Beer Geek

A perfect union? Pizza beer brings together two obsessions

Oct. 4, 2012 at 12:25 PM ET

Jim Galligan /
If only doughnuts were also involved, this brew would be Homer Simpson's dream come true.

I was ready to dismiss Mamma Mia Pizza Beer as nothing more than a funny little novelty brew before I even took a sip. From its name, to its Italian-flag-colored label featuring two chefs wearing puffy hats, this beer screamed out with Italian restaurant stereotypes. Bada bing, bada boom! 

But I held out a glimmer of hope for this odd duck, because, as millions of Americans can attest, the tomatoes and herbs that go into a margherita pizza taste pretty good when paired with a nice ale. This beer is simply cutting to the chase.

On top of it being National Pizza Month, the brew just rolled out in New Jersey and now it’s on its way to being sold internationally.  The perfect time to give it a try!

With as much of an open mind as I could muster, I poured Mamma Mia Pizza Beer into my favorite tulip glass (the neck of the bottle says it’s “beer so good it deserves a wine glass”), and was presented with a cloudy amber brew topped with a fingerful or two of white foam.  We were off to a good start — it looked like an honest-to-goodness craft beer.

Story: Interview with Mamma Mia creator Tom Seefurth

It smelled, unsurprisingly, like a gentle ale mixed with a pizza. Aromas of light, sweet malts mixed with earthy tones of tomatoes and distinct notes of basil and oregano. My mouth started to water a bit as my inner Homer Simpson began to shudder.  Mmm ... pizza ... beer ... pizza AND beer ...

The first sip greeted my palate with a hint of sweet malts, followed by the rich warmth of the tomatoes and herbal notes of the pizza spices. The finish turned sweet once more, with a gentle hop bitterness on the back end that quickly faded away, leaving me ready for another sip.

My inner beer snob was eager to knock this novelty brew, but instead I found myself impressed by how “foodie” this beer was. How much fun would it be to pair this brew with pizza (duh), and weirder things, like the wonderful eggplant, feta and bulgur wheat dish my wife makes. I went from gimmick-weary to inspired foodie in a single sip.

That’s the whole point, according to Tom Seefurth, the beer’s co-creator. “This is not a ‘pizza-flavored’ beer,” he told TODAY.com. “It is a beer designed for pairing and to be used as an ingredient, something no one else has done — therefore, we declared our beer ‘culinary beer.’” 

To drive the point home, Seefurth and his wife Athena have created a whole host of food products — from pizza-crust mixes to hamburger seasonings — all designed to be made using Mama Mia Pizza Beer. “We hope home cooks and professional chefs will enjoy our creation as much as we have,” Seefurth said.

Mamma Mia Pizza Beer was born on a rainy Labor Day weekend in 2006, when Seefurth and his brewing partner Warren Siepman cooked up a batch on their homebrew rig. “It smelled so good, like a pizzeria, when we brewed it,” Seefurth said, but his expectations were low. “We figured the only thing it would be good for is beer brats, beer bread and as a basic marinade.” 

As it turned out, it was tasty enough to win a few homebrewing ribbons, and things snowballed from there. First a hobby beer, Mamma Mia was then brewed at Walter Payton’s Roundhouse, an award-winning brewpub in Aurora, Ill. As opportunities grew, so did the need for a larger brewing facility.

After a couple of false starts, the beer is now brewed at Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewing Co., but it took some tweaking to get the kinks worked out. “The first batch really clogged the system when they tried to drain the beer into the fermenter,” Seefurth said. “Future brews would have to be spent finely chopping and smashing garlic by hand. It takes two people about four hours for one 40-barrel batch.”

You can find Mamma Mia Pizza Beer in Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California and around the Madison and Milwaukee areas in Wisconsin. The beer will also be available in Hong Kong very soon, and Seefurth is working to find distribution partners in Indiana and Florida. You can also find the beer for sale on the delightfully cheesy Mamma Mia Pizza Beer website.

Mama Mia Pizza Beer might be a novelty, but it’s also the kind of beer that can get your wheels turning, whether you’re a homebrewer seeking inspiration, a beer geek in search of a wonderfully weird beer or a foodie who’s always on the hunt for an interesting new marinade ingredient. 

Here’s hoping they’re working on a Lasagna Lager. 

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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