Review: Fizzics Beer Tap

fizzics

The Fizzics Beer Tap is not a complicated idea: It’s basically a svelte pump that takes beer out of one container and spits it into your glass. Basically a keg tap, only you don’t need a keg. It can pour from a bottle, can, growler, or even a pitcher or another glass. Just pop it open and stick the rubber hose into your beer and it’s ready to go.

Why do you need this? Sometimes this might be a matter of simple convenience, as when pouring from an oversized growler or large format bottle which is difficult to manage. Other times you might use Fizzics just to heighten the flavors of the beer. Just like your beer will taste better if you drink it from a glass instead of a bottle, it is likely to taste better if you drink it from a Fizzics system rather than simply poured directly into a glass.

In my testing, the Fizzics system was quite effective at aerating a beer, working much like a wine or spirits aerator does, coaxing out more of the beer’s flavors while giving it a bolder head. That said, use caution: If you love a beer, Fizzics will improve its presentation. But if you don’t like a beer, Fizzics will only make those flavors that disagree with you come across even stronger. That said, Fizzics doesn’t introduce as dramatic a flavor shift as you might think — the added carbonation is much more impressive — but it does have an impact. (Note: It’s absolutely not designed for use with anything at all except beer.)

The device is simple, easy to operate and clean, and is powered by two AA batteries, which makes it convenient for positioning the system anywhere. It’s great for parties when you want to serve big bottles (and show off a little) — as long as you’re willing to pay the rather steep price of admission.

B+ / $170 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Magic Opener Extreme

magic openerThis electric yellow gadget is more than a bottle opener. Well, it’s three bottle openers and one can opener, all in one device. A standard crown cap opener is just the start. Flip it over and you’ll find two tooth-ringed circles of slightly different sizes, designed to help you open plastic water bottles and other similarly-sized containers with plastic screw-on lids. Finally, the can opener isn’t for standard tin food cans but rather features a metal jaw that can help you lift up the pull tabs on stubborn soda or beer cans. Think of it as virtual fingernails.

All in all, Magic Opener Extreme works great, but keep in mind its limitations: It won’t help with any other kind of bottle, particularly metal screwcaps, cork or rubber spirit bottle enclosures, or anything else that doesn’t fit into the description above. If it did, well, that would really be magic…

B+ / $18 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: StoneCask Shot Flask

Shotflask_2

Flasks are convenient for on-the-go mixology, but drinking directly from a flask is both uncouth and unpleasant. Flask-drinking always ends up forcing the spirit straight down your throat, burning the tonsils and robbing it of any actual flavor or nuance.

Solution: StoneCasks’s Shot Flask, an innovative product that pairs a standard 8 oz. flask with a collapsible shot-glass-sized camping-style cup. The cup stows away conveniently in a depression build into the center of the leatherette-clad flask. If you were none the wiser, you’d probably assume it was just part of the design.

As a container, the Shot Flask works as well as anything else out there — depending on the model you purchase you may need to provide your own mini-funnel — and the design is utilitarian and decidedly non-flashy. If you want a curvy, hip-shaped flask to look cool down at the Elk’s Club, this one won’t do — but once you pop out that cup and sip away like the sophisticate you are, heads are likely to turn.

I don’t often find myself in need of the services of a flask, but I can assure you the next time I do, the Shot Flask is the one I’ll choose.

A / $20 / stonecask.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: StainRx Wine Stain Remover

stainrxI won’t rehash the details of the wine stain remover story I wrote for Wired earlier this year. Suffice it to say that StainRx is a late comer to the party, and they submitted a product to me well after that piece already ran.

Long story short, I put StainRx up against Chateau Spill, my hands-down winner in extensive testing, to see which was best. The results: With a shorter-term wine stain (setting for a few hours before treatment), StainRx was slightly ahead. On the tougher longer-term stain (which I let set for 24 hours), Chateau Spill was the marginal winner. All told, it was about a draw.

Now my hunch is that StainRx — which is marketed primarily as a “blood strain [sic] remover” — is basically the same chemical as Chateau Spill, which is a lab-grade solvent designed to get dye off of scientists’ skin. StainRx looks, smells, and behaves almost the same way, so I figure you’re really getting the same stuff here as in Chateau Spill.

The company says about its product: “We do sell our product in bulk for others to repackage under their label and we repackage for others as well. For over 50 years our product, Erado-Sol  has been sold to hospitals, labs and doctors’ offices to remove chemical and biological stains.  Approximately 10 years ago we made our laboratory tested product available to the consumer under the name Stain Rx.  The product is sold in Spring Fresh Scent and Fragrance & Dye Free solutions.”

Is Chateau Spill the same thing? It’s just a hunch, and there’s no real way to know for sure. I suspect the differences in performance were due to slight variations in the amount of wine that made it onto my test fabric, and the fact that you basically have to douse the product with a nozzle from the StainRx bottle rather than gently spray it on as you do with Chateau Spill. It’s a lot easier to control the amount of product you’re using with Chateau Spill, and you’ll much more quickly go through a bottle of StainRx because of the amount that comes out with each application. (StainRx also makes single-use wipes, which I didn’t test due to their generally limited size.)

At $18 for a 16 oz. bottle, StainRx is cheaper per oz. (by about half) than Chateau Spill, but you’ll use it faster. Which is ultimately a better value? Hell, ask Mathhacker.

A / $18 (16 oz.) /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Rabbit Electric Corkscrew

Opening a bottle of wine by pulling the cork is part of a longstanding ritual, but everything evolves with the times. (Hello, screw cap!) For some, working a manual corkscrew — even a fancy one like a Rabbit — just isn’t a possibility. Enter alternatives like the Rabbit Electric, which are designed to make the process a lot easier, through the power of electricity.

Rabbit Rechargable Electric CorkscrewThe Rabbit Electric is a long tube of a device, about a foot long. You charge it through an AC adapter (included, along with a manual foil cutter), and a full charge is said to be good for 30 bottles of wine. (20 seems closer to reality, though.)

To use it, just plop the Rabbit on top of a bottle — after the foil has been removed — then press the “down” button. A screw descends into the cork and then extracts it from the bottle in one smooth motion. I timed the process at about 8 seconds with each bottle I tried. Add another 6 or 7 seconds to extract the cork from the device.

Online reviews for the Rabbit Electric are savage, but I didn’t have any real problems with the device. Some complain that it won’t fit atop bottles with wide necks, but I didn’t encounter this issue. Others complained that the screw doesn’t go in straight, but again I never had an issue. It even handled bottles that had a layer of wax on top of the corks without much trouble. Corks came out clean and easy, though, yes, you do have to use a second hand to hold the bottle.

That said, using the Rabbit Electric is hardly the most romantic way to open a bottle of wine. The plaintive wheeze of the motor is probably not the mood setter you’re looking for when you’re preparing a fancy dinner for your wife on date night — but then again, she probably doesn’t want to see you writhing on the floor with a hernia from trying to pull out a cork by hand, either.

B+ / $45 / [BUY IT FROM AMAZON]

Review: Draftmark Beer Tap System

 

Lifestyle Images

Having beer on tap at home is a killer move, but kegerators are enormous, costly, and frankly, a bit frat-house juvenile. Draftmark has an answer: A mini keg that fits in your fridge.

The Draftmark system includes a battery-powered base and replaceable, one-gallon growlers that fit inside it. Just charge up the battery, install a plastic jug of one of the half-dozen beer varieties available (I chose Goose Island IPA), and you’ve got enough fresh draft for about ten 12 oz. servings. When it’s dry, pop it out, recharge the battery (which powers an air compressor that keeps the mini-keg pressurized), and you’re ready to go again.

The Draftmark system is a pretty cool idea, but I had one major issue with it: It was too big for my ’80s-era fridge. The only way I could get the door to shut was to put it in diagonally on the shelf, which pretty much ate up the entire thing. I expect more modern kitchens won’t have this problem, but for me it’s a deal killer that means I can’t use it regularly… at least until I commit to a second fridge for the garage. Also: Refills are cheap, but the selection is limited and — more importantly — tough to find, for now. (Pro tip: Look for free shipping deals.)

Otherwise, it’s a pretty cool idea, and the beer it pours (albeit slowly) does come out fresh and pub-worthy. (Make sure you give it plenty of time to chill down or you’ll end up with a ton of foam.) Those of you with those enormous Sub-Zeros and lots of space for novelties might clear out that Chinese takeout and give it a try.

B+ / $70 (1 gallon refills about $15) / draftmark.com [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: The Jackson Cannon Bar Knife

Bar Knife w. Lime Credit Heath Davis of Bacardi

The best bar tools aren’t just functional. They’re nice to look at, too. Such is the case with the Jackson Cannon Bar Knife, produced in conjunction with R. Murphy Knives.

Cannon is a longtime Boston barman who set out to create the perfect knife for the unique work often required behind the bar. The result is this well-crafted blade, a high-carbon steel knife with a squared tip and featuring a nicely contoured handle made of polished tropical cocobolo wood.

In my hands, the knife — heavier than you’d expect based on its size — felt great, its squared-off tip making short work of fruits and garnishes. Peels and twists are easy to carve out thanks to its short blade and good balance, and, as mentioned, this is a knife that looks just perfect on any bartop. My only issue, and it’s a minor one, is that the knife could use a bit more sharpening to really slice easily through thick citrus rinds. But that’s something that can easily be done at home — and will need to happen periodically to keep the blade sharp and honed.

It isn’t cheap, but a quality knife never is!

A- / $79 / rmurphyknives.com

Review: Domestik Adjustable Wine and Spirits Aerator

domestik wine aeratorWine aerators — little gizmos which suck in air and mix with wine or spirits that you pour through them — aren’t a new idea. But Domestik is trying to teach this aging dog some new tricks by letting you adjust the amount air the liquid gets.

Just twist the dial on the Domestik and you can set the amount of aeration to your specifications. It’s an analog system with seven basic settings. The idea is to use less aeration with white wines and lighter reds and more with heavier reds and spirits. The mechanics are all visible since the whole thing is largely transparent, but in numerous tests it was difficult to actually see any variation in the amount of air that came through at the lowest setting of 0 vs. the highest setting of 6.

Vinturi, the market leader, sells three different primary aeration systems, one for red wine, one for whites, and one for spirits. I didn’t notice a bit of difference in testing the Vinturi’s red vs. white systems (the spirit aerator has a built-in shot measuring system, so it’s a bit of an outlier), and I didn’t find any noticeable change in drinking wine or spirits aerated with the 0 setting vs. a 6.

That said, aeration does have noticeable effects, namely in hastening the dissipation of heavy alcohol vapors and the stimulation of fruitier elements on the nose. Basically, these gadgets shortcut the natural and often time-consuming process of getting air into your drink of choice, and as with the Vinturi line, the Domestik Aerator can be handy in a pinch.

Bonus! For the next two weeks, use the promo code HACKER25 on the domestikgoods.com website below to get 25% off the purchase price of an aerator.

B+ / $30 / domestikgoods.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Freaker Bottle Koozies

freakerThat foam canister is boring. Next time you need to keep a beer (or other beverage) cold on a hot day, check out a Freaker.

Freaker Koozies are knit like socks and are emblazoned with everything from sports logos to drinking-centric memes. “Forget Me Not” makes your beer look like a prescription pill bottle. My personal favorite, “Shark Tube,” has a shark emerging from a Super Mario style green pipe. The koozies are designed to work on bottles but also work with cans if you tuck the neck in.

Freakers work well enough, but probably not as well as a traditional foam koozie — though note I didn’t do any scientific testing — and also do double duty at making it easy to figure out which bottle on the table belongs to whom. Great for grown-ups and kids alike!

$10 to $15 each / freakerusa.com  [BUY ONE NOW]

Review: MarkThomas Double Bend MT Selection Glassware

markthomasAustria’s MarkThomas is bringing its ultra-luxe line of hand-blown stemware to the U.S. If you’ve got a taste for quirky designs and exceptionally high prices, well, maybe it’s for you.

The Double Bend collection is defined by, well, the double bend in the bowl of each glass. Rather than curve inward gradually, the glasses just out then back in sharply, making for a sort of double trapezoidal design. (The picture will explain this much better than I can.) Whether this is to your liking or not is going to be a matter of individual taste, but the idea is that the point of the bend is where you are supposed to fill the glass to. I found the glasses a bit homely, but others thought they were modern and stylish.

Either way, they perform admirably. They’re light as a feather but feature big bowls and razor-thin walls. The larger red wine glass worked beautifully with numerous wines, really concentrating the aromas in the center while remaining easy enough to drink out of. I also worked with the beer glass, but found I preferred a little more heft in my beer glassware, particularly given that beer glasses are filled much fuller.

The glasses feel as fragile as could be, and I consider it a minor miracle that I didn’t break one during my week of testing. I’d happily sip from them again… provided I could scrape together a grand to set up a 12-piece collection.

A- / $65 to $85 per glass / markthomas.at