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Pairing beer and wine with pizza

Ms. Beer Geek and Mr. Oeno Files battle it out over which beverage is pizza's proper partner. Plus, the perfect beers and wines for your pie.


Dear Mr. Oeno Files, While eating what must have been my 11th pizza in as many days last week in preparation for this issue, it occurred to me that your pizza task was probably even more trying, mainly because I’m assuming that you’re washing down your pies with wine. Just the thought of drinking anything puckery and room temperature with piping-hot, doughy, yeasty pizza makes my mouth dry. In fact, it makes me want a beer even as I type this. You see, beer and pizza just go together. Since the beginning of time, man has enjoyed the combo, whether it’s a pricey pilsner and a fancy Neapolitan pizza or Coors Light and Domino’s (which, sorry Dad, I wouldn’t really recommend). Try it. You’ll like it. Cheers, Ms. Beer Geek

Ms. Beer Geek, I appreciate that you were thinking of me, but really, don’t worry—the thought of drinking wine with pizza may appall you, but there’s a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. They’re called Italians. You may recall that pizza has its origins in Italy, a place where the most common weed is a grape vine, a place where you can get fired for not drinking enough wine on your lunch hour. When they sit down to eat pizza in Italy, just what exactly do you think they’re drinking over there? Peroni? Oh, no, Beer Geek. I don’t think so. And patriotic as I am, I can’t help but follow their lead. Cheers indeed, Mr. Oeno Files

Hey wine snob, You’re taking a cue from the country that brought us pinkie rings, the Jacuzzi and exposed chest hair? Have you ever tried an IPA with a Margherita pizza? It’s perfect, especially if you get a hoppy American IPA with good bitterness to cut through the creamy mozzarella. There’s even just enough malty caramel to counter the acidic tomato sauce. Plus, what do you really have, maybe three or four red varietals that would work with pizza? With beer, the pairing possibilities are endless. Pilsners are perfect with veggie-packed pies, Belgian dubbels add nutty sweetness to sausage, a smoked schlenkerla beer brings out the smokiness in a pizza made in a wood-burning oven…the list goes on. Love, Beer. Miss Geek, if you’re nasty.

Listen honey, I’ve tried beer with pizza, thankyouverymuch, and guess what? One serving of yeast is all I can handle before I get so bloated I explode. Wine, on the other hand, is much more lithe, allowing for maximum pizza intake. As for your argument that only a few bottles will pair well with pizza: It’s actually quite the opposite—you’d be hard-pressed to find a wine that doesn’t pair well with at least one slice. Introduce a peppery zinfandel to a pepperoni pie and you’ll have some culinary lovemaking going on. Grab a bottle of sangiovese for that deep dish and the acidity of the wine will cut right through all that rich cheese. Hell, if you’re going to put caramelized onions on your pie, you could match that sweetness with an off-dry riesling. And after the pizza and the wine are both gone and you can’t fit another bite into your stomach, here comes some sweet, bubbly Brachetto to save the day with some liquid dessert. Is there any brew on earth that can do that? Consider my case rested, the Oenizzlefizzle

RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best pizza in Chicago

Ms. Beer Geek’s top 5 beers with pizza

1Two Brothers Heavy-Handed IPA
Among beer geeks, IPA is the preferred choice for pairing with pizza. But not some old-school British-made India Pale Ale; go with a hoppy American IPA like this one instead. These Illinois boys make this annual release with fresh hops instead of dried, so you’ll get a clean, grassy, herbal brightness to it that’s perfect for washing down yeasty slices of pizza.

2Victory Prima Pils
I’d especially recommend this American Pilsner to fans of veggie-packed pizzas. It’s crisp and light to medium-bodied, but doesn’t have quite the hoppy bitterness of an IPA, so it won’t turn your spinach, broccoli or red peppers into sour bites.

3St. Bernardus Prior 8
Belgian (or even Belgian-style) dubbels are perfect with sausage pizzas. The greasiness of the sausage gets countered by the Belgians’ signature carbonation, while the beer’s malty, smooth creaminess is a foil for the pork’s spiciness. The touch of sweet citrus in the beer plays nicely with the sausage’s fennel. Basically, these two are a match made in heaven. For the same reasons, you could also go with Chimay or Goose Island’s Pere Jacques and be nearly as happy.

4Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen
Some people prefer wheat beers with their pizza, but I think it’s too yeasty. Yet this German wheat packs just enough carbonation and smoke that it’s an delicious pair with pizza made in a wood-burning oven. The char of the pizza crust should match up nicely with the smoked malt flavor of the beer (rauchbier is German for smoke beer).

5Three Floyds Alpha King
This American pale ale is the safe-bet pick—it’s for pizza-eaters who don’t really want anything to compete with their slice but still want something tasty to wash it down their pie. These Indiana brewers excel at making solid examples of over-produced styles while managing to be distinct enough to be memorable. Easy-drinkin’ and balanced are all you need to know.

Mr. Oeno Files top 5 wines with pizza

1Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
They say you should pair foods with wines from the same place, and this bottle proves it: The ripe berry flavors, bright acidity and tannic structure hits every pizza flavor note for note. Plus, it’s so delicious that you’ll linger over a glass long after the pizza is gone.

22004 Tamarack Cellars Merlot
Pizza is kind of the merlot of the wine world: Underappreciated, relegated to the “lower class” rungs of the food chain (wow, check out that mixed metaphor, will ya?). But, secretly, every food snob has a soft spot for pizza, and every oenophile has a love for merlot. Good merlot, that is. Merlot like this fruity—but not soft—beauty from Washington.

3Selbach Riesling Kabinett (Fish Label)
You’ve probably been drawn to this bottle in the wine store before—its neat little hand-drawn fish label is like a magnet for even the most amateur aesthete. So what are you waiting for? Pick it up already and drink it with a white pie (that is, one with no tomatoes). It’s particularly good for pizzas with a little béchamel (the acid complements the cream by bulldozing through it) or with caramelized onions (sweet likes sweet). In other words, it’s the perfect wine for the Flammkuchen at Crust.

42003 A. Mano Primitivo
Zinfandel is always a good pizza wine, especially when there’s pork, like salami or pepperoni, involved. But since pizza is, at its core, an Italian thing, try going for the Italian version of zinfandel, primitivo, instead. It’s got all the same spicy, rustic flavors of a zin; it’s simply a lot more impressive to order.

5Rumball Sparkling Shiraz
I suspect I’ll get a bit of hate mail for this, but the only shiraz I think is worth drinking is a sparkling one—it’s the only way I can stomach all those sweet, jammy flavors. (I know, I know, there’s Grange and other sophisticated shiraz’s like it—but I can’t afford Grange, and neither can you, so let’s end this argument right now, shall we?) The truth is you could pick any sparkling wine to drink with your wine. But a shiraz is going to be the most satisfying. It’s bigger and a bit brawnier than the rest—which is exactly what you’re going to be once you wolf down the rest of that pie.

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