REVIEW: Lay’s Beer ‘n Brats Potato Chips

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips

With it being cookout season, I imagine many of you will find yourselves outside with a cold beer in one hand, a nice bratwurst in the other hand, not enough sunscreen on your body, and way too much bug repellant because those reports on the evening news about the Zika virus are freaking you out.

Frito-Lay is celebrating summer with the rollout of Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips, which is a flavor that I imagine is causing some of you to spew profanities at your screen right now because it was your entry for the Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest.

Full disclosure: I am not a beer drinker.

Full disclosure 2 Electric Boogaloo: But I am a beer-flavored potato chip eater.

I’m a huge fan of Kettle Brand’s Cheddar Beer Potato Chips. I voted for it during Kettle Brand’s first People’s Choice vote in 2005. I love its combination of maltiness and tangy cheesiness, and how those flavors really popped. Oh, God, I want some right now.

So how do these Lay’s chips get their beeriness and bratiness?

With Beer ’n Brats seasoning, of course. No really. That’s what it’s called in the ingredients list. Thankfully the seasoning is broken down. Here are some of the highlights in no particular order: salt (of course), onion powder, cheddar cheese, brown sugar, sugar, yeast extract, whey protein concentrate (imagine me flexing right now), spices, butter, Romano cheese, chicken broth, chicken powder, buttermilk, chicken fat, dijon mustard, natural extractives of beer, and beer solids.

What’s a beer solid? It sounds like a favor that’s sealed when two people drink beer with their drinking arms intertwined. It’s not, but the knowledgeable ingredients list also breaks down what beer solids are — malted barley, corn syrup, hops, and yeast.

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips 2

The Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips have an aroma that smells like the undercarriage of a lawnmower that just ran over an herb garden and New York City hot dog carts. It’s sweet, herby, and mustard-y. My nose likes it and my nose also thinks it smells somewhat similar to turkey and stuffing potato chips I’ve had in the past.

A beer-like flavor registered once I put them into my mouth. But quickly after that it got a little more complex. It’s slight herby, there’s a mild onion flavor, the cheese gave off a slight funk, and the chicken ingredients gave the chips a greasiness that tastes like a bratwurst. But overall, the chip leans more towards a bratwurst than a beer, and that taste lingered in my mouth long after I ate them. They have a unique flavor and my palate enjoyed them, but they don’t make me say, “Don’t you dare take these off shelves or else I will cut you!”

As much as I liked these chips, I could see how others might think they’re gross. Herbs, onion, funk, and grease don’t sound like an awesome combination to some, but I guess, much like beer, it’s an acquired taste.

Thanks to my pal Candy Hunting for sending this bag to me. If you have an Instagram account you can follow her @candyhunting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Initial flavor is beer-like. It also tastes somewhat like a brat. Complex flavor. Unique flavor. Kettle Brand Cheddar Beer Potato Chips.
Cons: Some might find its flavor off-putting. I wish the flavor popped a bit more. Might be difficult to find. Zika virus.

REVIEW: Lay’s Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Barbeque season is upon us once again, and your old friend Vin is here to share a dirty little secret with you.

No one really likes your potato salad.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the side dish you made/bought is not as big a hit as your well-meaning friends are making it seem. There’s a reason it’s the last thing remaining on the table as the sun drops, just rotting there in a warm, gelatinous clump of misery as the guests head for their cars.

In terms of the salad offerings at any given BBQ, potato almost always ranks behind macaroni. If chicken salad is on the menu, forget about it! Hell, potato salad usually ranks behind regular salad. With all due respect to all the red headed stepchildren of the world, potato salad is truly the you of summer BBQ staples.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 2

Crispy chips are tastier than starchy spud cubes slathered in a gross mayo concoction and the good folks at Frito-Lay are well aware of this. That’s why they’re ready to make the summer of ‘16 potato salad-free with the introduction of their “new” flavor, Creamy Bacon Potato Salad.

Now that I think about it, potato salad was probably an easy flavor to reproduce in chip form. You’re already working with potato. Add a buzzworthy ingredient – possibly the buzziest – in “bacon,” and yup, this seems like it might actually work.

They certainly smell the part. These are the best smelling chips I’ve had in some time. Upon tearing open the bag, I was hit with the aroma of bacon bits. It’s a bit more artificial than freshly cooked bacon, but amazing nonetheless.

I guess the initial flavor is the “salad” component of the chip. There’s a sharp vinegary, mayonnaise taste, but that is immediately trounced by bacon. Beyond that quick surge, these are basically a loaded baked potato.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 3

Sure, I was put in mind of potato salad for a split second, but it doesn’t seem like they even tried to steer this away from loaded baked potato. Sour cream, onion powder, and cheddar cheese are listed in the ingredients. It’s a potato chip and bacon is the star of the show. What’s missing? That’s a loaded baked potato.

Think of them like this – If you filled three-fourths of a bowl with 3/4 loaded baked potato chips and then filled the rest with salt and vinegar, this would be the end result.

These chips are a delicious sham. Lay’s repackaged a slight variation on an old flavor and designed a shiny new bag. I’m not mad at ‘em, and when you try these, you won’t be either. I am however mad about one minor thing.

I realize sour cream and onion is one of the most popular chips in the world, but why is “Creamy” necessary here? First of all, “Creamy Bacon” is a weird combination of words that illicit some weird thoughts in my brain. Second of all, it’s a chip. It’s not creamy. Even if you’re mimicking the taste of “creamy” potato salad, we don’t need to know it’s creamy, it’s assumed. Not to mention, “creamy” is a disgusting word. It’s my “moist.” This concludes my creamy rant.

Next time you’re considering bringing potato salad to a BBQ, think better of it. Grab a bag of these and pick up some macaroni salad. Your hosts/guests will appreciate it.

Fans of any of the numerous bacon-centric flavors Lay’s has put out in the past will love these. If you like potato skins appetizers, you’ll love these. If you like summer, you’ll love these.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: One of the better new flavors in a while. Worthy replacement for gross potato salad. Smells great. Buzzworthy bacon.
Cons: Basically a retread flavor in a shiny new bag. Imagining what creamy bacon might taste like. The word “creamy” in general. Potato salad.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

I get the feeling these new Flavor Swap varieties are just rejects of other flavors Lay’s have made. Like the designers working on the next iPhone or me passing Math 100 in college, I’m sure the folks in charge of developing flavors didn’t accomplish what they wanted in one try.

They must go through dozens of iterations to get it right. Some are not fit for human consumption, but along the way they probably come up with flavors that could be used for something else. Case in point, these Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips. They taste like one of the rejects. Okay, I really should stop calling them “rejects” before I hurt their feelings. They taste like one of the happy accidents that happened while making the Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips that came out last year.

Much like those chips, these olive oil and herbs ones are also in a competition to remain on shelves. But instead of competing with three other flavors for shelf dominance, it’s just one. And that flavor is Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 2

To be honest, I haven’t had Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper until now. I saw them all the time, but I ignored them and grabbed one of the other Kettle Cooked flavors, like Original or Sea Salt & Vinegar. Now that I’ve finally had them, I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on these tasty chips for all these years. They have just the right amount of pepper flavor with a slight peppery burn in the back of my throat.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 3

The two flavors look almost exactly alike, except the Olive Oil & Herbs appear to have spent a little more time in the tanning booth. I guess the flavor was influenced by the olive oil and herbs bread dip at Italian restaurants. So do they taste like the olive oil your Macaroni Grill server put on a plate after writing her or his name upside down?

Yes, they tastes like that, but with every chip I can’t stop thinking about the Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy. They’re haunting my taste buds. Haunting!!! Their aroma is also haunting. It’s herbaceous to the point where it’s almost medicinal. And chips that were a bit too seasoned had a (how can I put it nicely) slightly unpleasant earthiness. But those chips were rare. Overall, it’s not a bad chip flavor, but it’s not a flavor I would buy again.

So if I was Noah and had to collect junk food for a snack ark, I would save Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, but not Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 2 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Tesoro Gas Station
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Reminds me of Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy. Wonderful kettle cooked chip crunch. Happy accidents. My taste buds discovering Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper for the first time.
Cons: Smells almost medicinal. Chips that were seasoned too much had an unpleasant earthiness to them. To me, they’re not better than Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper. I won’t win the $250,000.

REVIEW: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

In the Lay’s potato chip flavor universe, Cheddar & Sour Cream has lived in the shadow of sour cream & onion. If sour cream & onion is the more popular Ben Affleck, then Cheddar & Sour Cream is Casey Affleck. Or if you’re looking for an Affleck-less reference, sour cream & onion is Luke or Owen Wilson, while Andrew Wilson is Cheddar & Sour Cream.

Yes. There’s a third Wilson brother who’s also an actor.

Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream isn’t a new flavor, but it’s not available in my area like sour cream & onion, which is EVERYWHERE. But there’s a chance that Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream might end up being nowhere, thanks to Lay’s new Flavor Swap promotion. The contest involves voting between two flavors and the winner stays while the other one gets sent out into deep space or something.

Cheddar & Sour Cream is up against a new flavor — Smoked Gouda and Chive.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 3

The flavor sounds like a hoity-toity offspring of Cheddar & Sour Cream and sour cream & onion, getting the cheese DNA from one and the herb DNA from the other. While I’ve had gouda, I’ve never really gotten to know gouda, so I read up on it.

Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses in the world that’s still being made today. It’s named after the Dutch city of Gouda. Young gouda has a mild fudgy flavor with nuts and older gouda has a sweet, slightly fruity flavor. And now you are ready to pretend to be a cheese expert, if that cheese is gouda and you run away if you’re asked about any other cheese.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 2

These chips look exactly like sour cream & onion potato chips, but they smell sweet and cheesy. They don’t have a fudgy or fruity flavor. Instead, they taste like smoky bacon, which makes sense because it’s SMOKED gouda and because of this Reddit thread I came upon. The first chip is smoky and cheesy, but subsequent ones are definitely more on the smoky bacon side. As for the chive flavor, I couldn’t taste any. But, overall, I really enjoyed the flavor of the chip.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 4

So between Smoked Gouda & Chive and Cheddar & Sour Cream which one would I send into deep space and which one would I save? Well, to be honest, it’s a very hard decision, because both are equally fine tasting empty calories. It would like choosing which is more entertaining — a video of a kitten playing peekaboo with his or her owner or a video of a puppy licking peanut butter off a window.

The Cheddar & Sour Cream definitely has a stronger cheese flavor than its competitor, but if the Lay’s one goes away, there’s still the Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream (which is the better one). If Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream went away, I wouldn’t miss it. As for the Smoked Gouda & Chive, it doesn’t really taste too cheesy and it’s not necessarily better, but it does taste like bacon, and bacon is yummy, so I’d probably miss it.

So I guess I’m #TeamSaveSmokedGoudaandChive.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 2 3/4 oz.
Purchased at: Tesoro Gas Station
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like bacon. Smoked gouda tastes like bacon. Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream. Gouda’s longevity.
Cons: Not too cheesy. Not too chivey. Getting sent out into deep space. Ending a review with a hashtag.

REVIEW: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips

Funfetti.

Chocolate-covered olive.

Nashville Hot Chicken and pickles.

These are but a few flavors we won’t be tempted to try as part of Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest. After a three-year run with some highs, some lows, and frankly just some seasoning that had no business coming into contact with a potato, Lay’s is asking for America’s feedback in a totally new competition. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Flavor Swap offers a chance to pick the next Lay’s chip flavors, but only at the cost of an existing flavor, which will be exiled to the world of Oreo O’s cereal, Dunkaroos, and Black Pepper Jack Doritos. One of the flavors on the chopping block: the iconic and always reliable Honey Barbecue.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We are getting a choice, and when it comes to the barbecue category, the new Korean Barbecue chips offer something totally different from the eight other barbecue chip flavors listed on the Lay’s website — a taste of one of America’s hottest trends.

I first discovered Korean barbecue when a crapload of Kalbi and Bulgogi restaurants showed up in my Maryland suburb. I couldn’t speak a word of Korean, but the language of grilled marinated rib eye transcends ineffective Google translators. Marinated in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and other spices, the thin cuts of grilled meats are totally unlike those loaded with vinegary Carolina sauces or sweet Kansas City sauces. Dare I say it, in some ways they’re better.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips 2

I can’t say that’s necessarily true about Lay’s take on the Korean barbecue. The chips are definitely unique; I’ll give them that. And they’re tasty too. Darker, with a grey shadow and specs of onion and garlic powder, they’ve got an initial salty and meaty flavor which tastes like instant beef bouillon, except not quite so disgusting-sounding. The strong umami notes soon give way to a prominent smoky flavor and a touch of sweetness, and when eaten straight from the bag, they’re almost impossible to put down.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 1

Almost. The thing is, Lay’s Honey Barbecue chips are impossible to put down. It’s an orange chip with a light tomato and paprika flavor that perfectly complements its sweet brown sugar and molasses touch, and its finish is distinctly potato-ey. It’s clean, simple, and just a good old potato chip.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 2

To use a rough barbecue analogy for the chips, Honey Barbecue is about the sauce and the spice, and Korean Barbecue is about the meat and the smoke. They’re both really good, and in the case of the Korean Barbecue flavor, the chips are distinct from other flavors we’ve seen before. But the former flavor is what I’m craving on a chip, and the latter on, well, actual meat.

As much as I love the idea of Korean Barbecue potato chips and want these to stick around, I’m not ready to exile Honey Barbecue to the island of misfit snacks for them. Salty, smoky, and meaty, the Korean Barbecue chips are just a little too heavy for a potato chip flavor, and could have really used a bit of ginger or additional backend sweetness to round their flavor out. Nevertheless, I hope Lay’s toys with the idea of keeping the chips around, because the Korean Barbecue has more than earned its place at America’s culinary table.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 140 mg of sodium, 330 mg of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $1.28
Size: 2.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the smoky meaty flavor of bulgogi meat in chip form. Complex saltiness with sweet notes in the background. Breaks relatively new ground in an already saturated barbecue chip market. Not chocolate-dipped olive.
Cons: Soy sauce flavor tastes a bit more like Worcestershire sauce. Umami flavor covers up clean finish of the potato taste. Not enough sweetness and no ginger. Not as good as Honey Barbecue flavored chips. Kind of wanting to try a Funfetti flavored chip.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes (Canada)

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes

The whole Do Us a Flavour thing seems to revolve around the odd and the unusual — out-there flavours that you wouldn’t typically find at the supermarket.

That being the case, scalloped potatoes seems like one of the more boring flavours in the history of this promotion. I mean, the potatoes are already right there in the chip, so what flavour do they have to simulate? Cheese? Cream?

So basically, it’s a cheddar chip, but with a creamier flavour? Not the most exciting flavour in the world, but hard to mess up.

You’d think.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes 2

And at first it seems like: yeah, they did get it about right. Cheesy flavour? Check. Mild creaminess? Check. Hey, this isn’t so bad, you think, and that’s when it hits you: the distinctively sharp bite of particularly pungent raw onion. I don’t know what kind of scalloped potatoes they’ve been eating in the Lay’s flavour labs, but I think someone needs to tell them that the onions in there are supposed to be cooked.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of raw onions (though they’ve grown on me over the years — at one point, if you even used the same cutting board to chop another vegetable after cutting raw onions, I couldn’t eat it), so most people might not find this quite as offensive as I did.

It’s kind of like sour cream and onion, only more oniony, somehow. Plus, at least those chips have the assertive tang of sour cream to balance things out. No such balance here; the mellow cheesy flavour is completely overwhelmed by the acrid face-punch of onion.

The aftertaste is especially brutal. It’s the type of thing where you immediately need to eat something else to get that funky taste out of your mouth — only it doesn’t work. The taste goes away, then comes right back.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes 3

I guess it does essentially taste like scalloped potatoes — only the worst version of that dish that you’ve ever had. A version made by a friend who clearly can’t cook, but means well. So you have to smile and tell them how good it is and maybe spread it out on your plate a bit so it looks like you’ve eaten more than you actually have.

I submit that a more appropriate name for these chips would be “Milky Cheese ‘n Raw Onion.”

Maybe there’s a reason why I don’t work for the marketing department at Lay’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 66 gram bag – 360 calories, 22 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 410 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes (Canada)
Purchased Price: $1.49 CAN
Size: 66 gram bag
Purchased at: Foodland
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Tastes vaguely like scalloped potatoes, I guess.
Cons: Tastes like the worst version of scalloped potatoes that you’ve ever had. Overwhelmingly acrid onion flavour. Horrible aftertaste.