Chefs and brewers exploring the culinary side of beer has been a big trend the last few years. I never really mention it as a trend because it’s a no-brainer to me: As the popularity of craft beer, the sophistication of the drinker and producer all increase, of course we’ll see fine cuisine starting to notice fine beer. I’ve had the honor of attending a few very nice beer dinners (thanks, Seasons), and it is quite amazing to see what professional chefs do with the beer, and how they approach beer and flavors. I’ve seen mussels steamed in beer, beer and elk sausage, and whole game hens,roasted with a can of beer inside them. It’s just as impressive as seeing water, grain, and hops turn into beer.
But I’m not the type of person to totally dive into fine cuisine. Given the chance to do a food collaboration of my own recently, I chose to lead a beer and doughnut pairing with a local doughnut shop. I’m a simple man. I like simple things. I think the best beer pairing of all time is simply beer and pizza.
Durango is blessed when it comes to pizza, too. This small town has everything from the big New York-style slices at DSP, to fancy brick oven at Ska and Fired Up, to the hearty, hand-tossed pies at Homeslice and JBo’s. All of them serve an awesome assortment of local beer to pair with their pies, so coming up with a good pairing isn’t that hard. I reached out to the pizza professionals of Durango to get some advice about pairing.
Tyson Jeffreys, Fired Up Pizzeria All pizza and beer go well together, you can’t really go wrong, but the best pairings are probably fresh ingredients and fresh beer. We have all local or regional beer on tap, and one freezer, and it’s for ice cream, so all of our ingredients and beer are super fresh.
Ian Kitch, Homeslice I’d say our Five Cheese, with the Whiteout Pils from Durango Brewing is a solid pairing. The cheese flavors are pretty subtle, and they go well with the delicate pilsner style.
Max Fields, JBo’sOur Godfather Pizza, which is four meats, pepperoncini, and cheddar, is our most popular pizza, and I think it pairs really well with Odell’s IPA. It has some strong citrus and herb flavors and aromas that will cut through the grease of all the meats. For the vegetarians I suggest the Durangatarian with a good, clean Pils World.
My favorite Durango pairingThe BBQ pizza from Steamworks (smoked pork shoulder, gouda, mozzarella, BBQ sauce) paired with the Devil’s Fruit Basket, a tart Belgian strong ale, aged with Colorado peaches, apricots and cherries in Chardonnay barrels. The tartness and fruitiness of the beer balances the spice and strong flavors of the pizza, while the smokiness of the pork and the BBQ sauce is complemented by the subtle oakiness of Chardonnay barrel in the beer. Both the beer and the pizza together elevate each other, acting as a catalyst for each other, which is what a truly good pairing will do.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.