The basic premise was to reverse the typical beer and food pairing, where food is prepared to match a given beer. Instead, Kelly Whitaker and the Pizza Quest crew challenged The Bruery to design and produce a beer based on a special pizza that they created. The caveat being that the challenge pizza would involve some unique and different ingredients, which matches well with The Bruery's brewing philosophy. The pizza crust was built on Italian double zero flour, pumpernickel rye flour, and crushed amber crystal malt, which pulls in the beer theme even more. The pizza was topped with fresh burrata cheese (a blend of fresh mozzarella wrapped around creme fraiche), sweet white sardines, preserved lemon, squash blossoms, fresh arugula sprouts, and fennel salt.
In response, The Bruery created a biere de garde style ale called Birra Basta. The malt base included pilsner, six-row, munich, biscuit, amber, and aromatic malts. It was hoped with Columbus and Strisselspalt hops. To match the pizza, Birra Basta included a variety of other spices and ingredients, including roasted zucchini, fennel seeds, lemon peel, and Spanish cedar. The zucchini, perhaps the most interesting ingredient, was used in the mash, while the other ingredients were added to the fermenter.
To top it all off, The Big Reveal featured a public beer and pizza pairing event during the Great American Beer Festival, on September 30th, at the Summit Beer Garden. The pizza was baked by Kelly Whitaker outside the restaurant on a portable wood-fired oven. Birra Basta was served from a special keg and the tasters could compare it with the pizza. The general perception was that the pairing worked magically, with the unusual ingredients in the beer matching with the white pizza perfectly. Peter Reinhart summed it up:
"But here's how I experienced the flavors when I had them all together: they worked! What I mean, and I'll try to describe this without hyperbole or fake gastronomic melodrama, the beer really did change, and so did the pizza, when we had them together. The best way I can describe it is that they both took on a new degree of depth, as if the flavors of one filled in the blanks of the other and a wholly new level of completeness revealed itself."
What an excellent idea and one that we can hope will be carried out further. Being homebrewers, we have an even greater ability to design beers to go with specific foods or meals because of our smaller batch sizes. Give something like that a try and let us know how it turns out.
A list of Peter Reinhart's blog posts about The Big Reveal include:
- The Big Reveal
- The Big Reveal, Part One
- The Big Reveal, Part Two
- The Big Reveal, Part Three
- The Big Reveal, Part Four (finale)
- Life After "The Big Reveal"