Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance.
For the month of April, the Weekly Digest is all about beer. Regular beer, creative beer, food made with beer and more. Check back every week this month for a different beer-related topic. This week, we’re talking beer and soft pretzels--a match made in heaven.
In addition to beer month (proclaimed by yours truly), Soft Pretzel Month is upon us, folks! That’s right, someone, somewhere, heroically spoke up and declared April as the month in which we pay homage to this underappreciated snack food that really should be front and center.
Harpoon Brewery, in the Seaport, has ensured that this humble hunk of twisted dough gets the attention it deserves, and in every month of the year. In fact, it’s the only food item on the menu--and there’s a reason for this.
Harpoon utilizes the spent grain from its brewing process to make the pretzels. Spent grain is what’s leftover after a brewery soaks the barley, malt or other grain as part of the beer making process. The liquid graduates as beer and the grains themselves are left behind. The word “spent” makes it sounds like the grain doesn’t have long for this world, but that’s #totesfalse. I vote to re-name it to “wow-there-are-still-so-many-uses-for-this” grain. Doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, though. I’ll keep brainstorming.
Anyway, spent grain still is very much usable, just like your old, obsolete (and stupidly expensive) college textbooks make a great tv stand or kindling for your next campfire. The grain has plenty of nutrients and a high fiber and protein content. Breweries end up with a crap ton of spent grain (I checked and sadly this is not an official unit of measurement) after each batch--like hundreds of pounds worth. Some breweries send their grain off to a compost pile (aka worm feed) and others to farms as livestock feed (those must be some happy pigs). But believe it or not, human feed is the cheapest way to “reuse” the grain.
Besides baking it into soft pretzels like Harpoon does, other breweries have ground it into granola bars, pummeled it into a flour for pizzas and concocted creative cookies and crackers (more on this later this month--and maybe more nerdy alliterations, too). But quick PSA: there’s no alcohol content left in the grain, so go ahead and eat six spent grain cookies, I won’t judge.
Harpoon has also gotten creative with the dipping sauce. One could say the humble soft pretzel is a blank canvas on which to paint a delicate picture with the scrumptious sauces of dipping. Others could say, “just shut up and eat the freaking pretzel.” However you feel, definitely take advantage of Harpoon’s creative and flavorful sauces.
Try your generously salted pretzel with more beer: IPA cheese or ale mustard. Feeling sweet? Order the cinnamon sugarcoated pretzel with Nutella mousse or salted caramel sauce. Either direction you choose will assuredly take your pretzel game to new levels. (And you’ll make a massive mess. Ask for extra napkins in the beginning. You’ll thank me later.)
So grab your friends, grab a seat at the group tables and grab the server for a spent grain pretzel and duo of dipping sauces for your round of pints. Cheers!