Tasting Notes: A Beer Pairing with the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods

nealbros_200For a little change of pace, this week’s Tasting Notes gets its snack on with a special beer pairing featuring the delicious Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods (Toronto, Ontario).

I was recently approached by representatives from Neal Brothers Foods to see if I would be willing to provide them with some input on possible beer pairings for their line of “Extremely Tasty” Kettle Chips.  The more I looked over their available flavors – Maple Bacon, Montreal Steak Spice, Pink Himalayan Salt, & Spicy Srirachup -, the more excited I got about this possibly becoming a fun new project to be featured as a Tasting Notes segment.  I pitched my idea to them, and the good folks at Neal Brothers gave me the go-ahead.

Before this delicious, snack-filled pairing can commence, we first need to cover some particulars on Neal Brothers Foods.  Peter and Chris Neal started Neal Brothers Foods in 1988 by making croutons out of their mother’s home in Aurora, Ontario, and the croutons proved to be a huge hit with locals. The company quickly outgrew their headquarters in mom’s kitchen, and Neal Brothers Foods moved to Toronto, Ontario to create a variety of delicious products. With a dedication to the freshest ingredients, Neal Brothers offers products made from “organic ingredients to help sustain our environment and keep us healthy and chemical free,” and they are also firm believers in the Fair Trade movement.  This commitment to creating “great tasting, ‘better for you’ snacks” has made it possible for Neal Brothers to steadily grow.  One of their most popular offerings are these “all natural, non-GMO, kettle-cooked chips.”  Thanks to an exclusive partnership created with Whole Foods Market, Neal Brothers Kettle Chips are now available in the United States.

Now that we have all of that covered, let’s get our sip and chip on with a little Tasting Notes Beer Pairing featuring the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods!

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Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips with Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Co.

  • The Pairing – Since the flavor of these Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips is going to be pretty straight forward, I wanted to keep the pairing simple by going with a highly drinkable lager like Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Co.   The chips really showcase the potato by highlighting its earthy, hearty and lightly sweet qualities.  Combine this with a salt character that is incredibly spot on – not too heavy, but not too light – and you now have a chip that kind of forces your hand to return to the bag for another.  The idea here may be simple on paper, but these chips pack quite a bit of flavor and are mighty tasty.
    Pair this experience up with Longboard Island Lager, and the earthy grain and gently sweet notes of the pale malts easily lift that potato flavor to another level.  The lightly spicy, floral and citrusy hop tones push forward to work with and add complexity to the saltiness.  On the other side of the card, the chips improve the overall drinking experience by coaxing out a nice lemon zest note hiding within the beer.  Simultaneously, the beer clears out the saltiness of the chips while that saltiness resets the palate for another sip.  The goal here was to create an easy pairing to enjoy while you sit down to watch the game on the couch.  Mission accomplished.
  • Paring Alternatives – Staying with the idea of keeping it simple, I would stick with Lagers and lighter, easy drinking Ales to pair with these Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips.  Since it is Fest season, you could skip the pretzels and pair these chips with a Festbier like the 2016 Oktoberfest Festival Lager collaboration from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Mahrs Bräu.  Looking for something more accessible (on multiple levels)?  Well, you could always go with a good, mass-produced Pilsner like Miller High Life.  In more of an Ale mood?  Go with a Blonde Ale like American Blonde from Cahaba Brewing Co. or a classic American Amber Ale such as Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company. If you want to amp up this salty experience, you could always go with a briny Gose like Troublesome from Off Color Brewing. Also, if you are hosting a beer tasting, a big ol’ bowl of these chips will act as the perfect palate cleanser between brews.

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Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Maple Bacon Kettle Chips with Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale from Starr Hill Brewery

  • The Pairing – Breakfast, anyone?  These Maple Bacon Kettle Chips hit the palate with a luxurious maple syrup flavor at first bite.  When I say maple syrup, I mean seriously good maple syrup.  You know . . . that maple syrup you see at the store, question the price, finally try it, and never go back to the cheap stuff again.  That kind of maple syrup.  As this flavor seduces the taste buds, things somehow get better as a smoky bacon note slow-rolls into the picture.  After a couple chips, you could swear that you just wolfed down a whole plate of bacon.  This bag is insanely difficult to put down . . . but we must to take a sip of Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale from Starr Hill Brewery.
    This English-style Brown Ale – like most English-style brews – is reserved.  Its aromatic and flavor profile is light in sweetness, light in hop presence, and smoothly teases your palate with soft tones of vanilla and maple.  Now . . . pop one of those chips in your mouth.  WHOLE. NEW. WORLD.  The maple notes now absolutely explode from the beer, making you question if someone shuffled in a new beer when you were not looking.  The sweetness is still contained, but the experience is increased tenfold.  The malty aspects of the beer then go to work on that bacon to pull out even more smoky pork goodness from the chips.  This combination conjures up the image of sitting down to an awesome breakfast where warm maple syrup wanders from my pancakes to not only the bacon on the plate . . . but also to my hash browns.  And I am not mad at it.
  • Pairing Alternatives – If you are not within Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution area, just seek out a good, locally available English-style Brown Ale like Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale or a more malt-forward American representation like Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue Ales.  We can progressively step things up in intensity and sweetness by venturing into the world of Scotch Ales by pairing these Maple Bacon Kettle Chips with Old Chub Scotch Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery.  If you would like to bring out more bacon notes, go with a Smoked Beer like Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Co. or a more traditional Rauchbier from Schlenkerla.  For a decadent, over-the-top breakfast experience, pick up some Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Co. and thank me later.  Cider fans, just about any Apple Cider you can come up with will also work wonders with these kettle chips.

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Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chips with Oatsmobile Ale from Bell’s Brewery

  • The Pairing – If you are anything like me, you cannot think of a better condiment for just about anything than the perfect mixture of Sriracha and good ketchup.  So, I was obviously stoked to see these chips as an available option from Neal Brothers Foods.  As I greedily consume these Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chips, I am constantly reminded of the act of dipping really good, spiced fries (think curly fries from Arby’s) into that sweet heat concoction comprised of Sriracha and ketchup.  Seriously, it is spot on and I cannot describe them any better.
    Now, we must introduce the beer.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this offering, Bell’s Brewery Oatsmobile Ale is a Session Pale Ale brewed with oats.  The addition of those oats adds a creamy texture to the more expected pale malt and bright hoppy characteristics of the American Pale Ale.  That velvety texture makes you take more notice of the beer’s malt sweetness, and this works with the chips by bringing out the sweet tomato character of the ketchup.  The tropical hop notes then sync up with the chilies of the Sriracha, making you experience more than just heat.  Those hops force the chilies to bloom and expose their fruity and vegetal flavors.  That texture then reveals that it can pull double duty by making you believe that you have a much larger beer here to tackle the huge flavor of these chips, but still remains light enough on its feet to keep you sipping without the worry of getting weighed down throughout the experience.  This Oatsmobile Ale and Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chip combo just might be a perfect pairing.
  • Pairing Alternatives – If you are a fan of all things spicy, you are going to get a progressively more intense experience the hoppier you go with the pairing.  If you want to stay light but go a step further than a Pale Ale, a Session IPA like Stone Go To IPA from Stone Brewing Co. will do some good things here.  You can go full on IPA with a brew like Jai Alai® India Pale Ale from Cigar City Brewing or step it up big time with a Double IPA such as Snake Handler Double India Pale Ale from Good People Brewing Company.  Feeling adventurous? Pour up a Chili Beer such as Dia de los Serranos Double Stout from Green Flash Brewing Co. or Ghost Face Killah from Twisted Pine Brewing Company.  For those who may want to quell the heat and bring out more of the sweetness from the ketchup, you won’t go wrong in pairing these chips with a fine American Porter like Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.

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Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Montreal Steak Spice Kettle Chips with Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Co.

  • The Pairing – As I open up this bag of Montreal Steak Spice Kettle Chips and take big whiff of the exquisite aroma billowing forth, I cannot believe that this is the first time I have realized that Montreal steak spice is basically pastrami curing spice (some quick Googling proved my suspicions correct).  It is kind of crazy to think that it ultimately took a bag of chips for me to put this together, but the aromas and flavors in these chips are so pronounced and blatant that they make it unmistakable.  Garlic, chili flake and dill really pop in these chips, and a little coriander and mustard lingers in the background.  The hearty, meaty potato acts as a perfect replacement for the steak and provides a solid foundation beneath all of this savory spice.
    Since these chips are so big in flavor and incredibly complex, they need a beer dynamic enough to stand up to them.  My mind immediately went to Saison and one of the best out there is Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Co.  This beer has a beautiful peppery quality that is immediately at home with the garlic, mustard and potato notes in these chips.  The citrusy and floral hop tones then mingle with the chili and dill, making them even more pronounced.  The coriander in the chips then kicks in to intensify the earthy qualities of the Saison.  Finally, the beer’s effervescence easily cleans the palate after each sip is complete, allowing you to fully experience every aspect of this combo with each chip and sip.  Absolutely lovely.  If you have been looking for a way to get high-class with beer and snack chips, you just found it.
  • Pairing Alternatives – A wide variety of easy-drinking lagers will work incredibly well with these chips, but I’m going to stick with suggesting more complex brews to pair here.  Additional Saisons such as Saison Dupont from La Brasserie Dupont and Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang will act as fantastic stand-ins for Tank 7.  A Belgian-style Tripel would work as well, and I would go with La Fin du Monde from Unibroue or Tripel Karmeliet from Brouwerij Bosteels.  If mind-blowing complexity is your intention, snack on these chips while sipping a Sour Ale such as Oro de Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales or Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe.

The Wrap-Up – I cannot possibly relay to you how impressed I am with these ridiculously tasty Kettle Chips from Neal Brothers Foods.  They are not just fantastic chips, but they are truly incredibly good food.  As far as snacks go, they can curb some cravings and still remain pretty good for you thanks to their natural, non-GMO recipes.  It is obvious that no corners were cut in the creation of these Kettle Chips, and not one flavor was dumbed down for the sake of wide market appeal.  It is this component of huge flavors that makes these chips a perfect snack to be enjoyed alone or accompanied by a variety of fine beers.  The next time you need chips for a get-together you are hosting, be sure to swing by Whole Foods Market and delight your guests with the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods.  Prost!

 

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