This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Jack Muldowney.
Growing up, I remember plenty of times where I’d end up at the pub with my dad and uncles, as they bar crawled around Chicago to kill a Saturday afternoon. I’d get handed a Coke or a Shirley Temple, while they enjoyed their adult ‘pops.’ But, there was always one thing that was commonplace at the taverns that we both were able to enjoy: pub mix. That ubiquitous pretzel, peanut and sesame stick mixture that seemed to only exist in little wooden bowls, adorning bartops across the city.
And just recently, a new take on that classic pub mix has made its way into the Chicago market–this time, the snacks were concocted with beer drinkers (and beer styles) in mind… Enter:
To celebrate this arrival to the Windy City’s bar scene (and grocery aisle), we teamed up with Brewhouse Legends to pair two Chicago beers with each of their mix flavors. Feel free to use our suggestions at your next bottle share, or tackle some pairings of your own. Cheers.
First up is their Hops and Pepper variety. From the three that they offer, this is most akin to a classic pub mix that you’d find at your favorite local dive bar. You’ll enjoy plenty of peanuts, pretzels, rice crackers and sesame sticks–all rounded out with a welcomed peppery bite.
Cruz Blanca Brewery El Train
AMERICAN IPA / 6.2% ABV / WEST LOOP
What better way to combat that peppery singe, than with a true-to-style American pale ale? Here, Cruz Blanca took that malt-forward APA approach and punched it up in true Chicago fashion. It’s got an assertive malt character and bitterness, that’s rounded out by a floral, piney, and citrus-forward bite, thanks to their deft use of Chinook, Mosaic, Citra, and Simcoe hops.
Hopewell Brewing Co. Co-Sign
WEST COAST IPA / 7.1% ABV / LOGAN SQUARE
Another West Coast-style IPA that we chose to pair here is this one from Hopewell. Co-Sign ‘pushes boundaries on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma while ultimately striking a balance with its malt base.’ That pepper will get subdued by a big treatment of citrusy grapefruit, and piney resin. All of which is closed out by a touch of bready malt and a bone-dry finish.
Next up is the Michelada mix. Here, rice crackers, corn nuts, hot cajun sticks, peanuts and praline pepitas get doused with a tangy tomato flavoring that is fit for a lager or two. And in Chicago, there’s no shortage of great lagering…
Dovetail Brewery Vienna-Style Lager
VIENNA LAGER / 5.1% ABV / NORTHCENTER
Our first selection to pair with the classic Mexican-inspired mix, is a classic Mexican favorite beer style. The Vienna lager was the first style widely adopted by Mexican brewers, thanks to the mass of german and Austrian brewers who settled there. The big bready, copper hued lagers, like this one from Dovetail, are perfect for pairing with spicy foods. It’s a warm, malty beer with big body thanks to its 100% Vienna malt and Styrian Golding hops.
Middle Brow Beer Co. Bungalow
LAGER / 4.0% ABV / LOGAN SQUARE
Bungalow is a lager made with southern hemisphere hops from Middle Brow that is more akin to the crisp, dryer Mexican light lagers most folks associate with the country. And, like any lager would, this is a fine pairing with the Michelada snack mix, since it will cleanse your palate without overpowering your taste buds. Plus, how can you beat the description provided by the brewery? ‘Drink one when you’re craving a beer.’
Last up is the Hoppin’ Chili blend. This mix is probably the most fun of the bunch and the one that’ll get you going back for second and third handfuls. It’s got a citrus ‘n spice approach, with a kick of chili pepper, alongside peanuts, honey sesame chips, chickpeas, and corn nuts. We chose to pick two bone-dry beers to pair here.
Urban Renewal Brewery Pop Hops
BRUT IPA / 6.3% ABV / RAVENSWOOD
The brut IPA might’ve been a flash in the pan as far as beer trends go, but if you can still find a good one, they’re more than worth the purchase in our opinion. Here, Urban Renewal made a great version with all that massive hop aroma and flavor upfront, that then fades into a bone-dry finish. Unlike typical IPAs, the brut lacks the bitterness you’d expect to find, rather, providing a tingly and prickly effervescent finish on the tongue. This brut features El Dorado, Idaho 7, and Simcoe hops producing a candied mix of tropical fruits, that do a perfect job of complimenting the chili.
Whiner Beer Co. Le Tub
Barrel-aged wild saison / 6.4% ABV / back of the yards
Lastly, we’ve got a Chicago favorite: Le Tub from Whiner. This beer is a fantastic example of how a barrel-aged wild ale can still remain so delicate and approachable. Brewed with white grapes, it’s got a light lemon tartness and is all around funky fresh. So much so, the brewery promises, ‘you’ll want to bathe your mouth with it. Another one that finishes dry, this saison will cleanse the chili from your palate and cool your tongue from any overpowering spice.
This feature was a sponsored partnership with Brewhouse Legends.
Look for their snack nut mixes at select local retailers, like Jewel Osco, or nationwide on Amazon. *Each mix features a peanut base with unique ingredients such as Cajun sticks, honey sesame chips, chickpeas, and praline pepitas that provide complex textures and flavor profiles. Enjoy these snacks on their own or perfectly paired with your favorite beer.