Thursday, July 31, 2014

Belgian Dinner and Beer Tasting at Brickell's Bistro BE

Last night, my wife and I attended a private party to celebrate the recent opening of Bistro BE in Brickell (Miami). The restaurant has only been opened a week and is touting itself as "100% Belgian". Everything in the place is Belgian: from the owners to the chef to the menu to the Manneken Pis Peeing Boy painting above the kitchen. And most importantly, for me, the killer extensive beer list!

Our dinner was not just an opportunity to sample the restaurant's food. Oh, NO! This was organized by Digest Miami and SFL on Tap as a five-course dinner and beer tasting showcasing the beers in the Stella Artois portfolio. And to ramp that awesomeness up even more, they had Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt fly in from Europe in the morning to give a presentation during the evening.

Of course, just about the time I needed to drive and make my way to the restaurant, there was a massive and extensive rain storm. But that did NOT prevent me from keeping my perfect "on-time" streak alive. And you know what happens when you arrive on time in Miami? Well, yeah, sometimes you're pissed off because your idiot friends are so inconsiderate. But sometimes you're rewarded. Like when you walk into the restaurant, are greeted by Stella and Digest Miami All-Stars, and Marc grabs you a beer and gives you a personal tour of the restaurant. Followed by one-on-one beer chat time! Take that, Miami! Show up early next time.

There was plenty of time to take a bunch of pictures, including some of my favorites with the Stella models. Rollie Fingers was tending bar (knowledgeable, attentive cool guy with a handlebar mustache) and decided the order I was drinking in. Well, at least until I asked to break into the two Delirium beers on tap which weren't part of the Stella line. And I got to meet a bunch of new people.

As a good crowd started to arrive, some cheeses and bread and condiments were served. And that's when Marc started showing us some "magic tricks" with the different beers and food. He is well-known as a food and beer pairing expert, and demonstrated how beer and cheese and some of the spicy condiments compliment each other perfectly.

We then sat for dinner and the Stella Cidre started flowing! We sat at the "media" table which was cool. I finally met Daniella Veras who is also a contributor at And Paula Echevarria from Tasting Table and Digest Miami Editor Anita Roman were on the other side of my wife. And Eddy Leal from Anheuser-Busch was next to me at the adjoining table. Fun bunch!

Photo Op with Daniella Veras and Digest Miami President Jason Inasi (he said he like this website!)
Marc was awesome the whole evening, telling us about the food and history and Belgian traditions, and of course the beer. After he told us about the Stella Cidre hard apple cider and we toasted the recent opening of Bistro BE, he sat down for a minute next to me to chat. He noticed I was drinking the Delirium Tripel. He mentioned that he is a "Commander in the Order of the Pink Elephant," which earned him another sash and medal. That's about as far as the conversation went--something about secret society with secret rituals that can't be divulged. LOL.

OK. The Menu! After snacking on "Belgium's favorite drinking food" of curry sausage with raw onions, we were served a really nice salad that included Roquefort cheese and red apples. We were still drinking the Stella Cidre, which Marc compared to an additional dressing for the food. Between each course, Marc went table to table and continued his presentation.

The next course was my wife's favorite. Mussels with ginger and shallots cooked and served with Hoegaarden Witbier. And we learned how to properly eat them--first one with a fork and the rest using the shell of the first as a grabbing tool! We also had our first pouring demonstration and lesson.

Marc Stroobandt and Chef Gerald
Chef Gerald introduced himself to everyone as he delivered the next course of veal meatballs served in a tomato sauce and with Stella Artois. And another, yet different, pouring lesson. Marc was giving a strategy lesson! That may have been when he made the NASCAR joke which I thought was really funny but left Eddy chuckling that they sponsor those events too--was harmless enough.

After I ran to feed the meter, I returned to my favorite dish of the night. Beef stew served with Belgian fries and served with Leffe Brune. It's either Leff-A or Leff-uh, depending on the part of the country you are from. Regardless, we said "Cheers" by learning a Belgian expression that means the same thing. Everyone did the "I drink to your face" ritual with a few people, swapping glasses to each others' cheeks. And Leffe Brune is really a nice beer--nice coffee and toffee and chocolate flavors, extremely creamy and smooth, with zero harshness or bitter roast.

Many hours later, we were still being served food. Our dessert was a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. We continued our conversations. As Marc personalized my menu, I asked him about some of the beers being made in the US, particularly the Belgian-inspired ones made by such breweries as Ommegang. And he admitted that the craft beer revolution in the US has certainly inspired the Belgian brewers to get innovative. They can no longer rest on only their current beers and history.

Nice menu, great beers, terrific company. I totally see why Marc is able to make a living flying around the world giving presentations and drinking beer while he's doing it. He told me that more people need to talk about beer, so I hope you enjoy this recap and pictures. And definitely look for Marc because it was a dynamic, educational, interesting and fun night!

Thanks to Bistro BE, Chef Gerald, and his very attentive staff. Thanks to Digest Miami for the invite. Special thanks to the Stella girls :) . And superb job, Marc! I did leave my umbrella there by mistake (Bistro BE, you keep it. Someone else will need it some day).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Beer Camp Across America West Coast Double IPA

You probably heard about Sierra Nevada Brewing opening a new brewery in Mills River, NC. Right? To celebrate, they decided to modify their usual "Beer Camp" beer pack and create a one-of-a-kind mixed 12 pack made with 12 collaboration beers. And to top that 12-pack, they created a traveling beer festival they call Beer Camp Across America, currently underway. I swear, I was one week off from making this Saturday's Philly event! Alas, I'll be flying in to PHL on August 9th to head for drier ground in OCNJ (you guys know what I mean right?)

Anyway, if you want to participate, you better be an East Coaster or someone willing to hit up their last three events in Portland, Philadelphia or Mills River (all this weekend!) Tonight I'm drinking the actual "Beer Invitation" that Sierra Nevada sent to over 2800 breweries to participate in their most local festival. Yep, a 24 oz bomber of Beer Camp Across America West Coast Double IPA was sent to each, and apparently a LOT accepted!

The bottle says they invited every craft brewery "to make this the largest craft beer celebration in history"! There's even a "Summer 2014" commemorative badge--not sure if it will ever eclipse that Summer of "69" but you never know. The back of the bottle lists the events and how to get tickets. 8.5% alcohol.

Citrus and pine aroma with a light fruitiness, not very powerful though. Orange malty sweet flavors start. Spicy, piney, lightly floral hops poke their way through next and actually take you all the way to the finish, where you will taste a little alcohol. Very simple beer.

Great body and nice carbonation. But this is a little sweet and I want more fresh, bright, citrusy, aggressive hops and bitterness, especially from this brewery and this style of beer. After all, I love me some Estate Homegrown Ale! Anyway, best invitation to an event in history, especially with 2800 or more going out! I need friends like that! You probably won't get another crack at this one, so check it out!

Monday, July 28, 2014


After the party I went to sponsored by Schofferhofer Grapefruit last weekend, I decided to try this can of Sixpoint RAD I had in the fridge. After all, this seems to be at least a cousin being an "ale with fruit juice added." My pounder comes in an orange can and with a story on the back.

"No one in their right mind would dispute it being... TOTALLY RADICAL. Sixpoint RAD is a unique blend of fruit juices with ale to create the original summer crusher. The first Sick Liquid from the Mad Scientists' Laboratory--a refreshing take on what beer can be." 3.2% alcohol. 7 IBU.

Murky orange-brown color. NOT one of the loveliest beers I've ever seen. Very fruity aroma and tons of wheat. Fruits are kind of a weird indiscernible fusion--it doesn't matter but I'll go with banana-orange-mango-peach juice is what was added.

The texture is thick and kind of chewy, lots of wheat. Fruit is still very prevalent, but also still a weird mixed basket. Some citric acidic grapefruit tartness does add a little balance to the wheaty cotton-mouth-producing aspect, but this is not refreshing in the slightest. Sick Liquid is right, but not in the cool way they want you to think of it. Rather, the Mad Scientists made a Blender of Weirdness. Pass for sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

WILDFOX Pool Party & Trunk Show with Schofferhofer Beer

WILDFOX recently had a fashion/swim apparel party at the Boulan Hotel Roooftop Pool in Miami Beach (Florida, duh). This was part of the larger Miami Beach Fashion Week Swim events going on around town (I think), including one a few blocks away we saw from Mercedes-Benz. Anyway, who doesn't love a good swim party, especially when it's sponsored by a totally refreshing beer like Schofferhofer Grapefruit!?!?

Greg Garcia, South Florida Manager representing Schofferhofer, invited Ed Roberts who in turn invited me, and you are surely smart enough to see how that ended up. Ed and I arrived at around 12:15, very fashionably on time for a 7 hour event in sweltering heat. It was a pool party, so Ed and I had our suits, but we naively thought that the pool part was a gimmick, that no one would be in the pool and it wouldn't be really that enticing anyway. Dudes, totally wrong!

It was an angry hot day on the roof, even in the shade of the umbrellas. Ed and I immediately grabbed a Schofferhoffer pint can upon arrival. There was a bar set up to offer the guests both the beer and a cool gin cocktail, with and without the grapefruit beer included. While the unlucky guy at the grill there cooked burgers, chicken and hot dogs, Ed and I headed over to the VIP room where we were offered several catered dishes and pizza from Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza! I was surprised yet very happy to find another sponsor I adore!

The VIP room also showcased a few other products including the really awesome lollipop cakes shaped like bikini-clad women by SusyPops. It was really fun eating those chicks! They also had iced coffee though I was too busy with my Schofferhofer cans. Dude, they are like 3.2% alcohol so it was very easy to drink this all afternoon!

Radeberger Group Senior Brand Marketing Manager Armin Buehler told us a little bit about the brand and what's to come next (like those cans you see in our South Florida market). Oh, and he brought the Schofferhofer Hotties too! We did walk around and see what the other sponsors had to offer, though I didn't end up buying any swimwear. Mostly it was a day for staying in the shade, chatting for a while and drinking beer!

We left mid afternoon for another small beer festival in Wynwood, but you'll have to wait to read about that one another day.

Unfortunately, I did NOT meet her!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Funky Buddha

OK. So I'm betting you didn't watch the World Cup Final from three different breweries. I'm willing to bet you don't even know anyone that did. Maybe in four years! My wife and I arrived to our final stop on #EpicBeerSunday to Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park, FL just a little after the first 15 minutes overtime period started, perfect timing. The score was still tied at zero. This crowd, however, was exactly the opposite of what we saw at Saltwater. These people were clearly rooting for a Germany victory over Argentina.

The beer menu listed so many options that I had never heard of let alone tasted. Since we had already tried a few beers earlier in the day, we opted for a flight of four Buddha beers. There were a handful of limited release beers not eligible for flights, though we got around that with a few full pour orders later. Despite a very full house, we had no trouble ordering, paying, and carving out a nook at the bar to taste the beers and watch the game.

We started off with Clifford's Big Red Ale, a rich and full-bodied beer clocking in at 9.7% alcohol. Nice spiciness and caramel flavors balance each other. Tasty. Though I had tried No Crusts PB&J Brown Ale a few other times, I figured it was something I wanted my wife to experience. Yep, tastes just like a PB&J sandwich, nice roast, great flavors, not too sweet, decent bitterness on the finish.

Beer 3 was Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter. Smooth and silky chocolate with a cherry burst similar to when you bite into a cherry filled chocolate candy. The final beer in our flight was Vanilla Cream Abdul Jabbar, a pretty awesome beer name, though I'm betting half the crowd there didn't know the origin. Creamy, nice vanilla and good flavors overall.

It was just about that time that Germany scored the first goal of the game. The place went nuts! And there really wasn't that much time left in the game for Argentina to put up the equalizer and send it to penalty kicks.

Since there was still soccer to be played, though, we each ordered one of the limited release beers. For my wife, French Toast sounded like a good option. I opted for the beer name that caught my eye right from the start of the night--Dread Pirate Ed Roberts Imperial Stout! I mentioned above that I thought it likely that at least half of the crowd never heard of basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Well, with this "Ed Roberts" beer, I asked at least 4 or 5 of the servers the inspiration for this particular beer name. None had a clue! And here I thought Ed Roberts was famous!

Messi watches the Funky Buddha crowd cheer the German goal and victory! "¿Por qué me odias?"
The game ended as we were drinking our beers. The crowd seemed satisfied with the result and was cut in half rather quickly. We decided to walk around, check out the outside areas in addition to the gaming room in the back, complete with Cornhole and Bocci courts. I didn't go back there when I visited before and didn't realize that you get a great view of the inside of the actual brewery from there. If you visit, definitely take a look!

French Toast totally tasted like French Toast with maple syrup, brown sugar and chocolate nuances. Good roast, nice bitterness tames the underlying sweetness. Good balance. Dread Pirate Ed Roberts is an imperial stout brewed with coconut, cocoa, vanilla and raspberries, weighing in at 10.4% alcohol. I'm glad we saved this for last. For me, best beer of the entire #EpicBeerSunday trip! Rich chocolate, creamy and smooth, and the awesome raspberry infusion made it "the bomb!"

And that was our journey, Orlando though four breweries and back home in one day! Hope you enjoyed yourselves.