A rather unfortunate misconception about beer is that it only pairs well with 3 foods: burgers, sausages and pizza.
Anyone who knows us and our beer knows that we push the boundaries on beer and food pairings. We've done quite a few beer dinners and they almost always incorporate some truly delectable dishes from hamachi crudo to sous vide caribou to rabbit confit or pastrami cured duck breast...and sometimes dishes made from vegetables too. We love working with competent chefs who understand flavors and respect our beers in the same way that we respect their food.
Burgers, sausages and pizza aren't necessarily a bad thing though. There is a reason those foods are so popular - they are delicious. And of course, there are some beers out there that perfectly compliment a simple cheeseburger or a slice of pepperoni pie and there is a time and place for everything. But, what makes us giddy is a chef who can turn a simple classic concept into a work of art. And what makes us even more giddy is being challenged by that chef to make a beer good enough to pair with his food.
That's what brings us to today's post. Wine dinners and beer dinners have existed for years and they follow a simple planning formula: taste several wines or beers and come up with dishes to serve with each. But what if we turned that on it's head in the same way that a gourmet chef deconstructs a burger, rebuilding it into something different, yet similar. What if the food came first and the beer came later?
We were recently approached by the great people of Pizzaquest.com with this very question. Our answer was to bring it on.
Pizza Quest is helmed by the great Peter Reinhart, who is, for lack of a better term, a bread baking deity. He has written several cook books on baking including winning a couple of James Beard awards for cook books such as The Bread Baker's Apprentice. More recently, Peter wrote a fantastic book about his search for the perfect pizza and that is what brought him together with the producers of Pizza Quest. He's a dough guy with a pizza fetish.
Second came in Chef Kelly Whitaker of Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO. Kelly is a kick ass chef who's only source of heat in his entire restaurant is a wood fire brick oven. He can cook just about anything in that thing from pizzas to short ribs to scallops. He's an impressive guy and paired with Peter's knowledge of dough, he's seemingly unstoppable.
Thus came the challenge. Peter and Kelly would team up on a special pizza for us to try and we would then have to concoct a beer to pair with that pizza.
The whole Pizza Quest team showed up at our brewery early in the morning just a couple of weeks ago and when we say team, we do mean it. Peter, Kelly, the PQ producers, a special cheese delivery of cheeses made just the night before from a local artisan, and of course...a portable wood fire brick oven.
The day was incredible. Peter filmed a segment on creating a couple of different pizza doughs, including the special one he would use for our "challenge pie". That particular crust delved into the world of beer, which is, after all, liquid bread. Besides some of the more standard flours and yeasts that he normally uses in his doughs, Peter added a bit of rye flour and shockingly, a bit of ground crystal malt. Yes, he used malted barley, ground finely like flour, in the pizza dough!
Peter and Kelly cooked us pizza after pizza, just demonstrating their skills and trying their best to go through the gallons of fresh tomato sauce and pounds of burrata cheese that had just been made 12 hours earlier that we had at our disposal. It was a good day.
But then, when the oven was just at the right temperature, Kelly whipped out two different possible "challenge pies" for us. One was a white pie and one a red pie. After taste tests by everyone within reach, the white pie was decided on for the ultimate challenge. It was a pie made on top of Peter's special dough using super fresh burrata, squash blossoms, white sardines, fresh arugula sprouts and flowers, preserved lemon and fennel salt along the crust. All of the ingredients had been picked up earlier that morning at the famous farmer's market in Santa Monica by Kelly and they combined on this pizza to form something extraordinary.
Our job now is to create a beer recipe to brew and debut at a party outside of the Great American Beer Festival that will pair perfectly with this special pizza.
It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
We had an incredible time learning about dough and bread with Peter and we highly recommend you check out his blog post from this day as well as his others to learn something yourself.
Brick Oven outside of our brewery
Peter setting up his work station to make some dough.
Peter and Kelly discussing sauce.
Patrick about to take our guests on a tour.
This was the alternate challenge pie. It had pistachios and some sort of lardo on it plus more. Delicious.
Tasting the challenge pies.
Our intern Kristen is a bit of a bread geek and a huge fan of Peter's.
About to put Kristen's pizza in the oven.
The challenge pie.