That UltraBeer Thing review: UltraBeer sacrifices flavor for foam

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MSRP: $20.00

The Good That UltraBeer Thing is a simple device that's easy to use and works as promised -- stick it in your beer and it will froth up an attractive head.

The Bad It will make your beer more attractive, but That UltraBeer Thing doesn't actually make your beer taste better. In fact, in some instances, it can make your beer taste worse.

The Bottom Line If you value head on beer, the affordable That UltraBeer Thing is fun to experiment with, but I don't recommend it to most beer lovers, as it alters the texture and dampens the taste of your beer.

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6.8 Overall
  • Performance 6
  • Features 7
  • Design 6
  • Usability 9

Review Sections

Clearly, the company behind That UltraBeer Thing has a sense of humor. The UK-based tech company That Thing made the UltraBeer reminiscent of a sex toy in its appearance, and its use lends itself to all sorts of fun phrasing -- the only purpose of the UltraBeer is to give your beer a nice head. That humor is apparent in the much-watched promotional video for UltraBeer, in which a beer snob uses the device while boring everyone around him to sleep by droning on about the finer art of beer.

The UltraBeer uses sound to stir up the carbon dioxide in your beer. Press the button on the front, stick one end in your glass, and circle it around for a second or two and your formerly dull-looking pint will now have a frothy head. The UltraBeer fulfills that one duty admirably, but it also affects the taste of your beer -- creating a creamy mouthfeel and dampening some sharper, bitter notes.

If you want to experiment with your beer, the $20/£20 UltraBeer is an easy splurge that's fun to use. Unlike what's implied in the video, I don't recommend it for beer snobs, or even enthusiasts who want to taste the beer as the brewer intended. The novelty of the UltraBeer wears off quickly, and then you're just left with a stirred-up beer that doesn't taste quite right.

Ultra design and ultra features

Marketed as a "pocket-size ultrasonic craft beer tool" you can buy That UltraBeer Thing from the company's website, as well as Amazon, for $20. The UltraBeer launched in the UK first, where has it for £20. It's not currently available in Australia, but the US price converts to roughly AU$27 if you want to ship it.

I take some issue with calling the UltraBeer "pocket-size" as it's 8 inches long -- thus pretty big for a pocket as even my sizable cell phone (a Google Pixel XL) is only 6.25 inches even with a case on it. Also carrying the UltraBeer with you to a bar doesn't make a lot of sense to me. You're putting the device into your pocket, then your beer, and I don't tend to like pocket lint in my beer.

At 8 inches, the UltraBeer is too big for most pockets.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The UltraBeer makes more sense as a kitchen tool you can use to liven up bottled beer. Using it couldn't be easier. Insert a couple of AAA batteries into the screw off top, then put the smaller end into your beer and touch the power symbol on the front. The ultrasonic frequency does the rest. Your beer will be frothed within a second or two.

You can clean it with a quick rinse, or a wipe with a damp cloth. Be careful not to submerge your UltraBeer, though. It's not waterproof above the battery line -- so you can't give it a deeper clean in the dishwasher. That said, a quick wipe was always enough to convince me it was clean.

Because the UltraBeer is touch sensitive, I'd also worry that sticking it in your pocket would cause it to stay on while you're out and about, and drain the batteries quickly. Under normal use, That Thing promises that the batteries will last through 150 pints.

It's super easy to use. Touch the button, and you'll see a green light indicating it's on. Then, just place the smaller end in your beer for a second or two.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Perhaps as a safety measure against pocket foaming, I often noticed that the button didn't work after I'd left the UltraBeer idle for a couple of days. I was always able to fix the problem easily by following the company's advice for a reset -- removing the batteries and putting them back in -- but the UltraBeer also stopped working and forced a reset during a couple of my taste tests. For the most part, using the UltraBeer is a simple joy, but the need to keep resetting it annoyed me.

Ultra taste test

Speaking of those taste tests, in addition to anecdotal use over the course of a couple of weeks, I subjected seven coworkers to an official tasting of three beers with and without the effects of the UltraBeer. We tried a light beer ( Avery's White Rascal -- a Belgian White), a hoppy beer (Stone's Pataskala -- a red IPA) and a dark beer (Tallgrass Brewing's Buffalo Sweat -- an oatmeal cream stout).

The results for the UltraBeer weren't all bad. In fact, for the light beer, the eight of us were split right down the middle -- with four preferring the original and four preferring the beer after I'd used the UltraBeer on it. The original version of the beer won 5-3 on both of the second two beers, and on each of the three tests, I voted for the original.

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