Beer’s Great Companion: The Pretzel

Beer and pretzels.  Great combo, classic combo even. I think the dryness of the baked bread and the wetness of the, well, the drink, is what draws them together. This isn’t the podcast Gastropod or Savor though, I’m not going to delve into the history of beer and pretzels, but I can imagine a barkeep thinking he needed something that would soak up some of the beer his customers were consuming.

I’m not going to pretend pretzel necklaces at beer festivals are classy or anything, but I see the appeal. It’s a fun little thing to do, it’s a portable snack, it’s that bar bowl of pretzels but in mobile form. Here’s a picture of me doing just that at a beer festival in Philadelphia back in 2011. 

Ceetar with his Pretzel Necklace and a small beer

Another classic place you get pretzels is, of course, Oktoberfest. Again, I don’t really know the history of this but I do have the suspicious that giant over-sized pretzels ‘Bavarian’ style are a somewhat new occurrence. These are typically a soft pretzel, very doughy, and very delicious. The pretzel has often risen during baking so much it’s actually split the outer shell, much like a well cooked bratwurst might. To continue the trend, here’s a picture of me at Oktoberfest 2012 with a giant pretzel and a liter of amazingly delicious beer. 

Ceetar with half a giant pretzel and a beer at Oktoberfest

And because a few months later I was still basking in the glory of that trip, here’s a piece of the Gingerbread House I made as an ode to the trip.

Gingerbread House of Oktoberfest beer vendor

Snyder’s makes an Oktoberfest style box of pretzels around this time of the year that you can find in stores. It’s nothing like a soft pretzel, though the description does say they let it rise longer to get that airiness. They’re very good pretzels, though they’re crunchy and hard. They’re airy on the inside and flake into pieces when you bite into them. I get a box every year.

 

Here’s a new product I stumbled upon recently. Typically you think of the malt part of beer going well with pretzels. The sweeter, breadier part of the beer right? These guys from Unique are made with malted barley AND hops. That’s cool! That means it’s got grain, yeast, hops and water in the process…which means that these pretzels ARE beer? Blowing my mind right here. sourdough pretzel ring

They’re sourdough so they already lend a little different mouthfeel and a little bit of tanginess that’s different from other pretzels. The hops are surprisingly apparent though. I find often these ‘craft beer ITEM’ purchases are very meh, especially when they’ve got such a gimmicky name. The french fries? Couldn’t tell. These pretzels have a slight hop bite to them though, that taste of the beer foam of an IPA, that slight grassy bitterness that hops give. It took a little getting used to, but once my taste buds adjusted I did really enjoy these.

Pretzels taste good! Who knew?

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Two Beers, One Lunch: De-Stressing

Sometimes you just need a burger and a beer. This would probably be my go-to for “chill out” food, when I just want to kick back and enjoy my meal, in this case lunch. I’d been dealing with some frustrations at work, and I just wanted to relax for an hour and put something tasty in my mouth. 

Best place for this by me right now is the Dog & Cask on Rochelle Park, NJ. I’ve talked about it before in this series, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again. 

This time, to add to my frustrations, they had a few taps that had already been kicked, including my first two choices. I decided to finally try a house beer. Since Dog & Cask opened they’ve become a brewpub in a sense, having some beers that have been brewed by them. This always seems like a nice touch for a restaurant. On theme, the beer was called Pavlov’s Bell and it was a Double New England IPA.

photo by Ceetar
Mouthwatering isn’t it? Makes you salivate?

It was good. Nothing to wow me, but I enjoyed drinking it and even more so that it was local to the restaurant. It had a little of that grassy hop burn that a lot of NE IPAs have, with maybe a bit more malt sweetness coming through. Mostly mango and orange on the nose. Taste is similar, some light sweetness, the mango and orange, maybe even something redder like cherry, and that juice burn. Finished sticky in the mouth, lip-smacking you might say.  A good example of the style and an appropriate house beer.  

I’d intended to finish this first, but my burger came pretty fast so I ended up drinking this one with my food and the next on on its own, but that worked out just fine. I got the standard “Dog & Cask” burger with cheddar, cooked medium, with fries. It really did hit the spot, and the fries are always good here.

For my next beer I went light–a Kölsch from Czig Meister called Huntsman. 

I found this one oddly pillowy, in a way you’d usually ascribe to  NE IPA. It reminded me of the little air pockets in bread, and the smell was deliciously similar. Fresh yeast bread filled my nostrils, and the taste matched. It had a hint of something I’d say was sourdough with a bit of lemon though the beer wasn’t sour at all. It was sweet, and pleasant, and full of flavors that I loved. I could drink this one all day and enjoyed savoring it after I finished my burger. 

Then back to work feeling refreshed and content. It’s always nice to break up a busy or stressful day with delicious food and drink. 

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Two Beers, One Lunch: RIP Sears

Two beers, one lunch. It’s fast becoming a theme around these parts. Kilgore Stout has enjoyed many, and it’s my term to regale you with the tale of my meal.

My favorite spot to grab a pint when I need one for lunch during the week is The Dog and Cask in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. It’s located on route 17, directly across from what used to be a Sears warehouse, and is now a pile of rubble.  It is what you might describe as a gastropub, though I’m not sure we still use that term. It’s got pretty good food, generally in the standard American Grill form–burgers and fries and the like. Good appetizers. Not too many menu items, but ones that were well thought out.

This was a Sears warehouse

And of course, beer. The Dog & Cask pushes local New Jersey beer pretty heavily, something I appreciate as I’m located in the north part of the state, in a county that seemingly frowns on breweries opening.  Most of them are farther away than I typically get to, and it’s nice to be able to try some of these beers fresh and on tap.

My typical approach to the two beers, one lunch format is to order the first beer to drink and enjoy on its own, and then order a second to drink with the meal. I started with the Carton Brewing Mexican Coffee. This is a pro move and I can’t recommend you try it at home. Well, I CAN recommend you try it at _HOME_, but for a lunch hour where you want to be productive afterwards, starting with a 12% imperial cream stout is not recommended.

The beer is recommended though. Highly. The original form of this beer is Carton Regular Coffee, which is meant to mimic coffee with ‘milk and 2 sugars’. This is apparently a Jersey-ism, though one I’m not familiar with having moved here when I was 25. I drink my coffee black anyway. Mexican Coffee is that same style of beer, only with coffee syrup and aged in tequila barrels. This one’s more meant to mimic an after-dinner drink. Or, in my case, a pre-lunch drink. Oops.

It nails it though. It’s strong obviously, and two sips in my shoulders and neck are aching, which is something that happens to me occasionally. I take it as a gentle reminder that I’m tense and need to relax, and I take another sip. It’s got that creamy lactose taste, and mouthfeel, to it at first. Quiet notes of tequila and Kahlua, and they linger and build as I drink. It’s that first taste of tequila, the one you get before the burn. There’s no burn beyond the richness of the alcohol, it’s a sweet coffee taste. The coffee sticks around, like when you drink a good latte and it feels like the foam is sticking to all corners of your mouth and hitting every taste bud. It’s that sweet coffee taste that comes through on the nose, hint of tequila and Kahlua but mostly just delicious coffee and sweetness. By the time my burger arrives and I finish the beer as my fries cool, the tequila has really built up to a very noticeable level and I’m digging it. It has me thinking of sticky tables after a good dinner at a Mexican restaurant, with salt and margarita splashed all over the table.

The burger arrives. Did I mention I ordered a burger? I usually order a burger at this joint, as they’re pretty delicious. This one is the Burning Love Burger, fried onions, jalapenos, guacamole, etc. It probably would’ve gone well with the Mexican Coffee, but to pair with it I go with a pretty standard NE IPA from Bolero Snort called Seeing Doubull. All their beers are cow puns, which is awesome.  The burger is, as I alluded to, excellent. It’s juicy and got all that crunch from the onions, and the jalapenos give a little flavor to cut through all the fat. The fries are well salted, which would’ve gone well with the tequila from the first beer, but that’s gone, deliciously warming my stomach with alcohol.

Burning Love Burger w/ Bolero Snort Doubull

The Seeing Doubull goes well, as the hop burn and crisp flavor cuts into the burger flavors in a pleasant way. It’s using a newer hop variety called Strata. I get all sorts of tropical notes, particularly pink grapefruit. It’s very drinkable, soft mouthfeel and all, and I continue to enjoy it after I finish the burger and still have a few ounces left.

I finish my beer, tip my server/bartender, and drive back to work to sit at a desk until five before I can enjoy a nightcap and some pizza at home. At least it’s Friday.

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