MillerCoors Tasting Room Dinner at Okra
On Wednesday, October 19th, I attended a special MillerCoors beer pairing event. This invite-only Tasting Room dinner was one of a series being held throughout the country designed to introduce guests to the MillerCoors portfolio (which includes 85+ beers) through food and brew.
I'm a huge fan of Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails, our host restaurant for the evening, and Chef-owner Cullen Campbell's distinctive Southern fare was the perfect pairing.
We gathered on Okra's patio for al fresco drinking paired with a wonderful trio of passed bites: Buttery hoe cakes topped with zippy pimento cheese, smoky chunks of Schreiner's baloney draped with housemade cheese whiz and sprinkled with ham powder, and crispy cheese straws dipped in sweet and spicy red pepper jam.
As we were seated for dinner, we were warmly welcomed by Lisa Zimmer visiting from MillerCoors' headquarters in Chicago. Chef Campbell also spoke and thanked us for coming as he described the menu we would be enjoying, "I usually pair with wine and cocktails, so this was fun and different. I'll be doing more of these beer pairings on my own." We were then introduced to Jason Pratt, MillerCoors' director of beer education and one of only 11 Master Cicerones in the world, who would be leading us through the pairings.
Jason began by describing his background in the industry and his passion for beer and education, "As we work through these pairings, we hope to teach you to experience something different with the beer and the food, something new and unique." Jason told us to pay attention to the "Three C's" as we savored the beers with each course: Complement, Contrast and Cut. As he educated the crowd on the history, styles, and tasting notes of the beers we sipped, we feasted on a delicious four-course repast.
- Shrimp with grilled celery hearts, buttermilk sauce and Arkansas caviar, paired with Blue Moon Belgian White. This was my favorite pairing of the night, and I especially loved this witbier's citrus notes with the tangy shrimp and creamy sauce.
- Chicken-fried octopus with cornbread puree, kimchi collards and dehydrated mac and cheese. The pairing of Pilsner Urquell complemented this dish with floral hops and palate-cleansing crispness.
- Grilled pork collar with Napa cabbage, green tomato chow chow and crunchy pork rinds. The seasonal Leinenkugel Oktoberfest was the perfect partner to the rich pork with its classic German hops and toasted malt character.
For a decadent finale, we were served Okra's popular biscuit donut drizzled with malted peanut butter sauce and garnished with fried bananas, paired with a glass of recently-released Henry's Hard Cherry Cola.
After dinner we were poured a round of Saint Archer IPA, a new beer to the Arizona market, and invited to linger, mingle, and chat further with Jason.
A convivial night of great food, smart beer pairings, fun education, and lively company. Cheers to MillerCoors!