Tag Archives: germany

These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty – Pretzel & Beer Workshop

Ah, the Pretzel. So soft, so salty, so delicious. Aside from a cheese and cured meat platter, it’s one of my favourite companions with beer.

So it was a thrill to be invited to Kitchen Canada and attend a workshop on how to properly make an authentic, German pretzel, with suggested beer pairings by the folks at Great Lakes Brewery here in Ontario.

Said to be originally created around 610 AD by an Italian monk who used them as rewards for children who learned their prayers, the Germans, like cars, went with the original idea and perfected it. Of course though, there are many varieties of Pretzel out there from all different parts of the world.

Some fun Pretzel facts:

–      Spelled and pronounced “Brezel” in Germany.

–      Pretzels were a very common Easter gift. They would be hidden along with Eggs.

–       The famous shape of pretzels are believed by some to be the shape of hands in prayer.

–       The Pretzel was the symbol for South Germany’s Baker’s Guild. I like to imagine they were a kind of illuminati, but with more cupcakes and pretzels.

–       The “skin” of soft pretzels is made by dipping the unbaked pretzel in a solution of water and lye (yes, the stuff from Fight Club). A substitute of baking soda can be worked with as well.

–       Thanks to its heavy German population, Pennsylvania is the pretzel capital of the US. And here I was thinking the state was just the birthplace of the Crayola Crayon.

–       You can put anything on pretzels. Chocolate, cheese, chili flakes, pudding. The only limit is your imagination.

–       Famous former children’s entertainer Buggy Ding Dong likes his pretzels heavily salted.

The workshop, put on by Kitchen Canada at their lovely event space in Etobicoke, was taught by resident Bakers Marc Richter and Franz Dimplemier with Renee Navarro from Great Lakes Brewery providing beer samples. We learned about the ingredients that go in to making a pretzel dough, the importance of the lye or baking soda dip, and most importantly, how to properly roll and twist a pretzel (which the ever-patient Richter and Dimplemier retaught us several times when we attempted it). But more than that, as a group, we had fun. Figuring out the proper roll, teaching each other on how to knot the pretzels, talking about what other ingredients we wanted to stuff in to our dough for pretzel buns…these were fun things that made the workshop something worth going to. There were also a nice supply of mustards available for dipping and purchase (I may have bought a couple of bottles to add to my ever-growing mustard collection).

The beers were mostly a showcase of Great Lakes’ flagship beers (Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager, Crazy Canuck West Coast Pale Ale, and Devil’s Pale Ale), which was perfect for the crowd, many of whom had never even heard of craft beer. Like all events like that, it was fun hearing people discuss which ones were their favourite and asking questions to Renee, who was only too happy to answer. It should be said that a real crowd-pleaser were the cans of Harry Porter at the end. Although a version that includes Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Beans will be coming out to LCBOs next month, this version was the very tasty regular batch that I think turned a lot of people on to the idea of a dark beer beyond Guinness.

By the end of the evening I left the kitchen with two boxes of my own pretzels and stuffed pretzel buns, two bottles of mustard, and a full stomach. I have to say that it once again reminded me to go to these workshops/classes more often for myself. Although sometimes the recipe could be an easy one, the hands on experience, along with the fun social interaction with your fellow students, makes them a lot of fun to do with a friend or solo. That alone is often worth the price.

If you’re in the Toronto/Etobicoke area, The Kitchen Canada have another one of these Pretzel and beer workshops coming up in March. Apparently tickets go fast.

And because I don’t want to stop at just an event review, I’m going to include a recipe from David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, which I wrote about last year. No, this isn’t his fantastic no-knead pretzel recipe, but instead it is my favourite condiment to have with pretzels: mustard. IPA Mustard, in fact. It goes without saying that this can be used in things that are decidedly not-pretzel and it is strongly encouraged to mess around with the different beers and variety of mustard seed. Either way, after first reading this recipe I now keep a mason jar filled with my homemade mustard in the fridge at all times. Here it is:

IPA MUSTARD

Recommended beer:
American-style India pale ale
Boneshaker India Pale Ale, Amsterdam Brewery (Ontario)
India Pale Ale, Southern Tier Brewing (United States)

makes 1 cup (250 mL)

preparation time 10 minutes, plus at least 4 hours to soak

scant ½ cup (125 mL) mustard seeds

½ cup (125 mL) India pale ale

4 tsp (20 mL) vinegar (your own beer vinegar is best, but cider or white vinegars are fine substitutes)

1 Tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar

½ tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) nutmeg

1. Soak the mustard seeds in the ipa for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Reserve a quarter of the soaked mustard seeds. In a mini food processor or blender, combine the other three-quarters of the soaked mustard seeds with the vinegar, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Blend for 1 minute or until most of the seeds have lost their individual texture.

3. Fold the reserved seeds into the mustard.

4. Pack into a scrupulously clean Mason jar, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator.

The mustard is ready to use right away, but will only get better with a few days to rest, and should last for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

 

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Premium Near Beer – A Look at Quality Non-Alcoholic Beers

WAIT NO COME BACK TRUST ME READING THIS WILL BE WORTH IT.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way, first. Non-Alcoholic beer get a bad rap. You know it, I know it. We’ve all tried it at one point or another, went to a store, got a little curious about a Beck’s non-alcoholic beer and gave it a try…only to spit the first mouthful in the sink, throw the remainder out the window and set your house on fire in protest. It’s happened. The Quest for non-alcoholic beer has been pretty futile and fraught with peril for designated drivers, religious folk, people that want the taste but not the buzz, and folks with medical conditions that prevent them from having an alcoholic beverage. Sadly, it seems that the taste notes are pretty much the same for all of them. Basically water, sickly sweet, you wouldn’t even know it was trying to taste like beer. What’s even worse is that crap like that are the most common sold, which hasn’t helped non-alcoholic beer’s reputation in a world that stupidly provides social alienation for people who don’t drink alcohol (And really, if you are That Person who shames someone for not drinking alcohol for any reason, close this window and don’t come back. You aren’t welcome here).

While us in other parts of the world have been frustrated by the horrible Near-Beers out there, Germany as well as a few other countries who have seen the potential, have been making a hell of an industry of making some pretty high-quality non-alcoholic brews, with many traditional breweries making non-alcoholic versions of their flagship beers and some even being a strictly non-alcoholic brewery. There’s clearly a demand for quality in this style and they’re doing very well, which isn’t so surprising when you give a good hard think about how many people actually can’t drink alcoholic beverages.

Some fun facts about these beers:

– Legally, any beer up to 0.5% ABV is considered non-alcoholic. For some perspective, that’s pretty much in line with the natural alcohol content of things like grape juice.

– The history of  “near beer”  can date as far back as the middle ages, when it was made as a better substitute for the putrid, disease-ridden water that nobody in their right mind would drink.

– Non-alcoholic beer gained popularity during the Temperance Movement throughout the world and during Prohibition in the US where many breweries managed to stay in business by making them. It was during the Prohibition years where the style really got huge and the flavour of nearly water and very sweet gained popularity. Plus at the time you could drink one right in front of Eliot Ness and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do.

– Non-alcoholic beer is usually made like normal beer, aside from one step at the end where alcohol extraction takes place. Depending on the method, this can greatly change the taste of the beer.

– In 1966 Swiss brewery Hurlimann developed a special yeast that would yield a low alcohol amount during fermentation. However, since Birell Pale Lager is 0.8% ABV, legally it is considered Low-Alcoholic beer.

Here in Toronto a new service has opened up called Premium Near Beer. It offers a wide selection of International award-winning non-alcoholic beers for a decent price. The founder, Ted Fleming, whose diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease prompted him to explore the landscape of non-alcoholic beers, saw the more common products out there lacking in flavour and quality. So he did what any reasonable person in his situation would do. He let out a resolute sigh, went out, and…had a selection of quality, award-winning non-alcoholic beers brought in, opened up an online shop and made it so anyone in the area who orders can get it delivered right to their door. Oh, and brought on Cicerone, Prud’homme Beer Sommelier, Beer Scribe, and at the time a soon-to-be mother Crystal Luxmore to go over the selection and provide professional tasting notes that added some weight to the claims of high quality. And indeed some of the non-alcoholic selection carries a hell of a rep with it. Clausthaler Premium, for instance, won a World Beer Award for best non-alcoholic lager. And soon Premium Near Beer hopes to be getting in Nanny State, by UK beer heavyweights BrewDog. Known for their huge beers that are high in the percentage rate, this beer, tipping in at 0.5% ABV, is made with eight different malts and five different hops.

Premium Near Beer has a few plans. Firstly, of course, is to get an interest in the service and take as many orders as they can while also getting more quality brews in. Beyond that, they would like to see the landscape change in favour of non-alcoholic beers and the social stigma surrounding them fade. Another ideal goal would be to develop enough interest to get local breweries interested enough to make a quality non-alcoholic brew. I admit, I’d love to see Amsterdam or Great Lakes, or any of the others at least try and take on that challenge. Perhaps even do a non-alcoholic version of My Bitter Wife, which has a drawing of the Temperance Movement’s Carrie Nation on the label.

Most of the bottles available are only available in 24 packs, with the option to get a mixed pack if you can’t decide on just one. Currently they deliver to Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, & Aurora, with  free delivery in the area for orders over $100. If you have any questions on deliveries beyond Toronto, the province of Ontario, or the country of Canada, feel free to contact them and hopefully something can be worked out. These beers ARE available internationally, so while it may be hard to get a hold of them, it’s not impossible. Unless you live in Germany, where most of these beers are from, in which case…uh…just go to the store.

And folks, Ted Fleming brought a sample 6-pack to my house and, after sampling them, I must say that I’m turned around on what I thought non-alcoholic beer was about. As Moss in the IT Crowd says, “Every value I’ve ever held is being questioned and I’m loving it”. While the pack was pretty hit and miss, I should say that the hits were pretty solid hits and the misses were just simply not to my tastes. Here are my notes from each of them.

Krombacher Pils (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – The first one of the six I had and it officially blasted any misconceptions I had about non-alcoholic beer. Beautiful grain aroma with solid malt flavours and a dry finish that leads you wanting more. Crisp and wonderful. Definitely on par with some of the highly regarded Pilsners I’ve had.

Krombacher Wheat (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – Beautiful cloudy gold colour that is so wonderful about wheat beers. Big head that died down a bit. Aroma is bananas and cloves, which carries in to the taste. This is a little on the sweet side for me, but still…I’d put this up against many of its alcoholic siblings and it would do really well. Dry finish on the end leaves me wanting more. While I might not order a case of 24, I will have a second.

Sagres Lager (Central de Cervejas, Portugal, 0.3% ABV) – Incredibly light straw colour. Taste is almost that of an incredibly dry cider, but finished off with an intense maltiness. Still good, but by the end I was still thinking about the Krombacher Pils. Very carbonated, which added to the dry flavour.

Gerstel Lager (Gerstel, Germany, 0.5% ABV)  – Sweet, grassy aroma and incredibly malty taste. Nice mellow grain taste in the middle and ends with an abrubtly dry finish. Barely any aftertaste to it, which made me want to try more.

Clausthaler Golden Amber (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.4% ABV) – My least favourite of the bunch. Beautiful amber colour, but a bubblegum taste mixed with something metallic. The hoppy finish is nice, but doesn’t quite save it for me and I’m left with a kind of chemical layer of…something on my tongue.

Clausthaler Premium Lager (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.45% ABV) – I can’t fairly review this one, as it seems that in transit the (green) bottle came in contact with some sunlight and the entire beer went skunky. But hey, it won a World Beer Award for Best Non-Alcoholic Lager, so I’m sure it’s lovely.

Both the Krombacher Wheat and Pils are beers that I would keep regularly stocked in my fridge. They both have a beautiful aroma and refreshing taste with flavour notes that hold a bloody sword up to the thought of non-alcoholic beers being sugar water only consumed by rubes. I found both those beers very surprising and was glad that the quality of the taste didn’t take a back seat. They are both beers, and I say beers including the alcoholic ones, done right.

 

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