When I decided to start brewing beer, my big ambition was to turn the pizza nights I’d been hosting for my roommates into nights where pizza and beer were brought into blissful harmony. Pairing food with drink is commonplace for wine, and even common in the craft beer universe (though perhaps less well known). I’m pleased that tonight I was able to make this miniature dream into a reality.
The pizza recipe was reminiscent of my older cracker crusts but with significantly more hydration. For two pizzas I used 11 oz bread flour, 11 oz whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tsp yeast. I let the dough rise for 5 days in the fridge, and tonight I rolled it out very thin, docked it so that it wouldn’t rise in the oven, and proceeded with the toppings. I first brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled some salt over the dough. I then sprinkled on the shredded parmesan, shaved asparagus, and thin slices of shiitake. Then it was into the oven at 500 degrees F for a slow(er) bake on a pizza pan. I put the pizza pan onto the middle rack and had my tiles placed one rack up to re-radiate heat back onto the top of the pizza. While I had the stones in the oven during the pre-heat, I didn’t wait the usual hour for them to reach their maximum temperature.
Using this method, the pizzas came out exactly how I was hoping. The crust was crunchy and cracker-like the whole way through. The asparagus was charred and sweet, the shiitake provide the toothiness normally provided by mozz or meat, and the parmesan brought a salty counterpoint into the mix. Though this was a rich mix of flavors in itself, the sweet malt and clean, bitter finish of the ale was a terrific complement.
Tasting notes follow.
Appearance: Pours a bit hazy, golden orange. Thin head, quickly dissipates. Lacing is decent, but less than I expected with a pound of wheat.
Aroma: Bready, sweet malt nose which subsequently reveals a hint of hops.
Flavor: Sweet malt taste with a bit of citrus impression from carbonation and bitter hops. Very balanced, with nice bitter hops presence when drinking, but leaves mouth feeling clean with no bitter or syrupy aftertaste. More similar to the original than I would’ve suspected.
Mouthfeel: Full bodied, but not heavy or mouthcoating. As already stated, this beer definitely has a clean finish.
Conclusion: We all really liked it. Colleen noted that the appearance and aroma added to the drinking experience, whereas in the past she has mentioned that the smell of beer holds little appeal for her. Refreshing and palatable were adjectives that reappeared, but we were all more impressed with the complexities of the flavor in this beer compared to the brown ale.
EDIT: Nick’s opinion of the beer: “I thought the beer had the pride and ambition of the Noldor, but tempered by the gentleness and insight of the Vanyar.”
Update (6/5/2013): Saved some of this batch to see how it matured. Aroma is bready malt, but fairly faint. Extremely thin head, but good carbonation in the mouthfeel. Dry and clean, very balanced. The hop flavor itself is relatively muted, despite the pleasant bitterness. The beer pours a little more clear than it used too. I think by now the beer has unfortunately lost some of the punchier parts of this character and is past its prime, but it certainly remains pleasant and easy drinking.