I was reading about a new hard pretzel company in Asheville that had set out to fill a void, or in their own words, “creating a need for beer!” The Asheville Pretzel Company is the only hard pretzel maker in this beer town.
Owner and partner, Steve Michael is an immediately likable guy with a constant and genuine smile. His passion for pretzels exudes when he talks to you. He tells me this all started when he was sitting with his future partner, Bert, in an Asheville bar, drinking a local beer. He wonders, “where’s the pretzels?” Then, comes to find out that none of the bars or breweries in Asheville serve hard pretzels…because there isn’t a local vendor. Steve set out to solve this problem.
So, he did what any of us would do when we want to learn something new. He watched the only video that he could find on YouTube about making hard pretzels. He shaped the first batch into the letter ‘A’ (for Asheville, of course); but then realized his kitchen oven was on the fritz, so he broke out his old toaster oven. Resourceful, he is.
Steve is also all about ‘systems’. He spent 18+ years as a Rolls Royce mechanic, and now working at the Organic Mechanic in west Asheville. He parlayed his extensive knowledge and experience as a mechanic and problem solver into his newfound hunger for making and delivering unique and tasty hard pretzels to Asheville. After all, we are the ‘beer equivalent to Napa Valley’, and what goes better together than beer and pretzels?
His partners and friends, Cathy and Ed live in the same condo complex as Steve. Eileen was introduced to Steve not long after the Asheville Pretzel Company was born, and was quickly put to work helping with the baking process. After spending about 45 minutes with them, it became real clear how committed they all are to this business, and each other.
Steve says he eats an almost 100% plant-based diet, giving up dairy and most other animal products several years ago for health reasons. He was having trouble with his allergies whenever he would visit his son, Steven and grandson, Connor up in PA. They had animals in the house and Steve was miserable after just a few minutes. He had to find a way that he could spend time with them comfortably, without any pills. Changing his diet worked!
The Asheville Pretzel Company currently bakes up pretzel rods in flavors like traditional Malt, which pairs really well with beer. He also makes a Garlic, Onion and Chive flavor (all baked into the pretzel, not just sprinkled on). I got to sample a new one they’re working on which is combination of Old Bay seasonings and Sriracha hot sauce. This one is a winner, and is the perfect explanation behind his packaging tag line ‘creating the need for beer’. Oh, and the bearded cartoon man on the packages is named Sam after Samuel Ashe whom Asheville was named for, is actually a representation of his ex-Marine son, Steven!
Steve’s playful side came out when he handed me an open bag of shorter pretzel rods and says “try these”. So, I popped one in my mouth and immediately tasted peanut butter. It was really good, and the texture was a bit different than his other pretzels. When I asked about it, he shows me the packaging. This is a pretzel for dogs! When he walks down the street carrying bags of these pretzels, dogs come running. He also has customers who admit to having a hard time sharing the peanut butter pretzel rods with their canine companions!
Asheville Pretzel Company pretzels are artisan and hand made. They can be found at Hopey and Co., the High Wire Brewery in Biltmore Village, the Chop Shop on Charlotte Street, and the market in the Aloft Hotel. The dog pretzels are being sold the Brother Wolf ReTail store. Steve is also talking with Whole Foods and Ingles Market, and if you ask me, they better jump all over these pretzel rods!