19 September 2007

Beer and Pizza

Beer and pizza are college staples. Beer and pizza are bachelorhood staples. Being a recently graduated bachelor, beer and pizza also fuel my days off.

The Food section in today's Dispatch offered a pizza recipe that I modified to great success. I bought a 1/2 pound of grated aged gouda, mozzarella fresca pearls, a red onion, fresh thyme, whole wheat pizza crust and corn meal. I already had parmesan, fresh garlic, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper, olive oil and dried thyme.

This pizza is made like a white pizza, with the crust drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. The onions were sauteed with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. The crust was topped with parmesan, mozzarella and aged Gouda cheese, sauteed onions, garlic, red pepper and dried thyme. In Italian, the food was prepared molto bene. I have no idea how to say that in Dutch, and I pronounce Gouda "goo-dah" rather than "how-dah", so I'll leave the sentiment to be expressed in a Romance language.

The pizza provided an outstanding compliment to my brews. The first beer was the 2007 Pyramid Brewer's Reserve Hefe Weizen. Pyramid is a Seattle brewery that was one of the first domestic outlets to introduce the American palate to the German style that is now a ubiquitous part of the summer beer season in the States.

Pyramid's Reserve Hefe offers up the classic notes of tropical and citrus fruit, balanced by that classic Northwest hop character that is typically lacking in a mass produced domestic wheat beer. The brew was at least a shade or two darker than the regular Pyramid Hefe Weizen, which is the beer that made this brewery's name.

The second beer was an artisan ale produced in the classic Belgian golden ale style, aged in oak barrels and fermented with wild yeast. The brewery was Jolly Pumpkin from Michigan. This brewery offers beer that is produced according to exacting standards. Many beers are bottle fermented, giving the brew a more complex character than the Continental pilsners offered by most American macrobreweries. This ale is spicy with a tart contrast that makes for a sneaky drunk experience with 8 percent alcohol by volume.

I'm a sucker for Belgian style beers, but Jolly Pumpkin makes great beer that is inspired to greater things rather than a purely derivative product. I'll be sure to try some other offerings and see if the whole portfolio is as good as the Oro de Calabaza.

The third beer in the tasting came from dog-friendly Lagunitas Brewing from California. Their latest seasonal offering is their second tribute to Frank Zappa, a statement that would make you want to drink the beer if it tasted like sweat socks. Luckily, the beer displays more apricot and floral notes than notes of gym socks, so it was a complex, fitting tribute to the God of outsider rock. Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow.

Beer number four came from the suburbs of Chicago. I used to visit Two Brothers all the time when I lived a half an hour away in Palatine. Nowadays, the only chance I get to sample the Ebel brothers' wares is when an enterprising liquor store or restaurant decides that the Warrenville brewery is worth carrying. If you find the beer, try it out, because you'd never believe that this beer comes from an industrial park in a suburb of a suburb of Chicago.

The brewery is nestled amongst the Western suburbs' manufacturing hub, and it is a great spot to explore for people involved in home brewing enterprises because of the Ebel brothers and their alliance to the home brewing tradition. The Double IPA Hop Juice offers hop bitterness in droves, with a medium sweet front that counterbalances the hops. The IPA is very good, with a more pronounced bitterness than the Heavy Handed IPA along with an additional malt character. Two Brothers makes great beer, and I hope the new location produces beer at the same quality level of the airplane hangar they used to work at.

Great Lakes always offers great seasonal beer, and seldom is a beer season as electric as during Oktoberfest. The Cleveland brewery's Oktoberfest beer is a ruby brew with a subtle hop characteristic that is perfectly balanced by a rich malt character that makes this beer a perfect quaff. Much like Oktoberfest, you can drink this beer over and over again.

This is one of the greatest brew pubs in the United States. The food is as good as the beer, making Great Lakes a must have for Cleveland sports fans and other members of the 216 clan.

Finally, if none of the other beers were funky enough, Ommegang has their last limited release beer fermented by brettanomyces yeast. Brett yeast has a funky, barnyard character that has to be experienced to be believed. If you like your beer different, Ommegeddon showcases the funky elements of this idiosyncratic yeast strain. You will get a finished product that is enjoyable because of its unique character. Each beer provided a fantastic contrast to the delicious Gouda pizza, and none of the brews possess flavors that are less than captivating. Enjoy the beer and enjoy the other bells and whistles.

Beer and Pizza

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