When it comes to famous double acts, could there be a better one than pizza & beer? Well, no is the answer, so finding the right combination is important! It’s massively important, the last thing you want for the greatest double act since the Two Ronnies is something which resembles Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox presenting the Brits…
You could spend years researching the combinations, like we have, alone, with a muscle clad movie featuring Schwarzenegger or Stallone and crying at “how bad things had gotten” because you’re doing all of this at 2pm on a Tuesday… Or you could actually take the notes that we made and from there bring out some choice selections for your next foray into pizza & beer pairings.
Our pairing method is quite simple, we’re just doing this on toppings alone. You could get technical about sourdough and char, deep pan or thin (both equally wrong) or even just store bought, but what is quite uniform is the topping. You see, you can’t fake a mushroom, and you can’t really mess around with tomatoes that much so the pizza & beer conundrum needs to be simplified for the sole purpose of getting it completely fair for some uber pairings.
The classic combination of tomatoes and cheese, in Naples, the true test of a pizzaiolo; it’s about selecting the right ingredients, bringing them to a perfect combination of just enough, and a delicate finish. It is named after the former queen, Margherita, after all. Thus, a pizza & beer combination here needs to be light and somewhat delicate, although that shouldn’t limit you.
You want to go either full on Italian with your choice, it has to do with Structuralism – something our leader will need to explain at another point – and ease of access in the UK and US market. So yes, a Peroni or Nastro Azzurro (based on your location) is what you need to be screaming out for. If however you wanted to experiment further, there is something called unfiltered beer, designed to be crisp like a pilsner but keeps the yeast making it a little cloudier; it is very suited to a Margherita. Camden Hells Unfiltered then, is the drink for you!
You need a beer that can cut through the cheese, all of that cheese. The heavy, sometimes gloopy cheese.
The two big choices are either going to be a pilsner, or soft American pale ale, both equally suited to cutting through the cheese and if you’re eating/reading this in New York… the grease. We would recommend for your Pilsner, something like Signature Brew, Studio Vienna whilst for your APA, the Kona Big Wave has enough character to be a great companion but is not overwhelming unlike some of it’s other choices.
That’s a spicy pepperoni pizza to you, in Italy, there is no such thing as pepperoni, there is salami, right? RIGHT? The point of a diavolo is to make you consider your life choices after a few bites, the spice and intensity should be there, and that’s after you’ve placed a ton of chilli flakes on top! In Naples, it is common to find chilli oil, a recipe that has been passed down, generation to generation, and one more protected than the pope in some quarters, it’s serious business. We digress, what do you need to tame the devil?
Again, you want to be looking at unfiltered beers to help neutralise the capsaicin, the chemical element of spice. However, you may want to consider something throughly saxon, a brown ale or porter. Something that will compliment the usual smokiness of salami or pepperoni if you must. Smog Rocket by Beavertown has all of those characteristics. As our Nicki put it, “this complex brew has flavours ranging from dark chocolate through to sweet caramel. Coffee and a balance of smoke keep this on the bitter side, with sweet malts rounding out proceedings.”
This, for the unknowing, is a tomato based, no cheese and containing anchovies topping. It is, the other pizza which Neapolitan pizzaiolos are judged upon because it is so simple, you need to get it right. It is bamboozling how they can get it so wrong.
So what do you pair with something that most people wont try unless they visit the world capital of pizza? “This would be the perfect time for a sour beer” exclaims our ale pro, Nicki. “Tropical Tart, Fierce Brewery is the choice. It has flavours of passion fruit, mango and lemon and is like lilt on steroids. Perfect to take you away from the sea saltiness of anchovies.”
“La Bianca” as it is called in Italy, is a pizza that has decided to shed the weight of all that is holy about tomatoes and cheese and instead, provide a topping that is usually leafy greens (rocket mainly) and lashings of parmesan cheese instead. It is smokey, peppery and has all the senses firing when they need to. Finding a pizza & beer topping for this is not easy, but it’s not too difficult, you just need to think a little different.
The Belgians have us cornered here, especially if you decide to add something like prosciutto to this pizza – which we recommend – unless you’re vegetarian, because you have the saltiness of the cured meat which goes perfectly with the brilliant Allagash White. It combines lots of citrus flavours with spice which go toe to toe with pepper and salt that this pizza is screaming.
Other Notable Mentions
We could go on, but we need to cut things short at some point so we decided to give you some pizza & beer pairings, quickly. Please note, these flavours, are on the whole, not available in Italy…
Hawaiian – GO TO HELL!
Meat Lovers feast – Go for something with bags of chocolate and caramel notes, like Icelandic Toasted Porter, Einstök Ölgerd.
Sausage and peppers – Keep it simple, go with a Moretti for pure balance.
Sausage, Olives, Onions, Peppers – Go for something to calm everything down, like Half Moon Bay Tunnel Vision IPA and a heartburn tablet as well.
What do you think, we’d love to know what you pair up with other pizzas, think you can write something that our readers want to see about food and drink pairings? Get in touch!