Oktoberfest! Traditional German Pretzels with White Ranch Beer Dip

Oktoberfest Pretzels & Dip

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I wrote that with a sing-song voice and the tune of a carol in mind. All together now. It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year.

What am I talking about? Oktoberfest of course. What began as a celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810 continues today as a festival that runs for 16 days and ends the first Sunday in October. This year, Oktoberfest kicks off on September 20 and runs through October 5.

What does this mean for the blog? All but one of the recipes I will post over the next two weeks will rely on beer as an ingredient. If you do not particularly enjoy incorporating beer into your recipes, you will probably do well to tune me out until mid-October. I imagine that is when I will begin succumbing to something pumpkin.

For now, let’s talk pretzels. Soft beer pretzels with cheddar beer cheese was the first Oktoberfest recipe I shared when I dreamed this nonsense up two years ago. I am kicking things off the same way this year with another pretzel recipe and beer cheese dip.

Oktoberfest Pretzels & Dip

These are some serious pretzels. Laugenbrezel (traditional German pretzels) are reportedly served at the Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich. The original recipe calls for a yield of only two pretzels, but my heavens, they must be the size of  a catcher’s mitt.

I formed my dough into more manageable pretzel bites. I would love to tell you exactly how many pretzel bites the recipe yields, but I did not count because I am an amateur. If you would like to go the traditional route, the How to Shape a Pretzel post on the kitchn is the best picture tutorial I have come across.

Unusual ingredient alert! The original recipe also calls for barley malt syrup. “Where am I going to find that,” I whined when I read the recipe. It turned out that I found it near the maple syrups at The Fresh Market with no problem. I believe it is also stocked at Whole Foods.

For the dip, I used Leinenkugel’s Canoe Paddler. Leine’s says the kölsch-style beer pairs well with pasta in white wine sauce and whitefish. I say the beer pairs well with this white dip. It is simple to whip up while the pretzels are baking and works well with vegetables too.

Oktoberfest Pretzels & Dip


So, a two-for-one on the first day of Oktoberst. For more Oktoberfest recipes, visit the Oktoberfest recipe page or beer meets food Pinterest board. Cheers!

Traditional German Pretzels with White Ranch Beer Dip
  • For the Pretzels
  • Step One:
  • 1½ tablespoons barley malt syrup
  • 1¼ ounce package active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Step 2:
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling
  • For the Dip
  • 2, 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used cheddar)
  • 1 package ranch dressing mix
  • 6 ounces beer of choice (I used Leinenkugel's Canoe Paddler)
  1. To make the pretzels, stir the barley malt syrup, active dry yeast, and warm water together in a large bowl and allow to sit until the mixture becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, flour and salt to the foamy mixture and stir together until a dough forms.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Quarter the dough, and working with one quarter at a time, roll the dough into ropes about 1 inch thick.
  5. Cut the dough into bite-sized pieces, place the pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. As the dough nears the end of the time for resting, stir the baking soda into one cup of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  7. Brush each pretzel bite with the baking soda solution and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake at 500 degrees F until dark brown, about 15 minutes.
  9. To make the dip, mix the cream cheese, shredded cheese, ranch dressing mix, and beer together until well combined.

Oktoberfest, German Beers & Pretzels

Cheddar Beer Dip

Long ago, I mentioned I planned to spend a few days in beer school. Now that school is over and Oktoberfest has just begun, I thought this would be a nice time to share a bit of what I learned. Every few days between today and October 7, I will share a particular beer and a recipe to match. Since this is Oktoberfest, let’s start with German beers.

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October12, 1810. I will drink a beer for nearly any occasion, but drinking a beer in tribute to love just makes it all the better, don’t you think? If my ongoing obsession with both Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey has taught me anything, it’s that they probably got married because one of them had a nice chunk of land the other one was after.

That aside, the kind royals hosted a festival complete with horse races for all of Bavaria to enjoy. Everyone seemed to like it so much, they added an agricultural festival and did it again the next year. And it just kept going to where we are today. The festival always runs for 16 days and ends the first Sunday in October. To learn more about present-day Oktoberfest, visit the official website.

Cheddar Beer Dip

An important component of the history of German beer is the beer purity law Reinheitsgebot. In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria was not pleased with the poor quality beer consistently placed in front of him. Too many brewers used cheap grain as a substitute for quality grain. So he did what any man of power might do and passed a law restricting the ingredients used to make beer to malted barley, hops and water. (Yeast was added later.) The result was delicious beer.

Here are a few German beer types, along with my overly simplistic descriptions:

Altbier –  A brown ale that is conditioned for a while longer than normal so it doesn’t taste so fruity.

Bock – A strong lager. It is lagered (stored in a cold place) for a while longer than normal so it’s not so in-your-face with taste. In my extracurricular activities after school I learned the goat is the mascot of Bocks. Something about the beer was originally brewed only during the astrological phase of the Capricorn? I was born under the sign of the goat, so I guess I should like these beers.

Dopplebock – An an even stronger lager! And darker than a Bock. I suppose this makes the Dopplebock the strong, dark and handsome one in the family.

Eisbock – The brewing process includes freezing off a portion of the water, so in a sense, this beer is more concentrated than others.

Cheddar Beer Dip

Hefeweizen – Typically brewed with at least 50 percent wheat. The Hefe portion of the name indicates the yeast, and the Weizen means wheat. These beers look kinda cloudy.

Dunkelweizen – Also a wheat beer, but darker than a Hefeweizen.

Weizen-Bock – The pimped out version of the Dunkelweizen.

Schwarzbier – A black beer, though its color does not necessarily indicate its heaviness. These beers are actually quite light and flavorful.

Though I have done my best to provide accurate information, please note I continue to have a very simplistic understanding of the world of beer.

Speaking of World of Beer, Preston at Charlotte’s South End location graciously put the summer beer school program on for eight consecutive Mondays. Any errors, omissions or out-right butcherings of the information he provided and I have re-shared are most definitely my own.

Cheddar Beer Dip

Let’s move on to the food. Nothing says German food like a really nice pretzel! More accurately, nothing says “German food I can actually make” like a nice soft pretzel.You many recall I made soft pretzels last winter, but these are the with-beer versions. I also made a cheddar beer dip for those of you who are like me and need something to go along with your soft pretzels.

I used local Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s OMB Copper for both the pretzels and the dip. This beer has quite a few fans across Charlotte. I have heard “OMB’s Copper is my favorite” proclaimed in settings that range from the dinner table to yoga class. I myself do not care for it. It’s one of those things I really want to like because I think I should, but when it comes down to it, I simply do not. This characteristic actually makes it excellent for cooking purposes because it doesn’t pain me to pour it into something I’m going to eat instead of wanting to pour it down my throat.

As I was checking to make sure pretzels do indeed have origins in Germany, I learned a French or Italian monk is actually given credit for inventing the pretzel. But since German immigrants (today known as the Pennsylvania Dutch) introduced soft pretzels to America, I though this was an acceptable recipe to kick off Oktoberfest. For a different twist, bake the pretzel dough into small rounds to use as sandwich buns or large rounds to use as bowls. Fill them with cheddar beer soup, or simply wait until my next Oktoberfest post when I provide another beer-meets-soup recipe and discuss monks in much more detail. Prost!

Cheddar Beer Dip

Soft Beer Pretzels with Cheddar Beer Dip
Serves: 12
  • For the Pretzels
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1, ¼ ounce package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1¼ cups brown ale, room temperature
  • 3¾ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • For the Dip
  • 1½ cups beer
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Place warm water and yeast in a large bowl and allow to stand for five minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, olive oil, salt beer and 3¾ cups of flour and stir until dough is soft. Continue to add flour or beer as needed until dough comes together.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic or a clean towel. Allow to rise for one hour. The dough should double in size.
  5. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 pieces.
  6. Roll each piece into a rope, about 20 inches long and twist into a pretzel shape.
  7. While you shape the pretzels, bring the water and the baking soda to a boil.
  8. Dip the shaped pretzels into the boiling solution for a few seconds, then place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Cover the pretzels and allow to rise another 15 minutes.
  10. Brush their tops with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with salt.
  11. Bake at 425 degrees until lightly golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  12. To make the dip, pour the beer into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  13. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
  14. Reduce the heat to medium low and thicken with corn starch.
  15. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Feel free to use a stand mixer and the dough hook to knead the pretzel dough. The pretzels will keep in an air tight plastic container for several days. I ended up using 3¾ cups of flour and 1 cup plus three tablespoons of beer to get the dough the consistency I desired.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

I love soft pretzels. They are my snack of choice at a sporting event or if I need a bite to eat while shopping at the mall. I like them with salt or without salt. I like to dip them in melted cheese, coat them in mustard, or eat them plain. Yes, I love soft pretzels.

The process of making homemade soft pretzels is similar to that of making bagels. Mix a yeast dough, allow the dough to rest, then shape, boil, and bake.

A word of caution, the pretzels are very, very slippery when they come out of the boiling water. I used a slotted spatula to remove the pretzels from the boiling water and, moving too quickly, rocketed one pretzel off the spatula and onto the floor.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I was fully intimidated when it came time to twist the pretzels, but it turns out this was an incredibly simple step, and there are a lot of video and photo tutorials available on the web. I found this post at The Kitchn especially helpful.

I wrote the recipe in its original form, calling for 22 inch ropes to yield eight pretzels, but I found I liked using a slightly shorter rope for twisting a slightly shorter pretzel. In the photo below, you can see how differently the pretzels turn out with a varying number of twists and lengths.

Homemade soft pretzels are yet another recipe I approached with trepidation and quickly learned the fear was all in my head. I assure you, making soft pretzels at home is both easy and inexpensive, and homemade soft pretzels taste just like the soft pretzels you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. If well wrapped, they also freeze and reheat fairly well. Happy snacking!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Serves: 8
  • For the Dough
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 4½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • For the Boil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • For the Finish
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons cold water
  • Coarse salt
  1. Combine the 1½ cups warm (not hot!) water, brown sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until combined. Allow to sit for five minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix with the dough hook on low speed until combined.
  3. Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. If the dough appears very wet, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface, then knead into a ball with your hands.
  6. Place the ball of dough into a bowl coated with the vegetable oil, and turn the dough in the bowl to coat.
  7. Cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm area until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  8. After one hour, bring the water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat.
  9. When the water is boiling, add the baking soda.
  10. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface.
  11. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces, and roll each piece into a rope measuring about 22 inches.
  12. To shape, pull each end of the rope up toward the center. Twist the right side across the left one or two times, then lay the twisted ends down towards the center of the rope.
  13. Place the pretzels, one or two at a time, in the boiling water and baking soda solution.
  14. Boil for 30 seconds, carefully using a spoon to splash the tops of the pretzels with the water.
  15. Remove the pretzels from the boiling water with a large flat slotted spatula (careful as they will be slick) and set the pretzels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  16. Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash and season liberally with salt.
  17. Bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.