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

Review: Muzzleshot Tactical Shot Glass

muzzleshotSo here’s a wacky idea: Take pure, anodized aluminum and machine it into the shape of the muzzle of an M-16 automatic rifle. And then drink out of it. You’re a man now, Toby.

The Muzzleshot shot glass is a bold experiment in both industrial design and cooling technology. The glass design is pretty genius, and it does really look exactly like the end of machine gun. If you’re the kind of guy that buys those novelty tequilas in glass decanters that look like pistols, this is really what you should be drinking out of.

Then there’s the choice of aluminum for the glass material. Aluminum is a famous heat sink, so a cold Muzzleshot glass will cool down a warm liquid that’s poured into it. I gave it a spin and it worked reasonably well. A room-temperature shot of vodka isn’t going to become crackling cold in the Muzzleshot, even if the glass is straight from the freezer, but it’s more effective than using chilled glassware on its own. That said, an ice cold Muzzleshot isn’t exactly comfortable to hold on to for an extended period of time — nor is particularly fun to drink out of. The cold, chalky metal is a bit rough on the lips, and the very large lip of the glass makes it feel a bit like you’re drinking out of a sippy cup.

Bottom line: It’s the perfect gift for the hunter or military enthusiast in your family, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be more of a conversation piece than something they use every day.

$30 / muzzleshot.com [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine Glass

Riedel Veritas Champagne_White_With_WineRiedel’s latest high-end glass looks like a stretched-out white wine glass, but it’s designed for Champagne. Towering at nearly 9 1/2 inches tall, this monster doesn’t resemble any vessel I’ve consumed Champagne from, but let’s try anyway. A traditional flute is designed to minimize bubble production while you’re drinking, and most of the time it takes real effort to get your nose down into the glass. With the new Riedel Veritas, that’s not the case. The wider mouth easily envelops your entire nose, which can lead to a bit of the pummeling of the senses when you’re dealing with a particularly bubbly bubbly. I’m not a big fan of the noseful of yeast effect and prefer a flute from this standpoint, but your mileage may vary.

From a flavor perspective, the glass works very well. Flavor notes are rich and the palate carries through with brightness and intensity. Compared to my day-to-day flutes, I found it easier to get just the right amount of wine in my mouth for a proper experience — and the wine stayed surprisingly well-chilled throughout the experience.

That said, this glass is so delicate and the stem so wafer thin I can’t imagine a pair of these making it through a year of even casual use without being destroyed.

B+ / $60 per pair / riedelusa.net  [BUY IT FROM AMAZON]

Review: CapaBubbles Sparkling Wine Cap

capa bubblesCapaBunga makes a pretty cool rubberized still wine stopper. It would therefore make sense that the company would want to do the same thing for sparkling wines, which are frequently resealed after opening and saved for another day. The problem of course is that you can’t just jam a cork into the neck. The gas in the wine would pop it right back out. Same goes for CapaBunga’s still wine stopper.

For decades consumers have relied on hinged sealers that grip beneath the flared lip to keep the wine sealed and the stopper in place. CapaBunga thought it had a better idea. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t really work.

The CapaBubbles stopper is a two-piece unit, a plastic base and a rubberized top. The base consists of two half-moon shaped pieces that bear screw threads on the outside. In theory, you just snap the hinge around the neck of the bottle, beneath the flared lip, to start the process. The top piece of the CapaBubbles then — again, in theory — screws down onto the base, creating a seal up top.

Neat idea, but in practice it’s a disaster. The major problem is that the necks of sparkling wine bottles are all kinds of different sizes, and the CapaBubbles doesn’t fit on them all. In my testing of a variety of different bottlings, I went two for four in getting the base to fit around the neck of the bottle. The other times the bottle neck was just too fat for the base to fit around it — and in one of the two successes I had, I just barely got it to work and only by peeling off the foil around the bottle’s neck completely. Even if you do get the base unit around the neck, screwing the top down on top of it is not a sure thing. Expect lots of trial and error — and often significant force — in getting the pieces to actually come together and make a solid seal.

Given its limitations and the fact that the CapaBubbles costs about two or three times as much as a typical hinged stopper, my rating is probably generous.

D / $16 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Tattle Tea Tea & Wine Infusion Kit

tea infusion kitTea drinkers and wine drinkers can finally come together, thanks to Tattle Tea’s straightforwardly named Tea & Wine Infusion Kit. In case there’s any mystery: You’re infusing the wine with tea. Tattle Tea provides the bags of tea (premeasured to work with a single bottle of wine), you provide the wine. You can get the three-bags-of-Rooibos-tea kit along with a nice pitcher that has a built-in strainer to get the tea leaves out ($30) or with just three bags of tea and no pitcher ($8).

Directions are easy: Dump the tea and a bottle of white wine into the pitcher and refrigerate overnight.

How’s it taste? Awful! OK, I’m being harsh, but this mix of tea and wine is just not for me. The nose is interesting — very tea forward and alluring — but the body messes with your senses in an off-putting way. Maybe it’s the wine I chose (a sauvignon blanc), but I just did not like the mix of earthy tea and tart fruit flavors. Compounding the issue, in the course of a day in the fridge, the wine had clearly oxidized quite a bit, giving the concoction some vinegary notes. Maybe if this is done with very high end wine and only for a short time (or in a sealed container), results will be better.

But why risk it?

no rating / $8 to $30 / tattletea.coffeebeandirect.com

Cool Goodies from HomeWetBar.com

port sippersJust a brief interruption to your holiday weekend to shout-out HomeWetBar.com, which sent us a sampling of its wares so we could let our readers know about their product line. Specifically, we’re checking out a couple of items from the store’s online catalog.

These Port sippers are incredibly cute (pictured), if not entirely functional. I’m still not sure if I enjoy sipping Port through a glass straw, but they do make for a nice conversation piece. By the by, they’re much smaller than you think, not much bigger than a large shot glass. At $30 for a set of four, they’re a great gift item.

We’re also checking out this three-quart copper ice bucket, which offers some old-world styling but still has plenty of functionality build in. A plastic insert is easy to clean (though it gives it a slightly cheap feeling) and the decorative tongs are a nice touch. $60, and you can get an engraving on the tongs if you’re so inclined. Looks good on my bar!

Lots of fun stuff in their catalog at reasonable prices. Consider me a fan!

Two for the Road: Mobile Drinking Gear from NiteIze and Hydro Flask

Camping, road-tripping, picnicking… there’s always an excuse to take your favorite tipple on the road. Here are a couple of gadgets designed to make that easier.

GetLitNite Ize makes a series of safety-oriented products, including this bunch of unique bottle openers. The S-Biner series is a carabiner and bottle opener in one. Designs vary, from the simple S-Biner Ahhh carabiner with an opener built in to each side, to the KeyRack+, which has six tiny carabiners attached to its base, to the S-Biner GetLit, which has a heavy duty, rubberized LED built into it. It’s perfect for those moments when you desperately need assistance in the dark, but also have a beer handy. Under $10 each. niteize.com

hydro flask growlerHydro Flask recognizes that everyone loves reusable steel water bottles but recognizes that the typical 12 oz.-sized bottle won’t get you very far on your camping trip. The Hydro Flask Growler packs a full 64 oz. of whatever heals ya into its belly, and the vacuum-insulated body means it helps to keep your beer cold, your toddy hot, or your Pinot at a perfect 58 degrees. The wide mouth makes filling (and emptying) easy. $50 hydroflask.com

Review: The Pretentious Beer Glass Company

You are pouring your beers into glasses, right?

PBGC

The Pretentious Beer Glass Company is the solo effort of Matthew Cummings to bring custom, homemade glassware into your home. Each glass is carefully handcrafted on a lathe and the personal individuality manifests itself within the finished products in the form of slight variations in angles, thickness, and dimensions. Matthew is quick to note that because each piece of glass is unique, final sizes can vary, but part of the appeal stems from receiving a one-of-a-kind glass.

Currently, the Pretentious Beer Glass Company manufactures six types of glasses, pictured above. From left to right: Hoppy Beer Glass, “traditional” Ale Glass, Subtle Beer Glass, Malty Beer Glass, Aromatic Beer Glass, and in the following picture, the Dual Beer Glass. While the names of the glasses clue drinkers in to what beer style works best, both the site and packaging contain recommended styles for each vessel.

PBGC Dual Glass

A quick breakdown of the glasses…

Hoppy Beer Glass: Similar to a snifter or tulip. This is great for IPAs and other beers within the pale ale family, as well as bigger Belgian beers and sours. Etched finger cutouts contribute both visual appeal and added grip.

Ale Glass: The jack of all trades within the set, the Ale Glass is fashioned after a pint glass, with a twist. The added moustache adds a touch of class to your favorite beer and can handle your typical American-style ales, German bocks, or whatever comes in between.

Subtle Beer Glass: Reminiscent of a stange. Perfect for those lighter, more delicate brews such as pilsners, kolsches, witbiers, and assorted lagers. It features facets and indents to distort the density within the glass in order to trick how light shines through the liquid.

Malty Beer Glass: This glass is not only pretty, but also functional! Perfect for unfiltered and bottle-conditioned beers, the Malty Beer Glasses utilizes concentric levels to separate yeast sediment from the beer.

Aromatic Beer Glass: This glass has a wide bowl and draws comparisons to a stemless wine glass or snifter. The shape helps concentrate the nose while the protruding bottom further aids nucleation to improve head longevity and intensity. Beers with a focus on esters and imperial strength work well with this glass, especially double IPAs, stouts, barleywines, tripels, and quads.

Dual Beer Glass: Do you love Black & Tans but hate tinkering with spoons to perfectly layer the beers? The Dual Beer Glass solves that problem and opens the door for more creativity: This glass is divided down the middle so that two separate beers can be poured into their own compartments, then combine while taking a sip. Outside of the traditional stout and IPA (black and tan) classic, I’ve had success with weizenbock + tripel, stout + tripel, and lambic + stout mixtures.

The Pretentious Beer Glass Company is currently a small-scale operation, but it does offer custom orders and may start expanding into wholesaling in the future. Glasses are sold individually, in sets of four within a style, or a full set of glasses which contain all of the styles except the Dual Glass.

$35 – $170 per set of four / etsy.com/shop/PretentiousBeerGlass

Review: Soireehome Tempour

tempourThere are wine gadgets and there is the Tempour, which aims to do pretty much everything you could possibly do to a wine in a single, somewhat crazy package.

The elongated cylinder literally has it all. From the bottom up: Stainless steel chilling rod, aeration vent, sediment filter, pouring spout, and a stopper up top. The whole thing comes apart, so you don’t have to use the chilling rod if your wine’s already cold, and a cleaning brush is also included.

In practice, the Tempour works fairly well, though imperfectly. The “drip free” pouring spout isn’t exactly dripless, and the aeration system — which is submerged in the wine — is no more effective than simple sloshing wine out of the bottle. The filter system seems to work well, though it keeps wine pouring on the slow side. However, the big draw is the chilling system, and unfortunately it’s just not that effective. While it can gently chill a room-temperature wine (cooling down a too-warm red), but it didn’t really do much to keep a chilled white wine cold at the table. There ratio of wine to chilling-device surface area is just too high to be effective, and as you drink the wine, this ratio only gets worse.

Overall: Neat idea, great design, but hit-and-miss effectiveness.

B / $30 / soireehome.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: GrOpener Bottle Opener

GrOpenerRecently we received a sample of a unique new bottle opener, dubbed the GrOpener. Despite the somewhat lewd sounding name, the GrOpener is actually a portmanteau of the words ‘grab’ and ‘opener’, both of which frame a rather straightforward description of how the product works.

Touted as a bottle opener that is swift and easy to wield, the GrOpener is proud to exclaim that is only requires one hand to operate, leaving the other free to channel surf, munch on snacks, or hold another beer. On a more serious note, it is also a useful tool for those who only have the use of a single hand due to disability, amputation, arthritis, or otherwise.

In its video promotions, GrOpener creator Mark Manger effortlessly pops bottle caps off in a single, fluid motion without fail. During my own trials, I found the GrOpener to be a little more temperamental; at times, the caps flew off, while others required a little more force and maneuvering. Also, the impact of the metal opener hitting the bottle while opening would sometimes cause more highly carbonated beers to start foaming over.

As a bottle opener alone, the GrOpener is a fine product, but I found some of the other features to be the most useful and distinguishable. For starters, while prying the caps off, it does not bend or otherwise deform the caps, which is beneficial to those who collect them or seek to recycle them for homebrewing purposes. The GrOpener also contains a small magnet near the business end to not only help it latch on to the cap, but also attracts it after removal for easy recovery. The magnet also secures the GrOpener to the refrigerator doors for convenient storage. For those pesky can tabs that never seem to lift easily, the backside of the GrOpener also doubles as a lever.

While I am clearly not as deft as Mr. Manger in opening bottles in dramatic flair, the GrOpener still performs up to expectations. Bottle openers typically serve a single, relatively simple, purpose, but the utilitarian forethought exemplified in the GrOpener is nice to see. It is light, magnetic, opens caps without distorting them, can be used single-handedly, and the index finger hole doubles as a secure attachment point to carabiners for travel.

A- / $16 / gropener.com