Taste Test: Pizza Beer

Due to popular demand and the fact
that we love trying weird foods and candies,
The A.V. Club will now
regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or
delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at

A recurring theme here at the A.V. Club Taste Test laboratories
seems to be "Things that are good on their own are rendered suspect once
combined and/or bottled." See: Jones' ham soda, A&W; and Sunkist Floats, and
bacon combined with pretty much anything. So it's understandable that we
regarded Mamma Mia Pizza Beer with a bit of apprehension. In spite of the
label's assertion that it's "So good it deserves a wine glass," prior
experience has shown us that two rights often make a wrong when it comes to
novelty food and drink.

Conceived by a family of homebrewers and bottled
and distributed by Milwaukee's Sprecher Brewing Co., Pizza Beer claims to be
the world's first culinary beer, ideal for meal pairings. While its flavors
(oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic) are all heavy hitters in the kitchen, they
aren't normally associated with beer, which tends to favor fruit or other sweet
additives, like honey or chocolate. The thing is, in order to properly discern
those flavors on the first sip, it takes a fairly well-trained tongue,
something none of us tasters really have. (Ours have been blunted by years of
cheap beer or flat-out beer avoidance.) Yet we managed to overlook our dubious
credentials and take on the arduous task of drinking alcohol in the afternoon at

Taste: In spite of showy displays of sniffing and
swirling, the overwhelming first reaction was along the lines of, "Huh, tastes
like beer." Further sipping and swishing gradually revealed subtle undertones
that can only be described as "vaguely Italian-y," and subsequent burps
affirmed that there was, indeed, pizza in this beer. It's a brown ale, which
means it's fairly mild-tasting, while not particularly crisp—this is a
beer demanding checkered tablecloths and candles stuck in Chianti bottles, not
summertime patio sipping. Most tasters agreed that, while they would probably
not seek out Pizza Beer as a pizza substitute, they could see drinking it with
a meal.

Office reactions:

— "It's like a pizza roll at the start, then
it turns into beer."

— "I got the exact opposite, beer first,
then pizza."

— "When you tilt it toward your face, you
can smell tomatoes, and it kinda makes you gag."

— "It's like drinking really watery pasta sauce."

— "No, it tastes more like beer."

— "I think you should note that no one is
reflexively gagging yet. Or spitting."

— "It's like drinking beer at a pizza place."

— "If I were drinking this with a pizza, I
probably wouldn't even notice the pizza taste in the beer."

— "I love all these ingredients, but not as

— "It's not nearly as bad as it sounds."

— "I think it would be easier to drink it
with pizza or a vaguely Italian-ish meal."

— "It does taste a little like fermented

— "It's not very crisp or strong. It doesn't
have the sharpness of really cheap beer."

— "Ugh, I don't like the smell."

— "The pizza flavor doesn't really hit you
until after—it's more just a beer-y taste."

— "I'd rather just have a beer-flavored

— "It really does taste like pizza in the way
pizza-flavored Combos taste like pizza... that artificial, everything-is-blended
way. I was expecting it to taste too much like oregano or garlic or something,
but it mostly just tastes like generic pizza flavor. Not great, but not bad."

Where to get it: So far, it looks like
Pizza Beer is only carried by a few specialty restaurants and larger beer/wine
vendors in the northern Illinois area. (We got ours at Binny's Beverage Depot
in Chicago.) Information about distribution can be found at