Last week, I stumbled upon a food and beer pairing event at a new Growler filling store in Atlantic Beach, called Brewz. Reps from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa were on hand to pair easy to make foods with their beers.

Cigar City pairings with recipes to create at home  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Before I start on the tasting, can I just say what a cool little place Brewz is? It's nestled in a strip mall on Atlantic Boulevard in Atlantic Beach, near Royal Palm Drive. They offer 40 taps for tasting and Growler fills and one of the coolest beer boards I've seen.

Brewz has a high tech beer board, showing not only the beers on tap, but how much is left in the keg and real time social media activty  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

As people post on social media, Facebook, Twitter or Untappd, their posts appear at the top of the board. You can see what others are drinking or filling and how they like that brew.

Brewz also show exactly how much beer is left in the keg, so you can judge if you want a gallon or half gallon of that beer. Kegs change quickly here, so check their webpage for what is on tap today!

INSIDER TIP: Sign up on Brewz email list and they will give you a free growler bottle. So if you are new to growlers, you won't have to buy the bottle, just the beer.

Setting up food and beer pairings outside Brewz Atlantic Beach  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

On to the tasting menu, which was free I might add! Chef Jim and Kyle from Cigar City Brewing were on hand talking about how to pair food and beer. I find craft beer to have much stronger flavors than standard domestic beers, so I was very interested to see what they had to offer.

First out was a blackened Tilapia with a citrus salad, paired with an IPA. The citrus flavor of the beer and the spice of the fish were perfect together. Next was a pulled pork sauced with an Apple Pie Cider BBQ sauce.

I asked Chef about this pairing, "Pork and Apples are natural together," he said. The words of Peter Brady, "pork chops and applesauce" echoed in my head. Chef provided a simple sauce recipe that looked easy to replicate.

Food and Beer tastings:  Left Blacked Tilapia with a citrus salad paired with Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and on the right pulled pork in Cigar City Homemade Apple Pie Cider BBQ sauce, paired with the Cider  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Next was a grilled chicken, using Cigar City's Lue Gim Gong. I asked about the name, Lue Gim Gong was a Chinese American horticulturist who was very important to the Florida Citrus Industry.

This beer is CC's basic Invasion pale ale, aged with orange peel in white oak barrels. I found it refreshing and liked the oak flavor. My husband was not a fan. But he's not a fan of citrus either.

The chicken was brined with the beer. I brine a lot when I cook poultry, because it creates a lovely moisture in the meat. Using beer with salt, bay leaves, water and brown sugar was unusual to me at first, but then I remembered how good Beer Can chicken is and I thought this was brilliant.

The chicken was simply grilled and served with the Lue Gim Gong. Had we not devoured ours so quickly, I'd have a picture for you It was that good.

To finish the tasting, we had beer floats using Cigar City's Puppy's Breath Porter. I usually get mixed reactions when I tell people beer floats are great. Which was the case with our drinking companions this night.

Haven't tried a beer float?  You are missing out!  Vanilla ice cream in Cigar City's Puppy's Breath Porter.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Don't get me wrong, you really can't do any beer with ice cream, you are looking for something that is chocolate in flavor, perhaps a bit bitter or something that already tastes like dessert.

My first beer float was made with Young's Chocolate Stout, but we have also tried floats with Southern Tier's Creme Brulee beer. I would think most milk stouts would be great with ice cream. The best part of a beer float? The creamy, foamy head that forms on the top of the beer.

Since we were approaching Memorial Day and I was making baby back ribs, I decided to grab a half gallon of the Homemade Apple Pie cider and try my hand at a BBQ sauce.

I made some modifications on the CC recipe, using fresh grated Vidalia onions and fresh garlic for the powdered versions and orange rind for the coriander in their recipe. I don't mind a chunky sauce. I ended up adding a tiny bit of smoked paprika and some Colman's dry mustard to cut some of the sweetness.

Memorial Day cookout ribs made with Cigar City Homemade Apple Pie Cider BBQ sauce  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

The sauce turned out wonderfully and we drank the rest of the cider while we ate. Thanks to Chef Jim, we had a lovely BBQ.

I found some pairing resources online, for general information. BeerAdvocate provides a pull down menu allowing you to pick the food and gives you styles of beer that would match with that food. Brewer's Association has a chart that gives you a rule of thumb guideline.

Here's what I tried last week, I'm in a bit of Gose/Sour/Saison mood

  • Goose Island Lolita 7.8% ABV. This beer is pink and VERY TART. Strong raspberry flavor, it reminds me of those little French tart candies from my childhood. Found at Brewz
  • Anderson Valley Briny Melon Gose 4.2% ABV. Think salt on Watermelon rinds. If you like that, you'll like this. Found at Brewz
  • Bell's Oatmobile 4.3% ABV. I was expecting more oatmeal flavor from the name. It is an unusual Pale Ale. Found at Really Good Beer Stop and grocery stores
  • Green Flash Dia De Los Serranos 8.8% ABV. Double Imperial Stout brewed with serrano chilies. Trust me the burn builds as you drink it! Found at Engine 15

Like the idea of Chocolate and chillies? Veteran's United Brewing is releasing a small batch Thursday June 2nd called Chocolate Heat.

Heading to Art Walk Wednesday? Watch out for Bold City Brewing's Big John's Apricot Wheat release

Did you know that the Publix Cooking School does beer dinner classes? Check out their calendar.

As always, tag your finds #FirstCoastBrews on Twitter and Facebook. And email me if you have an idea for the blog

Cheers!