In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and brown sugar. Mix just to combine then let sit for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Once activated, add 4 cups flour and salt. Using the knead attachment, mix on low speed until the flour has absorbed the water.
Increase speed to medium to knead for 4-5 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining 1 cup of flour.
Add the dough to a clean surface to separate into 8 equal parts. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap to rest 10 minutes.
Roll out each dough ball into a 24" long rope, then shape into a "U", cross the arms over each other, then twist around oncemore before pinching the ends into the round bottom to create the iconic pretzel shape.
Repeat with remaining dough balls, then place on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Cover the shaped pretzels with a tea towel or plastic wrap to rise in a warm environment for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large pot over medium high heat, bring the water and baking soda mixture to a boil.
Add the risen pretzels into the water mixture for 30 seconds on each side, then gently place back on the pan.
Sprinkle with pretzel or coarse sea salt.
Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on top.