Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, Sept. 27th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

As I prepare to head out to Denver for what I referred to last week as "The Big Reveal," I want to share this week's Peter's Blog with our correspondent, Nick Birkby, a baker and beer maker in South Africa. The timing is perfect, as Nick has been doing a lot of experimentation lately with beer malts in pizza dough, which is one of the keys to our Challenge Pizza (the recipe for this dough was posted last week). Nick has pushed the envelope even further, as you will see below. For those who have been writing in asking for more details for how to work with malt in dough, Nick's report will be invaluable and, hopefully, spur you on. If so, please write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to share your own adventures. As Nick points out, it's all part of the quest.

Here's Nick:

Every good quest should include a few exciting detours. Beer, much like pizza, rewards the passion of it’s creator.  It allows the brewer experimentation, and is capable, at times, of layers of dizzying complexity. Beer and  pizza are similar in that, in skilled hands, they can both be crafted with subtle simplicity or audacious bravado. They make for perfect partners, not just at the table, but in spirit. Both are capable of inspiring.

This contribution to the Quest takes us into some exotic  territory.  It’s been fantastic keeping up each week with the developments in the beer and pizza pairing saga, and my offering is simply another slice to add to the already exciting picture,  .

What caught my imagination as a home brewer was the adding of brewing malt flavors,  as well as  colors, to a pizza dough intended to be paired with beer. I had been occasionally adding malt in small quantities to my loaves for some time with good results but, what i wanted to see was if I could get some of the colors of these tasty complex roasted malts into a pizza base. I love the beautiful rich colors that some beers have – golden copper through to amber and on to dark chocolate black. I envisioned a dark brown deep roasted malt pizza base to pair with an Irish Stout, and a reddish base for an Amber Ale.

Before I carry on, I should explain what role these specialty malts play in brewing.  A brewer works with a recipe that uses pale or ’base’ malt as the largest proportion of the brew. It is, quite literally, the basis. Then, the ‘specialty’ malts are added in smaller amounts for their flavoring and coloring quantities. These malts are roasted and kilned for a longer time under different conditions by the Maltster, to produce different qualities and flavors that will allow the brewer to craft, say, a deep caramel Amber Ale or a coffee-like dry and roasty Stout. There are many types of specialty malts and most brewers love to experiment with them!  Flavors can range from "bready" and toasty through to caramel, toffee and even fruity plum and raisin. Think of the base malt as the canvas, and the specialty malts (and hops of course ) as the paint!

Getting hold of these malts is very easy, as brewing is such a huge hobby and any home brewing shop will be able to help.

Using the fantastic Neo-Neapolitan dough  (listed on this site ) as my recipe, what I did was quite simple. I steeped the coarsely ground up malt in some hot water until it had completely infused and cooled and then, once I sieved it off from the spent grain, substituted that for the water in the recipe. Because these malts are so good at releasing their flavors and colors through infusion, it wasn’t necessary to add actual ground malt to the dough.  The results were quite exciting!  From a flavor point of view it made a huge difference.  Roasted malts add a lot of complexity, roundness and an unusually delicious flavor to the dough. It definitely augments the dough, but does not overpower it and, paired with the appropriate beers and toppings, it was really memorable!

Due to time constraints, I have not been able to pursue this ingredient and pairing concept as far as I would have liked, but perhaps that makes it all the more exciting. The idea is here, and now it’s up to the bold to venture forward!

The Neo-Neapolitan recipe was halved for these experiments. Simply double up it for more.

For the ‘Stout’ dough I used 30 grams of dark ‘chocolate’ malt to 300 mls of very hot water, infused and allowed to cool. Use it in place of the water in the recipe. The topping was brown mushrooms and bacon. I paired it with a sweetish English Stout

For the Amber dough, I used 50 grams of ‘Caramel 50’ ( Cara 50 ) with the same amount of water as above. The amber color was not as pronounced as I hoped but here is where I will experiment again.  The topping was a mild chorizo, which happened to be at hand, and also happened to be amber! I paired it with one of my own malty Amber Ales!

Thanks very much to Peter for the invitation to contribute. All the Best, Nick.

Thank you Nick -- this is fabulous information!  I can't wait to hear from our other brewer/baker/pizza makers out there. Meanwhile, anyone who will be in Denver this weekend for the Great American Beer Festival, or for any other reason, look for us at the Summit Beer Garden, 1902 Blake St., on Friday, from 6 PM till the coals die out (or till they throw us out). I'll try to post a follow-up on Saturday. Here we go.....

 

 

 

 
The Big Reveal: Part One
Peter Reinhart

The following is an article I wrote, with Brad's help, to be sent to various beer blogs to alert them to the big event next week in Denver. We've been writing about here for a number of weeks, and on Thursday I'll post the Challenge Pizza dough recipe, but I thought I'd share the article with all you as a way of recapping the past few posts and to give you the info as to where to find us if you happen to be in Denver next week. The location is given toward the end of the article. Hope to see you there and we'll be telling you all about it and, eventually, sharing the videos as well. Feel free to send this post to anyone you think might be interested, or to beer blogs that you may know. So, here's the article which I call...

The Big Reveal:

I'm a bread baker, not a brewer, but in a way, that's just a matter of thickness, viscosity, and a different approach to manipulating the three major points of the food triangle: time, temperature, and ingredients.  Bread is solid beer and it's a whole lot more tolerant of human imprecision than beer, which is probably why I took the bread path when choosing careers.  Pizza is an extension of bread -- it's dough with something on it, whatever name you call it by, and it's been called by a lot of other names than pizza (focaccia, schiacciatta, sfingiuni, naan, American flatbread, quesadilla, and grilled cheese all come to mind for starters).  So, when the folks at our website, PizzaQuest.com discovered the unusually complex beers from Orange County's The Bruery, at the equally dynamic Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, it seemed like the time had come to meld the beer/bread tributaries into one seamless river.

After visiting The Bruery in person, Brad English and Jeff Michael saw the same passion for making great beer that we’ve seen at so many great pizzerias and other food establishments. So, we challenged Patrick Rue, owner of The Bruery, to make a beer inspired by a pizza, and not just an ordinary pizza but one that we would create for them, a very special Challenge Pizza.  This would be a pizza and beer pairing but, instead of the more conventional pairing of food to an existing beer or wine, we created the food first and challenged the brewers to create the perfect beer to pair with that pizza! 

Patrick and his team accepted the “throw-down” and then Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henkin, owners of Pizzeria Basta, went to work on some topping ideas for the Challenge Pizza and I focused on the dough.  Basta is using a new line of flour from Central Milling, a mill that I know well, as the owner, Keith Giusto, has been supplying me with flour for over twenty years.  Lately, he's developed four new specialty pizza flour blends designed to compete with the famous Italian Double Zero brands such as Caputo and San Felice.  One of the blends contains three different types of flour, including some coarse pumpernickel rye. I zeroed in on this one for The Bruery Challenge Pizza because of that rye, but also wanted to turn my pizza dough into something even more like solid beer so, after some experimentation, added in a fair amount of amber malt crystal to evoke a hint of the alehouse brew that Patrick’s team was creating.

Kelly and Alan came up with two distinct pizza topping concepts, one red and one white, and we assembled and baked them in a 900 degree mobile wood-fired oven that a friend of ours, Tim Gonzalez, drove to The Bruery.  We asked Patrick and his head brewer, Tyler King, to taste and choose the pizza that they would use as the inspiration for their beer as it’s perfect pairing partner.  They went for the white pizza, which we thought they might, since it was a thing of beauty (the red pizza wasn't too shabby either, loaded with organic tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and killer guanciale bacon -- made from the jowl, not the belly of the beast -- kind of the Rolls Royce of bacon).  But the white pizza was really out of the box, just the way The Bruery makes their beers.  It was topped with fresh burrata cheese (a blend of fresh mozzarella wrapped around creme fraiche -- what an oozey delight!), sweet white sardines, preserved lemon, squash blossoms, fresh arugula sprouts, and a sprinkle of fennel salt at the end.  It was a wowzer!

The Bruery team then went to work.  They fashioned a brew inspired by the flavors of the pizza, and Birra Basta was born.  This was a Biere de Garde style ale using six malts (Pilsner, Six-Row, Munich, Biscuit, Kiln Amber, Aromatic), two types of hops (Columbus, Strisselspalt) and a variety of other spices and flavorings (roasted zucchini used in the mash, and fennel seeds, lemon peel, and Spanish cedar in the fermentor), and finally they fermented it with their proprietary Belgian House Yeast.  Biere de Garde is translated as “a beer for keeping” and is similar in style to a Saison, or farmhouse ale although it is less hoppy and has similar malty and earthy flavors.

Pizza Quest Creator/Producer Brad English, who is the guy that put this whole Pizza/Beer Challenge in motion, and who lives near The Bruery, got a call to come down and taste the early, unfermented “soup.”  He was suitably impressed, to put it mildly, and has been hard at work ever since coordinating what I'm calling "The Big Reveal" on Friday, September 30th, at the Summit Beer Garden (www.summitbeergarden.com), which is an event open to the public, put together by Rueben’s Burger Bistro of Boulder and Denver’s Summit Music Hall, not far from where the Great American Beer Festival is taking place.  Kelly, Alan, and I will be cranking out the Challenge Pizzas in Kelly's mobile wood-fired oven, while Patrick and his team will pull pints of their original, hand crafted ale – Birra Basta.  Once and for all we'll find out if we've made a heavenly, synergistic match – a perfect pairing - with the sums even greater than the already wonderful parts.  Based on the players involved, I'm pretty jazzed about the moment when it all comes together.   After the event, Birra Basta will only be found at Pizzeria Basta, until it runs out.

Come join us at “The Big Reveal” at 6 PM on September 30th.

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 13, 2011
Peter Reinhart

Thanks to our intrepid producer, Brad English, we're about to get a sneak peek at the Challenge Beer created by our friends at The Bruery. Brad only got to taste the unfermented wort, as the finished beer won't be ready till it's unveiled at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) on Sept. 30th. We'll all be there, making the Challenge Pizza created by Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henin of Pizzeria Basta with a crust created by me and the Pizza Quest team, and drinking the new, finished beer.  Can't wait to find out what they call it.

Meanwhile, as those of you who have been following these blogs know, I've been captivated by the use of beer malts in the dough -- we'll be using a light malt crystal in the Challenge Pizza but our friend Nick Birkby, in South Africa, is playing with all sorts of colors and intensities and plans to write a special guest column for us to share his findings. We'd love to hear from others, as well, if you've done any of this kind of experimentation with malts. Write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and maybe we can get your thoughts out to all of our followers.

So, let's get to the beer. Here is Brad's report after his trip to The Bruery for the first taste. In the coffee world they call this stage a "cupping" so I wonder if they call it a "mugging" in the beer world. If so, Brad got "mugged" and here he is to tell us all about it:

 

A Biere De Garde is born…

Biere de Garde translated means "beer that has been kept or lagered", or, "a beer for keeping."  It is a style of beer similar to a Saison, or the Farmhouse Ales of Northern France and French speaking Belgium. These beers were brewed in the winter months to take advantage of the cool weather, but brewed to be enjoyed throughout the year, which means they needed to be flavorful, but refreshing enough for the summer months. They are characterized by their malt flavors, with varying colors based on the malts added: Blond, Brune (Brown), and Ambree (Amber). They are less hoppy and show fruity, earthy or rustic cellar-like flavors.  Yes, I becoming a beer wonk!

Interestingly, I was originally drawn to The Bruery through one of their Saisons that Kelly had on tap at Pizzeria Basta last fall, a farmhouse ale with many of the characteristics as described above. And now, as time has passed, we have created a pizza, and The Bruery has created a beer in the style of a Biere de Garde. Can I call it a Biere de Pizza?

I went down to The Bruery to meet with Patrick, Ben, and Tyler a few weeks ago because they were about to start brewing the final full batch of the Pizza Challenge beer. I hadn't heard what the beer would be, but knew I would get to taste the test brew and see them get started brewing the final beer. When I arrived I sat with Ben for a while at the bar while we waited for Patrick to arrive. There were a few ingredients sitting there waiting to go into the brew: a few bags of Dried Lemon Peel, Fennel Seeds, and even a case of Zucchini. I could see right away what Patrick and the brewers were up to.

Our Challenge Pizza was made with a beer dough in which Peter included some whole rye flour and malt crystal to play up this beer connection. Then Kelly Whitaker and Alan Henkin pulled some wildly fresh ingredients together including: fresh burrata, squash blossoms, white sardines, fresh arugula sprouts and flours, preserved lemon, and a sprinkling of fennel salt along the crust edge.

We had made another pizza, with a red sauce and cured pork jowl (guanciale).  But, when we presented the two, I could see that Kelly was hoping that Patrick would choose this one because he wanted to challenge Patrick. And, I noticed that Patrick could see what Kelly was up to, and without words, their two grins connected and Patrick took that challenge. He was now answering it by bringing in some of those same flavors that Peter's malty dough and Kelly's eclectic mix of fresh ingredients brought, to pair with his beer.

Patrick poured some of the non-carbonated test brew for us. It was a rich amber color, with an almost orange glow to it. It was slightly hazy and you could instantly smell the malty, earthy, and fruity aromas. I had a grin from ear to ear. I didn't brew this, or design it, but with a few ideas, some conversations and lots of emails and phone calls, I was standing in one of America's most unique craft breweries and I had a glass of beer that I was a part of. You can't imagine how good that felt and how good that pre-beer tasted to me.

Patrick and Tyler were interested in this test brew for it's flavors; how they would work when finished, what they wanted to add or change. I was interested in this beer and what it was saying to me right then. It wasn't finished, the carbonation was still to come; it was warm, probably cellar temperature, but that allowed those flavors to be at their fullest.

It's been an interesting quest for me. I know Peter will expand more on the connections between bread and beer on the technical side, but I feel there has been a permanent connection made in my brain on an experiential level. I now seem to sense a deep similarity in the aromas and experiences I am having with good beer and good bread, or pizza dough, since this challenge began. Kelly mentioned that drinking a beer in the brewery where it was made is something special. I will add to that and say that drinking a beer and eating a pizza in the brewery where both were made is spectacular! I swear I can smell and taste the yeasty, malty sweetness if I just close my eyes and think about all of this.

I'm looking forward to the final pairing which is coming up in only a few short weeks. We will definitely, keep you posted!
Brad

Thanks Brad--I'm loving how your world has been rocked, and thanks also for setting up this whole challenge. Next week I'll post the recipe for the pizza dough and we'll talk more about the toppings on the Challenge Pizza. We're only two weeks from the big weekend and it's getting exciting for all of us.

 
Peter's Blog, Sept. 6th
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

It was a long, wet, windy Labor Day Weekend down here in Charlotte, so I'm a little behind with my posts (we're still technically under a tornado watch). Didn't even get to post a Coming Attractions box so I'll do that here at the end of this post. I'm going to take a little breather from the recent pizza/beer reflections and just write a short blog this week.

Today was the first day of classes at Johnson & Wales University and we welcomed about 900 new freshman yesterday (Labor Day) in our annual Convocation ceremony -- doing this on Labor Day is one of our traditions. As the faculty processed down the aisle to our seats, I watched the faces of all the newbies and imagined how all of their lives were about to change; that they themselves were about to change, transformed actually (transformation is something we write about here a lot on Pizza Quest). I know about this growth phenomenon from years of observation and, lest I had any doubts, I saw it in action on the night before the ceremony when I watched a new TV special on The Cooking Channel (not the Food Network, but their new sister network) called Cooking School Confidential. If you can get this channel please, don't miss this show (it's channel 353 on my digital dial, so I imagine many of you won't be able to get it or see this show until they rerun it on The Food Network someday) .

Yes, it's a great plug for our campus (BTW, I'm not in it, though there's a quick shot of me during the graduation scene but it's faster than a blink), as the show follows four Johnson & Wales University -- JWU for short -- students as they pursue their dream to become successful chefs. Each student has a very different situation to navigate through: one is a professional cyclist who

 
Peter's Blog, August 30th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

I'll be writing a few words, below, about beer and dough but first, let's return to Brad English's ongoing story about the evolution of the collaboration between Pizzeria Basta, The Bruery, and Pizza Quest. When we left him last week, Brad was telling us all about his tour of The Bruery and what happened when he issued the "challenge."  Let's pick it up from there....

A Pizza Pairing - Part III
So, we're on a Pizza Quest, looking for the best of the best, the true artisans of the craft.  Along the way, we've followed a trail that leads us to a better understanding of what artisanship is.  At this very moment we are currently awaiting the craft brewed response  -- the beer itself -- to a Challenge Pizza that we created for Patrick Rue and his brewers at The Bruery.  After tasting our pizza, Patrick and his brewing staff set to work to create a never before made beer to be paired specifically with the flavor profiles created by Kelly Whitaker, Alan Henkin, and Peter Reinhart on the Challenge Pizza.  I think this project is the perfect example of what hand-crafted, artisan brewing is all about.  The process of bringing food and beverage together to form a more perfect taste experience is not a new one.  But, what has me most excited is all the time and energy that went into creating a custom brewed beer specifically to match up with a pizza -- this may be a first!  There is art going on here, along with a passion for the brewing process, and a deep understanding of both flavor and taste. 

This is what I had picked up from Kelly Whitaker when we talked in detail about The Bruery:  They are not just brewing beer; they are brewing flavors that go with friends, food, a dinner party, a night in a local pub, cheese, salted pork, the Super Bowl, the sunset, and - of course - PIZZA!  Their beers -- and I've tried quite a few now -- all have something else to say beyond the obvious: that this beer tastes good.  The brews are well thought out, a combinations of flavors.  Perhaps the liquid, the beer, can be considered a flavor delivery system in much the same way Peter has always referred to how a good dough, or pizza crust, is.  Yes, a flavor delivery system!

We re-visited The Bruery recently.  This time we brought a mobile wood fired oven along, courtesy of Tim Gonzalez and his TJ's Wood-Fire Pizza rig, and got to "work" (if you could call it that) exploring the brewery, making pizzas, tasting beers, talking theory, and generally having a pretty

 
Peter's Blog, Aug. 23rd, Beer and Pizza, Part Two
Peter Reinhart

Last week we gave you some back ground on the upcoming series we are still filming that pairs pizza and beer in a whole new way. I also wrote a bit about the parallels between beer and pizza, especially in terms of fermentation, so I don't want to repeat all that here (you can read it all in last week's Peter's Blog). So, let's jump back into Brad's story, the back story, that fills in the lead-up to this series. When we left Brad, he had decided to contact The Bruery, which we learned about from Chef Kelly Whitaker during our film session at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder. After Brad heard back from Ben Weiss, the VP of Marketing, things began to move forward. Here's Brad, as we pick up the story:

What goes better with pizza than a cold beer?  I feel like we're in the "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" territory here.  If there was ever a pairing, this is it.

Jeff Michael (our Pizza Quest co-creator) and I finally found a time when we could make the trip down to visit Ben at The Bruery.  It is a relatively small facility, ramping up to put out about 5,000 barrels of beer a year (after 3 years in business).  Right away, I knew I'd like the people here. Ben greeted us in his office wearing a pair of jeans, a faded graphic t-shirt, and flip flops.  I immediately thought that Ben was fortunate to be able to work at a place like this, and that the owners must also be the kind of guys you'd like to hang out with.  Sometimes you can just sense the soul of a place.  The Bruery has good soul and, as I already knew, put a good amount of that soul into creating some amazing beers.

As Ben gave us a tour of the brewery he told us how much all of the brewers and staff love good food and, definitely, good pizza. In fact, I found most of our conversation was about food.  We discussed pizza, the various gourmet food trucks they schedule on a regular basis, and the local great restaurants.  We eventually made it over to their brewery's bar, where Ben pulled a few

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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