Cigar Aficionado

The Dawn of The Beer Chip

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 for more information.

"Carlos: You'd want to shape the chips like cigars. I've seen bugle-shaped corn chips, so that's a start. The BBMF might be something of a challenge for the snack industry, however." —March 25, 2008 09:47 AM
"I can just see it now, some day in the not too distant future, young boys and girls calling cigar shops across america asking, do you have carlito in a bag, the owner saying yes, then the kids (giggling) saying well you better let him out before he suffocates." —March 24, 2008 20:37 PM
"Great story Jack. Maybe we can also get Brett to come up with the Mojito-flavored chip. Possible name would be Crocodile chips since Cuba's known to have wild crocodiles. Or La Isla chips since that is one of Cuba's nicknames." —March 24, 2008 14:47 PM
"Jack: Oh, sorry to hear that...well that's a story to tell... I am also weary at times about mix or frozen drinks. I prefer a single-malt scotch, fine cognac or great smooth rum paired with my cigar." —March 26, 2008 12:23 PM
"Fausto:It was Brett Stern who had his first Mojito at La Bodequita del Medito. My first was not quite so memorable." —March 26, 2008 10:54 AM
"Dear Jack: We'll see if they can come up with a flavorful mojito chip in the future, or perhaps Carlito's Cigar chip. I am sure that mojito you drank at La Bodeguita del Medito was outstanding! Having a dual citizenhip of U.S. and D.R., I would like one day to visit Cuba and try their authentic mojitos and superb cigars. At the moment, I will have to settle for the new mojitos here in NYC at Cabana in the Maritime Hotel or Soho 323. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy this fabulous Fuente Fuente OpusX Robusto '92 Rare Estate Reserve with the morning Cuban cafe taking a break from the office." —March 26, 2008 10:48 AM
"Dear Fausto:Brett Stern asked me to respond to your comment as follows:A mojito flavored chip has been on our drawing board for a while. Actually had my first mojito at La Bodeguita del Medito.Could happen." —March 25, 2008 15:17 PM
"Hey Carlos Jr., with all due respect: 'Carlito', great idea! What a pitch... Also, there could be "Cigar Country Chips", and have different flavors that are typical of the top countries making great, superb cigars: example D.R. could be "Presidente Chips", Cuba could be "Havana Chips", etc... also for Honduras and Nicaragua." —March 24, 2008 18:06 PM
"This is great news Jack...How about "Cigar Chips". Remember fat, no carbs no calories. " —March 24, 2008 16:47 PM