Beer and pizza: Those two words go together as swimmingly as peanut butter and jelly. And why wouldn’t they? Hot, crunchy crust, tangy tomato, salty cheese…that combination on its own is enough to induce sweaty palms of anticipation the minute a pie enters the room. Add on a cold glass of brew to wash it down and and you’ve got the makings of a meal that just can’t go wrong.
You could list a hundred reasons why beer and pizza are a match made in heaven. From a flavor profile, the differing yet balanced levels of malts, yeasts, and hops in most beers work harmoniously with a malty crust and rich variety of flavors and aromas that come with each bite. The fact that there are virtually endless ways of topping pizza means that different beers can complement or elevate certain flavors profiles in your slice. There’s also the shared emotional aspect of this pairing: pizza, like beer, can be fancy or casual. It’s the perfect choice to kick back and enjoy during a long session with friends. For any description you can find to describe pizza, you could replace with the word “beer” and it still makes sense. Beer is the ying to pizza’s yang.
As perfect as beer and pizza are on their own, if you were to add one more element to turn this dynamic duo into a trifecta it would most certainly be football. And as the weather cools down and football season kicks off, many Americans will find themselves consuming an inordinate amount of beer and pizza each Sunday. It then begs the question: what to drink? Sure, while your typical mass-produced American-style lager will do, the growing popularity of craft beer and availability of different styles has changed the landscape dramatically. This means that there’s a better-than-average chance that when you get to your friend’s Sunday Funday football party and pop open the cooler, you might find a widely distributed IPA, a smoked Polish wheat from the neighborhood microbrewery, and a jalapeño saison someone home-brewed the month before. So which one do you pick that will satisfy your taste buds and complement your pizza? Or what if you’re not at that party but want to expand your beer horizons while screaming at the refs from the comfort of your own couch? How do you stare down the long aisles of craft brew in your local liquor store and trust that you’re not going to make an epic mistake?
Lucky for you, I’ve got your guide to pairing beer and pizza for football Sunday. While everyone’s tastes are individual, you generally can’t go wrong with the below suggestions. So kick back, call your local delivery guy (or make one from scratch with the following recipes), and pop open one of these brews that will be sure to make your taste buds sing…even as you’re grumbling at your quarterback for getting sacked.
Cheese is easy, you could say. It’s like the blank slate of pizza. You can go light or pile it on heavy, such as in this recipe for extra cheese. You might argue that it’s what lagers are made for, and you wouldn’t be wrong. There are so many options that could work, but the trick is to make sure you’re not overpowering the pizza nor allowing the beer to get lost in the salty-sweet-acidic combo of tomato sauce and cheese. A perfect choice is a blonde ale: similar to a lager, it’s a mellow style that holds up to the pizza nicely by balancing out the sugar and fat. It won’t lose its flavor or zing with a mouthful of sauce and cheese. Blonde a bit too boring for you? Go for a brown ale. The nuttiness of the brown complements the salt of the cheese and the toasted flavor of the crust. Get the recipe.
Suggested pairing: Ballast Point Bonito Blonde Ale
Suggested backup: Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool Brown Ale
Ah, the pizza for those of us who want to convince ourselves that we’re (kinda) eating healthy. What to drink with a vegetarian pizza really does depend on what veggies you’ve piled on: for example, bell peppers add sweetness but olives will give it a good dose of salt. One of my favorites is a pepper, onion, and mushroom pizza. You get a light balance of sweet, earthy, and spicy crunch in every mouthful. For this particular veggie, go for a bright German lager. The lager is a bit heartier than a blonde so it holds up well with the meaty mushrooms, while the beer’s bitterness gets balanced out by the sweet peppers and the bite from the onions. You can enjoy both bitter and sweet without losing the delicate flavor of the veg. However, going for some more robust veggies like jalapeños or olives? An IPA generally won’t fail. Get the recipe.
Suggested pairing: Ballast Point Longfin Lager
Suggested backup: Bell’s Two Hearted IPA
If you’re in the mood for some spice and grease, pepperoni is your pal. And nothing is a better pal of spice than a good hop-forward IPA. The pepperoni brings out the hops without drowning them; conversely, the hoppiness of the IPA elevates the pepperoni’s spice, cuts through the grease and salt, and still maintains its flavor at the end. Go for a big one. Not a fan of super hoppy beers? Try an APA. It still has a nice hop flavor profile but it’s more subdued. The meat will subdue the beer a little further, drawing out the remaining malts in both the crust and the beer. Get the recipe.
Suggested pairing: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Suggested backup: Revolution Brewing Fist City Pale Ale
If you prefer your meats sweet over spicy, you’re probably a sausage person, though there are many spicy sausage pizzas out there. Earthy mushrooms balance out this particular pie. It’s easy to choose a big IPA for a pizza like this, and it wouldn’t be a bad choice. However, I would recommend going a different direction with a robust porter. Yes, porters are big but in this case they hold up. A good porter has a touch of smoke that holds its body through each bite, making it a great balance between the sausage and the mushroom. Porter too big? Flip to the other end of the spectrum and give a wheat beer a try. The sausage helps the wheat gain body that surprisingly shines through even after the sausage flavor dissipates. Get the recipe.
Suggested pairing: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Suggested backup: Deschutes American Wheat Ale
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to try your hand at homemade pizzas with personalized toppings, start here with the Perfect pizza dough recipe. No matter what you put on top, you’ll never have a satisfying pizza if your crust isn’t just right. This recipe is not only easy, but fast, so you’ll be chowing down in no time.
Related Video: American Pizzas That Aren’t from New York or Chicago
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