Stoked Pizza is not a brewery. Nor is it a flat-out bar. But the Brookline restaurant has the bar program — and most importantly, the beer list — to be your next drinking refuge. It also has cheeseburger pizza.
In a time when the Boston area runneth over with quality pizza and beer, local breweries have jumped at the chance to pair their suds with a good slice. It should come as no surprise, then, that there’s also movement on the flip side. As the average drinker becomes more critical of what’s in his or her glass, more pizzerias are bulking up their beer lists to provide local, rare, and peculiar beverage pairings.
Stoked co-founders Scott Riebling and Toirm Miller found their chance to construct such a bar program when they set down roots in Washington Square in April 2016. Now that their meatball ricotta and Buffalo Brussels sprout pizzas had graduated from food truck to full-service dining, they needed the appropriate beverages to boot. The two consulted Gabe Bellegard Bastos to help construct a bar program from the ground up. (Miller now runs the beer program, while Bastos has joined Bar Mezzana in the South End.)
That drink menu also includes a slew of cocktails, a few wines, and a selection of boozy milkshakes, but Miller says beer now accounts for around 75 percent of Stoked’s beverage program. After noticing how prominent craft beer had become in the pizza industry, Miller even shelved the draft cocktail program his restaurant had originally instated to free up more taps for beer.
Instead of offering a draft list the size of a book, Stoked sticks to eight rotating taps. Six of those taps highlight everything from local go-tos like Idle Hands in Malden to sought-after pours from breweries like Barreled Souls in Maine, keeping style variation and menu pairings in mind. Other featured breweries include everything from Deciduous in New Hampshire to Aslin Beer Company in Virginia. Stoked partners with Craft Collective to acquire its stock of suds.
As for those other two taps, two beers remain on tap at at all times at Stoked: Fiddlehead Brewing Company’s flagship IPA and Night Shift’s Whirlpool pale ale.
“Traditionally, when people think of food being paired with a beverage, it’s wine,” Miller says. “But there are so many different beers out there, with so many different flavor profiles, that more often people are looking for beer and pizza suggestions.”
“We really try to keep it hyperlocal; small producers, small allocations,” Miller says. “We only have room for sixtel [kegs in our basement], so the beer is always super fresh.”
The bottle and can list is pretty decked out too, featuring aged bottles of Orval and a hefty line of lagers. One option stands out, though — a plump, seven-ounce Miller High Life bottle for $3. It’s a black sheep amidst a sea of local craft beer, but Miller believes it has its place, especially as a pairing to some of the lighter pizzas. The beer is even served with its own tulip glass.
“That’s my go-to after a hot night, working a long shift,” he laughed. “I like to pound back a couple of those.”
Now that Stoked is permanently nestled in Brookline, the beer-plus-pizza possibilities really open up. A few slices of honey bacon bianca can suddenly become buddies with a stiff and bitter IPA, while a more classic pepperoni can cruise steady with a light lager. Craft beer and pizza are in the midst of their own renaissances, and there’s never been a better time to stuff your face with both.
“It’s just tried and true, beer and pizza,” Miller says.
Stoked’s beer program offers a snapshot at how local pizzerias are upping their beer game, but it isn’t the only spot doing so. Area Four, with locations in Cambridge and the South End, has made sure double dry-hopped goodies from Mystic Brewery and Magnify Brewing have remained on draft, while Brewer’s Fork in Charlestown has an impressive array of draft beers primed for your next pork and applesauce pie.
This story is part of Beer & Mortar, a series in which Eater Boston contributor Alex Wilking explores the beer scene in Boston and beyond. Stay tuned for new installments twice a month, featuring a mix of old classics and brand new additions.