Kettle Red Curry ≈ BBQ
Kettle Thick & Bold Dill Pickle ≈ Salt and Vinegar
Maple Bacon ≈ Honey BBQ
Pepperoncini ≈ Salt and Vinegar + Mild Heat
Honey Dijon ≠ Honey or Dijon
Cheddar Beer ≠ Beer (but did taste like Cheddar)
Roasted Garlic = Garlic + Delicious + Smelly
Moscow Mule ≠ Mule (but are tasty)
Korean BBQ = Sweet + Spicy + Umami
I am a huge fan and a “heavy engager” (marketing lingo) when it comes to promotions like Doritos Test Flavors Challenge and Lays’ Do Us a Flavor Contest. I buy all of the flavors, I make submissions, I tell friends, I bring them for parties as conversation pieces, I write reviews and podcast about it. But while the snack loving community and I wrack our brains and taste buds inventing and assessing the next big potato chip flavor, other brands are quietly innovating and offering flavors we think we’ve invented. One such brand is Kettle Chips.
Kettle has interestingly chosen the name “Kettle” which is also a style of chips and a word other chip brands can use. Maybe they are mounting a trademark claim on the word “Kettle.” Or maybe a guy named Joe Kettle happened to start making potato chips and wanted to see his name on the bag – despite potential confusion. But at least Kettle Brand Chips are kettle-cooked chips, so really what’s to confuse? They have a classic kettle cooked crunch. Good name.
Kettle Brand Chips offer all kinds of unique and interesting flavors: Buffalo Bleu, Fully Loaded Baked Potato, Honey Dijon, Jalapeño, Maple Bacon, New York Cheddar, Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion, Spicy Thai, Sweet Onion, Zesty Ranch, Red Chili, Jalapeno Jack, Beer Cheddar, and Salsa with Mesquite to name a few.
#1 – Red Curry (pictured above) – tasty and unique, but not too unique. That is to say that they didn’t taste weird. They still tasted like chips. And chips should always be tasty – it’s not broccoli after all. I would guess that if you didn’t see the bag label, you would presume some sort of BBQ flavor instinctively. But the taste is adequately unique and has a non-spicy curry flavor. And so it is with many of the “Kettle Brand” flavors. They are unique and tasty, but manage stay within a stratosphere of chip flavors by avoiding any extreme, offensive or controversial flavor (I’m looking at you Lays Cappuccino and Doritos Cheeseburger).
Kettle-cooked style chips are not my first choice, but in the spirit of test-testing I will be continuing to pick up Kettle Brand chips, faithful that I will experience something distinctive without veering into the weird.
#2 – Thick and Bold Dill Pickle – supports my above “unique but not weird theory,” assuming you would accept “Salt and Vinegar” as a regular, non-weird flavor. I would. Sure, its not Sour Cream and Onion, but many brands carry “Salt and Vinegar” regularly. These Thick and Bold Dill Pickle Kettle Chips offer a unique taste of Pickle, but don’t shy too far from a more traditional and comfortable Salt and Vinegar taste.
#3 – Maple Bacon – likely grab for America’s bacon-craze. We here at Hungry Dads love bacon too, but are skeptical of the fact that its showing up everywhere and in everything. It is becoming clear that bacon flavoring is sort of like grape flavoring. Grape candy doesn’t really taste like grapes – it tastes like purple candy (which is yummy enough) – not grapes. Likewise, many bacon flavored items, including these chips, are tasty but are not really nailing a bacon taste. The maple on these chips added sweetness identical to the honey taste in a honey BBQ chip. Like Kettle’s other entries, this one has a unique and intriguing name that doesn’t quite offer anything groundbreakingly new – and perhaps that is a good thing. The latest Lays Do Us a Flavor offerings for 2015 (particularly Rueben, Biscuits and Gravy, and Gyro) nail the unique flavors quite closely, and its spooky. Unsettling. What kind of mad chemistry can make a chip taste like rye bread, meat, and pickle in perfect proportion. No, not chemistry – magic. But is it good magic or bad magic? I’m not sure I want to know.
#4 – Pepperoncini – I’m working my way through the Kettle Brand library and was quite interested in this Pepperoncini flavor. Once again, Kettle is sticking to its unique-but-not-too-unique flavor styling. Salt, check. Vinegar, check. Those are the primary flavors here, just like the Thick and Bold Dill Pickle reviewed above . But whereas Thick and Bold Dill Pickle skews pickle, these skew spicy-ish. Emphasis on the “ish.” The Kettle Brand Pepperoncini chips do not give you much of any particular flavor beyond the salt and vinegar. Any other flavors are subtle at best. Whereas the subtly of pickle was appreciated in the Thick and Bold Dill Pickle flavor, Pepperoncini would benefit from a deeper dive into spicy heat and some unique flavor.
#5 – Honey Dijon – the first Kettle Brand Potato Chip flavor that I think completely missed the mark in even coming close to accomplishing its namesake flavor. Even with the power of suggestion provided by looking right at the label while I ate them; even if I squinted my eyes in concentration and imagination, I could not force my tongue to summon a precise or vague Honey Dijon flavor. Were they tasty? Yep. Crunchy? Yup.
#6 – Cheddar Beer – Another in the pantheon of tasty Kettle Brand chips that don’t quite deliver on their promise. But they are tasty enough that I don’t begrudge them. Cheddar is right there in the taste. No problem. But what should set these chips apart, the Beer, is non-existent. Which is disappointing. Compare that to another beer-flavored chip we reviewed that delivered on its promise. But, if I want a tasty Cheddar chip, I would crunch into another bag.
#7 – Roasted Garlic – These are extremely successful in delivering on the promised flavor. WHEW! Garlic City baby! I made an ill-advised choice to have some of these as an afternoon snack at work. Bad idea. I had to awkwardly avert my head when speaking with colleagues as to not pound them with garlic breath. Although it probably didn’t matter since I am sure that garlic was coming out of my pores by then. (I have polite co-workers who are kind enough to avoid saying anything). I write this during my commute and I still have a stench of garlic. That is all to say that these chips are really, really good. So tasty. Maybe my favorite. They are just not fit for consumption by any person who has to interact with any other person for 5-10 hours after eating them.
#8 – Moscow Mule – Easily the most interesting entry in this Kettle Brand Chip retrospective – Moscow Mule. What the heck is Moscow Mule? I’ll tell you at the end of the paragraph. As for the chip, they had a sweet smell upon opening the bag; and a sweetness to the taste. But Kettle Brand Moscow Mule chips are not as sweet as other “sweet” potato chips we have reviewed. These also have a hardcore citrus going on; and a pretty good spicy/peppery-ish burn in the aftertaste (spoiler alert, its ginger). These reminded me a lot of a Dorito style we’ve covered with their spicy citrus tang. As per Wikipedia, a Moscow Mule is a cocktail made with vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a slice or wedge of lime. It is usually served in a copper mug.
Moscow Mules were one of my first favorite drinks upon turning 21. They are sweet and the alcohol is pretty covered up. Moscow Mules taste like wine coolers or Kool Aide, but felt kind of cool to order from the bartender. (They weren’t cool, but I thought they were – and I thought I was). I’m not sure Moscow Mule is a flavor that should be dedicated to a chip, but if it is to be, then Kettle Brand gets full points for making the best of the idea.
#9 Korean BBQ – These are definitely barbecue chips, but with some spice, some sweet, and some savory umami flavor. The first bite offers a salty sweetness. Then after a few chips is a definitive mouth burn – far from unbearably hot, but enough to make me thirsty. Neither sweetness or spiciness are particularly rare in a barbecue chip, yet these chips achieve that “umami” uniqueness -most likely on account of some secret eastern spices, soy, and a meat bullion flavoring that seems to be popping up in various meat-based potato chip flavors. These Korean Barbecue chips are good and are subtlety unique enough to delineate themselves from other barbecue chips without being a “wacky” gimmick.