As I alluded to in a prior post, and Mike from Stlhops picked up in a forum thread, I have some pretty strong opinions on beverages that match well with pizza. Generally, I find beer to be a terrible match. I have a much higher hit ratio with red wine that has a good level of acidity to it. Much beer seems to actively clash with pizza for me – the bitterness of the hops with the tomato, and the alcohol with the crust (why wine, with almost always higher alcohol doesn’t clash, I can’t explain).
Of course, there are almost as many forms of pizza as there are beer and wine. So, in the interest of exploring this topic with some rigor, I begin a new series of posts – each will match a pizza with a wine and a beer – I’ll give details on all three as well as how I perceived the combinations worked.
Now, the usual tasting notes cavaets – they are a snapshot in time. You will not be able to recreate the pizza exactly, the beer you buy will have been stored differently and may be of different age than mine, ditto your wine. Your palate also isn’t mine, it’s yours. Mine will be different tomorrow (yours will too, though you might not yet be able to admit that).
Trader Joe’s crust (I usually make my own, but this does OK in a pinch). Sauce is Muir Glen Organic Fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed, with homemade (thanks, Kim!) red wine vinegar, lots of dried Turkish Oregano (pizza sauce being one place where dried oregano kicks fresh’s butt), and a bit of kosher salt and onion powder. Cheese is grocery store mutz, and Parmagiano-Reggiano (the real stuff). I usually pick up whole milk mutz from Whole Foods (shockingly affordable), but wasn’t anywhere near there recently. Only toppings are pepperoni from Trader Joe’s, as I’m out of Italian sausage from Viviano‘s at the moment, and a few onions, at Liz’s request (but they were actually very yummy). I’ve learned to (of course) ignore the TJ’s instructions for cooking. I make the crust as thin as I can, crank my oven (550F) for about 45 minutes to preheat, and then cook on my pizza stone for 8-10 minutes.
Sam Adams Black Lager. This is a grocery store favorite for me, as Schnuck’s frequently runs Sam Adams at $4.99 or $5.49, which is a screaming deal. It’s a nice take on Schwarzbier with a good malt base, a touch of yeasty fruitiness and some delicate hop notes.
2002 J.P. Brun l’Ancien Beaujolais. One of my favorite wines from one of my favorite producers. Some bottles of the 2002 had some, um, interesting reductive notes and this bottle shows evidence of that, though time has largely taken it away. The wine is made without cultured yeast, and no chapitalization (added sugar), coming in at a gulpable 11% alcohol. This bottle is probably six months to a year past optimum drinking, but there’s still pleasure to be had.
How’d it work out:
The Brun did not clash at all with the pizza. There isn’t much fruit left to this bottle – just a touch of sour cherry, amply supported by earthy spice. The acidity really wipes the palate clean nicely. However, it doens’t really add anything to pizza either. Not so much a “match” as “accident avoidance.”
The Sam Adams has a minimal clash in the form of an initial hit of alcohol flavor on the first sip after each bite of pizza. There is enough malt to calm the the heat quickly, and the roasty notes quickly take over the palate but don’t cause an off note. Oddly, the roast is more intense than when drinking the beer on it’s own.
So, a slight edge to the wine tonight, but this was a pretty close contest.