Getting Serious About Beer & Pizza

Bob Barnes – The International Pizza Expo Focuses On Beer.

The 31st annual International Pizza Expo rolled into Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Something it has been doing in recent years is spotlighting beer, America’s beverage of choice and its close relationship to pizza, American’s favorite food. In addition to a Craft Beer Pavilion on the trade show floor with more than a dozen breweries showcasing their products, there was a focus on pairing beer with pizza.

Up first, speaking from the Demonstration Stage, were Publisher and Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz; and Doug Ferriman, owner of Crazy Dough’s Pizza in Boston and 2014 Best of the Best Bake-Off Champion. Herz and Ferriman presented three pizzas (created and made by Ferriman) paired with beer, then offered up samples to the audience.

First up was a Margarita with crushed tomato puree, fresh mozzarella, basil, parmesan and olive oil that was matched with Left Coast Del Mar St., a Dortmunder Export Lager. Herz pointed out the hops balance the sweetness in the tomato sauce. A spicy Sriracha Chicken with Pierce Wing Ding breaded chicken chunks, red bell pepper and Frank’s Sriracha Sauce was paired with Lagunitas IPA. Herz explained that the residual sugars calmed the heat of the Sriracha. The finale was a rich mix of smoked duck bacon, garlic and dried cherries topped with a cherry balsamic glaze that was paired with Stone Brewing Smoked Porter, with its smoked character joining in with the smokiness of the bacon.

While Ferriman expertly put the pizzas together, he and Herz pointed out that there are now 3,400 breweries in the US; IPA is currently the top selling craft beer style; beer is more complex than wine and more useful for pairing; and people no longer want the same beer every time.

Following are tips Herz and Ferriman shared about ways to differentiate a restaurant as a better beer destination.

  • Train servers about the beers on your menu.
  • Beware of dirty beer glasses—bubbles sticking to the side of the glass is a tell-tale sign.
  • Foam is 25% beer, so having excess foam is wasting beer.
  • Serving at 38° will have less foaming, but most ales should be served at 40-45°. The warmer the beer, the more flavor and aromatics.
  • Using proper glassware appropriate for a beer’s style enhances aromatics and your customer’s beer experience.
  • Like bread or milk, beer is perishable, so cold storage is essential.
  • Not cleaning your draft lines every two weeks is comparable to serving an opened bottle of wine that is two weeks old.
  • has a free PDF on 140 beer styles and pairing beer with different types of food.
  • Carbonation in beer works well with pizza because it lifts fat off of the tongue, and gets you ready for the next bite.
  • Serving beer in a frosted glass is like forcing your customers to taste the inside of your freezer. Plus, excess cold masks the flavors in a craft beer.

Another pizza and beer pairing, entitled Outside The Box Pizza, was presented by one of New Belgium Brewing’s original brewers, Jamie Mastin. He paired the cheesy goodness of cheese pizza with the caramel maltiness of Fat Tire versus the fruity-hoppiness of Slow Ride Session IPA; Chicken Sausage Pizza complemented by the slightly sour Snapshot Wheat Beer; and Dessert Pizza matched with the subtle sweetness and roast notes of 1554 Black Lager and Portage Porter.

Beer is clearly a growing component of the International Pizza Expo and it appears to be a match made in heaven.

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at

Expo Picture Credits: Joe Urcioli

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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