Update (Oct-07): My thanks go to Captain Hops, over at Beer Haiku Daily, who was nice enough to add me to the round-up. I thought I was too late. I guess he must have seen the track-back link from my entry, and graciously included my post. So the title of this post and the first few paragraphs are a bit inaccurate – but I’ll preserve them, in all their inaccurate glory, so you can see my post in its full context.
So, as it turns out, when the organizers of the session said “First Fridays”, I should have read that “First Thursdays”. When I sat down at my computer last night, I saw that I was too late, and that the round-up of the session had already been posted that morning. So in order to have made it into the list, I needed to have written my post Thursday evening.
Now I know. So next month, hopefully, I’ll make it into the round-up.
After seeing that I had missed the session, I was less inspired to be creative for dinner, knowing that whatever I came up with would be too little and too late. So I had the most stereotypical of beer and food pairings, but perhaps also the most unanimously loved:
Pizza and Beer
This combination, however common and unimaginative, is always a crowd pleaser, always delightful. For my dinner last night it was a cheesy pizza, with soft-dough crust, tomato sauce that was just a little more sweet than savory, grilled onions, and fresh, earthy mushroom slices (It was a take-out pie from Papa John’s, but doesn’t it sound so much better the way I just described it?). It paired quite nicely with a pint of Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB.
The pizza was actually left-over and re-heated. On Wednesday night, when the pizza was fresh, I had the pleasure of a thin-crust pizza with barbecue sauce, grilled chicken, diced bacon, and onions paired alongside Left Hand’s Rye Bock. That also worked well.
It is difficult to put my finger on exactly why these sorts of pairings work so well. Neither the pizza nor the beer were particularly bold or strongly flavored. I find myself always drawn towards pale ales and bitters as most fitting to drink with pizza. The roasted flavors in darker beers sometimes clash with the mellow mozzarella. Stronger beers and more complex, ester-full beers (like Belgian strong ales, Barleywines, and the like) tend to totally overpower most pizzas. Though adventurous, gourmet pizzas – like one with goat cheese, roasted fennel, and balsamic – can sometimes pair quite well with big brews.
Another awesome, though slightly out-of-the-box pairing is Fantôme Saison alongside a seafood pizza (white sauce, shrimp, scallops, and clams). Earthy pizzas – like one with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and ground beef or steak – can pair well with darker ales like a Stout or Robust Porter. The roasted flavors of these styles of beer go best with hearty, earthy ingredients and red meat (though an American Pale Ale fits the bill quite nicely here, too). And I bet a pizza with barbecue sauce and ham (or Canadian bacon if you prefer) would feel quite at home next to a dimpled mug full of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
I’m not sure if I’ve tasted a pizza that made me say, “This would go perfectly with a Baltic Porter or Imperial Stout,” but I am certain such pizzas exist – it seems unavoidable. Pizza just belongs with Beer. I certainly don’t mean to say that pizza is the best and only thing to eat when drinking beer. But, when eating pizza, wouldn’t you rather a beer than a glass of wine? It just fits.