Her Hacks: A toast to spring

The spring is upon us. Let the celebrations begin.

And what’s the most important part of a celebration? Responsibly enjoying a tasty libation, of course.

Whether that libation is a beer- or wine-flavored alcohol or something softer (sarsaparilla, perhaps), we’ve got a few tips for how to hack that drink.

Just remember, moderation is next to dogliness. And who doesn’t love a friendly pooch?


When it comes to the realm of barley and hops, spring is a time to start breaking out the lighter-colored drinks and indulging in some fruity, floral and clean flavor profiles.

And, for those in the know, that means we’re busting out some IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, sours and the more general category of lagers.

There’s a great list of springtime beers at HiConsumption (tinyurl.com/y35fdrms), and Past Magazine has another list to choose from at tinyurl.com/yyv3cudn.

Locally speaking, Galena (Ill.) Brewing Co. has its award-winning Fever River Ale Hefeweizen; Jubeck New World Brewing has a variety of choices, including its Lavender Honey Wheat; Dimensional Brewing Co. is carrying its Key Lime Pie Kettle Sour; at 7 Hills Brewing Co., the Town Clock Pilsner is a way to go; Catfish Charlie’s is pouring its Ice Harbor IPA; and Potosi (Wis.) Brewery has its Wee Stein Wit, a Belgian-style witbier.

If you’re unsure what you might like, mant of those locations offer flights that let you sample a bevy of beverages without taking the chance on a full pint.

When enjoying the effervescence of a brew at home, there’s always the looming specter of opening those non-twist off caps.

Luckily for you, there’s a simple way to open just about any bottles sans bottle opener. Simply wrap your fist around a bottle with the top of your hand near the bottle cap. As long as you’re close enough to the bottom of the cap, it’s very easy to use the top of your index finger as the fulcrum for a lever to pop the top.

A lot of people use pocket knives if they carry them, but just about any solid object can work. Check out this series of GIFs — tinyurl.com/yy248cca — from Thrillist.com.

There’s nothing worse than having a beer, but it’s roughly the temperature of the sun. Warm beer equals an unhappy imbiber. (Unless you happen to be my Grandpa Frenzel, who directed the beer deliveryman to put his case of Huber Bock on the heater.)

There is a solution for the non-Grandpa Frenzels among us. If you fill up a bowl with ice, a little water and a couple of tablespoons of salt, that beer will be ice cold in two minutes flat. Don’t believe it? Visit tinyurl.com/poosx6v to see a cool YouTube clip by DaveHax to see the whole process in action, as well as hear why it works.


Excuse me, garcon? More wine, please!

Yes, you too can sit in the company of wine aficionados around the world.

First up, let’s revisit the issue of noncold bottle. Now, in the case of red wines, you want it to be room temperature. But, if you’re enjoying a white, there is some much needed (Netflix and) chill.

But, wine bottles are significantly bigger than beer bottles, so what can you do when there’s no bowls big enough?

A simple solution is the ol’ paper towel trick. Wet some paper towel with cold water (not too much because you don’t want it to break), wrap it around your bottle and pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Presto, cold sav blanc.

Now, even the most ardent wine taster among us can’t afford $300 bottles every day of the week. That means everyone will, every once in a while, open a bottle that’s not exactly aged Bordeaux.

If you’re facing down a less-than-stellar glass, you might want to consider chopping up some fruit and floating it. It’ll improve the taste and, if you’ve frozen the fruit ahead of time, function as makeshift ice, as well.

There’s a wonderfully animated list of wine hacks at tinyurl.com/y6lpupsa, courtesy of Business Insider, including using a shoe to open a bottle. The Her Hacks team will be doing that at its next get-together and will report on the results.

Finally, wineries are becoming a big business in the tri-state area, with Travel Iowa’s “Iowa Wine 101” guide (tinyurl.com/y2ce6y86) listing at least 300 vineyards in the state and American Winery Guide (tinyurl.com/yyn2as4d) listing more than 70 wineries.

Soft drinks, tea and coffee

If there are two things we can agree on, it’s that soft drinks are best in moderation and anyone who doesn’t like coffee isn’t to be trusted.

Also, tea.

But, when it comes to nonalcoholic beverages (some areas of the world use “soft drink” to refer to anything nonalcoholic, but here we’ll confine it to carbonated soda drinks), there are more than a few satisfying hacks for your consumption.

At this point, everyone has heard of using Coca-Cola to clean corroded batteries. But what you might not know is it can help get gum out of your hair. Or, help remove all those blood stains from you clothes after the temper tantrum, post gum-in-hair.

Check out a few more interesting uses for the king of colas (or is that RC?) at tinyurl.com/y2tthz2g.

(There also are some reports around the internet that say Indian farmers use Coke as a pesticide. While Snopes found a little evidence that this might be true, it’s not what you think. The cola itself isn’t used to kill pests, it’s used for its sugar content to attract ants, which tend to chow down on pest larvae. Warning, do not read the prior paragraph while drinking a Coke or enjoying a nice sandwich.)

When it comes to tea, there are few better uses than just tossing a bag of it in warm water and enjoying the results.

Have you considered, though, that tea is a natural stank killer? Tossing some tea bags in your stinky shoes is one such hack. Another is to drop some used bags in a bowl of water and put in the fridge to soak all that expired Lunchables smell.

If you’re not a sufferer of the stink, there are a variety of other uses for the little bags that could on Natural Living Ideas at tinyurl.com/y3v53d7j.

Finally, the grandest of all drinks — queen coffee.

There are so many easy, at-home ways to make every type of coffee you could want to imbibe that it would be irresponsible to the official Her Hacks printer to list them all.

Instead, we’ll point you toward Home Grounds (tinyurl.com/yy4zmjyg) and BuzzFeed (tinyurl.com/y4ebuz3y) for two extensive lists. Our favorite, and a handy one while you’re traveling, is that you can reduce the bitterness of a bad brew by adding a pinch of salt. The competing flavor profile will mellow out that Styrofoam cup of battery acid into something much more palatable.

Anthony Frenzel writes for the Telegraph Herald. Send your hacks, tips, suggestions, DIY thoughts, inspirations and cobbled-together-machinations to tony.frenzel@thmedia.com or share your pins with me on Pinterest (Anthony Frenzel), and you might just be featured in an upcoming edition of her Hacks.

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