We can talk food pairings all day long, but there is one duo that surpasses the rest and that’s pizza and beer. By themselves, they are undeniably tasty. But together, they become the stuff legends are made of. Not all pairings are one-size fits all. Oh no. Long gone are the days in America when a slice of pizza meant a lager to wash it down. It’s a new world out there and craft brewers are changing the beer menu for the best pizza joints in town.
After all that hard work, each pizza deserves a carefully selected craft brew that compliments its unique flavor profile, and vice versa. Enjoy one with the appropriate counterpart and you will have discovered the meaning of life – or at least come that much more closer.
With endless beer styles and flavors, the task of creating the apex of pizza and beer pairing can be a rather daunting task. Should a meat lovers pie be consumed with the ubiquitous light lager? Perhaps its crisp body would be better suited for a classic margherita? It’s not hard to see how your mind can become boggled down with a paring conundrum.
Guiding your celestial experience, CraftBeer.com has graciously developed a chef approved quick reference guide to perfect the pairing. Covering the basics, here’s the best way to pair pizza and beer.
1. Classic Cheese
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Skip the bold beers here, they’re best paired with bold flavors. With a slice of classic cheese you want something that can balance the sweetness of fresh tomato sauce while not overpowering the main ingredient, the cheese. In that case, try a Bohemian Lager. The low hop bitterness will balance out the sauce while cleansing the palate in between bites.
If you want something with more body, opt for an American amber. The caramel-like malty body can add richness while the lightly hopped flavor will cut through the fat.
- Bell’s Amber Ale 5.8% ABV
- Lagunitas Pils 6.0% ABV
2. Meat Lovers
So what’s the answer for the meat lovers specialty pie? That would be either an American pale ale or brown ale. Not to be confused with a spicy pie which will get to in a bit, the meat lovers pizza here is your standard blend of sausage, pepperoni, and Canadian bacon. With loaded toppings like that, you need a beer that can cut through all the fat like the hops of a pale ale do. The earthy notes and caramel, roasted malt grain build of the brown on the other hand offer another layer of flavor, adding depth to the meat and red sauce.
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 5.6% ABV
- Cigar City Maduro Oak Brown 5.5% ABV
3. Mushroom and Onions
Put down that lager! An umami loaded pizza like mushroom and onions is best enjoyed with a beer that increases the savory flavor, and a lager won’t cut it. For this, you need a new beer with complexity. A beer with a mouthful of flavor. A beer with character. You need a Belgain-style Flanders or an American Brett. With character in spades, the lactic sourness and often subtle oak of the Flanders is sure to increase the savory factor. So will the yeast forward complexity of an American Brett. Fruity and phneolic, a Brettanomyces beer will completely change how you’ve tasted this two-topping pizza.
- Russian River Sanctification 6.75% ABV
- New Belgium La Folie 7.0% ABV
4. Olives and Peppers
So you just ordered a craft pizza topped with olives and peppers from the local pizza joint, now what? Salty olives and roasted bell peppers present two contrasting flavors that when combined on a pizza taste best with a dark, roasty beer. A dark beer like an Irish-dry stout or schwarzbier has what it takes to cut through the salinity of the olives, while also complimenting the sweetness of the peppers. The maltiness will stand up to both veggies, enhancing the experience.
- Austin Beerworks Black Thunder 5.2% ABV
- 3 Floyds Black Sun Stout 6.7% ABV
5. Bacon & Extra Cheese
What could be better than the combo of salty bacon and tons of cheese on a handmade pizza? A beer to go along with it. With two fatty, salty ingredients such as these, you need something with more flavor and body than the typical lager. You need something with more carbonation to cleanse the palate like ginger does when eating sushi. You need a saison or a hefeweizen.
Saisons can be either fruity or spicy, both of which pair nicely. A fruity saison will add flavor that’s lacking, think pineapple in Hawaiian pizza. While a spicy saison will break through the fat like hops do. The fruit and clove flavors of a hefeweizen on the other hand are enough to compliment the flavor and cut through the grease, making for the ultimate experience.
- Jester King Saison Americaine 5.2% ABV
- Live Oak Hefeweizen 5.3% ABV
6. Spicy Meat
Here’s questionable territory, what to do with a pizza that’s both loaded in meat but brings on the heat. Meat means bolder flavor, but by adding heat you don’t want to amplify the spice factor to an unbearable level – unless you’re a Scoville unit loving fiend. Solving the problem you could go one of two ways, with a brown or the German-style wheat beer, the hefeweizen. The sweet malty factor of a brown and the fruitiness of the hefeweizen will enhance the flavors of the meat, while balancing the capsaicin in the peppers.
Whichever one you choose, stay away from the hoppier beers. Hops will accentuate spice, increasing the heat. Unless you’re looking to bring on the sweats and create a pool of fire in your mouth, stick with the malty and sweet.
- Sweetwater Georiga Brown 5.1% ABV
- Sierra Nevada Kellerweis 4.8% ABV
What if you’re pizza is loaded in veggies and meat? In the case of the supreme specialty pies, you want a beer with higher alcohol content and a bold flavor. With all the red onion, black olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, sausage, pepperoni, and who knows what else, a dank IPA will do the job – anything too light will get masked by the flavors of the pizza. The assertiveness of the hops will cut through all that delicious, delicious greases, while the resinous profile will stand up to the bounty of flavor. This isn’t just pizza and beer, it’s the best beer with the best pizza.
- Alpine Windows Up 7.0% ABV
- Avery The Maharaja 10.0% ABV
So there you have it! Now that you know how to pair some craft beer styles with these common pizzas, let us know your favorites in the comments below.