Peter’s Blog, August 16th, 2011
A few weeks ago I wrote about our visit to The Bruery in Placentia, Southern California. It was the middle stage of a three phase adventure that will culminate at the end of September in Denver at The Great American Beer Festival (aka GABF). Over the next few weeks, as we prepare to head out to Denver to film this final stage, I’m going to share some thoughts about the unique relationship between pizza and beer, and my colleague, Brad English, will join me here to fill you in on the background and lead-up to this series.
So, here’s the bottom line: we’re going to the GABF to make a special pizza to serve alongside a special beer created by The Bruery — the world premier of both the pizza and beer, and the beer was created as a challenge to match with a signature Pizza Quest pizza created by Chef Kelly Whitaker (Pizzeria Basta) on a dough created by me. The Bruery folks loved the flavors of the pizza and have been hard at work brewing a unique, one of a kind beer inspired by the pizza flavors. Okay, that’s the teaser–everything else you will be reading here is how we got to this place, along with some perspective and opinion. The videos won’t be posted until we have the whole series edited (plus, we still have a lot of video webisodes to show you from our California tour) but we’ll be giving you updates as we approach the GABF, and even blog from the site itself while we’re making the pizzas in Kelly’s “Fire Within” mobile oven rig outside the convention center. Brad is headed to The Bruery this week to taste the test batch, so maybe we can prevail upon him for a sneak preview, but for now, let’s focus on the pizza/beer connection and then I’ll let Brad start giving you the back story.I’ve written before about the adage that “Beer is liquid bread,” which means, at least to me, that bread must also be solid beer. Both are made by the fermentation of grain, transforming it, along with their other ingredients, into something totally new from where it began. While beer is made by first cooking the grains and then fermenting them in their liquid “wort” to create alcohol and carbon dioxide, bread is made by first fermenting the grains in their dough state and then applying heat to cook out the alcohol and retain the holes created by the carbon dioxide. Two applications of grain fermentation, two totally different products, both totally at the mercy of the sacred balancing act of time/temperature/ingredients, under the watchful eye (and touch) of the artisan baker or brewer. Pizza is an extension of bread — that is, dough with something on it — that brings in yet another layer of artisan talent. To complete the picture, pizza usually (but not always) has cheese and cheese is yet another of the great transformational foods in our culinary universe. By transformational I mean, as with beer and bread, that the primary ingredient (milk in this case) is transformed into something totally new and different through the alchemy of fermentation. As you can tell, I am fascinated by transformational foods.
Okay, so that sets the stage for more philosophical musings in the coming weeks but, for now let’s switch gears and let Brad fill you in on how all of this came to pass:
A Pizza Pairing (by Brad English)
As you know, we have been filming another quest and Peter has already explained what we have been working on. We are doing a Beer and Pizza pairing. That may not sound like big news since Pairings are done in restaurants all over the country on a regular basis. The difference here is that we came up with a twist on the traditional pairing concept. In our ongoing effort to explore what drives and defines true artisanship we have turned this concept on it’s head. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain.”While filming with Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder last fall he poured a beer for us to pair with his incredible Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs (he made this for Peter in one of our webisodes, which you haven’t seen yet). Luckily, he poured a few more glasses for those of us behind the camera. It was a “Bruery Saison Rue” (Farm Ale), light and crisp with a hint of citrus, but also a deeper undertones that made it substantial — yet it was somehow still light and refreshing. You could see that Kelly was not only happy about the fact that it went so well with his short rib masterpiece, but quite proud of this beer, and even more so with the brewery called, pun intended, The Bruery. Patrick Rue is the owner – and, I admit it took me more than a little while to really put that part of the pun together! Kelly continued telling me about The Bruery after we had finished filming the segment, and told me to look them up because they were in Orange County, Ca not far from where I lived. We moved on and filmed the rest of the day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that beer.
I browsed their website (www.thebruery.com) and kept trying to look for an opportunity to go down to the brewery on the weekend, when they open it up to the public. They also schedule a gourmet food truck to be there each night which, again, sparked my interest. From what Kelly told me, and from what I could see on their website and the fact that they brought in gourmet food trucks, I knew something more was going on here; these guys understood the connection between their beers and food.
My wife and I finally got to go out one night, after shuttling the kids off to the grandparents! We took a trip down to Old Town Orange to go taste beers at The Bruery Provisions. This is their gourmet beer store, where they feature a great tasting room dedicated not only to their own beers, but also a gourmet cheese shop, a selection of fine wines, and one of the best selections of other artisan beers I’ve ever seen in one place. Needless to say, we enjoyed a couple of flights of beers, with a few small plates of various cheeses, which started the night off just right. I also walked away with several 750 ml bottles of The Bruery’s finest.As a result, I decided I had to get in touch with them and began to think that, like our detour with the fish taco king Adam Pollard at the Taco Temple up in Morro Bay, these guys at The Bruery must have something to add to the conversation on artisanship, craftsmanship, dedication, and the journey we were on. So, I reached out, hoping that I might be able to get them to talk about their craft and even write about it on our website. I got an email back from Benjamin Weiss, of The Bruery, almost right away. Ben, who is the VP of Marketing, got my email and and was intrigued enough to wander over to look at Pizza Quest. He got back to me right away, letting me know how much he loved our site and the idea of getting together to see what we could make of this connection and our shared interest. He went on about how much they all loved food and, in particular, pizza. We quickly realized that the connection between beer and pizza was there and worth exploring further. Again, my thought was if we could explore artisanship, comparing the craft and art of creating great pizza or food with the art of brewing their fine, hand-crafted beers, we could both benefit and maybe push this connection around a bit.
I’ll tell you more about what happened after that next week.
Peter here. Thanks Brad. Okay, we’ve gotten things going and Brad’s story will continue next week along with more from me on the transformation of grain into something wholly other. We’ve got a lot to say about all this but want to break it up into digestible portions. In the meantime, please chime in with your own thoughts and comments. We know you’re on this journey with us and would love to hear from you.
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Pizza Quest Info
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.
...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on Amazon.com