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.