In November 2021 I hosted a unique Thanksgiving feast. Out of love I didn’t invite friends or family, though, since the meal mostly consisted of candy corn. Seriously. I took Brach’s novelty Turkey Dinner bag of sweets way too seriously. It was a “fowl” experience, a culinary catastrophe no one would ever attempt, let alone repeat. So when the company recently announced a new Tailgate-inspired assortment of candy corn I wanted to make sure I avoided repeating my confectionary mistakes of the past. Instead I made all new mistakes, including getting a friend involved this time. Because if you’re grilling hamburger and hot dog-flavored candy corn, it’s best not to
suffer tailgate alone. That way you’re not the only loser on game day.
Tailgate Candy Corn’s flavors make you wonder if anyone at Brach’s has ever actually gone tailgating. The bag features fruit punch (weird), vanilla ice cream (even weirder), popcorn (an in-stadium snack, not a tailgate one), hamburger (yup), and hot dog (of course). Obviously the latter two sounded intentionally disgusting. But I had hope for the other three when I showed up at my friend James’ house for a day of watching football.
We both thought vanilla ice cream would be enjoyable, and it is for anyone who longs to eat a vanilla candle. It starts off nicely, and finishes okay, but in the long middle it tastes like cheap vanilla perfume made into edible wax. The popcorn candy corn was much of the same. Initially it’s pretty good, like a sweet kettle corn. But then it’s akin to eating butter concentrate. I hated it slightly less than James, who detested it.
The only truly good piece is the fruit punch. It’s super fruit punch-y, the physical manifestation of Plato’s ideal fruit punch flavor profile. It’s also the only one I would happily eat again, assuming it came in a less horrible bag.
Speaking of horrible, Brach’s hot dog candy corn is disgusting. Here’s what I wrote while gagging: “Instantly vile. Like rotten meat. And it lingers. IT LINGERS.” And that only captures about 30% of the horror this rancid garbage enacted on my tongue. It’s truly horrific, and yet it wasn’t even the worst thing I ate that fateful Sunday.
In comparison to the hot dog, the hamburger piece was a lot less awful. But only in the way that getting stabbed is a lot less awful than a beheading. It’s tastes like a weird, indistinguishable salted meat. It’s probably what orcs eat for Halloween.
Most humans would have stopped right then and there. No one needs anything more from a review of intentionally gross candy. Fortunately for all of you I am here for you. (As is my amiable friend James, who once asked for a second helping of Rachel’s meat trifle from Friends. He’d never seen Friends and sincerely pulled a real-life Joey.)
Instead of stopping, it was time to grill.
Because of my previously addressed stupidity, I thought I could use a grill pan to get some nice char on the meat candy corn pieces. That didn’t work. They started melting and sticking together pretty quickly. (I think because they’re sugar-laden candy and not actual meat, but I’m no scientist.)
All I really had time to do was open a Harpoon IPA, warm them up, and nearly ruin both my pan and James’ grill. From there it was time to eat these “correctly.”
The hamburger and hot dog candy corn went into their appropriate buns. Then James and I opted for our own toppings. For the “burger” I went with BBQ sauce while James used mustard. For my “hot dog” I went mustard only, while James did ketchup and mustard.
It’s incredible we thought our choice of condiments would matter. Literal brain worms are probably still laughing at us.
My burger nearly made me throw up. Multiple times. The bread and BBQ sauce didn’t cover up the candy; the candy made them both worse. It was absolutely heinous. But worse is that it never ended. I just kept chewing and chewing…and chewing and chewing, and nothing seemed to happen. It was as though I was violating the Geneva Convention against myself.
James didn’t enjoy his anymore, but instead of nearly getting sick like me his brain broke. All he could say was, “That’s not great. I wouldn’t recommend that,” which qualifies for the understatement of the millennium.
Surprisingly, the bread and condiments did help the hot dog. It wasn’t good, but instead of stinking meat the whole thing resembled a weird corn dog. Or it did until James took a second bite with a big hunk of candy corn. He thought that would make the whole thing even better. Readers, it did not. It. Did. Not.
“I would rather eat an entire Rachel meat trifle than do that again,” he said. And that should let you know how bad it was, since Rachel’s meat trifle tastes like feet.
The rest of our tailgate was easy, though not something anyone else should attempt. We blended the vanilla ice cream pieces (which puréed nicely) with milk and actual ice cream. It resembled a McDonald’s shake with seven extra pumps of sugar.
In fairness, though, if we’d done what any good tailgater should—add alcohol—it probably would’ve been fantastic. At least we did that with the fruit punch.
We added ice and bourbon to the fruit punch pieces (which didn’t purée as well) to create a concoction inspired by an SEC tailgate party. Our candy liquor wasn’t bad, it just suffered from that uncanny valley taste many pre-made cocktails have. This is a drink served in a test tube, the type of frozen beverage that comes in a plastic Eiffel Tower when you go to Las Vegas.
It was also really dangerous. It was so cold and so sweet you couldn’t taste much of the bourbon. If you drank too many of these before a game you’d be unconscious before the first quarter ended.
At this point I was full of candy and regret. So to finish we just mixed the popcorn pieces with actual buttered popcorn. It was… nothing. I didn’t like it or hate it. But James, who loathed the popcorn candy corn initially, actually enjoyed it. Or that’s what he said.
Or he enjoyed it because he was three beers and a candy corn fruit punch bourbon deep at this point.
And I guess in that way Brach’s Tailgate Candy Corn was true to its word. If you tailgate correctly eventually it doesn’t matter what you’re eating, it all tastes the same.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.