Beer, meet beer snack, beer snack, meet beer…
1. Brazen Buffalo Wing // Giddy Up Nuts // Los Angeles, CA
Worse ideas have been born on predawn ski trip runs to the gas station, en route to first chair, or late-night rest stop visits before pulling into camp, to stock up on last minute forgotten items. King-sized candy tempts when lit by flickering fluorescents and seasoned with rumbling bellies. But when the sugar high fades, you’ll wish for wiser choices. On their own pre-ski supply run, faced with questionable jerky and slowly spinning heat lamp dogs, these friends let their better judgment prevail, shunned the junk food and started Giddy Up. Satisfyingly savory with a zesty zing from fresh pepper, garlic, and just enough celery salt, pack these almonds for a trail-side snack, or hors d’oeuvres while you wait for the kettle to sing.
2. Hatch Cheese Nibbles // Wackym’s Kitchen // Dallas, TX
Wackym’s Kitchen started as a home-oven operation, slinging a half dozen varieties of cookies at Dallas-area farmers markets; it’s now an empire of Texan proportions with flavors as, er, wacky (it’s his real name) as the owner’s trademark hats. Some, like chocolate snicker doodle, might be best when the drinking’s done and the sweet tooth kicks in, but before happy hour swings toward desert time, these biscuits hit the spot, with a savory, tangy mix of sharp cheddar, blue cheese, and New Mexico’s infamous Hatch chiles.
3. Beer Caramel Pretzel Nuggets // Roni-Sue’s // New York, NY
Another classic bar side bite, long gone stale: stripped of their brawny Bavarian glory, most bar pretzels are banished to dusty snack bowls, pawed through by dozens of drunken hands. Good riddance. Leave those for the unenlightened and get hip to Roni-Sue’s redux, a collaboration with her neighbors at the Brooklyn Brewery: sweet, salty, crunchy pretzel nibbles infused with, what else? Beer.
4. Mexican Hot Chocolate Walnuts // Old Dog Ranch // Bellota, CA
This San Juaquin county farm has been shaking down and shelling walnuts for five generations — they know their nuts. Walnut trees can live for centuries, but times and tastes change, which means this Old Dog has some new tricks. While dad runs the farm, his daughter turns their buttery, rich, omega-3-packed nuggets into even tastier (and even more irresistible) flavor bombs like these Mexican-inspired morsels, dusted with rich cocoa, warming cinnamon, and a zesty pinch of cayenne. Trendy, but traditional: the ranch still grows, dries, and grinds the peppers themselves.
5. Chipotle Barbecue Halfpops // Halfpops // Bellevue, WA
For you popcorn fanatics, craving the partially popped, crackling crisp kernels at the bottom of the pot, Halfpops are exactly what they sound like: half-popped popcorn. With an echoing crunch and high-decibel taste, these munchies make regular-old popcorn taste, and feel, and airy as packing peanuts. They hold up so well, in fact, you can mix the nuggets into soup, a salad, over your ice cream (trust us). Or, since you’ve no qualms about scraping the pot, snack ’em straight from the bag.
6. Sweat Heat Pecans // Molly & Me Pecans // Holy Hill, SC
Another sports-night staple we can’t live without is the humbly habit-forming beer nut. A cinch to serve and impossible to resist — your coffee table’s downright naked without a heaping bowl. In the grand tradition of southern cooking, wherein sugar and spice make everything nicer, these pecans, plucked from a 150-acre farm outside of Charleston, get a dusting of crunchy cinnamon sugar with an afterburner boost of chile pepper heat. No need to fear — the flavor’s balanced and subtle — just keep the beer glass close at hand.
7. Pork Clouds // Bacon’s Heir // Atlanta, GA
You say your beloved underdogs will win when pigs fly? Get ready for liftoff. These are the fluffiest, crunchiest *chicarrones* we’ve ever seen — the porky puffs practically float on air. The Georgian maker’s method is a Wonka-like secret, but involves kettle-cooking hand-seasoned salt-cured pig skin in good-for-you virgin olive oil — no goopy, deep-fat fryers here. So even if your team stays grounded, you can gorge away your suffering guilt-free. There’s always next game.
8. Lager N Lime Peanuts // Hops & Nuts // Greensboro, NC
Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink? No worries, as long as there’s beer, and, of course, some munchies to go with it. The best pairing for a lime-wedged lager, besides a hammock and a wave-rippled sunset, is, of course, a handful of peanuts. To properly satiate while you hydrate and luxuriate (hey, island life is hard…), reach for a bag of these North Carolina redskins, dusted in sea salt and spritzed with lime juice. Then kick back and watch for the green flash.
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