This week I’m going to tell you about a pizza beer, but before I do, remember that pizza beer?
Mamma Mia was an ale brewed with garlic, oregano, basil and tomato, the brainchild of Tom Seefurth, a Chicago-area real estate guy who threw a kitchen sink of herbs into a homebrew batch of saison. The beer ended up tasting like pizza spices, and he ran with that idea.
It debuted commercially at a brewpub in 2007, and a year later Seefurth commissioned Sprecher Brewery outside Milwaukee to kick out Mamma Mia in those squat 16-ounce bottles that Sprecher only uses for its sodas these days.
The beer persisted as a novelty quaff in pizzerias and bottle shops until 2013, when Sprecher needed the brewing capacity for its hard sodas and pulled the plug on Mamma Mia, according to a retrospective published by Punch in 2018. In that story, Seefurth says its fans are still encouraging him to revive Mamma Mia and he’s still looking for a brewing partner for it.
That’s interesting, because I remember it being as awful as the concept sounds. There’s a reason we don’t drink savory beverages very often, and this was not the perfect execution that this shaky concept needed. Untappd shows check-ins for this beer as recently as 2018, five years after its last batch. It was unpalatable when fresh; imagine it with at least five years of age on it!
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I am delighted to report that this week’s pizza beer is nothing like that pizza beer.
This is a tasty little pale ale brewed by Madison’s Delta Beer Lab in collaboration with Salvatore’s Tomato Pies. The beer was intended to coincide with the opening of Salvatore’s owner Patrick DePula’s Darkhorse (2.0), a visual/performance arts space in the former Star Bar on East Wash. While the beer is ready, Darkhorse 2.0 is not, so the show goes on.
You don’t need to be a beer-pairing genius to know that pizza and beer are like peanut butter and jelly, but from a culinary and tasting perspective, this perfection works on many levels. The beer’s carbonation cuts the rich fattiness of the cheese and scrubs away the saltiness. A little zing of the right hops can balance a sweet sauce or complement a spicy one. Crust and malt are brothers from another mother.
And a nice American pale ale has always been one of my favorites with a good ’za. So let’s take a look at this new pizza beer, which thankfully has zero garlic, oregano, basil or tomato on its own.
Pal.08 (Sal’s Pale Ale)
Style: American pale ale
Brewed by: Delta Beer Lab, 167 E. Badger Road
What it’s like: This one makes me think of the citrus brightness and nice malt backbone of Third Space Happy Place, but with a little more piney edge, a la Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Where, how much: For now Sal’s will only be available on draft at Delta and Savatore’s locations, though four-packs of cans ($12) will be available at Delta and may eventually hit many of its usual retailers. If you want to make your dollar work a little more for this socially responsible brewery, stop in for a pint; the $7.50 cost supports a living wage for all Delta employees and precludes a tip. Delta provided me with a growler of the beer for sampling ahead of its release.
Booze factor: Sal’s 4.6% ABV means you can down a couple of pints with your pizza without losing your bearings.
Up close: The beer pours a clear, handsome gold with an intense aroma of grapefruit, bitter orange pith and pine that’ll cut through all the smells in that Salvatore’s dining room. Approachable and light in body, the Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops really shine here without bringing too much bitterness — just a crisp little sizzle on the finish before you’re ready for your next bite of chewy crust.
Bottom line: 4 stars (out of 5)
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