According to lore, pretzels came to be in 610 A.D. thanks to an Italian monk. He folded dough to look like the arms of children praying and called them “small rewards,” or pertiola. Germans called them Bretzel, which is probably where the English word came from, which could be from the Latin word for bracelet, bracellus or bracchiola, “small arms.”
Pretzels made it to the U.S. and until the 1930s were made by hand. Today, Americans eat about 1.5 pounds of these treats annually, and pretzels are a $550 million-per-year business.
That’s the pretzel origin story, but what about the pretzel necklace that’s everywhere at beer fests? What’s the history there?
A lot goes into and onto pretzel necklaces and they have come to embody the spirit of beer festivals and beer-fest goers everywhere. Keep reading to learn about pretzel necklace origins and then make one of your own to eat with your beer!
It all comes back to the monks! Yes, pretzels have their spiritual significance and so do pretzel necklaces. Get ready for more lore here.
Apparently, back in 1521 in Germany, they came up with laws about beer brewing called the “Reinheitsgebot.” It stated that the only ingredients that could be used in beer were barley, water, and hops.
Apparently, there was a sacred order of beer-brewing monks. Yes, monks brew beer and they do it to this day around Europe. Anyway, this secret sacred order worshiped the “holy trinity” of beer and pretzels, with their three loops, embodied their sacred love. So, the monks put the pretzels on a string and wore them close to their heart, boasting their love of beer. And hence, the pretzel necklace was born.
Staple of Beer Festivals and Oktoberfest
Years later, in modern times, the pretzel necklace has become a staple of beer fests and Oktoberfest. Beginning as something to eat between beers, they grew to be part fashion, part personality, part snack, part necessary stomach sponge, part full-on meal, part beer-lover identity, part icebreaker, and part symbol of love. By the 90s, pretzel necklaces were seen everywhere on the beer-fest circuit and sometimes even called a beer necklace.
But how did this happen, you ask?
Pretzels were already at beer festivals and Oktoberfest because, you know, German beer and pretzels equal beer festival. So, why not put these doughy snacks on a string so you have your snack right there and have two free hands for two beer steins? Also, if your pretzels are on your neck and you’re flush with beer, you can just lounge in sheer Bavarian Lederhosen and Dirndl delight without having to get up.
That’s how it started. And then beer-and-pretzel lovers got smart and went nuts.
Overboard With Everything But the Kitchen Sink
Beer-loving festival goers were smart. With their pretzel necklaces in tow, they didn’t have to stand in line at the pretzel stand. And then they got smarter when someone thought, “Why not add all those other yummy treats so I don’t have to wait in any lines?” Also, they took into consideration that if they brought their food, it would cost less, which was great for your younger newb beer-fest goers on a budget and college students.
And that’s what happened. Today, you’ll find a whole array of noshing treats strung on pretzel necklaces of beer festival fans, including beef jerky, packaged treats like cookies and chips, nuts in a bag, Goldfish, graham crackers, bags of hot dogs, nicely prepared steak, bacon, pizza, and cheese sticks, to name a few examples.
Yes, wearable food on a pretzel necklace can include everything you need from breakfast to a midnight snack. It does always include pretzels though!
Take note that some of these neck noshes weigh up to three pounds and you might want a small cushion of some sort on the back of your neck so the string doesn’t cut in. Also, try to balance your treats for weight so the necklace doesn’t pull on one side.
Icebreakers With Panache
Pretzel necklaces make great icebreakers and veteran beer fans enjoy some fun meet cutes thanks to their neckwear. A pretzel necklace can really show off your style and personality and are easy talking points. Compliments fly!
And so does love. Let’s go back to the lore for a minute.
First off, pretzels look like hearts and knots, right? Maybe that’s why in 17th-century Switzerland, pretzels found their way into royal weddings to symbolize love. Tying the knot, perhaps? And in Germany at the same time, pretzels were worn as necklaces by children for good fortune and good luck on New Year’s.
So, it’s safe to say, the modern beer-fest pretzel necklace is also a bringer of love symbolically and literally.
Peacocks of Pretzels
Pretzel necklaces have also come to symbolize beer-fest status, in that they show that you know your stuff. The nicer and more ornate the necklace, the higher the status, in a fun way. Beer necklaces can only be fun! And they only signify beer-geek status.
Boasting a big necklace? Invite old and new friends over to your table and share some of your beer-geek majesty.
Start Building Your Pretzel Necklace Today
The pretzel necklace brings so much food joy and connection with old and new friends. Going to a beer festival or Oktoberfest? See any ideas you’d like to try?
Go ahead and start stringing up pretzels. Keep them on their own or go nuts with a full meal or other snacks. Looking for some more ideas on how to make a pretzel necklace? Check out some yummy German Oktoberfest food to add.