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Pairing hot dogs with beer

Emma Janzen

The classic hot dog might be the most essential forms of trailer food, and remains one tha has lasting power in this day and age where you can find everything from Indian Dosas to gourmet Italian pasta at your local food trailer park.

If it’s a normal hot dog you’re looking for, you won’t find much standard weiner-and-bun fare at Honky Tonk Hot Dogs on South Lamar Boulevard. While you can order an All American with typical mustard or ketchup and relish on top, the sheer myriad of available dressings for “meat in tube-form” ( as Anthony Bourdain might say ) elevates the trailer above and beyond your typical hot dog stand. With so many options to fancy up your meal, ordering a normal hot dog just doesn’t seem to cut it.

The soul of the each hot dog remains unadulterated, with a 100 percent all-beef base and soft lightly toasted sweet buns, but elaborate toppings steal the show at Honky Tonk, with cheddar cheese, onions and jalapenos making recurring appearances throughout the menu. It’s also rare to find a dog that only has a single ingredient co-star, adhering instead to the notion that the more toppings one adds, the better the results will taste.

For the pairing, Brett Vance and Willie Stark, the co-owners of Handlebar, brought a cooler full of craft beer to see what might pair best with the seriously intense dogs.

Vance and Stark are not quite the hipsters you’d think they might be, having a bar concept based off of trendy male facial hair, but rather they are a snarky duo of mustachioed Sixth Street veterans (both put in time at the Blind Pig for an extended number of years) who are quick with the jokes and won’t shy away from the challenge of ingesting a hot dog piled high with copious amounts of hearty ingredients. Thankfully, they also know their craft beer.

So as to not induce too much unnecessary artery-clogging, we ordered three hot dogs, and split each one three ways, to get just enough of a taste of each. We tried several different beer options with each dog.

We started with the most extreme sounding combination on the menu, the gut-busting Oil Rig Dog. Named after musician Jesse Dayton, a whopping jumbo hot dog is wrapped in two pieces of substantial bacon and fried. When undressed, it might not sound so intimidating, but when you “go all in” and top with smoked brisket, onions, jalapenos, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese (all for a meager extra $1.75), you’ve got a monster meal on your hands.

With all of those savory fixings, the dog was indeed a sloppy mess, but only in the most satisfying way. The bacon enveloping the plump dog oozed flavor, and when combined with the moist smoked brisket, provided a hearty meat-lovers feast. A healthy dose of barbecue sauce saturated the pile of meat, jalapenos provided fleeting moments of much needed tart and spicy contrast amidst the sea of savory sauce, and the cheddar cheese bound all of the ingredients together. Even though I’d likely need to split one with a friend to disperse the heft, I will most certainly be returning for this dog in the future.

First we tasted the Oil Rig with a Saison de Buff, which is a collaboration beer from the brewers at Stone, Dogfish Head and Victory. It’s a Saison style beer brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, so herbal elements commanded the majority of the taste.

Stark preferred this pairing with the Oil Rig because of the sharp contrast in flavors. The bright citrus elements in the beer, tempered by softness of rosemary and thyme, cleaned the palate after each bite and provided an additional earthy element to the pairing as a whole. Vance preferred the Saint Arnold Oktoberfest, because the heavier body and rich malty notes of the beer complemented the sweeter notes in the meats, drawing out the flavors of the food. I enjoyed both pairings equally.

Next we sliced up the Dallas Wayne Chili Mac Dog, which claimed fewer ingredients, but packed almost as much weight as the Oil Rig. A similarly juicy dog provided the heart of the beast, which was then covered with grilled mac and cheese, and homemade chili. The mac and cheese lends itself to this combination as a warm, creamy contrast to the spiced meats. I didn’t get as much grilled char as I hoped to find on the noodles, but they were buttery and texturally different enough to hold their own against the chili.

Stark thought this dog might pair well with the Tieton Yakima Valley dry hopped cider, which ended up tasting like a slightly tart, fruity beer-cider hybrid. We also tried the Ska Mexican Logger lager-style beer, thinking that the light body would help slice through some of the intense chili and cheese elements. While both drinks were delicious on their own, neither one seemed to enhance the hot dog. Since the chili added so much spice and depth to the dog itself, this one needed something with a stronger personality to stand up to those elements instead of simply washing them away.

We also ordered one of the Redd Volkaert’s Fried Egg and Cheese Dogs. We ordered this based on the assumption that putting an egg on anything usually sounds like a good idea, but discovered that none of us really liked the flavor or textural combination, so we skipped attempting to pair it up with beer.

Finally, what I initially perceived as lackluster squishy fries came to life when tasted with the Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale. The contrast of salt on the fries and malts from the brew created a maelstrom of delightful contrasts.

Trailer: Honky Tonk Hot Dogs

Address: 3600 S. Lamar Blvd.

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; noon to 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Credit Cards: Yes

BYOB Pairing: I doubt there is a beer out there that will not go well with hot dogs of all kinds. Bring along an assortment of styles to play around with what pairs best.