Snacks to beer

Pretzels — snacks to beer, part 2


Pretzels are one of the most utilitarian beer snacks. They’re really just funny shaped, salty bread rolls. If you get a fancy one, it might have some sunflower seeds stuck to its crusty brown skin but, generally, they are served plain. From what looks like a mug tree.

Their only purpose, as eaten in German pubs, is to slow down the process of getting drunk (or, to use the scientific term, “put the brakes on drunkening up”) and fend off hunger pangs so you can stay in the beer hall/garden/festival tent for longer.


At Oktoberfest, women in dirndls wander round with huge baskets full of correspondingly huge pretzels, the size of dinner plates. In Nuremberg, they’re sold in the streets, layered thick with slices of cold butter, as an excellent breakfast snack.

The official website of the German Agricultural Marketing Board for the US and Canada says this on the history of the pretzel:

The humble pretzel has come a long way since its modest origins in 610 A.D. when Italian monks made them from leftover bread-dough scraps. Once considered a holy food with healing powers and, in modern times, parodied as the snack that launched a surprise attack on our 42nd president, the basic flour and water pretzel has been an American staple ever since European immigrants brought the recipe with them to U.S. shores in the 18th and 19th century.

They then go on to argue that Americans should only eat pretzels imported from Germany. That seems a bit excessive to me — surely they’ll be stale if you ship them over, and I think flying warm pretzels across the Atlantic is more of an extravagance than Bono flying his hat home in business class.

Anyway, here’s the official German Agriculture Board approved recipe for Pretzels. Ignore the honey dip stuff. It’s really pretty simple, except for the cryptic instruction to “cross to form rabbit ears”. Translation: make it pretzel shaped. Use the photos above for reference, or just your memory.

So, why not skip dinner tonight, and just eat four or five of these with your Saturday night lagers…?

beer festivals Germany Snacks to beer Spain

Bierfest by numbers in Don Quijote country

Boak is on tour in France and Spain.

I was extremely surprised to see posters advertising an Oktoberfest in Cuenca. Cuenca is a beautiful town in the Castille-La Mancha region of Spain (the dry bit in the middle), famous for cheese, honey, cooking with strange bits of animal… but not really for its beer. A closer look revealed the event to be “sponsored” (i.e. organised) by Paulaner, who have organised similar festivals in other Spanish cities. The Cuenca local authorities then tagged on a tapas festival, where different restaurants and bars have stalls and offer a couple of dishes each.

Obviously I had to go along and have a look. It appeared to be in the car park of a housing estate, with a huge Paulaner tent dominating the proceedings (not in the photo). Inside was the requisite oompah band, Paulaner on tap, a mixture of German and Spanish snacks and some tacky souvenirs.

The outside was definitely where it was at — I got the impression the locals weren´t quite sure what they were supposed to do in the tent. They were certainly slightly bemused by the band. That said, the tent was beginning to fill when I left, and no doubt it turned into a wild fiesta afterwards. Perhaps.

Like the locals, I´m not sure what to make of it all. On the one hand, the combination of good beer and tapas is a match made in heaven. On the other hand, this is not so much a genuine cultural exchange as a mass-marketing technique by Paulaner. If you read Spanish, here´s an article from Marketing Magazine last year, which says that by promoting these festivals, Paulaner want to develop the appreciation of beer in Spain. Well, that´s nice of them. Funny that their generosity doesn´t extend to promoting beers from other breweries. Here´s a link to the London Bierfest, which looks identical.

Do we really want these Identikit beer festivals springing up all over the place? Sure, I dream of a world where every town has a beer festival — but not exactly the same festival wherever you go.


beer and food Snacks to beer

Snacks to Beer — kepta duona

Advertisement for our book with link to Amazon.

Also available at Blackwell’s, Foyle’s and Waterstones.

Kepta duona frying in a pan.In Lithuania, most bars serve a selection of what they call “užkandžiai prie alaus” — literally, “snacks to beer”.

After a very nice tour of the country a few years ago, we got into the habit of referring to a whole range of peculiar foods you only ever eat with beer as “snacks to beer”.

This post is the first in occasional series on what we think are the very best nibbles to accompany booze. Expect to see pretzels, pork scratchings and a Spanish delicacy we call “chicken tikka fish” covered in the future.

But for now, it’s only fitting that we start with the original snack to beer — Lithuanian “kepta duona”.

It’s not remotely fancy, it’s not good for you, but it’s a great snack to beer for several reasons. Firstly, it’s salty and oily. Now, I know greasy is good is bad for your beer. It makes it go flat. But, frankly, who cares — it just works. Secondly, you can eat it with your fingers. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it soaks up booze…

If you fancy making what is, in effect, slightly burned garlic fried bread, our best attempt at a recipe is after the jump…