Maybe you saw the article about putting a pickle in a (cheap) beer to make the beer taste — so we are told — much better. I’ve read three articles now recommending it. To be frank, the idea utterly horrifies me, mainly because I can’t stand pickles. Also because I love beer.
However, human tastes in foods and beverages span a vast range. I suspect very few people like everything that gets put on the worldwide table. (Despite my Norwegian upbringing, I wouldn’t touch lutefisk with a ten-foot pole. It’s up there with pickles on the list of stuff I Will Not Eat.)
But apparently some love a pickle in their beer.
It’s not a new idea, and there are beers made with pickle brine. (Even just restricting to beer, the range of different beers is huge, and not every beer fan likes every kind of beer. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t care for pickle brine beer.)
Part of the logic is the same as behind salted chocolate or caramel — salt amplifies flavor. One reason bartenders server peanuts and pretzels is because of the salt.
There is also that sour beers are a whole thing. (A whole thing I avoid — I am not a fan.) Most sour beers are created through the (intentional) action of Lactobacillus although there are other techniques.
Anyway, the current interest apparently starts with an article by Kaitlin Gates in Simple Most: Putting A Pickle In Cheap Light Beer Makes It Taste Better
Ms Gates had heard of the idea but never tried it, so she plopped a pickle (a Claussen spear) into an ice-cold Miller Lite:
Simply put, it works. While I still didn’t love it, because I’m simply not a beer fan, it definitely changed the flavor for the better. It made the beer less bitter after just a few minutes and pretty much took away the aftertaste. Right away, you’ll notice that the concoction smells more like a pickle than a beer, which is also pleasant to me since I don’t even like the smell of beer but love pickles.
Her husband, who does like beer, agreed the beer tasted better with a pickle.
She ends her article with:
Now that I’ve tried it, I would hands-down recommend adding a pickle to a cheap beer. That is, unless you hate pickles!
That last sentence definitely applies to me!
What I first saw was the article by Kristin Salaky in Delish: Apparently Putting A Pickle In Cheap Beer Makes It Taste Better And Our Minds Are BLOWN
Apparently Ms Salaky likes pickles so much she named her cat after them.
This time it was a PBR with a Grillo’s pickle, and it was a big success. (She mentions that Grillo’s even has a “spear in the beer” campaign going on, but I can’t find any trace of it.)
Nevertheless, I gave it a sip before and after, and it definitely made a difference. The beer had a bit of a zip now, similarly to how it would taste if I added a lime, though this was obviously a bit brinier. It just added something a little extra!
I would think it would taste quite a bit different than with a lime. (Which I also don’t really care for — if you’re going to drink beer, why not drink a beer where you don’t have to disguise the taste?)
On the other hand:
My boyfriend HATES them (I know, I know), and although I didn’t think the taste was overly strong, he despised it even though it had only been sitting a few seconds.
I’m pretty sure I would have been that guy, not Kaitlin or Kristin.
Both articles reference a 2017 article by Nate Erickson in Esquire: Bored with Shitty Light Beer? Add a Pickle.
It covers much the same ground: It’s an old trick used to make cheaper lagers taste better (if briney salty is “better” in your book; it’s not in mine).
And according to Liz Welle, a Minnesota writer who swears by the technique, beer lovers don’t have to stop at the pickle — green olives or pepperoncinis make tasty alternatives with the same savory goodness. “They all work,” she insists.
Or, as I said, just drink better beer.
Obviously this is a matter of taste. If you want to put a pickle in your beer, more power to you. Enjoy it!
But not me. I loath pickles; the smell of vinegar makes me slightly ill. There is nothing pickled that I like, not cucumbers, not eggs, not fish, not anything.
Ugh! Yuck! Blech!
No thank you. Pickles are in the class of things I actively can’t stand and won’t touch. Along with fried eggs — most egg concoctions, actually. I can choke down scrambled eggs (operative word: choke) if they have enough cheese, onions, bacon, and other goodies in them.
On the other hand, I rather like quiche. 😀
Tastes do evolve — mine certainly have. Mustard and catsup were in the Won’t Ever Touch category for most of my life. (It made eating at McDonald’s a pain, because I insisted on a “plain cheeseburger!”)
Catsup and yellow mustard still kinda are (along with relish because that shit is pickled), but somewhere along the line I picked up a taste for brown mustard (with all the little seeds) — love it on certain kinds of sandwiches.
And yet, because it has vinegar, part of my mind still feels a sense of revulsion. (Especially when I lick the knife — that vinegary tang has one side of my brain yelling “Yum!” and the other side exclaiming “Yuck!”) A weird Yin/Yang thing.
My love of craft burgers has brought me in contact with a number of different kinds of aioli, which has a lot in common with mayonnaise — which is on the list of things I can’t abide. (The tendency of so many places to put that shit on burgers and sandwiches has been a life-long irritation and nemesis for me.)
But with aioli the eggs are pretty far down the list of ingredients, and it’s the eggs that revolt me most about mayonnaise (I really hate eggs). Even so, there’s a part of my brain that can’t believe I’m eating — and thoroughly enjoying — an oil-egg spread.
(A friend gave me some craft aioli recently, and it made some awesome sandwiches because she also gave me some really tasty sweet rye bread.)
I’ll leave you with this:
It’s very simple in just showing a 16-dimension space comprised of eight types of malt and eight types of hops. The chart shows how much of each is involved.
The reality is much more complicated, since there are other factors that go into making beer. The above chart has no way of showing dry-hopping versus wet-hopping (let alone adding other ingredients besides malt and hops).
There is also that most beers only use a few (at most) types of malt or hops, and many beers use just one of each. I used random factors in the chart, so the shapes are a little wack. I just wanted to introduce the concept here.
But the point is that each beer would have a different shape in configuration space. Similar beers would have similar shapes.
The metaphor is handy for thinking about the kinds of beers one likes. It’s a very large configuration space (including pickles) and one finds areas of it one likes and areas of it one doesn’t. (I don’t care for sour beers, for example.)
That said, my “beer space” has definitely expanded over the years. I didn’t used to like the really hoppy beers; now IPAs are about all I drink.
I find I’ve also grown out of beers. I used to drink a lot of Newcastle Brown Ale and New Belgium Fat Tire, but I haven’t touched those in years. It’s kind of a matter of trading up and expanding that beer space. Those beers now seem a bit insipid to me.
When I eat out, it is always the case that you can have my pickle.
(When the food comes, I immediately move it as far away from my food as possible. And offer it to friends and passersby. Take my pickle. Please! I don’t even want it on my plate.)
So no way am I putting pickles in my beer!
Stay pickled, my friends!