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Brewer’s Supper Club aligns beer with fancy cuisines

The annual Bern’s Winefest is planned by the people at famous Tampa restaurant Bern’s Steakhouse. The wine tasting experience, in its 22ndyear, is a week-long premier event that allows the public to taste unique foods and wines by some of the most talented in the Tampa Bay area. You have to be quick with purchasing tickets for anything that week because they sell out quickly.

The 3rdAnnual Brewer’s Supper Club is an interactive, six-course dinner in the Epicurean Theatre exploring several local craft beers and cuisine pairings. Chefs Courtney Orwig (Haven), Jonathan Atanacio (Élevage), and Chad Johnson (Haven) prepared dinner alongside Sous Chef Erica Lent. Beer Experts Hunter Bryan and Nate Wilson worked with several local breweries and their Master Brewers to create the beer pairings for each course.

When guests check-in, we all receive a glass of champagne prior to eating to loosen up a bit. Once I was able to finally go inside the event space, an assigned seat is already prepared for me with 3 empty wine glasses and a cup of water drenched in condensation.

Once introductions of the chefs and brewers were complete, the eating begins. I sit at a full table and conversations flowed without any help from the bubbly. It didn’t feel like I had to force anything or be awkward. The couple sitting across from me were Tampa locals. I enjoyed talking back and forth with them about our thoughts on each course and even our separate trips to Iceland.

An audience of about 50 people is nothing for the chefs. If any one of them are nervous, no one knew. I couldn’t help but watch from my seat as they formed their own assembly line to get each course prepared. Each course begins with each brewer describing the inspiration and brewing process for the beer followed by Chef Johnson describing each course with a short anecdote.

While everyone is eating and I’m up documenting the night, Chef Atanacio stops what he’s doing and asks what course I’m looking forward to the most. My answer: the Venison Loin with charred carrot, sweet & sour currants, and ras el hanout. The meal was paired with the Florida Avenue American Strong Rye Ale called “Jukebox Money”.

At no point during that meal did it occur to me I was eating deer. The meat is lean, tender, and juicy. The carrots and currants provided the sweet notes and the ras el hanout added a layer of creaminess to the dish. Florida Avenue Brewing Co. rep Kevin said he was inspired by the Old-Fashioned cocktail. One thing I noticed when I smelled the beer is the sweet aroma of honey. Turns out, the rye is brewed with locally-sourced honey from South Tampa Farm, located in Ballast Point.

This was my first time ever attending a Bern’s Winefest event ever and I’m hoping it’s not my last. I couldn’t contain my excitement. If you’re someone like me who doesn’t know much about wine and beer pairings, you’d definitely leave feeling like you soaked up a decent amount of valuable information.