Chef Tom makes pizza with Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Chef Tom makes pizza with Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

“Beer so good it deserves a wine glass.”–Chef Tom from Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Tom Seefurth of St. Charles, Illinois, was a long-time hobby brewer who often experimented with eclectic flavorings such as curry and oatmeal-raisin. He gravitated toward what he calls “lawn-mower beer,” the kind of quick, cold kick you crave on a hot summer day after cutting the grass. But then, a garden overrun with tomatoes and herbs gave him an idea: a beer that paired with Italian food, especially pizza. The result is Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer, a light golden ale that is subtly reminiscent of your favorite trattoria.

Because the recipe includes many of the same spices found in Italian cuisine, pizza beer complements both red and white sauces, says Tom, who adopted the moniker, “Chef Tom.”

The brewmeister made the first batches in the same place he displays his extensive collection of beer cans and bar memorabilia: his garage. After winning a couple of regional brewing competitions, he and Athena–his wife and the “Mamma Mia” of the duo–went into business. They found a commercial brewer and hit the market. Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is now poured in restaurants and sold through retailers nationwide. It’s generating a lot of buzz, if you’ll excuse the pun. Jay Leno has joked about pizza beer on late-night, and the producers of the reality show for entrepreneurs, “Shark Tank,” have invited the Seefurths to compete for big-time funding. They’re also being featured by the Food Network Magazine this fall and on its new television show, “Crave.”

Pizza Beer is concocted with chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano thrown into the mash. Chef Tom also tosses in a whole Margherita pizza, sans cheese and oil “for good luck.” The mixture is boiled and filtered, seasoned with spices and hops, and filtered again and again to remove any residue. You won’t find any chunks or pieces, just a clear amber refreshment that sends you yearning for the Trevi Fountain. (Did I tell you that I’ll be visiting the Trevi Fountain in August? Just an aside.)

Chef Tom and Mamma Mia spend many a weekend doing tastings and demonstrations. They were asked so many times, “Where’s the pizza?”, that they complied. They created a line of food products, including pizza crust and bread mix plus gluten-free versions, under the label, “Pizza Beer Company.” They’re constantly developing new recipes that use pizza beer as an ingredient. How about chicken wraps or marinated tilapia?

Tom and Athena Seefurth, founders of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Tom and Athena Seefurth, founders of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Writing a Column

July 4, 2011

Celebrating my column and more on July 4

Celebrating my column and more on July 4

Writing a column, for me, is both privilege and challenge. It’s a journalistic assignment that positions the writer as an authority on a particular subject, builds an audience of readers, and earns a somewhat regular income.

In the magazine and newspaper arena, which is where I’ve keyboarded most of my career, there are several types of columns. Some dispense opinion; others give advice. Others are informational. Columns run daily, weekly, monthly or any other frequency, and usually in the same space on the page.

I’ve written several columns. My first effort was for the local newspaper when I was a senior at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg, Indiana. I wrote the Dragonland Review, which was a compendium of school goings-on. Our mascot was a dragon. Maybe it still is.

My first professional column was also one of my first freelance writing jobs. I’d been working as a fashion coordinator and stylist when I was tapped by a subsidiary of the Chicago Tribune to cover suburban fashion events. It’s customary to ask established reporters to do columns, but in my case, my background filled a need at the paper. From there, I graduated to general writing assignments. I’ve settled into lifestyle features, which includes homes, architecture, design, healthcare and education as well as fashion.

For the past decade I’ve written a column called “Community Living” for the Chicago Tribune. The goal is to give readers information that will make their condominium and homeowner associations more successful and harmonious. I’ve covered a broad range of topics such as new legislation, special assessments, smoking wars, bedbugs and how to have a pool party for 400 people. My column runs twice a month in the Chicago Homes section.

The biggest challenges are coming up with ideas and meeting deadlines. It doesn’t matter how many other projects are on my desk or where my social interests lie. Every two weeks without fail I turn in a column on a brand-new subject, complete with sources and references. The column doesn’t pay the highest of all my freelance jobs, but it’s the most prominent and recognized. I am honored the assignment is mine.

How do you get started as a columnist? Launch a blog. Come up with a subject you have a lot to say about, perhaps your life as an at-home mom or photography advice for neophytes or your hippie political views. Then write about it, and write some more. Just keep on writing.