Beer & Pizza Pairing at Pizza:90 in Riverside [Dedicated]
Written By: Sid Robinson
Photographed By: Alazzia Gaoay
Pizza and beer have gone together for just about as long as there has been pizza. In fact, there may not be a better food to pair with beer. The two are natural mates and are practically inseparable.
The concept of pairing craft beer with gourmet pizza is still somewhat new. With more than 140 different beer styles currently documented by the Brewers Association, and the virtually endless combination of pizza sauces, toppings and cheeses, finding the right harmony of pizza and beer isn’t always easy.
So where else would you go to find gourmet pizza and craft beer than a shopping mall? Okay, perhaps that’s not the obvious choice, but Pizza:90 at the Galleria at Tyler mall in Riverside is changing the way people pick the beer they drink with their pizza.
“We’re just now starting to get more into doing beer and pizza pairings, but our pairing combinations are virtually endless, with our toppings and our beers always changing,” says Josh Roa St. Pierre, manager of Pizza:90 Riverside.
“We really don’t have too many dedicated craft beer people coming here yet,” he says, noting that Pizza:90 is the only business at the Galleria at Tyler that serves alcohol. “The most common thing that people order is Bud Light. We don’t have that, but we’ll suggest a craft beer, and they’ll come out loving it.”
Pizza:90’s convenient location just inside the Tyler Street entrance, along with its unique approach to creating authentic gourmet Neapolitan pizzas and its constantly changing tap list, make it the ideal pizza restaurant to introduce people to craft brews.
Along with its sister location in Irvine, and two soon-to-open stores in Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood, Pizza:90 is based on the simplicity of authentic Italian cooking, making their pizzas as they do in Naples. Pizza:90 utilizes Italian wood-burning ovens to cook the pies at 900 degrees in just 90 seconds. The crusts and sauces follow traditional Italian recipes, and cheeses and toppings are the finest and freshest ingredients available
As wine lovers know, the right beverage choice can evoke delightful new flavors from food, just as food can enhance the drink. Perhaps more importantly, one flavor shouldn’t dominate or diminish the other. It’s no different when matching beer with food. It should complement, contrast or cut the food to maximize the eating and drinking experience.
St. Pierre says that while Pizza:90 doesn’t offer the big “corporate” beers, the craft brews that fill the menu are not overly hoppy or bitter, either. He selected four different styles to sample with the four pizzas he showcased for us—all using different base sauces.
The Margherita Pizza is probably the most authentic Italian pizza on the menu, St. Pierre says. It’s also very simple, and he paired it with the Hangar 24 Betty IPA, which is a very drinkable beer that won’t scare away people who typically don’t like IPAs. “It’s more of an ‘intro to IPA’ beer,” he says.
The flavors of the pizza stand true opposite the beer’s floral aromas of tropical fruit and citrus, making for a nice meal. The flavors don’t interfere with each other and come through nicely.
The Pesto Geno pizza starts with a basil pesto base and is topped with mozzarella, thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma (a cured Italian ham), shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and a balsamic glaze. The balsamic glaze helps to mellow the pesto sauce and blends pleasantly with the lightness of Eel River’s Organic California Blonde Ale, a light and crisp blonde ale. By itself, the beer is very sessionable (easy drinking), and the pizza brings out more of the beer’s fruitiness. The combination is quite refreshing and perfect for a summer day.
The newest addition to the Pizza:90 lineup is a Barbecue Chicken Pizza, which is more American than Italian. Its barbecue sauce base is topped with mozzarella cheese and smoked mozzarella cheese, chicken, pecorino (hard Italian cheeses made from ewe's milk), red onion, caramelized onion, topped with parmesan and parsley, giving it a sweet, smoky flavor.
St. Pierre matched this variety with Stone Brewing’s Pataskala Red IPA, an unassuming India Pale Ale that exudes qualities of both a red ale and an IPA. While the hoppiness is obvious, it is not overwhelming; its citrus flavors and honeyed toffee notes complement the sweetness of the pizza’s caramelized onions, barbecue sauce and smoky flavors. There are a lot of flavors going on in this combination, all working in concert to make for a delicious pairing.
The final match pulled together two of the restaurant’s bigger offerings. The Spicy Pepperoni Pizza has a peppery San Marzano base, topped with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and hot Calabrian chilies.
“They’re hot like Italian chilies, and they’re a lot hotter than jalapenos,” says St. Pierre. “This is one of the spiciest pizzas we have.”
Mammoth Brewing's Double Nut Brown is the darkest on the Pizza:90 menu, although far from the bigness of other stouts or porters. It is the perfect beer for this pizza. The beer’s rich roastiness and smooth coffee notes help to counter the pizza’s lively hot taste—almost the way milk helps to put out the fire of a hot pepper.
This is a pizza where other beer pairings would come into debate. An IPA would definitely create a contrast, but I suspect the conflicting flavors would not stand up as well as the brown ale, which is ideal opposite the spicy pie.
St. Pierre also recommends pairing the Mammoth Double Nut Brown with Pizza:90’s meat-heavy Carnivora pizza, and he says the Spicy Pepperoni pizza would pair with the mellow blonde ale. However, I’m not convinced the blonde is flavorful enough to maintain its subtle fruitiness against the hot pizza.
Of course, the only way to find out for sure is to experiment for yourself.
Pizza:90, Galleria at Tyler, 1298 Tyler St., Riverside, CA. For more information, please visit this website.
Full Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Pizza:90 in Riverside, however any opinions expressed are 100% our own.