Why you should add a pickle to your next beer

‘They’re both fermented foods and seem to have an affinity for each other,’ says pickle maker Yi Wah Roberts

Beth Timmins
Friday 14 July 2017 15:17 BST

On a scorching summer’s afternoon, a sip of a sweet cider or pint of beer can be just the ticket. But light, refreshing lagers are welcoming a new addition from America’s Midwest: the humble pickle.

The peculiar pairing is championed by pickle producer Joe McClure, based in Michigan.

“It complements the lager because of the slight vinegar and salt notes that get picked up,” he tells Esquire.

“Pickles are the perfect snack: cucumbers soaked in evil,” he adds.

Commonly pungent pickling flavours used to spice up beers include garlic and chilli. The addition of the salty snack to a light beer is stretching further than the pickle alone, with green olives and peperoncinos also featuring.

Yi Wah Roberts, a pickle maker from Arlington, Virginia, agrees that the pairing is perfection.

“They’re two things that make people very happy,” he tells Washington’s Top News.

“They’re both fermented foods and seem to have an affinity for each other. Alcohol likes big flavours and sometimes it likes the sort of acid that the pickles bring to the party,” he adds.

The mildest and freshest tasting are those cured for the shortest amount of time according to Mr Roberts. For beers he says that chilli-spiced pickles with a touch of garlic bring out the cucumber flavour whereas District Dills, with onion based brines, are cured for longer and have a stronger saltiness and sourness.

Co-owner of their pickle company Number 1 Sons, his sister Caitlin agrees that the combination is a winner. Unlike typically fatty bar food, “It’s healthy. It’s crunchy. It’s not greasy,” she says.

“It doesn’t fill you up and the flavour’s not so big that you find it overwhelming,” Ms Roberts said.

Pickles have been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2030 BC when cucumbers from their native India were pickled in the Tigris Valley. According to culinary historian Tori Avey, it is rumoured that they were one of Cleopatra’s prized beauty secrets.

The trend also encompasses more than just pickled vegetables, with even sliced pickled eggs being a favourite of one couple from South Dakota, according to a forum post on Homebrewtalk.com by a bartender in Albany, New York.

Another beer enthusiast commented that the combination was similar to a Bloody Mary: “When I was a kid a shot or two of tomato juice in the beer was a tasty and popular drink. Flavouring a Bud, Miller or Coors with the salty, sour tang of a good dill pickle doesn’t sound all that bad!”

If you’re looking to add a little spice at the bar, the boozy cucumber-laden beers could be the perfect thirst quencher.

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