The Surprises Chatty Monks Had in Brewing with Pretzels

​When a local business has been around for 100 years, it only makes sense for a craft brewery to want to partner with them to create a local connection and help boost interest in both your brand and the established company.

So when Chatty Monks Brewing connected with Unique Snacks, the two Reading, Pennsylvania it was obvious that beer and salty snacks would work well together. Thus, Split Face, an Amber Lager featuring a savory hint of pretzel, was created in celebration of National Pretzel Day on April 26.

“Reading has a long-standing history as the pretzel capital of the world and the craft beer scene in the area is very collaborative,” explained Chatty Monks’ John Stemler. “That gave us the idea of working with a local family business that had a similar history of also supporting the community.”

As they were thinking about how to craft a pretzel beer, Stemler said they were introduced to Justin Spannuth, COO of Unique Snacks, at a networking event.

“After talking for a couple of minutes we both knew we were on to something special that celebrates the rich traditions of Reading,” Stemler said.

​They developed a whole new Amber Lager recipe to make Split Face, using 340 pounds of whole and unsalted pretzel splits.

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​”This is not sticky, but it does require the addition of rice hulls to aid in the lautering process of the wort to the kettle​,” he said. “I accounted for the pretzels to be completely converted to sugars in the mash. They did not disappoint, in fact, I had to scale back the recipe halfway through the batches to make sure the gravity was not too high.​”

For the base recipe, ​they used a Marzen ​recipe and added complimentary specialty malts to add biscuit and toasty flavor and aroma.

​”​Initially, I was concerned that we would have to break up the pretzels before the addition, but a week earlier we added some to a pitcher of water and they softened quickly enough​,” Stemler pointed out.

Another surprise was the effect the pretzels had on the mash pH. Sinc​e​ Sodium ​Hydroxide is used in​ the pretzel dough​​, adding them to the mash increases the pH drastically. ​Stemler said they had to offset that with an acid and buffer addition.​

Split Face was introduced by Chatty Monks and Unique Snacks at the West Reading Craft Pretzel and Beer Fest on April 22. The initial batch of Split Face ​was available at Chatty Monks Pub in West Reading and select other locations.

“Reading has a thriving craft beer scene, and we are pleased to partner with a long-standing family-operated craft pretzel business in the community to create something unique to our region,” said Rajavel Jagadesan, owner of Chatty Monks.

Chatty Monks has already started planning to brew additional batches of Split Face and expand its availability.

​Stemler said this type of beer and local connection helped bring the beer to ​American Legion​ halls, private clubs​, golf courses​, and such.

​”Having diverse sales avenues is always a smart idea​,” he said. ​”​Additionally, the craft beer community is very collaborative. It is only natural that we would seek to collaborate with outside and adjacent businesses.​”

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