Ask a Cicerone: The Best Beer to Drink With Pizza

Expert tips on pairing pizza and beer. . Shutterstock

Pizza makes us happy, and beer makes us happy, and the two together make us really, really happy. But in case you have a few choices in the fridge (or you're ordering on a menu or stocking up at a bottle shop), some beers are a better match for your favorite slice than others. We asked our beer pros for their tips on the ideal pairing for pizza, from a classic Margherita to the guilty pleasure of pizza Hawaiian-style.

Here's their advice.

Classic Margherita

Erin Jackson

"You'll want low bitterness and malt flavors when pairing a beer with a Margharita pizza so as not to overpower the fresh flavors of the pizza. I think either a saison (such as Saison Dupont) or awitbier such as Allagash White would be great choice." —Tyler Morton (Taste of Tops)

"A classic Margherita pizza should be delicate, nuanced, and light so you want a beer with similar qualities like a refreshing Czech style pilsner. I'm a sucker for Lagunitas Pils, which is a wonderful example of this style, and the grassy hop flavors and aroma are delicious with pizza spices like basil and oregano."—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)

"Could there be any better pairing in the nation besides beer and pizza? Take the classic Margherita with its fresh basil, sweet tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella. A very simple slice with tons of flavor calls for something that is simple to find yet full of flavor also. I say, Anchor Steam Beer. The tomatoes match so well with the malt flavors, while the classic Northern Brewer hops will match the earthiness of the basil leaf, and at the same time pairing the slightly lager-like characteristics with fresh mozzarella."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)

"There are good reasons why crisp hoppy beers are classic to pair with pizzas. That thick cheese, rich tomato sauce, grease, and bread is an beautiful assault on the senses that really coats the mouth. The cure is a bitter and carbonated beverage to cleanse your palette! A classic Margherita at a nice place should be subtle and herbaceous, so an herbal British Pale Ale or piney American Pale Ale is perfect."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)

"For a simple pie like Margherita, I choose a simple beer because matching intensities of the food and beer is typically good rule of thumb. A great American Pale Ale such as Tallgrass Brewing's 8-Bit brewed with Australian Galaxy hops would therefore be ideal. The toasty bready pizza crust will match the beer's maltiness while it helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. The wonderful herbal and tropical notes of the Galaxy hops will help make the sweet and herbal flavors of the fresh basil really pop. The light but flavorful beer won't drown out the delicate flavor of the fresh mozzarella, rather make it shine."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)

"If I'm at the local wood-fired pizzeria, waiting for a pizza Margherita, I'd like a less intensive beer and something that will match to the crispy, scorched crust. A sparkling pilsner works well with its dry finish and palate-cleansing effervescence, but my favorite is Solidarity by Eagle Rock Brewery in Los Angeles. Called a 'black mild', this dark beer is built around a complex malt profile with just a touch of smoke, and at under 4% alcohol it is eminently quaffable, slice after slice."—John Verive (Beer of Tomorrow, Beer Paper LA)

"When I think of a slice of Margherita, I'm mostly considering is the mozzarella and fresh basil, and I'm looking for a beer that would pull out the highlights of each ingredient. A Kolsch possesses the fruity aromatics to marry well with the sweetness of the cheese, and there is usually a dryness which allows for the herb to stand out a bit as well. Captain Lawrence produces a version made with American hops, and therefore asserts itself a little more with the bitterness which also helps to play up the acidity from the tomato sauce."—James Tai (Pinch)

Delivery Pie with Pepperoni

Robyn Lee

"Be sure to answer the door with a well hopped pilsner in your hand when the delivery guy shows up with your large pepperoni. Pilsner Urquell, Sam Adams Noble Pils, Avery Joe's, and Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils are some of my favorites. The bready maltiness of a proper pilsner will match that crust and help to balance the spices and acidity in the sauce. The salty, rich and oily flavors of the crispy pepperonis will be scrubbed away by plenty of carbonation and the quick snappy finish of the beer will leave you ready for another bite. The only problem with this pairing is you might very well eat the whole pie yourself."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)

"When pairing with a delivery pepperoni pizza it's more about the mood over substance and style for me so give me a six-pack of my favorite IPA (Ballast Point Sculpin, Bell's Two Hearted) and I'm a happy guy."—Tyler Morton (Taste of Tops)

"If I am eating delivery it is usually out of convenience so I would like a beer that is convenient too and not over thought. A personal favorite is Negra Modelo. If I am calling in an order or at the store buying a 'delivery style' I'm usually not in the mood to seek out a Sticke Altbier or something complex, I'm looking for ease. Negra Modelo can be found in almost any grocery or mini-mart and, as long as you keep the lime away, will be a great pair for a simple, greasy, delivery pepperoni. The sweetish malt flavors are wonderful with the toasty bread, and balance the tangy tomato sauce nicely, while leaving the light kiss of hops to accentuate the small spice of the pepperoni."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)

"For a dense delivery pie covered with greasy meat, go big with an American IPA (or even a Double IPA if you got pepperoni!). For a DIPA, I'll reach for a Drake's Denogginizer."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)

"For a delivery pizza with pepperoni you can't go wrong with a caramelly, nutty amber ale. One of my favorites is Bell's Amber—it stands up to the pizza without being so heavy that you need a nap."—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)

"When pepperoni is added, try a hoppier beer like Evolution Lot 3 IPA to cut through the delicious pepperoni grease."—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)

Sausage and Mushroom

Robyn Lee

"If you have sausage and mushroom toppings, try an earthier beer, like Schlafly Bière de Garde, to complement those flavors."—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)

"With sausage and mushrooms, I'd go with a Jenlain Ambrée biere de garde, this farmhouse brew features a unique earthy mustiness that pairs beautifully with mushrooms and it dry enough to act as a palate cleanser for greasy sausage."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)

"Pizza topped with sausages and mushrooms tends to emphasize earthy tones, with some dark terpines ('green' flavors) coming from the typical sage seasoning. I think Trois Monts—a nice Biere De Garde from the St. Sylvestre brewery—is able to speak the same language as the pizza, since it echoes the earthiness of the toppings in a sweet, toasty presentation while also providing assertive hop flavor atypical of the style to pull out the herbal notes from the sausage."—James Tai (Pinch)

Canadian Bacon and Pineapple

Adam Kuban

"For a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza I am going to recommend an Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock Rauchbier (smoked beer). The malty bock base will match well with the crust and the sweetness of the pineapple will be matched by the hefty maltiness of this great big lager. What will really make this pairing shine is that thick smoky Rauchbier flavor melding with the sweet Canadian bacon. This is an over the top pairing that is all about matching rather than contrasting flavors. You probably won't be able to eat the whole pie due to the intense smokiness. But what you do eat will be a little bit of heavenly brimstone."—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)

"Among the many things we are known for in the Aloha state is pineapple and pork. Some things that we are less known for are our beers. If you are able to find a beer from Hawaii that would pair well with your slice please try it! Hawaii Nui Hapa Brown Ale is a World Beer Cup silver medal winner and a great representation of brown ale. The toasted flavors of the bread and malt are a great complement to each other, while the smokiness of the Canadian bacon brings out an extra flavor in the beer that wasn't quite evident before, all while adding an almost chocolate covered pineapple finish that is sure to please."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)

Other Favorite Pizzas

Kelly Bone

"I personally love a pizza with prosciutto and arugula and it's incredible with a Belgian-style Wit like Allagash White. The citrus flavors and spices in the beer are fabulous with peppery arugula and the salty proscuitto."—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)

"Personally, I dig sausage, olives, onions, and peppers, which goes great with dank resinous IPAs. I had an excellent Half Moon Bay Tunnel Vision IPA recently, they're really raising their game."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)

"I love to switch it up with a BBQ chicken pizza with cheddar and jalapenos, and I want a hoppy amber / red IPA to pair with the smoky spicy sweet slice. The sweet malt backbone of the ale will match to the sweetness of the BBQ, balance the spicy jalapenos, and pick up the cheddar's nuttiness, while the big hoppy punch highlights the heat from the peppers and sauce and help cut the richness of the cheese (a higher ABV helps here too). Green Flash Brewing Hop Head Red is a great choice, but it's Smog City Brewing's Sabertooth Squirrel that's my favorite."John Verive (Beer of Tomorrow, Beer Paper LA)

"I really appreciate a white pizza topped with ham, and I tend to enjoy it with a brown ale like Ellie's Brown from Avery Brewing Company. There's a nice caramel/brown sugar sweetness that latches onto the topping, and the nuttiness of the beer is a nice complement that surprisingly I don't find overpowering the delicate ricotta freshness."—James Tai (Pinch)