Getty Images / Joao Manita
Food & Ingredients

The Fastest-Growing Pizza Ingredient Is Not What You Think

It can lend unexpected nuances to your dough formulation and make for a lighter and crispier crust.

The fastest-growing ingredient in pizza is not what you might expect. But it’s one that makes perfect sense.

After all, what goes better with pizza than beer?

According to research firm Technomic, the use of beer as a pizza ingredient is up by more than 93% compared to 2022. As Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) reports, we’re talking about adding beer to the pizza dough, topping the pie with beer cheese and cooking meat toppings like sausage and chicken in beer.

Related: Pizza Power Report 2024: Are we living in a golden age of pizza?

You don’t have to look too far to find pizzerias that add beer to their dough. “Our guests really enjoy it,” James Cassidy, culinary and purchasing director of RAM Restaurant Group in Lakewood, Washington, told NRN. That group operates the 13-unit RAM Restaurant & Brewery, known for adding its own Big Horn Hefeweizen brew to pizza dough instead of water, lending the crust a lemon-banana nuance. Additionally, RAM takes spent grain from its Big Red IPA beer, turns it into a paste and blends it into the crust. That approach “makes it unique and, at the same time, difficult to copy,” Cassidy said.

At Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, Michigan, founder Joe Short has been adding his Local’s Light Lager to pizzas since 2015. Meanwhile, at Stormcloud Brewing Company, located in Frankfort, Michigan, co-owner Rick Schmitt won’t reveal what type of beer he uses in his pizza dough, telling CraftBeer.com that it’s “a secret-sauce kind of thing.” But he said it’s “more a malt-based beer” that “does make a flavor and consistency difference” that customers notice.

Beer pizza dough recipes abound on the internet, including this one from Ooni. For that one, Nicola Jackson-Jones, owner of Two Cents Pizza in Ormskirk, England, adapted another beer-dough recipe, originally published by Dan Lepard in The Guardian in 2013, for blazing-hot wood-fired ovens. In place of Lepard’s 200 milliliters of warm water, 50 milliliters of olive oil and 175 milliliters of beer, Jackson-Jones simply added 330 milliliters of room-temperature beer or lager to her dough, which also has 400 grams of strong bread flour, 100 grams of plain all-purpose flour, 3.5 grams of instant dry yeast and 15 grams of sea salt.

Related: Pizza Power Report 2024: The 25 most popular pizzerias in America

Jackson-Jones notes that the dough’s rich flavor goes nicely with toppings like pepperoni, jalapeños and ‘nduja, although she recommends starting out with a Margherita pie. And, for the record, Jackson-Jones is no pizza-making slouch; in 2022, she received the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Industry (PAPA) Award as the UK’s Pizza Chef of the Year.

This photo shows a glass of foamy beer with a blurred-out pizza in the background.
Getty Images / Lauri Patterson

According to the Emily Baked blog, beer adds unique flavor and also changes the texture of pizza crust. “Firstly, the yeast in beer can help the dough rise and develop a more complex flavor,” she writes. “Secondly, the carbonation in beer can create air pockets in the dough, resulting in a lighter and crispier crust. Plus, using beer instead of water can add a subtle sweetness or bitterness to the dough, depending on the type of beer used.”

But who says you have to put limits on beer as a pizza ingredient? Dough is just one possibility. Customers of Home Run Inn were wowed last summer by the nine-store Chicago pizza chain’s Pizza Beer. And beer wasn’t used in the dough at all. “We infused our sauce with all-natural beer flavor,” Gina Bolger, Home Run Inn’s senior vice president of marketing, told NRN. “It literally tastes like pizza and beer. It’s just blending the two flavors in one bite.”