What to Serve (and Ignore) at your Labor Day BBQ

We got drunk so you don't have to! But feel free to anyway

So you’ve emerged from your man cave to plot the perfect barbecue, but you don’t know the first thing about what to serve. Well, fret not, hairy reader, for your friends at the Man Cave get sent boxes of all kinds of crazy stuff! This time around we’re going to test out some barbecue fixings and see if they should or shouldn’t populate your picnic table. Yeeeee-haw! It’s a good, old-fashioned review roundup!

Ale’s Well that Ends Ale

Let’s begin where the BBQ does — when you show up, we put a beer in your hand.

Newcastle Bombshell

We still remember our first Newcastle. Ah, that tall, sweating glass of liquid goodness. Don’t listen to the haters, that’s a perfect beer to watch football with while eating a beef goulash or stew. Or hey, have it at happy hour. It’s a good lad’s beer. Now somebody went and made a blonde pale ale that thinks it’s up to the name.

Newcastle Bombshell isn’t nearly as satisfying as the classic brown ale, but it’s hard to pinpoint a criticism. You wouldn’t complain if someone stuck a neck of this in your hand–and hey, beachball and blonde make for a happy label–but all told this is otherwise a pretty basic pale ale you’d never think of again. We had similar results testing Newcastle’s Black Cabbie ale last year.

"Sweet! Today we drink our lunch!"

“Sweet! Today we drink our lunch!” Review: Newcastle Black Ale Cabbie

One reviewer said it had “great flavor” but was “a little hoppier than I expected, and brother, there’s no shortage of hoppy pale ales out there.

Get it for the BBQ?

Nah. Try it at the bar if you’re curious, but stock something else in the ice bucket. If you want Newkie but you’re going to depart from the brown, you’re probably best off trying their Werewolf red ale.

Lager In the Front

Sapporo

Despite craft trends to the contrary, here at Man Cave Daily we enjoy a good light-flavored lager. Of those, Sapporo is absolutely one of our favorites. It’s refreshing, it’s uncomplicated, and with a huge, hefty, pint glass-shaped can, it just feels like you’re drinking quality.

Get it for the BBQ?

If you want your party to look a little more upscale than a crate of Bud. Will it rock your world with crazy hops and exotic fruits? Nope. But it doesn’t aim to, either.

You’re So Radler

Sam Adams Porch Rocker

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cold beer on a summer day, unless it’s a lemonade. That’s why some genius figured out the actual solution is a drink that doesn’t make you choose between the two. Hooray for beer cocktails! And sure, you could grab a case of Bud Light and mix it with some seltzer and lemonade to make your own, but if you want to let the brewers do it for you, these are the ones we tried.

This shandy proved especially popular with our female taste testers, so bear in mind it might be a good drink to have on hand if you throw a party that’s especially well populated with womanhood. And that is the only kind of party you want to throw, so go back and read this advice again.

“As advertised, a great, refreshing summer beer that blends lemonade and a crisp beer that goes down smooth. Light & smooth. 9/10 rank!”

“10/10 — might take the place of Coors in my ranking system. Perfect summer beer!” [Note: Man Cave Daily can’t be held responsible if someone in the office considers Coors the perfect summer beer. That said, Coors is a Rocky Mountain mile above Coors Light, so we’ll give them the benefit of the assumption that it’s the former.]

“Much better alternative to Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Not too sugary, great lemon flavor.”

“Like a summer shandy but better.”

“Refreshing, great summertime drink. Would definitely buy as a substitute for cider.”

Get it for the BBQ?

Heck yeah — it’s overwhelmingly popular, and a nice relief from the cloying sweetness of malted liquor.

Amstel Radler

At this point, the difference between a radler and a shandy is nil — it’s just a regional thing, like how soda is called pop in the midwest and lemonade in New Mexico where nobody understands that would be a completely different beverage. Unlike New Mexican Pepsi, this actually does contain lemonade mixed in with beer. Plus, with a low 2% ABV you can actually knock back enough to quench your thirst without getting blitzed, but not so much you feel like you just paid $5 for a can of lemonade.

It puts the rad in radler.

It puts the rad in radler.

Although we didn’t get to pass this one around at the BBQ, we sampled it at on a hot summer rooftop and actually preferred it to many of our normal go-to drinks that were being served. In fact we probably knocked back enough to cover for everyone else at the Man Cave BBQ. Like the Sam, it’s refreshing, a pleasant buzz for your efforts, but not too cloying.

Get it for the BBQ?

To be honest, this was even better than the Porch Rocker, with a more lemony flavor, that doesn’t add much sugar to achieve it. That said, in a vacuum, we’ll take a Sam over an Amstel, but apparently all bets flip once you pour lemonade into the mix.

Next: IPAs, and the hard stuff

IPAs

Boy, IPAs are the cilantro of beer. A lot of people absolutely cannot handle their choking, bitter hoppiness, and yet they’re everywhere. Brewers love them because brewers tend to be quietly insane and always want to see how much deeper they can push their flavors and ABV count. But for others, they are a deeply beloved taste that you will take away when you pry it from their cold, passed-out fingers. Sam Adams, which, like its namesake, is the rabblerouser culpable for America’s beer revolution, sent us a bundle of Hopology, their various IPAs. We decided to get *hic!* educated.

Samuel Adams Latitude 48

Fun fact. Your Man Cave editors used to have a hot roommate who tended bar at Latitude, NYC’s own 48th Street bar. At no point did it occur to that bar’s Sam Adams rep that it would be the perfect place for a promo party. That’s neither here nor there, but how weird a coincidence is that? Anyway, the Latitude 48, Boston Beer Co.’s rare-but-not-elusive IPA, is a great flavor but probably best paired with food. Because to down a whole pint of this stuff is to court madness, and we have more than enough of that to go around, thanks.

Get it for the BBQ?

Yeah, if you’re after a bitter complement to a sweet umami. IPAs go great with most grilled meats and picnic food in general, and this is a solid IPA. But hang on before you do that…

Samuel Adams Simcoe IPA

Pretty similar to their Latitude 48, but it benefits from the grapefruit and “piney” notes it’s supposedly imbued with. This is the one we’d take over Latitude 48. Unless this is some sick study that served us one beer with two labels to test how conception influences perception. We are not your playthings, Sam Adams! That would be highly unethical!

Get it for the BBQ?

Yeah. According to one reviewer, “I like the level of hops. Just enough for good, strong hops flavor but not overwhelming. A great drink when you want a tiny buzz but still functional.”

Samuel Adams Mosaic IPA

“With the recent ever-escalating war for hoppiest hoppy beer possible, Sam Adams joins Blue Point in marketing a Mosaic IPA–strong and bitter, full of goodness. Reminds one of Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA or Victory’s Hop Devil.”

Get it for the BBQ?

Yes, but be sure you possess the fortitude. Otherwise, a taste’ll do ya.

The Good Stuff

Fat Trout Scotch Whiskey

Holy mackerel (or is that trout? Either way) did the gang love this stuff.

Plainly this is not our bottle. Our bottle is almost empty.

Plainly this is not our bottle. Our bottle is almost empty.

“Surprisingly smooth. I’m a fan.”

“A totally serviceable scotch at a $20 price point.”

“Really smooth.”

“Smooth, with an adequate scotch bite that makes you drink like any good scotch whisky: slowly.”

“Very smooth, great taste.”

Get it for the BBQ?

If you’re going to get heavy at your Labor Day cookout, consider a bottle of this blended beauty. The watchword was smooth.

New Amsterdam Vodka

Here’s the thing about vodka: it comes to you as a friend. It has a taste no matter what anybody says, but that taste is entirely doable, unlike your fourth or fifth whiskey, where the body says “Hoo boy, I sure wouldn’t mind another flavor for now.” (Sidenote: five whiskies? At a BBQ? Seek help, son.) Then, when you think everything’s fine, vodka taps you on the shoulder and asks, “Hey, drunk now?”

“No, not now, vodka, I’m talking to this girl.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll come back later.”

The longer vodka makes you wait, the worse it’s going to hit you. And also leave positive proof that clear liquors do indeed contribute to hangovers.

Get it for the BBQ?

So now that you know we’re wary of vodka and all its backstabbing, you should know that we liked this quite a bit. New Amsterdam sent us three bottles of this wondrous stuff — original, orange, and pineapple. The basic stock is clean, crisp, clear. It’s a very fine portrait of what you imagine vodka to be when you’re thinking about it as an ideal drink and not an anthropomorphic devil.

New Amsterdam Vodka Pineapple

Now this…this is the stuff. “Surprisingly tasty with tonic,” said one of us, while another raised the stakes to “Great with tonic. Pineapple flavor has a bit of a bite,” but cautions it was “not as smooth as I would like.” Well…y’know, that’s vodka for ya.

Get it for the BBQ?

You’d put this in a tiki drink so fast it would leave skidmarks on the rim.

Next: Snacks!

Snacks

Everybody knows the best part of any party isn’t the meal, it’s the little amuse-bouches, which is French for “snacks and appetizers, we’re not being literal here.” We tend to make these ourselves, but hey, sometimes people just want the creature comforts and not this swan-liver pâté salsa on crushed bluefin tuna bread. For those people, we tried some mysterious arrivals:

Bolds Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese Crackers

Boy, we just could not reach a consensus on these. One reviewer said “Lots of hot sauce (which I like) but could taste the blue cheese,” while another said “Too blue cheesy.” So you know: people — they’re disagreeable. The kick of buffalo flavor seemed to be what everyone agreed on, whether or not they liked it, and one reviewer dismissed the entire thing as “too crunchy to be buffalo-like for me. It’s a texture thing.” Frankly, we’d be way more creeped out if these crackers had the tender, strandlike quality of perfectly baked chicken.

Bolds Bacon Cheddar Crackers

“Pretty good in a Combos sort of way. If you’re going to eat something that resembles bacon and cheddar while tasting like neither of those things, this would be it.”

“Tastes like a ready-made Lunchable.”

“Ruins the great flavor of bacon.”

“Not a fan.”

“The fake bacon flavor is overwhelming.”

“Meh. Oddly chemical aftertaste.”

“Tastes like Cheez Whiz and paper. Not much bacony taste. NEED MOAR BACON PLEASE!”

Get it for the BBQ?

Overwhelmingly no. The only semi-positive comment was from a reviewer who never eats snack crackers and just figured it was a passable sample.

Bolds Pizza Crackers

These clocked about a 6.5/10 in the Man Cave, with comments ranging from the neutral (“Tastes like Bagel Bites / pizza roll mix” and “Flashback to Combos, staple of high school nutrition.”) to both directions. The negative felt there was “Not enough pizza flavor” while the positive tilted towards “best fake pizza taste” and “Awesome! Reminds me of the pizza Pringles!” Apparently pizza flavor is universal, as these drew still more comparisons; “Love all things pizza: mix of pizza combos and Annie’s pizza bunnies.”

Get it for the BBQ?

Get it for a snack, but not for the BBQ. People liked the flavor, but perhaps wanted more of it. Guys, you can only wring so much pizza out of a cracker.

Tostitos Salsa Con Queso

Somebody sent us this and we have no idea who, because we’d drunk all the aforementioned but it found a lot of favor:

“SO CHEESY”

“Really awesome! Great idea”

“Stadium flavor right in your own home!”

“Good and spicy, good for football Sundays.

“The best queso — just enough spice.”

“So good”

“Nice and cheesy!”

Frito-Lay knows what you want, baby. Don't you worry, America, let Frito-Lay take care of you.

Frito-Lay knows what you want, baby. Don’t you worry, America, queso is hard. Sit back and let Frito-Lay take care of you.

Get it for the BBQ?

Get a few. It might not be full of weird ingredients you don’t find in real queso dip, but the people have spoken, and their demands are: MOAR CHEEZ

Kind STRONG & KIND Bars

A box of these was one of the first things to show up at our office, and brother, are they good. The Thai Chili was a particular favorite, but there’s no bad flavor. The two smoked flavors, Honey Smoked and Hickory Smoked, provoked a strong debate about which was superior, after the CBS Local horde swarmed all over these. They’re delicious appetite-killers, and the worst thing you can say about them is they have some brown rice sugar.

Get it for the BBQ?

It might make for weird grilling grub, but we absolutely recommend it for the nature hike beforehand, when you want to get a solid, healthy punch of nutrition that curbs hunger without taking up real estate. Live healthy in the morning with these to apologize to your body for the feast of unnatural delights you’ll be grilling, dipping, and sipping to come later that day.

Kindly try them at your earliest convenience.

Kindly try them at your earliest convenience.

Next: Grilling gear!

Grilling Gear

Nostalgia Electrics Hot Dog Toaster

How many hot dogs do you make in a week that this beats a quick steam or pan fry? It’s not like hot dog rolls don’t fit in a normal toaster. All you get with this is a toaster that can only make one thing taking up valuable real estate and letting those hot dog juices escape rather than cook in their own goodness. It’s not even useful at a party, where you’ll be making food for 20 people in increments of two at a time.

BUT — we love retro, and this toaster is gorgeous, so we were excited to try it, and hey, maybe it’s an easy way to cook dinner in five minutes.

No, no, no, no. We made four or five goes at this thing, then gave up and microwaved the rest of the hot dogs. That’s how bad this was — it came in behind microwaving, also known as nature’s worst way of preparing the noble hot dog.

Normal-sized hot dogs repeatedly fell through the grating on this thing in our first few attempts, getting trapped underneath it, necessitating us to unplug the toaster and fish them out with a fork. there’s no way to lift the grate, although there is a deceptive tab that we do not recommend touching — after grilling, it will just stick up above the toaster, all searing hot metal and regret waiting to happen. It’s pretty much the Bluth Cornballer of toasters. Like, you knew it had to be hot, but you couldn’t see any other damn way of getting the hot dogs out of the toaster since they don’t pop up high enough to retrieve without sticking your fingers in a hot electric grill. We sent our soberest member in to retrieve them, and he’s still weeping.

The hot dogs did not cook evenly when they managed to stay in the grating, and were not done at the same time as the buns, which blackened around the edges before they ever toasted in the middle.

Booooo. We hate you because we wanted so much to love you.

Booooo. We hate you because we wanted so much to love you.

We’re not going to fault the weird smell, because hey: new products, right? Gotta burn off that weird factory chemical skin, though it did have half the floor sticking their heads into the conference room to see if we needed help putting out a fire. So no points deducted there. We didn’t try it out long enough to see if the smell ever burns off.

We pondered disassembling it for scraps or home repair, or recycling the metal, but that’s exactly how 1/8 of Stephen King stories turn into the story of a possessed machine, so in the end we threw this beast out whole when we were sure it was safe. Then we felt like terrible people, even though, guys, the toaster was trying to kill us.

We thought the toaster would be fun like the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll. Instead it was a mix of terror and seared outsides like the dawn of the Nuclear Era. If these were the good old days, you can keep ’em.


Brendan McGinley is editor round these parts when not writing comics or Cracked columns. You can say a neighborly hello to him on Twitter @BrendanMcGinley. You’d probably enjoy his supervillain comic Heist, if you’re a fan of tarnished souls and brutal retribution. 

Down we go.

Crime pays.

Brendan’s only review of his recent adventure in Secret Agent Training Phase 2: Skydiving was “Homina homina homina!”

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Are we interesting yet?

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