ARLINGTON, Va. – The garlic hits you as you walk in the door.
The dill, coriander and other pungent pickling flavors are deliciously evident during a visit to the Number 1 Sons pickle factory in North Arlington.
Brother-sister team Yi Wah and Caitlin Roberts don’t limit their fermenting to cucumbers. They’re also producing kimchis and krauts in their unassuming factory off North Washington Boulevard.
While most people are familiar with the combination of beer and hot dogs or peanuts, Number 1 Sons is pairing beer with pickles.
“They’re two things that make people very happy,” says Yi Wah Roberts, prying open a barrel of pickles for a taste test.
Pairing pickles and beers makes sense, says Roberts.
“They’re both fermented foods,” says Yi Wah Roberts. “They seem to have an affinity for each other. Alcohol likes big flavors and sometimes it likes the sort of acid that the pickles bring to the party.”
Caitlin Roberts says pickles are an alternative to typical bar food.
“It’s healthy. It’s crunchy. It’s not greasy,” say the Roberts.
“I’m a girl, I think about what I’m eating. So I like knowing I’m eating something that’s good for me when I’m enjoying some beer,” she said.
Her brother said choosing the correct beer depends on the style of the pickle.
For milder Cori half-sours, the Roberts say a crisp lager works well.
“It doesn’t fill you up and the flavor’s not so big that you find it overwhelming,” Roberts said.
In tasting the spicier District Dills, fermented in an onion-based brine with coriander and allspice, “we can do a more full-bodied beer – not quite a porter, but maybe a light IPA.”
Spicy with garlic and chili, the Kicky Kosher offers options like a light, easy to drink beer, or a sweeter beer or hard cider.
“See how the sweet and spicy combination really goes well together,” Yi Wah Roberts says.
The newest pickle, Tailgate Mambo, is an invention using spices with a mambo sauce, a popular flavor in the D.C. area.
“You get a lot of layers of flavors, because they’re fermented,” says Caitlin Roberts. “You get the spicy, and the smoky, and the cinnamon all at different times.”
Yi Wah Roberts recommends pairing an IPA with the bold flavor.
“You have the hoppy-ness to go with the pickle’s flavor, and it’s almost like eating barbecue and drinking beer together,” he says.
Number 1 Sons will be participating in beer and pickle pairing at D.C. Brau on Saturday, March 30.