Pickles in Beer? Oh, hell no!

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:

Simple classifying of two different beers; one in red, one in blue.

Last year I did a few posts about configuration space. (See 3D Ice Cream and 31D Ice Cream.) Above is a simple configuration space for beer.

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!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

14 responses to “Pickles in Beer? Oh, hell no!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    What a difference a day makes. Only got up to 71 yesterday, but it was 69 at 6:30 this morning when I took my walk. It’s just after noon now, and the temp is up to 88. There’s another heat advisory for today and tomorrow.

    But then Sunday the wind changes and by Monday it should be nice again. Gotta love that crazy weather!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Overnight it cooled down to a low this morning at 6 AM of 77° with a 75° dew point, so it felt like 79° — too soupy for a walk.

      It gave us a crazy weather trifecta: 59° Thursday morning, 69° Friday morning, and 79° Saturday morning.

      Wild!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    One thing I didn’t mention: Supposedly one reason beer and pickles go well together is that they’re both fermented. To me that’s a stretch.

    Beer is fermented with yeast (a wee beast), which has alcohol as its waste product. (A wonderful “coincidence” for humanity.)

    Pickles are fermented via lacto-fermentation, which generates lactic acid, which is sour. The same lacto process makes sauerkraut (“sour cabbage”) and yogurt — both of which I can’t stand.

    I do not like lactic acid. I mentioned how lactic acid is used to create those sour beers I don’t like.

    The only sour thing I ever liked was sour candy, like lemon drops or Sour Tarts (I think they were called). But I just don’t like sour food.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Interesting. As someone who doesn’t particularly care for beer, I wonder if it would improve the taste for me. The bitterness and aftertaste are definitely issues for me.

    At the same time, can’t say I’m a big fan of pickles. I hated them growing up, but came to find them tolerable as an adult. But I still can’t abide them on sandwiches. I don’t mind the vinegar, but something about the texture grosses me out. Although they seem more tolerable eaten whole by themselves, but only tolerable.

    Not liking ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise makes me wonder what’s left worth eating with most fastfood burgers. They seem tasteless without those condiments.

    Unfortunately for my waistline, I do like my mayonnaise, and eggs, and cheese.

    • Astronomer Eric

      My brother used to love brownies. When he was pretty young, he proudly made his first batch of brownies without any help. He then proceeded to eat pretty much the entire batch. Later on that same day, while we were in the car waiting for my mother to get groceries, he threw up all the brownies in the back seat. To this day even the smell of brownies makes him queasy and of course he will never eat another one, probably for the rest of his life.

      I used to hate pickles (plain or in something else) too. I can eat them plain now, but I never crave them when I see them and if I try them it’s just to see how my taste for them has evolved. I do like them in burgers though (or relish instead).

      I haven’t had beer for awhile now, but my favorite beer has consistently been Yuengling. These days I primarily go for red wine.

      And Kewpie mayonnaise is amazing. It’s probably all the MSG it contains.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m not much of an alcohol drinker. Not for any moral or health reasons. I had my share in college. But anything stronger than beer just tastes like gasoline or kerosene to me, or like something that contains it.

        I’ve never tried Kewpie. (Unless it was in a Japanese dish I’ve had without realizing it.) Looks interesting. Recommend any online brand?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Supposedly that (minus the throwing up) is why I don’t like peanut butter. I overdosed on it as a young child, and now I won’t touch it. (Weirdly, I don’t dislike it, but something about a peanut spread just says “No!” to me in a loud voice. I love peanuts.)

        I’ve never had a Yuengling. I checked out their website; that Hershey’s Chocolate Porter looks tasty. (I’m a little horrified to see they use green and clear bottles on some of their products. Beer should only come in brown bottles. Cans these days are even better. Beer hates light.)

        To me, nothing that is mostly egg-whites and oil can be “amazing”… 😮

      • Astronomer Eric

        I’m not sure the best online source for Kewpie Mayo, but I looked on Amazon and this is the one that I buy. Seems a bit expensive for two bottles, but maybe there are cheaper ones elsewhere.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Amazon sometimes has weirdly high prices on food items. I considered buying from them the 2-liter bottles of Diet Mountain Dew (which I live on), but they wanted an absurd amount of money for one and there was no bulk rate.

      • Astronomer Eric

        Yeah, I only ever had Yuengling on tap, so I’m not sure how it tastes out of inadequate bottles for storing beer.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Local beer on tap is definitely a good way to go!

        (I used to drink a lot of Newcastle Brown Ale, which comes in clear bottles. Buying a six-pack — considering it came all the way from England — was a risky proposition. The 12-packs came in cardboard boxes that kept the light out, which was okay. But clear bottles… sheeze. It was always better finding a place that had it on tap!)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I do have a passion for cheese.

      “As someone who doesn’t particularly care for beer, I wonder if it would improve the taste for me.”

      It does sound like you might be a candidate for trying it. I don’t imagine you drink beer at home, but maybe the next picnic where everyone is drinking beer, you can amaze everyone one.

      “I hated [pickles] growing up, but came to find them tolerable as an adult.”

      I’ve never cared for cucumbers (although those I can choke down), but I can’t imagine ever finding pickles tolerable. They’re with fried eggs on the No Way No How Not Ever list.

      (My dad was a big gardener so we had bushels of cucumbers (and tomatoes and zucchini). My mom did a lot of canning. Sometimes I’d come in from playing out in the cold crisp clear air and the house would be steamy inside from the canning and reek of vinegar. It was awful!)

      “…but something about the texture grosses me out.”

      That’s my issue with mushrooms. Enjoy the flavor, but really hate the texture. To me they’re like bits of rubber.

      “Not liking ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise makes me wonder what’s left worth eating with most fastfood burgers.”

      I’m a man of simple tastes and pleasures. Even more so as a kid. Meat and cheese in a bun was okay with me. Maybe a little BBQ sauce on the side to get really fancy. My tastes have expanded since then, but I still order a plain cheeseburger at a fast food joint. (Although I haven’t been to one other than Subway in close to 20 years.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’ll have to remember the pickle thing next time I’m at a picnic in 2022.

        I’m okay with cucumbers, but they give me gas. Pickles don’t for some reason. I think my issue with them on sandwiches is just an aversion that just been too hardened into my nervous system over the decades.

        Definitely the texture of mushrooms is gross.

        Peanut butter too Wyrd? You seem like a pretty picky eater. There are many foods I don’t care for, but I’m actually able to tolerate most of them. Even mushrooms if I eat them fast enough.

        The one thing I just can’t abide at all is spinach from a can. I can deal with fresh spinach, particularly if cheese is in the mix, but something about the canned version is revolting. I tried it a decade or two ago as an adult, to see if my tastes had changed, and if anything it had become worse.

        Oh, and the one time I smelled lutefisk I got as far away from it as I could.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s true; I am something of a picky eater. It was even more true when I was a kid.

And what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: