Beer is an important part of German culture, and the Germans know how to celebrate it. Every September more than six million people from around the world gather in Munich to participate in Oktoberfest.
The first Oktoberfest was a celebration of the future King Ludwig I’s wedding in 1810. The event has evolved over the years to celebrate food and beer, and by Munich law only local breweries are allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest.
Alberta is having its own Oktoberfest festivities from September 22 – 23 in Calgary and September 29 – 30 in Edmonton. In honour of Oktoberfest, we are celebrating a staple of German cuisine – the pretzel. A traditional German pretzel is dipped in a food-grade lye solution before being baked, which gives it that crunchy texture, deep colour and characteristic pretzel flavour.
Here are four Alberta locations that make pretzels using this method, along with tips on pairings, and how to serve pretzels to your guests.
German fare is at the heart of the menu at Wurst in Calgary. The German-style beer hall serves their “big pretzel” with butter and three different types of mustard.
Ruediger Schmid, Wurst’s executive chef, knows his pretzels. In his homeland of Germany, pretzels are a popular, all-day item. Schmid says once you’ve passed breakfast time, pretzels should be paired with a beer above all else.
“The best is a beer. Beer, butter – and you Canadians have that mustard. In Germany we would never do that. It would never happen,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s always butter.”
Schmid recommends pairing Wurst’s big pretzel with a Hacker-Pschorr wheat beer, from one of the six breweries that produce Oktoberfest beer. Beer from Hacker-Pschorr Brewery is a big part of Wurst’s own Octoberfest celebrations, along with communal table Bavarian feasts.
Artistic Bake Shop
Artistic Bake Shop in Edmonton has been a family-owned business since 1966, when brothers Anton and Joseph Schwabenbauer, both master bakers from Germany, first opened the bakery. Anton’s son Perry, together with his wife Katherine Schwabenbauer, purchased the bake shop in 1992 and have been running the Edmonton bakery for the last 25 years.
Artistic Bake Shop’s traditional Bavarian pretzels first appeared in 1975 – made specifically for Oktoberfest. Due to their popularity, they became a daily item.
“People from Germany come to our shop when they’re here because they can’t find them as good as in Germany,” says Perry Schwabenbauer. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
He recommends customers enjoy the pretzels on the same day they buy them as they’re made without additives or preservatives.
“In Europe, baked goods are bought fresh daily and you consume them, and tomorrow you buy them fresh again,” Schwabenbauer says. He adds the sky’s the limit when it comes to finding a dip to serve them with. His customers like mustard, butter, cream cheese, and even tzatziki and hummus.
Rustic Sourdough Bakery
Rustic Sourdough Bakery in Calgary is known for its pretzel buns, which have been sold in store for decades. While not in the form of a traditional pretzel, they are made using the traditional German method.
Owner John Juurlink, who bought the bakery in 2015, says the pretzel bun recipe has been unaltered for the past 15 years. It can be enjoyed on its own or stuffed with cold cuts and cheese.
“You can eat a pretzel bun with anything,” Juurlink says. “You can put a hamburger on it or make it a chicken burger. You can cut it up in pieces and dip it in cheese sauce or mustard. It’s a very versatile bun.”
“We wanted something that was very traditional and a very beer-friendly food,” says Mark Jekschtat, Brewsters’ executive chef.
After they were a success at the craft beer and pizza bar, they were added to all Brewsters restaurants (six in Calgary and five in Edmonton).
“One of the best beers to have with them would be our Hammerhead Red Ale or Honest Paul IPA, a very hop-forward IPA. Or our Czech pilsner, which is a full bodied lager; that’s my favourite with the pretzels – it’s nice and clean and crisp,” Jekschtat says.
The pretzels are served with house-favourite, Cajun remoulade. Many thanks to Brewsters for sharing the Cajun remoulade recipe for us all to enjoy it at home.