Side Orders: How to choose the best brews for any pizza

Craft Beer Tasting Flight. The U.S. now has more beer styles (150+) and brands (20,000+) to choose from than any other market in the world. More than 5,000 breweries are responsible for the beer brands available in the U.S. and the Brewers Association estimates more than 2,000 craft breweries are in the planning stages.
Craft Beer Tasting Flight. The U.S. now has more beer styles (150+) and brands (20,000+) to choose from than any other market in the world. More than 5,000 breweries are responsible for the beer brands available in the U.S. and the Brewers Association estimates more than 2,000 craft breweries are in the planning stages.

The general rule for wine pairings is that white wine goes with chicken and red wine goes with beef, even though the guidelines are not always followed. But did you know that there are beer-and-pizza pairings, too?

Of course, pizza and cold beer go hand in hand, but Home Run Inn Pizza, a Chicago-based restaurant chain that also sells its frozen pizzas at Target stores around the country, teamed up with Bottleneck Restaurant Group experts who are Cicerone-certified - that's the official certification process for beer professionals - to design a comprehensive guide to beer-and-pizza pairings.

Football season, without a doubt, is the busiest for pizza makers. According to marketing company Taradel, six out of seven people interviewed order pizza during football games.

photo Anne Braly

And, says the Beer Institute, Americans drank an estimated 6.3 billion gallons of beer last year, with Tennesseans over age 21 downing 25.7 gallons per capita and Georgians consuming 25.9 gallons. That's a lot of beer. Tennessee and Georgia, interestingly, were in the Top 10 sober states. New Hampshire lays claim to the biggest number of beer drinkers, with a whopping 43 gallons of beer consumed per capita. Must be a lot of beer bellies and brouhaha (brewhaha?) going on in New Hampshire.

So back to the pairings. The beer pros looked at 30 of the most-popular pizza types from around the world and sipped and ate their way to determine which beers go best with pizza. Here are the results of a few of the most-popular pizzas ordered in the U.S., something to consider when you're ordering pizza for the game and wondering what would be the best beer to go with your pepperoni and onions.

» Classic cheese pizza: American pale ale has a pungent, though restrained, hop profile with just enough bitterness to cut through the cheese.

» Pepperoni: An American brown ale goes especially well with the spicy notes of the pepperoni.

» A meat lovers pizza: With all its sausages and other meats, it needs a dark smoked beer to give the meats a more smoky flavor.

» Pizzas loaded with mushrooms: Try an earthy English ale.

» Smoky-sweet Hawaiian pizzas: Citrus hops found in golden ales pair perfectly.

» Bacon-cheeseburgers pies: Try a light, refreshing beer, such as a wheat beer with a bit of citrus.

» A veggie pizza with spinach and feta: The perfect partner is Scotch ale with its wonderful malty profile..

» Greek pizzas: All of those olives, basil, garlic, mozzarella, feta and tomatoes call for a refreshing, tart brew, such as any of the wheat ales on tap.

» Chicago deep-dish pizza: The boldest of all pizzas, fully loaded with meats, peppers and onions, needs an equally bold American strong ale that will stand up with the sauce and all that cheese.

But I think any kind of beer works with a good deep-dish pizza, such as this one I've been making for years. It's always gobbled up - even by a husband who prefers a thin-crust pizza. The cast-iron pan makes a lovely crust. And go ahead and add all those meats if you wish. This pizza can handle any toppings you want to throw on.

Deep Dish Pizza

1 (1/4 ounce package) active dry yeast

1 3/4 - 2 cups bread flour

3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup marinara sauce (see note)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Your favorite toppings: mushrooms, onions, peppers, black olives, cooked sausage, cooked bacon, pepperoni, etc.

Fresh basil, shredded, if desired

For the dough: In a large bowl, stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon of flour and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes or until mixture looks foamy. Stir in remaining water, salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from side of bowl. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until it becomes a soft, smooth and elastic ball. Loosely cover bowl with a cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

After the first rising of the dough, place 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a 10-inch inch cast-iron pan, and put the dough ball in the pan. Lightly press dough down into the oil, and spread it to the sides of pan. Cover with a cloth, and let sit in a warm area for 2 hours. Heat oven to 550 degrees.

Lightly press down on the dough in the cast-iron pan to release any air bubbles that may have formed while rising and to push dough closer to the edge of the pan. Spread sauce over top of dough to the edge of the pan. Top with cheese and desired amount of vegetable and/or meat items.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until bottom of crust is a golden brown and the cheese is fully melted and lightly brown. Top with fresh basil, if desired. Remove pizza to a cutting board, cut into slices and serve warm.

Note: There are several good marinara sauces on store shelves, but you can make your own quick pizza sauce with plain tomato sauce, then add garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and dried oregano, tasting as you go and adjusting spices to your own taste.


Hungry for new 'cue?

The anticipated opening of Jim 'N' Nick's Bar-B-Q happens Tuesday and ushers in a new wave of barbecue. While many barbecue places have freezers to store meats for who knows how long and microwaves to quickly heat up foods made earlier in the week, Jim 'N' Nick's has neither. Order your barbecue - beef, chicken, pork or turkey - along with the eatery's signature cheese biscuits - and rest assured it's made from scratch on a daily basis.

Jim 'N' Nick's, a Birmingham-based, father-son chain, is located at 2040 Hamilton Place Blvd., and offers a full bar with craft beers, 17 rotating draft beers and a good selection of bourbon to enjoy along with a plate filled with Southern fare.

Contact Anne Braly at

Upcoming Events