They say if you want people to pay attention all you have to do is put up signs that say "free beer" or "free pizza". It seems the same holds true when you put pizza in your beer.
Walking around Chicago's supreme liquor warehouse, Binny's South Loop, I'd spotted a case off tri-color bottles labeled Mamma Mia Pizza Beer sporting the cheesy faces of a couple of floppy Chef Boyardee-style chef hatted folks dubbed Chef Tom and Chef Athena. Turns out Tom and Athena Seefurth are just as cheesy as their pictures suggest. A closer look confirmed this was an ale brewed with oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic. Intellectually, I wanted to wretch, but as a man who loves organ meat, I know you always find great eats in unexpected places.
Surely Chef Tom and Athena knew this, as the bottles were marketed as singles and not in multi-packs. For a $1.99, even if it tasted like Natural Light or Milwaukee's Best, my wallet wouldn't sweat it.
The whole thing was developed on Labor Day in 2006 when the Seefurths, who hail from Campton Township, IL, left with a surplus of tomatoes, a bag of garlic, and a spring garden full of herbs decided to create the perfect home brewed beer to pair with pizza. They actually bake a margarita pizza and throw it into the mash to steep, along with garlic, tomatoes, and spices. After perfecting the home-brewed batches, the Seefurths contracted Wisconsin root beer kings Sprecher Brewery to make the retail brews.
Despite my culinary intrepidness, I left the bottle in the back of my fridge for a month, slightly fearful of drinking the stuff. Then last week, as I made a margarita pizza on some leftover naan, I remembered the bottle.
It's a decent brown style ale, with only a hint of oregano and tomato. Like a good wine, it actually amplified the flavor of my homemade pizza. I don't know that I'd break the pizza beer out for the game, but with the occasional slice, it's actually pretty good.
The beer's currently only available in Illinois and Wisconsin, but the distribution is expanding pretty quickly, so look for it at a store near you or check out their website.