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
good time. During one segment we were in The Bruery's "Ingredients Room," and you could see how excited Kelly, Alan, and Peter were as they recognized that this is where it all first comes together. They talked about how this was like their own kitchen pantries and you could see them all drifting off, dreaming of being brewers that day. They realized it was the same process, that they were all "brewers" and that brewers were chefs working in a different mediums, but working to create flavors, experiences and memories. Or, maybe that was just me, as I watched from behind the cameras. Talk about kids in a candy shop!
Here is a quote from what is essentially the Bruery's Mission Statement:
"Our calling is to create beers with character and depth using the simplest and purest of means. We do not filter or pasteurize our beers. All of our bottled beers gain carbonation through 100% bottle conditioning, allowing carbonation to naturally occur through a secondary bottle fermentation. We strive to use unconventional ingredients, and we will proudly state what we put in our beers.
We are inspired by those in the brewing community who are pushing the limits of what 'beer' is. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for great brewers who came before us. We aspire to be an influential force in craft brewing."
Does this not also define what Pizza Quest is all about? These are the very same dedications that all of the top pizzaiolos, chefs, and restauranteurs we have met express everyday of their lives. It's important, I think, to keep exploring not only the individuals that are directly focused on our favorite food, pizza, but also those who are on a parallel journey. There is a connection in their efforts to create a better quality of life through the act of giving, hard work, and creation of a product that they then share with their customers and friends.
Our friends at The Bruery have gotten off to a great start on their journey to create excellence. Peter recognized it too, as he had come in with his own unique interest in the beer making process because it shares so many principles with baking. Beer, as he often says, is called "liquid bread" because there is a similar use of yeast and fermentation in its creation. Peter will continue to expand on the subject further as this story unfolds. For now, I'm just excited to share with you our journey with some extremely passionate brewers. I imagine that this trip will reveal far more than we could have possibly anticipated.
Thank you Brad! For the record, this whole Pizza Challenge is Brad's brilliance and I'm just thrilled to be along for the ride. What I want to share with you now, as we gear up for the great "reveal" at the Great American Beer Festival, are more thoughts on creating flavor in the dough the way that brewers do it beer, but with the help of one of our Pizza Quest followers. Last week I told you about using dark brewers malt in a bread dough and, just as I posted that, I received an e-mail from a baker/brewer from South Africa. With his permission, here it is:
I am an experienced all-grain home brewer and have been baking breads from your 'Whole Grain' Breads" book. Having lots of specialty malt grains at hand, I have been experimenting with adding them to my whole grain breads with good success. Specialty grains are the malt grains a brewer adds to create and add flavor nuances, color, and character to the brew. These would include subtle flavors of honey, caramel, toasted nuts and, for the darker roasted grains, notes of toffee , plum, raisin, coffee -- in short a lot of exiting flavors!
Because these grains have been roasted at higher temperatures their enzymatic action has been completely denatured and they contain complex sugars and dextrins that yeast cannot eat ( whew I'm getting a bit technical! ) That is to say, their addition is going to add flavor and complexity to the dough but, importantly, not have any significant enzymatic effect (which a normal pale 'base' malt would ).
I would be very curious to taste how the addition of some finely ground flour from "Caramel," "Amber," or "Chocolate" malt would affect a pizza dough destined for a beer pairing. Hey, one could color the dough dark brown with dark roasted malt and pair it with a Stout! For my own breads, the addition of these various malts added a malty 'roundness' to the flavor and another layer of complexity to the grain flavors. Perhaps it could do the same ( subtly ) for a beer pairing pizza!
All the best,
Cape Town, South Africa
Nick is dead-on, and I'm excited to see how he was already on the same wave-length before I even posted my stout bread story. Beer and bread--liquid and solid beer--it's all about evoking the full potential of flavor from the grain. Next week I'll share the recipe we used to create the Challenge Pizza Dough, using crystal beer malt to create one of the tastiest pizza crusts I've ever had. I think we're just scratching the surface here and I'm hoping Nick will send us a report on some of his malted bread experiments. When he does, we'll post it for you.