Since the dawn of Cracker Jacks, man has been coating popcorn with all sorts of strange crap. And whether it’s melted sugar (caramel), melted fat (butter), salt reduction (cheese), or a combo bucket bursting with this top-of-the-food-pyramid trifecta, additions to popped corn are usually A-okay. After all, popcorn is nearly flavorless to begin with, so it should be versatile enough to catch whatever’s thrown at it.
It seems that one student at the University of Missouri-Columbia is putting that last part to the ultimate test, pairing popcorn with the flavors of its usual partner: booze. A.V. Club reader Abbie Brown contacted the Taste Test Action Squad about Mizzou’s Pub-Corn, available in beer, Irish creme, and piña colada flavors. Adventurous popcorn eaters can order single bags or a three-flavor sampler pack. Taste Test Hot Shot Josh Modell chose to go the latter route, not realizing that he’d get three full-sized bags, not three mini tasting bags. So he ordered two samplers. Consequently, our office overflowed with thickly coated corn in a variety of yellows and browns.
“Pub-Corn gives you the refreshment of a frosty lager or delicious taste of your favorite cocktail in a convenient, crunchy snack,” touts the FAQ section on the company’s website. But wait, in a world where refreshing frosty lagers are only a few pence away, is this kind of thing really necessary? Luckily, the copy continues. “Why on earth does the world need Pub-Corn?” it smartly asks. “Why not?”
Taste: We started with the beer before liquor, because my coworkers, for whatever insane reason, deduced that it would be the least disgusting of the bunch—and boy, were they wrong. The Pub-Corn people actually developed a surprisingly layered flavor palette with this one: We were hit first with a yeasty tingle. Then an overpowering sweetness cut in, finished by a nasty whiff of warm, skunky hops. It didn’t so much taste like beer, but more “beer flavor”; specifically, the smell and off-putting lip-smack of cleaning up after a party the night before. But even though our officemates reached for their water almost instantly, a few concluded that this one wasn’t all that bad, that they would even seek it out if they were drinking already.
Piña colada was almost an even split. Half spit it out instantly, half reached for another handful. This one resembled caramel corn more than the others, with a sugary bite like a coconut jelly bean. Still, you could do a lot worse (read: beer-flavored corn), though a few coworkers couldn’t shake the sweetness. “I can really taste the triglycerides,” posited Austin City Editor Sean O’Neal, who was in town for a meeting. “I have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow, and he’s going to be angry.” In other news, a male coworker thought it tasted like “male cum.”
Irish creme, it turns out, was the tamest of all, lacking any distinct flavor whatsoever. (Though it consequently lacked any distinct offensive flavor, so that was something.) But at this point, most everyone involved with the Taste Test was getting a little annoyed. Someone mentioned that he was most looking forward to the little part of the kernel that wasn’t sugar-coated at all. Yes, unless you’re a popcorn-and-alcohol completist, Pub-Corn will make the taste of fluffy air something to relish.
• “Getting a little beer, yeast there.”
• “Starts off kind of sugary.”
• “Almost tastes like coconut.”
• “Oh, there’s the beer. It tastes like the smell when you leave beer out.”
• “Natty light.”
• “Like stale Bud in crunchy form, with sweetener mixed in.”
• “I don’t taste popcorn at all. Is that good or bad?”
• “Too sweet. That’s gonna linger.”
• “It's uncanny how much this tastes like beer and sugar. Even my burps taste like beer burps.”
• “It’s like pizza crust.”
• “A mixture of sugar and bitter hops. It’s sort of musty and sour.”
• “Still, it tastes impressively like actual beer. This is way better and way beerier than Beer Chips.”
• “Suntan lotion!”
• “Oh God!”
• “Terrible.” [Throws it away.]
• “Tastes like a coconut jelly bean.”
• “Sweet, like caramel corn, almost.”
• “I could almost believe the last one was alcoholic, but this is just fruit with texture and calories.”
• “It’s like they dumped a pre-existing flavor on a surface never meant to hold it. I’m gonna bail on Irish creme.”
• “Tastes like male cum.”
• “People aren’t giving this one nearly enough credit. It’s sweet pineapple corn. A weird combination, but a rich flavor, and a decent combination.”
• “Tastes like candy, looks like dried spooge.”
• “Like Maureen O’Hara.”
• “Nope, zero for three.”
• “The tamest.”
• “Like ambiguous Halloween candy.”
• “Reminds me of salty malted milk balls.”
• “It feels so not like popcorn at all.”
• “This is exactly like chewing on wet socks.” “You have clearly never chewed on a wet sock.”
• “Do I just not know my booze well enough? I have no idea what this is supposed to taste like.”
• “I’m not really sure what it does taste like, except sugar. It doesn’t have a really strong, memorable flavor like the other two.”
• “I could see eating a bag of this with a cocktail. Or after a couple of cocktails.”
• “But it’s sweet and crunchy. How far wrong can you go with that?”
Where to get it: Pub Corn can be ordered online at pub-corn.com.