In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, brown sugar, yeast, and salt. Add in 1 1/2 cups water.
If using a stand mixer, use a dough hook and allow the mixture to come together.If using a bowl, use a spatula and fold until mostly combined. *Sprinkle a little more flour if needed to not be sticky and form a ball.
Once ball is formed, grease the same bowl mixed in and place the dough ball back into the bowl.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 30-40 minutes in a warm, draft free place until doubled.
While dough rest, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a large baking tray, set aside. Lay out a towel or a few paper towels for drying station. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Carefully pour into a heat proof bowl and add baking soda, stir together. Let water come to a safe, but warm temperature to put your hands into (under 112 degrees F).
Once dough is ready, grease a work surface and turn out dough.
Use a pizza cutter or knife and cut off a 8 inch x 1 1/2 inch piece of dough. Pull piece off and roll it from the middle out to the ends into a 36-Inch long rope (about 1/2 inch wide).
To form pretzels, make a U-shape with the rope. Pull each end down to the middle and overlap them twice and then push down ends into the bottom of the pretzel to attach. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Do not let the pretzels touch each other on baking sheet.
Holding the pretzel where you pushed the ends into, pick it up and dip the pretzels into the water mixture for 5-10 seconds. Pull out and slightly dry off on towel. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway to ensure even cooking.
While baking, mix together any topping ingredients in a bowl large enough to dip if adding.
When you remove the pretzels, immediately brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt or dip in topping mixture.
Best served warm and eaten the same day you make. Makes 12.