Craft beer goes upscale at trendy Sidebern's Restaurant in Tampa

cigar city brewing logoBeer was once the proud but tasteless drink of the working class but with the rise of quality craft beer it’s being increasingly recognized as a complex, upscale adult beverage worthy of appreciation akin to wine and Scotch. Most people have heard of wine dinners, where specific wines are paired with different food courses, usually in upscale restaurants. But recently a beer dinner was held at trendy Sidebern’s Restaurant in South Tampa, Florida. That’s right, craft beer has officially made it-big time.

The elegant, 7-course dinner paired local and acclaimed Cigar City Brewing beers with Sidebern’s trademark hip, modern Mediterranean cuisine. Sidebern’s is the cool little brother of the legendary Bern’s Steak House. At Sidebern’s, unique and eclectic dishes reign supreme while over at Bern’s, dry-aged hunks of prime beef steal the show. The little brother has been a culinary favorite in the Tampa Bay area for years and with good reason — the food is terrific as is the atmosphere and staff. And Cigar City Brewing is THE up-and-coming craft brewery out of Tampa that brews uber-tasty, award winning suds. Their “Humidor Series” Jai Alai IPA has taken home both a gold and a silver respectively in the last two years (including this year’s Great American Beer Festival), an impressive feat especially considering they’ve only been brewing since 2009. Beer snobs across the nation rave about their craft suds and they are the toast of Tampa when it comes to quality brew. Sidebern’s and Cigar City sounded like a heavenly pairing even before it started! (Read about another wine versus beer pairing with Cigar City Brewing)

The beer dinner was Sideberns’s 1st and hopefully not their last. Each course arrived along with the beer that it’s paired with. Executive Chef Chad Johnson eloquently explained the different flavors of the dish and how they complemented those of the beer being served. It was obvious that he had really taken the time to taste and discover the essence of Cigar City’s beers and matched them expertly and creatively with cuisine. Cigar City owner Joey Redner and master brewer Wayne Wambles would then talk about the beer itself along with the style, both in detail. Their passion, pride, and knowledge really came through as they discussed each beer as it arrived.

Every course was exceptional, as expected, with the beer pairing perfectly. The sixth and seventh courses really stood out. The sixth course was decadent. It featured the rich Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout along with pumpkin custard, chocolate sponge cake, toffee, and a blissful banana ice cream. The seventh course consisted of the delicious coffee infused Maduro ‘Cubano Expresso’ Brown Ale along with perhaps the best Chocolate Truffles in the land.

The food was phenomenal, the beer divine but what really made the evening was the people. The host Dean, Executive Chef Chad Johnson and the whole staff were true professionals. Beer people are usually the down-to-earth, friendly type and this was certainly the case with this crowd. Some of the distributors were in attendance and it was informative to see the industry from a different viewpoint, they were genuinely nice people as well. The highlight for this aspiring beer writer and avid home-brewer though was talking beer with Cigar City Brewing’s owner Joey Redner and master brewer Wayne Wambles, it was quite humbling.

Hopefully the trend is for more beer dinners, be sure to check one out if you get the chance!

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