Cigar City Brewing owner Joey Redner had wanted to do a Russian themed beer dinner ever since he opened the brewery in 2009. And last night, it became a reality. He told us patrons that even though they were insanely busy, they finally put the event together, so "it didn't become something we just talked about that never happened." This was quite fortunate for us, as they put on one of the more impressive beer dinners to date, with monogrammed Russian fur hats, a 5-course Russian dinner (catered by Tina Hurless, owner/chef of Bistro Bleu), and copious amounts of the heaviest, richest, thickest beer style available: Russian Imperial Stout.
Once the dinner was announced, buzz on Facebook and beer aficionado sites was immediate, as only 30 tickets would be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. The dinner would be held at 40 degrees (F, not C) in Cigar City's large cooler, and would be all-inclusive including food & beer pairings, swag and multiple bottles of limited-release, rare beers. One morning in late June the tickets were announced as "for sale" on Facebook, and people scrambled to get them. Although I initially hesitated and missed my shot at tickets, a good friend scored two and was completely awesome enough to offer me his second one. All 30 of us participants met at the brewery tasting room at 6:30 p.m. sharp, dressed for a Russian winter as much as Florida thrift stores would allow us — fur coats, boots, and more, garnering many a strange look from the patrons of the neighboring gym.
Each of us were handed a CCB-logo monogrammed fur hat and a wax-sealed envelope (containing the menu) that looked to be a letter that'd been through hell to make it's way into our hands (an impressive touch). A few minutes (35) later, the show was on the road and we all marched (no, not literally) back to the freezer for the meal we'd all been waiting for: The Order of the Red Banner Feast. Long tables were set up, with the first course and welcome beers waiting for us as we chose seats and organized ourselves. The meal was focused around Cigar City's Imperial Stout "Marshall Zhukov", named for the most decorated General in Soviet history.
The courses and pairings went as follows: (Click on the thumbnails to see larger images.)