If you live in Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, chances are you have seen “Original Seefurth Family” pizza crust, beer bread, or dip mix in the grocery store. You probably even have a vague recollection of someone telling you that they also made a pizza beer and probably wonder, “pizza beer,” what in the world is up with a pizza beer. Beer with pizza, sure, who hasn’t heard of that; but a pizza beer, really?
You probably wonder whether a pizza beer would be drinkable, or what it would taste like if it were. Surely, it would have to have tomato, garlic, basil, and oregano, perhaps even a bit of cheese in the flavor. The question when approaching a pizza beer though is how much pizza flavor really belongs in a beer. Surely a pizza beer would be a novelty, something to try at least once to say that you have had it and then move on. Bottles of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer have been spotted around the world though, and CNBC wrote an article a while back about the unexpected success of the beer.
At Beeradvocate, Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer has a score of 64. Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 15 overall and an 18 for style. Unsurprisingly both ratings sites give Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer a low score. Novelty beers don’t seem to score very high on either site, and a common complaint seems to be that the beer tasted too much like pizza. Faulting a pizza beer for tasting like pizza? Really?
"Pizza Beer" was developed Labor Day, 2006 by Tom and Athena Seefurth in our home brewery in Campton Township, IL. It all started with a surplus of tomatoes, a bag of garlic & an idea that started early in the spring when we planted our garden herbs.
The goal was to create a beer that would pair with a wide variety of foods, especially our favorite, Pizza! In the end, we were pleasantly surprised that this "mess" turned out to be the best thing since the guy with chocolate that bumped into Ralph Mouth & mixed up the chocolate with the peanut butter! Indeed, the world will love "Pizza Beer".
Facing a difficult task, we immediately did an internet search to gather information on using the "oddball" ingredients in creating a beer. Certainly someone had published such a recipe! We found beer made with garlic, hemp seed, coriander, hot peppers, maple syrup, honey, citrus peels & more. But what about tomatoes & the possibility of combining all of our favorite flavors into this beer? We then grabbed our favorite book written by a fellow Chicago Beer Society member, Randy Mosher. He wrote a book called "Radical Brewing" which has been read cover to cover a few times. Randy mentions a lot weirder stuff than pizza spices. He talks about mushrooms, hot rocks & stuff that is really radical! In a quandary, we called one of our best friends & creative brewmasters in the world, Kris Kalav. We told him of our quest to make this really cool brew & wanted to know if he had any experience brewing with tomatoes. After he stopped laughing, we bounced a few ideas around and Voila! "Pizza Beer" was on it's way to fame. To our knowledge, our home brewed concoction is the "World's First Culinary Beer."
Now, being homebrewers, we enjoy the freedom to create whatever we want. We usually refer to a book by Ray Daniels called "Designing Great Beers" when creating a style of beer that we intend on submitting to a contest. We usually concoct the recipe by memory & measure ingredients the way your grandmother did, pinch of this, smidgen of that. Something happened that day. We figured if this really turned out like we want it to, we better be able to duplicate it! Lo and behold, the amazing "Pizza Beer" was born.
"Pizza Beer" IS A DEBRIS FREE product. The Margarita pizza is put into the mash & steeped like a tea bag. A whole wheat crust made with water, flour & yeast is topped with tomato, oregano, basil & garlic. The essence of the pizza spices is washed off with hot water and filtered into a brewpot, where it is boiled for a long, long time. During the process, we add hops & spices in a cheesecloth type bag & filter the cooled liquid into a fermentation vessel. (big glass 6 gallon water jug). After a week or two, the beer is good to go. Keg it or bottle it.
Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer pours a slightly hazy golden orange with a thin, bright white head with low retention. The lack of a well pronounced head was noticeable and a little disappointing. The aroma is surprisingly pleasant and reminiscent of stepping inside a pizza parlor, or opening a box of hot, fresh pizza. Fresh cut oregano, basil and garlic are immediately apparent, fading to a bready finish with subtle tomato notes on the back end.
The flavor is very similar to the aroma with an enticing blend of basil, oregano, garlic, tomato and a firm, bready malt backbone. There is even a hint of mozzarella cheese lingering with the strong herbal character in the aftertaste. The flavors mingle, creating a complex combination of flavors that strongly resembles a well crafted pizza. It is moderately malty with moderately low hop bitterness, just enough to round out the malts and prevent the beer from being sweet. Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.
Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is surprisingly good! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried it, but I was definitely happy with the beer. I have had many novelty craft beers with random ingredients added “just because” and even more homebrew examples in the competitions that I have judged that have left me wondering what on earth were they thinking. Fortunately when I drink Mamma Mia! Pizza beer, Tom and Athena Seefurth’s intentions are immediately apparent. They hit the mark dead on.
Is pizza beer for everyone? Probably not. I enjoyed it though and I will happily buy it again the next time it’s released. Heck, I will probably buy at least a 6-pack the next time I see it. If you find it near you and are curious, it’s definitely worth trying. However, if the concept of a beer that tastes like pizza revolts you, do us all a favor and don’t try it. The last thing the world needs is another person complaining that a beer tastes like what it claims to.
That’s all for today! Check back next week for another review!