How to pick the perfect beer to pair with your pizza

Is there a better combination than pizza and beer? The answer is an unequivocal “no.”

Here’s my scientific and sensory explanation for why these two are the perfect pairing. Pizza’s crust, cheese and sauce components each offer something special to connect to the fermentation, textures and flavors of beer, mingling to create magical mouthfuls that, as Mary Poppins would say, are practically perfect in every way.

Both pizza and beer are products of fermentation and are both made with grains. Yeast makes the dough rise by eating up the wort — a mixture of water and malted grains, like barley or wheat — to create alcohol, carbonation and beer’s complex flavors.

Pizza needs cheese — and cheese also pairs remarkably well with beer. While many argue that it’s wine and cheese that pair best together, many sommeliers I know will admit that the best a wine can do is not get in the way. Beer with cheese, however, is magical. The bitterness and crispness in beer easily cut through the fattiness and creaminess of cheese. And beer’s carbonation, along with its acidity, cleanses one’s palate with scrubbing bubbles, getting you ready for the next slice.

Then there’s the sauce: While no two pizza sauces are exactly alike, the basic sauce is tomato based, similar to marinara, but thicker with herbs, such as oregano, basil and thyme, black pepper, garlic, onions and even sugar.

Figuring out how that complex mélange of flavors works with the often equally complex flavors of your beer is the key. If either sticks out too much, try another beer. Generally, it’s the toppings you want to pay the closest attention to when choosing your beer, since almost any beer works well with the core pizza components: crust, cheese and sauce.

As with anything related to taste, personal preference is most important, but here are a few tried and true pairings to get you started.

Cheese pizza: A basic pizza should be paired with a basic pilsner or similar lager. One with crisp, clean flavors would be perfect. A black lager or schwarzbier would also be pretty tasty.

Margherita pizza: A refreshing, lighter style like helles, a saison or a witbier would be ideal, because you want a beer that won’t overpower the more delicate flavors of this pizza. A more delicate pale ale or Czech pilsner would be great, too.

Pepperoni pizza: A big IPA is the obvious choice. I’d recommend a West Coast IPA, whose spiciness and bitterness should stand up to the pepperoni quite nicely. Other beers that would work are a classic American-style pale ale, like Sierra Nevada, or a hoppy pilsner.

Meat lover’s pizza: Just as you paired that pepperoni, you’ll want something big or spicy that can stand up to the big meat flavors. A West Coast IPA, a Belgian-style tripel, bock or even a barleywine could do the trick. But a refreshing black lager or schwarzbier could be sublime, too.

Mushroom pizza: Brown ale, porter, or stout — something dark and malty to complement the umami in the mushrooms is what you want. A black IPA, rauchbier or smoked beer could also work, if the mushroom flavors are strong enough.

Veggie pizza: Blonde ale, Märzen, Vienna lager, pilsner or a spicy saison would all bring out the multitude of flavors on a pizza topped with vegetables. Something well-carbonated, like a Kolsch or witbier, would also work well.

Hawaiian pizza: Yes, I know that’s a controversial pie, but if you are having one, a hazy or juicy IPA with lots of tropical flavors should match the pineapple nicely. Your old reliable pilsner would work, too. If you like your beer sour, one of Anderson Valley’s fruited Goses might do the trick, too.

The best thing about pairing beer with pizza is that there are no wrong answers. No matter how you slice it, pizza just tastes better with beer.

Contact Jay R. Brooks at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Joan Baez said she wanted a ‘warts and all’ film about her life. She got one
Next post How to pick the perfect beer to pair with your pizza