Chris Ferguson loved beer, and he was looking for a new job. But it took a trip “down undah," a pub lunch and a Spanish restaurant to ferment his passion into a business.
It started with a trip to Sydney, where Chris planned to surf, drink and hang out with friends. One afternoon they were at one of the city's oldest pubs, where the bartender made them a ploughman's lunch of meats, cheeses, nuts, pickles and crusty bread. The next night they went for tapas, and another bartender paired each small plate with a different wine. Chris loved the interplay between food and drink, and started to think about what snacks he could pair with his favorite beverage – craft beer.
Back in Chicago, he started testing out recipes on his wife, friends and family. He took the classic pub offering – a plain bowl of peanuts – and transformed it into a spicy, fusion snack that could stand up to the complex, flavorful beers being poured at Chicago bars. Inspired by Mexican, Asian and Indian spices and after dozens of test batches later, Bees Knee's Bar Snacks was born.
Spicy peanuts sound simple, but making them full-flavored and crunchy requires effort, especially when you're working with between 80 and 160 pounds of nuts at a time!
First, they roast the peanuts alone. Then the nuts are coated in egg whites and a spice blend and roasted a second time, with careful stirring to make sure each batch toasts evenly. The egg whites add extra crunch, but also make the nuts stick to each other, so next they have to be broken up. Each bag is then filled, weighed and sealed, all by hand.
Demand for Bee's Knees is huge, so it'll be a long time before Chris gets to go anywhere on vacation, much less Australia. Surfing can wait.
How did you come up with your recipes?
Trial and error – let's just say my friends ate a ton of spicy peanuts and drank lots of beer, giving me input with each bit and sip.
Pairing of the moment?
Our Chipotle + Lime Peanuts with Reissdorf Kolsch!
Why "Bee's Knees"?
it always cracks me up when people throw out expressions that aren't used anymore. I thought it was appropriate since we were trying to make "the best" beer snacks possible.