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
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!
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.