make sure to reserve your spot at one of the two remaining events on the Rosen calendar. The next one is May 13 with pairings from Crooked Can Brewing Company from Winter Garden, and who knows what Chef Tello will be conjuring up in the kitchen for that one? Stay tuned!
Finally, to answer your question (I heard when you asked) yes, I was hosted for this event but opinions and perspectives are totally mine. Not one drop of Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale (with moderate notes of orange peel) nor a sip of the Maduro Brown Ale (notes of caramel, toffee, chocolate & hints of espresso with a roasted peanut expression in finish) influenced me in the least. Sayin’