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
beers from the taps, and we continued our conversation. As Kelly Whitaker later told me, when we came back to film, "There's something special about drinking a beer in the brewery where it's made." I agree; you seem to experience it on another level. I think it's the addition of the sights and sounds of brewing, the bottling, and the malty, hoppy aromas that intensify the experience you are having with your beer. At one point, I realized we didn't really know where this conversation was going. We only knew that we each loved what we were doing, loved great pizza, and loved great beer.
As our conversation continued, Ben began talking about the various beer and food pairing dinners that they engage in with restaurants all over. He was fascinated with the process and loves sitting in the kitchen watching how the chef and his team light up with inspiration while they taste the beers and would begin brainstorming ingredients and ideas for meals they could pair with the beers. I told Ben that his excitement reminded me of how Kelly Whitaker was about The Bruery's beers when we filmed him back in the fall . As luck would have it, and maybe if you believe in fate, we were about to find out why we were here. Ben told me that Kelly Whitaker was doing a Bruery Beer Pairing Dinner at Pizzeria Basta. Our wheels started spinning. I wanted to go to that dinner. Kelly is an amazing chef and I knew how much he loved this beer, so I imagined that the dinner would be something over the top.
After our brewery tour, as Jeff and I drove down to Old Town Orange so I could show him The Bruery Provisions store, we talked about the fact that they were always doing small test brews, which certainly interested us. Jeff then put two and two together and got ten! We were kicking ideas around and he said, "What if we make a pizza and they brew a beer to pair with our pizza?" I knew that was a home run idea, perhaps a grand slam. I emailed Ben the idea when we got home and in short order, after passing it along to Patrick Rue (the owner) they got right back to us and said "We love it. We're in!"
I'll continue my introduction to this quest next week. In the meantime, check out The Bruery's website at www.thebruery.com. and you'll get their side of the story along with some great photos of the pizzas that ensued. And, I suggest you start looking for a bottle of their beer at a local beer shop!
Thanks Brad! We'll pick up Brad's story from where he left off next week. Meanwhile, let me add a few things that relate to Brad's observation about the aroma's in the Bruery's brewery. In a word, awesome! They took me back to many years ago, when I still owned Brother Juniper's Bakery in Santa Rosa, I had a chance to tour Ireland with Susan. One day, while she was off exploring some of the wonderful historic sites in Dublin, I went to the Guinness brewery for their tour, which included a generous pouring at the end of freshly made stout (it definitely is unlike, and far better, than anything of theirs that comes out of a can or bottle, but that's beside the point). The brewery, every pore of it, was permeated by the lush aroma of dark roasted malt. I felt like I was doing the backstroke in a vat of rich Ovaltine and I loved it! In that moment, I decided I wanted to make a bread that tasted like the Guinness Brewery smelled (BTW, I first told this story in depth in my book, "Brother Junipers Bread Book: Slow Rise As Method and Metaphor.").
That was 21 years ago and, really, I can still smell that malt every time I re-imagine myself back in Dublin. After wasting a lot Guinness trying to use it in my dough formula I finally realized that, since beer is liquid bread and bread is solid beer, I might as well "brew" the flavor directly in my dough by using dark chocolate stout malt rather than pouring Guinness into the flour -- it's way cheaper.more concentrated, and also gave me much more control over how to develop the flavor profile. Eventually, I took a loaf to my local brew pub and asked the owner to pull us a pint of his stout and taste it next to my stout bread. You should have seen the smile on his face and he said, "I want that bread to serve right here in my bar."
So, the point of all this is that there are a lot of ways to coax flavor out of ingredients but beer makers and bread bakers understand it in way that is both intuitive and scientific. When immersed in the process it seems, well, mystical and magical. And this, I think, is why we're seeing such an explosion of creativity in the realm of craft breweries and also artisan bakeries. I chuckle every time I go into a micro brewery and see at least one, if not all, of the brewers sporting one of those brewer's beards (like you see on the guy in Samuel Adams commercials), the suspender's, the lumberjack shirt and other vestments of the "mystical brotherhood" of brewers. Whether conscious or not, there is a sense of being part of something almost Hogwartian inside one of those small breweries, with their spice room and dried orange and other fruit skins, exotic malts of all shades and hues, and rare hops that seem to have been smuggled in from a secret source in the middle of the night. I love it! When Brad said, above, that he could sense the soul of a place, I totally get what he's saying. If you haven't already experienced this yourself by going to a craft brewery, I hope you will get, at least, a vicarious taste of it through these stories, photos, and soon, videos.
The story continues next week....