Beer Pizza. As in, a beer designed exclusively to pair with, and mimic the flavors of, a special chef-created pizza. We thought it sounded a bit gimmicky at first.
But there are a few other pivotal details here. What if a master bread baker -- say, someone like Peter Reinhart -- and a top local craft brewer -- oh, maybe Cal-Belgian expert Patrick Rue over at The Bruery -- were to join forces to create a beer with hints of charred crust and sweet mozzarella? Yeah, we would stop, listen, and hope to taste, too.
The pizza-pairing idea history goes something like this: The Bruery was approached about the project by the folks over at PizzaQuest, a blog for which Reinhart is currently the sponsored host (the site is sponsored by Forno Bravo brick ovens). Reinhart credits Brad English, a film producer and fellow PizzaQuest contributor, as the mastermind behind the pizza and beer merger.
The pizza side of the equation was handled by Kelly Whitaker, chef at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, Colorado. Whitaker is a wood fired brick oven devotee (he has no gas ranges or other sources of heat in his kitchen).
And so Whitaker and the PizzaQuest crew arranged a meeting at The Bruery, complete with a mobile brick oven and fresh artisanal cheeses flown in fresh that morning. According to The Bruery's blog reflections, the day turned into quite an impressive -- and tasty -- lesson on pizza dough techniques from Reinhart (he added a bit of rye to the dough, among other things) and palate-surprising topping combos from Whitaker.
Of those tasted, a white pie was ultimately deemed the beer challenge winner. In it, Whitaker used sardines, squash blossoms, arugula sprouts and edible flowers from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Reinhart's dough, and crowned it with fresh burrata. A touch of preserved lemon and sea salt were sprinkled along the crust's edges.
What happened on the beer side of things, arguably the more interesting side of the flavor equation, is also cataloged on The Bruery's blog. Rue and brewer Tyler King set about to brew a Bière de Garde with lemon peel, fennel seed and grilled zucchini (to complement those squash blossoms). Before you raise an eyebrow at the idea of zucchini beer, remember that The Bruery's Autumn Maple is flavored with freshly roasted yams, so the brewery is already keen on in-house grilling.
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Now that the brewing process is complete, Brad English will be releasing videos of the pizza and beer making process on the PizzaQuest website over the coming weeks. The beer will make its debut at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver at the end of September. The beer will also be available on draft at Whitaker's Boulder pizzeria.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, there are no plans to bottle the beer for retail (we asked). So if you're not heading to Colorado for vacation anytime soon, it looks like you'll be spending those coveted vacation days in Placentia. Lucky you.
And sure, there is a residual pizza oven sponsorship aftertaste here. But as Rue reminds us, "Peter knows more about bread than we know about beer." We'll raise a pint to that.