Pizza Quest Globe

Peter’s Blog, June 28th

Written By Peter Reinhart
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 Peter's Blog

A quest for a great artisan beer…

Last week I reported on our recent quest and pizza/beer challenge at The Bruery in Orange County (Placentia, to be more precise–their tap room is open to the public on weekends if you happen to be in the neighborhood!). I just want to add a few words this week on one aspect of our experience there, something I addressed on film during the taping but, since it won’t run for awhile, I thought I’d write about it now while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Alan Henkin, Kelly Whitaker, Patrick Rue, Peter Reinhart

As we learned more about the art and craft of beer making during our tour of The Bruery facility, I kept thinking of the old saying that “beer is liquid bread.” I’ve always taken that seriously because there are such obvious parallels, mainly, the proper fermentation of grain to evoke its full potential of flavor.  But what I realized perhaps for the first time, even though I’ve toured breweries before, is how much more difficult beer making is than bread baking, how much more complex it is, how many subtle choices the brewmeister has to make, gets to make, in manipulating the ingredients to create, hopefully, amazing flavors. We”re all flavorists, those of us who cook, and it’s also a truism that the primary purpose of serious cooking, aside from delivering nutrition so that we can stay alive and thrive, is to deliver flavor. This is what culinarians pay all that money for when they go to expensive culinary schools–to learn how to deliver flavor. I’ve joked before about the reason pizza is the most popular food in the world is because it is the perfect flavor delivery system — dough with something on it — and I still believe that. But artisan beer making functions and delivers flavor on a whole other level, one that is dependent on precision and sensitivity to the subtleties that each ingredient contributes, and how each ingredient must be handled deftly so that it can deliver its proper contribution — not too much, not too little — to the final brew. A beer maker is a flavorist functioning on a narrow tightrope. Bread is tolerant and forgiving of errors, but not so beer. One degree of temperature difference during the making of the wort (the liquid grain-tea that eventually ferments and becomes beer) can throw the whole batch off or can allow an invasive organism or enzyme to survive and foul up everything. Making high quality beer (sure, anyone can make beer, but I’m talking about the world class stuff now) requires  a lot of knowledge and science but also a lot of imagination.

So, what struck me, and I think our whole Pizza Quest crew, was how much thought goes into the creation of these “new generation” artisan brewskies. I know there are dozens of similar artisan breweries and brewmeisters all over the country, playing with these same skills and crafting never before seen beers, as well as excellent renditions of classics that follow time-honored methods. Sometimes they fail, sometimes the beer gets thrown out before anyone outside the brewery knew it was ever made. But every once in a while something magical happens and a strange, whimsical concoction emerges made of grains, flowers, herbs, maybe some spices, a whole slew of micro-organisms digesting sugars and burping out carbon dioxide and sweating out alcohol and flavor esters.

The only thing that beats making pizza at a brewery is drinking the beer and eating the pizza at The Bruery.

I don’t drink a lot of beer but I’m beginning to develop a taste for it as I experience this new generation liquid bread. I’m really looking forward to sampling some of the award winners at The Great American Beer Festival in Denver at the end of September, where we’ll unveil our Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza along with the Bruery’s new matching Pizza Quest beer. But I also can’t wait to discover how other creative beer makers approach this delicate art and craft of blending and brewing their fanciful malted grains and crazy hops and spices, gathered from around the world. I think it will not only be fun but will also make me a better bread baker and, who knows, maybe even a better pizza maker. After all, we’re on a pizza quest, not a beer quest, but hey, it’s all connected and, let’s face it, a quest is a quest is a quest.


Tomato Man

Very glad you put our two crafts together and look forward to the webisode. After reading your post I’m anxiously awaiting more brewmeister testing their skills in front of a woodburning oven (and vice versa).



I’ve found the links between beer brewing and your own bread baking techniques to be fascinating. For example, the use of a slow fermentation of Levain and pan a l’ancienne in the refrigerator is interesting because bread yeast (similar to ale yeast) would develop a lot of heavy alcohols, lots of esters, and many “complex characteristics” in that environment.

Since one of the advantages of a slow ferment is a breakdown of starch (and development of sugars), I’ve often wondered what might happen if you put some of the flour in a dough through a mashing process (similar to mashing for beer) to see what kind of bread might result. Sounds like a fun experiment.

Obviously, the links between beer and bread have always been strong. I recommend you continue to study brewing and see what it inspires in your bread making.


Speaking of being a “flavorist”. You mention that you’ve not payed much attention to beer in the past. I might humbly suggest that you also look at food pairing with beer.

Grapes offer a very interesting range of complexity through wine, but I believe the range afforded by barley to be far richer. In my opinion, Grains are more complex and varied in flavor than fruits and the brewer has lots of choices in how the grain is treated (roasted, soured, etc.) and mixed (patent malt for roastiness, crystal malt for body, etc.)

As you continue your journey with beer with your “new eyes”, set aside the wine glass and give some thought to “beer pairings” with food. It’s fascinating and well worth the effort.


Hi Rob,
We’re right there with you on the beer and food pairing idea and have already shot some fascinating footage on this subject, which should run sometime later this summer. That’s exactly what this Bruery/Pizza Quest Challenge was all about, so hang in there with us and I think you’ll be really pleased with some of the upcoming webisodes on the subject.
As for mashing, I have written about this and developed some recipes for making and using mashed grains in bread in my book, “Whole Grain Breads” (Ten Speed Press). I’ve made some killer [i]Volkornbrodt[/i] and Traditional Dark Pumpernickel breads using this method and think there’s room for even more development in this area. Check out mine as a starting place and let us know if you foray into it yourself.

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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.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

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