The Dawn of The Beer Chip
Posted: Mar 24, 2008 12:26pm ET
In the universe of Big Ideas some succeed famously, some shuffle along, and others miss the mark. A package arrived at Cigar Aficionado the other day that seemed to bestride that spectrum.
The Big Idea is Beer Chips, or potato chips made with beer. As spawned by Brett Stern, a product designer in Portland, Oregon, the idea is so big that it overflowed into the marriage of two other drinks—the Margarita and Spicy Bloody Mary—with potato chips. Mr. Stern was kind enough to send us all three, and as they arrived before lunch when we were famished, we did extensive, unscientific taste tests on all three, which will be reflected in our blood work at our next physical checkup.
The inspiration for the original product—Beer Chips—came to Stern much in the same way that Isaac Newton was hipped to the idea of universal gravitation when he watched an apple fall from a tree. Stern was eating potato chips and drinking beer one day when a chip slipped and fell into the beer. But instead of deriving a physical principle from the mishap, being a product designer, he thought "Beer Chips."
But it's not just chips that go with beer, rather chips made with beer. That may sound rather soggy, but the execution was done with something more like freeze-dried beer. Stern made thick-cut potato chips, then coated them with dehydrated beer ingredients (malted barley, corn syrup, hops and yeast) as well as salt, cane syrup and honey. (An entertaining, but purely fanciful, video of the process can be viewed here.)
But Stern, being a visionary, did not stop there. He created Chip Shots, a Margarita-flavored snack, and Hot Potatoes, the Bloody Mary version. These were achieved in much the same manner: coating chips with the dried flavors of the respective drinks. Stern says that in the snack creation game you can easily obtain "dry topical coatings" of most any flavor, which he admits "doesn't sound very sexy," but to us succeeded in at least two of his attempts.
The Hot Potatoes, with their Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and cayenne pepper coating, was the big winner: a spicy chip that was quite identifiable with the cocktail it was based on. Everyone also liked the sweet Beer Chips, but the flavor of beer wasn't as obvious as was the Bloody Mary extract. The Chip Shots, with their Tequila, lime and orange coating, came off kind of sour and, well, we still have some of those left.
The snacks come in 2-oz., 9-oz., and 20 oz. packs and are available in such stores as Whole Foods, Publix and Sam's Clubs. Visit www.beerchips.com for more information.
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