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Monday, March 30, 2009

Sprecher Ravin' Red

I like fruit. Not just fruit, but all sorts of fruit and fruit imitations. I like natural and artificial fruit flavors. The taste of a ripe, fresh nectarine is transcendent joy; artificial grape and cherry flavors in Popsicles are great fun.

This one claims to be "All Natural Cran-Cherry Soda with Ginseng." I'm game.

Where and when: purchased 3/28/09 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Color: pinkish-orange, slightly opaque. Small bits of sediment. The sediment chunks look denser than pulp.
Scent: Almost no scent. When smelled very carefully, a slight scent of cherry can be detected.
Taste: Oddly bland. There is a taste of cherry and cranberry (without much of the bitterness). There is an unpleasant initial taste, accompanied by a faint smell of metal. It’s not salty, but has a touch more sour, unpleasantly reminiscent of the heavy-saliva taste present in the Jarritos Tamarindo. It’s not that strong, though.
The cherry tastes very much like the bits of black cherry you get in Cherries Jubilee ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. The aftertaste is mostly cherry, and fairly pleasant—the metallic initial taste has faded. It is quite persistent. There’s very little cranberry. There is a persistent heavy, slightly greasy feeling accompanying the aftertaste, and I’m liking that less and less as it refuses to leave.

It’s worth noting that the tastes are relatively faint in this soda—it’s not very sweet, and the fruit tastes are not prominent. It’s not at all syrupy. While I think that a lot of sodas are too sweet and syrupy, this may be too much the other way. The Dry Soda line is also light, but much crisper. This has a not-so-pleasant mix of heaviness and blandness, like cherry Jello made at half strength and half sugared, but with added cornstarch. Yech.

Quaff rating: 2. It’s not that it’s hard to drink, but I just don’t see the point. I could get bored drinking this.
Cough rating: 2. The initial odd taste is not nice, and it leaves a vaguely greasy feel and taste for a while afterwards.

Note: 15 minutes later, the aftertaste is no longer cherryish, just slightly sour, but still heavy and unpleasant.

And the flavor, never flitting, still is sitting, STILL is sitting
On my bumpl’d tongue which lies betwixt my teeth and palate sore
And it feels as if it’s teeming with some squidgy slimy feeling
Which I can’t remove by screaming out for H2SO4
And the aftertaste which on my tongue lies as a rug on floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Other Weird Soda Afficionados

We are not alone!

Nice Guy Online: New Soda Reviews
Some good stuff here.

Soft Drink Reviews, Exotic and Non
This one is particularly excellent, a true example of the Weird (and non-) Soda Quest. I point particularly to this review, which indicates that the reviewer is a fan of Lovecraft. He's been at it since August 2008, so I must honor my forefather. Bless you, good sir. And I swear I didn't read your blog before I started mine.

That said, your layout is better, and I'm totally adding photos to mine too.

Bottle bottom bumps

In our tireless quest to fully comprehend the mysteries of Weird Soda, you may recall that we at the Lab began noticing series of raised bumps along the bottoms on various soda bottles (an attempt at decoding was made in our review of Vernors). Having done a bit more research, we have found that these bumps are apparently a code used to identify the mold from which the glass bottle was made. Presumably, this helps the bottler identify the problem area if a series of defective bottles come off the line. This info is provided in Wikipedia, as well as in several question-and-answer sites around the Web. Some folks call it a "mold code", which should not be confused with the specific heritage of the bacterial/fungal mixture used in each batch of Kombucha. I don't want to know how that is identified.

I suppose we could include the code for each reviewed soda, but that would be a lot of work.

I think "Bottle bottom bumples" is a good name for these mysterious messages.

Capt'n Eli's Orange Pop

The Lead Assistant Reviewer, as part of his assistantship, is starting to write his own Weird Soda Reviews. The following (except where noted) is from him.

Quaffmaster: We found this one on an emergency trip (i.e. pizza on its way with a guest in the Lab) to BevMo. We bought it because it had "Capt'n" in its name and it has some amount of sediment or some such floating in the brew. Always a good sign.

Lead Assistant:

Where and when: purchased 3/28/09 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Color: Murky yellow with little yellow things floating in it
Scent: Orange lemon soda. It doesn't smell sweet.
Taste: It tastes like Orangina. It is not very sweet, it's sour. The sour plus the bubbles hurts your tongue. I like it, OH! There was a little sweet. Now I can taste the sweet. It's a lot better than the previous soda (Quaffmaster: he's referring to the Journey Caribbean Creme).

Quaffmaster: Nicely done, Lead Assistant Tester. I had a chance to taste a bit myself, and the similarity to Orangina is definitely dominant. I found this to be milder overall than Orangina, both less sweet and less tart. This is cooler (as in an ever-so-slight hint of something minty in it), but pleasant and refreshing.

Lead Assistant:
Quaff rating: 3. The thing I liked about it was that it was sour, and then you think "Hey, there's a little sweet coming out." It surprises you.
Cough rating: 1. A bit too sour and strong.

Journey Caribbean Creme

Here's one which promises to be unusual. At BevMo, we found Journey Caribbean Creme. As a fan of cream sodas, I felt I should give this a try. The label describes it as "Hint of coconut, gentle brew of Java vanilla." Sounds interesting. My interest is further piqued by the fact that the bottler's logo, prominently featured around the bottle, is an upside-down, mirror-reversed question mark.
And I note that this bottle has more of those coded dots down near the bottom! More on this topic in a further post.

This soda comes with an additional side effect. Since reading the name (Caribbean Creme), I have had Billy Ocean's song "Caribbean Queen" stuck in my head.

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo, Escondido, CA
Color: medium pale gold, kind of like a lager
Scent: Wow. Strong vanilla, but mixed with coconut and (maybe) coffee. The lead assistant tester says it smells like buttered kettle popcorn, and he's exactly right.
The Lead Assistant Tester says: "I wonder if it tastes like that. I hope not."
It's not a bad smell, exactly, just very strong and not what I would expect.
Taste: Interesting. More sour than it smells, but pretty similar. Really quite unique, not like any soda I've had. Sweet, with a strong undertone of vanilla, overlaid with coconut and popcorn, with a hint of coffee.
Opinions in the Lab vary rather a lot.
Lead Assistant Tester: (retching noises) "Nobody should ever drink this", making panting noises with his tongue out.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "I have goosebumps of horror. I'd rather drink the Kombucha Wonder Drink"
Junior Assistant Tester, after at least 20 seconds of careful consideration, with a very serious expression: "I like it".
Lead Assistant: "This should be on one of those TV shows, the 10 most disgusting things in soda"
K-I-C: "It tastes like a vermifuge. (does some net research) Look! Coconut oil is a vermifuge!" NOTE: a vermifuge is an anti-parasitical worm medication.
Lead Assistant: "The worst thing about it is that if you burp afterwards, you can taste it again."
I actually don't mind it, it's got character. Some Weird Sodas end up being slight variations on totally commonplace sodas, but not this one. This is not one of those. It has a unique and complex flavor, one I've never encountered before.

Quaff rating: 2 and a half. Despite the fact that I kind of groove on the unique flavor, it is pretty startling.
Cough rating: 3. Nearly caused upchucking in half the staff.

Caribbean Creme!
Now I'm turning slightly green,
And I think it slew my son.
Get this stuff of my tongue.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Teddy's Root Beer

The Kibbitzer-In-Chief is a truly diligent and dedicated Weird Soda researcher, especially for someone who doesn’t like soda. At the conclusion of last night’s burrito run, as we waited for the talented chefs at Super Taco to put the final touches on their culinary confections, she decided to zip next door to the dollar store for some sundries. She came back with said sundries, as well as what looked like a forty-ounce container of cheap booze. This was, to say the least, surprising (none of the Lab staff drink a lot of alcohol). However, she revealed to me that she had, in fact, found a Weird Soda masquerading as cheap booze. I love this woman!
What she found was Teddy’s Root Beer. It has some impressive credentials:

--It was found at a Dollar Tree
--It comes in a one-liter brown plastic bottle with a screw-on cap
--The label has a picture of Teddy Roosevelt (I think) on it
--The manufacturer is listed as the “Unique Beverage Company”, in Everett
--The back of the label provides a two-sentence summary of the history of root beer, including this gem: “Root Beer is now enjoyed as a soft drink or as the main ingredient in Root Beer floats”. It also claims to be handcrafted, and “made from only the finest ingredients”. Based on the ingredients list, I have a mental image of sun-tanned laborers in the fields, harvesting the Natural and Artificial Flavorings (Chemicus syntheticus) with great skill and care, then bringing them by hand truck (with pneumatic tires, lest too-harsh jostling bruise their delicate leaves) into the cool, oak-beamed stone brewing house, where they are gently stirred into copper kettles with the High-Fructose Corn Syrup imported from Peruvian mountain farms. The brewmaster, a wizened man who stoops about the brewhouse with a knurled hickory staff, inspects the mixture and determines the exact amount of Gum Arabic to add to produce the carefully nuanced blend of flavors we’d expect in a handcrafted, premium root beer.

I think I like this stuff.

Where and When: purchased 3/27/09 at Dollar Tree, Vista, CA
Color: very dark brown, kind of a pretty garnet when light shines through it
Scent: spicy, rootbeerlike, complex. Scents of cinnamon, maybe anise. I do like the smell of root beer.
Taste: A bit sweeter than it smells. Slightly tart for a root beer, but not obtrusively so, and with a lot of mellowness to balance it out. Kind of similar to A & W. Kind of a taste of marshmallow to it, in a good way. There’s a slight note of something menthol-ish—it’s similar to birch beer.

While I like root beer, I am not widely experienced with it. This is a pleasant, fairly strong root beer, not as complex as some, but pretty nice. Given the packaging and source, I feel a little like I bought some Gallo Bros. boxed wine, and it came out like a medium-priced Kendall Jackson chardonnay. It’s better than I would have expected, which makes me happy.

Quaff rating: 3. Pretty pleasant.
Cough rating: 1. The cinnamon-mint-treebarkiness of root beer could be unpleasant with the wrong foods.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boing! Strawberry

Serendipity plays a large role in the life of a Weird Soda seeker. Tonight, the lab staff had a hankering for burritos. When we went to our favorite local burrito place, lo and behold--a beverage I had never seen. And even better, one with a weird name.

Bang! is a fairly common brand of fountain drink found in Mexican restaurants in this area. I've never actually had it, but my understanding is that it is a vanilla cream blended with various fruits (in addition to the fairly ubiquitous Orange Bang!, there's also Horchata Bang! and Melon Bang!). But this isn't Bang!

It's Boing!. And yes, the exclamation point is part of the name.

Boing! is non-carbonated, and based on actual fruit pulp. The lack of carbonation makes it difficult to classify it as a Weird Soda, but I personally think the Weird part is more important than the Soda part, so I feel comfortable with the occasional foray into Weird Non-Carbonated Soft Drinks.

Anyway, I have observed two flavors of Boing! in the wild--Strawberry and Peach. Tonight, we'll try the Strawberry.

Where and when: purchased 3/27/09 at Super Taco, Vista, CA
Color: fairly opaque slightly bluish red. There is visible strawberry pulp floating around in it.
Scent: strawberry jam, almost exactly.
Taste: Very much like a strawberry fruit spread. Pleasant, somewhat overly sweet. Doesn't have the tartness of real strawberry, but the strawberry pulp is recognizable.

This isn't bad at all. I kind of miss the carbonation--this is more of a fruit nectar--but it's pleasant, if a bit overly sweet. The advertising strongly suggests that it is marketed for refreshment--the label features a strawberry in the background, along with a heavily muscled man in a yellow hardhat quaffing a bottle of Boing! enthusiastically. Over his head is text advising us to "Shake Well". It's like a soda bottled by the Village People; with any luck, the Peach flavor will have a cowboy or a biker on the label.

Quaff rating: 3. Pleasant, but a bit too sweet.
Cough rating: 0.5. Not really objectionable in any way.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Apple Beer

I don't drink a whole lot of beer, given my position in the Weird Soda Lab. Beer is a strange beverage, full of it's own complexities, and with rituals and customs of its own. While I do enjoy it, it's not my specialty. Here, though, we have what appears to be a crossover; a non-alcoholic fruit which claims affiliation as a beer. I'm not sure what the basis for that affiliation is, whether it is brewed or prepared like a beer, or what. The brand seems to be the same as the name: "Apple Beer".
Well, on with the quaffing!

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo, Escondido, CA
Color: light golden brown, like a lightly toasted marshmallow
Scent: mild, light appleish scent.
Taste: very light. Tart apple juice with strong carbonation. Quite tart. There is only the slightest hint of bitterness as you would find in beer; it's much more like sparkling cider than beer. It's nice. The aftertaste has a bit more of the bitterness. It's worth noting that this isn't the bitterness of apple peel-it's beerier than that. Produces a small head when poured; this may be the basis of the beer kinship. As it warms up, the bitterness becomes slightly more prominent, as does the tartness of the cider.

Quaff rating: 3 and a half. Pleasant, and would probably be refreshing on a hot day.
Cough rating: 0.5. Only the tiny bitterness could be a problem.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sidral Mundet

It's a proud moment for us here at the Weird Soda Review Tasting labs. The Lead Assistant Tester has asked that he be able to provide a review today, so last night I went out and acquired a Weird Soda for a good testing run. Today, following the Mexican theme of the previous review (Jarritos Tamarindo), we have Sidral Mundet. This is another Mexican soda, not uncommon here in San Diego (although less often seen than Jarritos). There's nothing on the bottle itself to indicate what flavor it is intended to have, though, until you realize that imprinted in the glass of the bottle itself is the outline of an apple.
And then you see that on top of the bottlecap, it says "apple soda". But I like the sort of transcendent moment of realizing that the asnwer was before you the whole time when you see the apple in the glass better.

All quotes in this review, unless otherwise specified, are from the Lead Assistant Reviewer. Good luck, kid!

Where and when: purchased 3/22/09 at Vons, Vista, CA
Color: "Hmm...light brownish-yellow. Kind of a coppery-red."
Scent: "Apple cider. Kind of sweet spicy. A tiny bit of spicy, but mostly sweet." I concur, it's more like apple juice than a fresh, sweet cider, but definitely apple.
Taste: "Sour, spice at first. Then kind of a sweet bubbly. Lemon apple soda?" I agree, the initial taste is quite tart, but it fades quickly into a sweet. There's an interesting transitional feeling of coldness between the tart and sweet. "Sparkling apple juice with not quite enough sugar in it, so the sour overwhelms the sweet for a moment. I like it." (sound of smacking lips) "Oh! I got a little bitter there!" (drinks some more) "I *really* like it. I think it's better than the chocolate soda. Oo! Ooh! After it's been open for a while, the sourish bubble--you stop tasting it very much."
The K-i-C says "Hmm. Yes, that's a very *real* apple." This is said in an approving tone.
This is the first apple juice or soda I've had in some time where I feel as though I can taste a bit of apple peel as well as juice. This is a good thing; it's more like a liquid apple. Not quite as much as fresh unfiltered cider, but more than any regular juice.

This is pretty good stuff. The initial sour is a bit odd, but not unpleasant, and the sweet which follows is very nice. There is complexity in the sweet, but it's faint; mostly, it's a pretty intense aple flavor.
"It's one of the best sodas I've had".
Aftertaste: "When you leave it in your mouth fr a while, you stop tasting it. You just move your tongue around, and it feels really cold." I agree, the aftertaste is mild.

It's worth noting that the only listed flavorings are natural sugar, apple juice from concentrate, and citric acid. Not even "natural flavors". It's also unusual in that the bottle specifies that it is pasteurized (not usually a consideration for soda, but understandable given the apple juice). Probably worth considering as a "natural soda", but rarely marketed as such.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Pretty nice, pleasant. Good apple flavor.
Cough rating: 0.5. Nothing offensive here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jarritos Tamarindo

Sometimes having truly selfless and devoted research staff is a great thing. The Kibbitzer-in-Chief, one of the lead members of the Lab here at Weird Soda Review, doesn't actually like soda. At all. And yet, yesterday, after spending hours in non-Lab related activities, she was selfless and thoughtful enough to bring home a Weird Soda. A treasure indeed.

What she brought was a Jarritos Tamarindo. Jarritos is a Mexican soda brandwhich is fairly common here, but probably less so elsewhere. It comes in a variety of fruit flavors--I've sampled their strawberry before, and found it quite acceptable--but this was one I hadn't had before. Tamarind is a popular flavoring in a lot of Mexican drinks (aguas frescas and sodas). A bit of research shows that it is actually popular around the world. And I was sure I'd seen it on a non-beverage ingredient list in the past, so I had to figure out what that was.
And I did.
Worcestershire sauce.
Here is the ingredients list for Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce:
"Vinegar, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, cloves, natural flavorings, chili pepper extract"

The fact that this Weird Soda shares a major flavoring ingredient with steak sauce may not bode well.

Where and when: purchased 3/21/09 at Target, San Marcos, CA
Color: light brown/orange, slightly cloudy. Darker than a lager or apple juice, though.
Scent: Eww. Not much scent, but oddly sweet and salty. I'm trying not to smell it as vaguely vomit-scented. It's not, really, there is an interesting fig-like sweetness, but there's definitely something unpleasant in there too.
Taste: Bleah. Molasses? Maybe Fig Newton with cumin. The tamarind itself is sweet and fig- or date-like, but there is a strong acid/tart component, too. That acid comes forward pretty quickly, in much the same way that one gets a acidy taste in one's mouth with too much saliva when feeling sick. Theres a strange aftertaste, too--to me, for reason's I'm not sure of, it made the image of licking a basketball come to mind.
There's something almost beerlike in the initial taste--under the sweetness, a bitter not unlike hops, very faint. The figlike tamarind flavor isn't so much a problem, but the sour and bitter undertones (the sour especially prominent) are quite unpleasant.
In the course of pre-quaffing research, I found that in several areas, tamarind is dipped in (or mixed with) chili powder when making it into candies. As weird as that sounds, I can see how it would be better; it would counteract the musky, biological flavor that comes with the tamarind. As it is, that sour/bitter flavor is probably what makes me think of pre-vomit saliva, and what makes the K-i-C think of armpit sweat.
It's not extremely sweet, and that is generally a good thing. It tastes a bit like Worcestershire sauce, which is good in macaroni and cheese, but not so much in soda. And it tastes a bit like sweat or sick saliva, and that is a very very bad thing.
Junior Assistant Tester: "Tastes kind of good, but not as good as bad." Oddly, that does kind of sum it up.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Tastes like mango armpit."

Quaff rating: 2. I've had worse--it's easier to quaff than Kombucha Wonder Drink--but it's not exactly fun.
Cough rating: 3.5. Erk.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Safari Mist Pear Lychee

As we approach the vernal equinox, we here at Weird Soda Review feel that we should in some way recognize the approach of spring. Libations must be brought to the altar. Let there be free flow of joy, in celebration of the season! And along with the free-flowing joy, how about a seasonally-appropriate Weird Soda to top it off!

Apple Beer? Nah, doesn't really seem spring-ish. Cream soda? As much as I like it, we need something with more of a "new growth, buds on trees, nymphs and shepherds frolicking on the greensward and singing fa la la la" vibe.
And what says nymphs and shepherds like Pears and Lychees?

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo, Escondido, CA
Color: cloudy pale beige. Lead Assistant say "murky swampy brown", while the K-i-C summarizes it as "Silt". It does seem to have tiny chunks and fine sediment in it, mostly suspended, but some settling to the bottom. The label notes that "Fruit may settle to the bottom. ROTATE BOTTLE GENTLY, DO NOT SHAKE". I'm going to assume that the sediment and chunks are fruit, rather than (as they more closely resemble) Ritz Cracker backwash.
Scent: strong fruity scent. Definitely pearlike (although tart, not like a sweet Bartlett)
Taste: very sweet, with a strong component of tropical fruit. Carbonation is light. Reminiscent of pear (Bosc or Danjou) and strawberry. I've never actually tasted lychee, so I can't speak to whether it tasted like those. The K-i-C has tasted lychees (and hates them), but can't comment either, as to her it tasted mostly like Splenda before she (with difficulty) swallowed it.
It does taste like rambutan, and I am told that rambutans taste a bit like lychees, so maybe that says something. As to how I know what rambutans taste like--it's a long and sordid tale, involving (oddly enough) a homeschooling math curriculum.

There is a strong taste of sucralose in this, which makes sense, given that the supplemental sweetener to the pear and lychee concentrate is, in fact, sucralose. I think it would have been better without it; it's overly sweet this way, and the odd sucralose aftertaste isn't all that pleasant. But the strong pear and rambutan/strawberry/possibly lychee flavors are nice, and would have stood better on their own.

The label notes that this is "a blend of effervescent fruit nectars crafted by nature...Originally formulated along the tropical shores of Southern Africa, these luscious fruit drinks provide a thirst quenching elixir unsurpassed in tasting excellence". It's currently bottled by EBeDee Beverage Company in Burlingame, California.
I am developing a hypothesis as to Weird Soda evolution. Note that in two of the Weird Sodas reviewed to date, we have evidence of ingredient migration from South Africa (the rooibos tea in Kombucha Wonder Drink and the unspecified formulation of Safari Mist Pear Lychee) to other locations around the world (the Himalayas and Burlingame, CA, respectively). More research is needed, but I suspect that a careful perusal of the ingredients of some of the truly Weird Japanese sodas might find that some of the components (horseradish, or maybe beef ribs) originally came from South Africa.

I can see myself presenting a talk at a conference now ("South Africa: The Ancestral Homeland of Weird Soda? ")

Quaff rating: 3. I kind of like it, even if the K-i-C and Lead Assistant Tester refused to quaff more than a single mouthful. Nice fruit flavors.
Cough rating: 2. Far too sweet, with an odd artifical aftertaste.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What We Dream Of at Weird Soda Review

My diligent research staff, in their unceasing efforts to uncover the Weird Sodas of the world, found this nice link.

Seven Unique Soda Pops to Quench your Thirst

Some of them on the list are legendary among American Weird Soda (namely the famous Jones Soda Holiday Packs, which we will hopefully be acquiring this year). Some, on the other hand, are new to me, and represent the sort of acquisitions we live for at Weird Soda Review. "Water Salad" and wasabi-flavored soda are truly WEIRD Weird Sodas. This is why we exist, folks--to sample weirdness of this caliber. Like Don Quixote, our hearts will lie peaceful and calm as long as we forever strive to quaff the unquaffable pop.

I believe that it is time for the Lab to start working on a grant to allow us to travel to Japan, which is apparently the very source of soda weirdness.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Filbert's Old Time Quality Watermelon

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 from BevMo, Escondido, CA
Color: bright, clear red
Scent: sweet, sort of cotton candy rather than watermelon
Taste: I'm not sure what this tastes like, but it's not watermelon. There's a slight metallic taste to this, like licking aluminum foil. It's very slight. The rest is really just sweet, without a whole lot of distinctiveness. I'd call this more of a strawberry soda rather than watermelon. As a strawberry soda, it's not bad-call it mediocre. But as a watermelon soda, it's not so hot.

Quaff rating: 2 and a half.
Cough rating: 1, for that slight metallic taste

Monday, March 16, 2009


I've enjoyed ginger ale for a long time. Aside from being the soda of choice when sick, it's the only thing I'll drink on an airplane. Something about the peculiarly intense sunlight at 35,000 feet shining through a little plastic cup of golden, bubbly ginger ale just makes me happy.
There are camps devoted to each of the major ginger ale brands, and plenty who hold that ginger beer is superior to any lowly ginger ale, and so on. However, I have heard what sounds suspiciously like some degree of consensus among ginger ale afficionados that Vernors is something pretty special.

It claims to be the nation's oldest soft drink, "the original ginger soda", and has the simulated woodgrain on the bottle in white silkscreen (or whatever that is) to back up its claim. In addition, it claims to be "barrel aged 3 years". Clearly, this is some SERIOUS soda. I don't even want to know what would happen to a garden-variety Coke or Pepsi if you left it in a barrel for three years.

I'm looking forward to this. I've never tried it before.

Side note: as further evidence of its lineage, there seem to be a series of coded raised bumps along the bottom rim of the bottle, just above the base. On one side, there are a series of irregularly spaced dots, something like this:

* * * ** ** *

On the other side, there is an upside-down number 8, a weird symbol, and another dot. And then part way round back to the dots, there is a number 6.

In binary, I guess the dots (making guesses as to the spacing, and assigning 1 to dots and 0 to spaces) would be 100101011001101. If you assume there is a trailing 0, that's two single-byte integers, 149 and 154, or one two-byte integer, 38298. Or you put the zero on the beginning and get the two single-byte integers 74 and 205. According to what I can find here, 74 is ASCII for capital J. The other numbers only have meaning in extended ASCII, I think, but there 149 is "o with a downwards accent", 154 is "Capital U with an umlaut", and 205 is two parallel horizontal lines (apparently different from an equals sign). So I'm thinking Vernors code is "òÜ", since that is cooler than "J=".

I'm so onto yòÜ, Vernors.

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo in Escondido, CA
Color: a lovely gold.
Scent: mild ginger, with some other complex stuff.
Taste: Ooooh, very nice. A nice mild ginger (but still recognizably real ginger, with that interesting heady bite), maybe some vanilla? A slight acid tang, which shows up a bit more after the initial sweet, but never gets very strong. Very, very pleasant. A touch sweeter than Canada Dry, and much less tangy.

Quaff rating: 4.5. I really can't find anything to criticize, except the sweetener. Excellent stuff.
Cough rating: 0. I'm tempted to make it negative, given ginger's effects on settling the stomach.

Interesting to note that this is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, and bottled by Dr. Pepper. I'll bet that if this were made with cane sugar, it'd be truly heavenly. As it is, I'll have to align myself with those who swear by this for their ginger ale.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kickapoo Joy Juice

It's called "Kickapoo Joy Juice". That makes it weird to begin with. Seems to be made by the Real Soda company.
Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo, Escondido, CA
Color: fluorescent yellow-green, slightly cloudy. Exactly the same shade as the cooler transparent green Legos. Very similar in color to a soda I can't remember, but which makes me think of the Rockies on a cool, humid morning.
Scent: very sweet, slightly citrusy. Reminds me a lot of condensed moisture on craggy peaks of granite.
Taste: sweet, hint of citrus. Lime more than lemon, but very very sweet. Strongly reminiscent of some other green citrusy sweet soda whose name escapes me for the moment, but which hints of drops of water on alpine vegetation. Despite the label, I do not detect the taste of joy, nor even the milder aroma of contentedness. On the other hand, it does not have the bitterness of despair or an aftertaste of ennui. What aftertaste there is is a lingering ever-so-slightly greasy sweetness, with a hint of nostalgia for past glories and a touch of shame about one's failures in third grade.

Other than that, it looks, smells, and tastes almost exactly like Mountain Dew. Maybe just a bit more limelike.

Quaff rating: 3 and a half. Very sweet, but pleasantly limeish
Cough rating: 1, for the 45g of sugar per bottle.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jeff's Chocolate Soda

I have been hearing about other varieties of soda-like beverages for some time. Legends have come my way about a northeastern favorite, the "egg cream". Such a concept has always been both fascinating and offputting for me; in my mind, I always imagined some sort of soda/quiche hybrid, and that never sounded all that good. However, the Weird Soda Review is NOT about "good"--it's about WEIRD, dangit, and any beverage called an "egg cream" is automatically weird. Thus, while collecting samples for quaffing, when I ran across something calling itself "Jeff's Amazing New York Egg Cream Chocolate Soda", I was compelled by the sacred Weird Soda Oath to purchase and consume it.

I suspect that something as weird as an "egg cream" has a devoted following, and if any of them were reading this, they would feel compelled to submit their opinions on this particular manifestation of eggcreamitude. In all likelihood, those opinions would be that this was a woefully inadequate example, and that to taste a REAL egg cream, I would need to travel to some secret location in New York City accessible only by a series of knocks and code phrase such as "I'm looking for a certain Dr. Ayigcrim to help with my dropsy", whereupon I would be ushered down dark hallways, catching glimpses of shadowy figures quaffing nameless brews in tenebrous corners. After passing through several dank stone archways of dubious integrity, I would find myself in a chamber hewed of rimed and nitrous basalt, watching a figure in a yellow silken mask exchanging alarming hand signals with my guide to the thin and monotonous piping of detestable flutes. At the conclusion of the ritual, the masked figure would open a box covered with carvings and runes which suggest mind-shattering truths about the true nature of the universe, and produce a dusty bottle whose heady scent produced trembling visions of quaint and hoary sunset cities, where tiny lamps peep pleasantly through mossy shutters. After drinking from the bottle, my tenuous grip on sanity would be forever shattered, and I would spend my remaining days gibbering and capering under a leprous moon.

And THAT would be a REAL egg cream.

But I have stuff to do around the house this weekend, so I'll try Jeff's Chocolate Soda instead.

Where and when: purchased 3/12/09 at BevMo in Escondido, CA
Color: Light brown, opaque, yet carbonated.

SPECIAL NOTE: I hate to interrupt the pattern, but I have to mention this. The bottle says "do not shake", but as I poured it into cups, I couldn't help but notice that it was somewhat thicker/creamier than soda. Then the lumps started glopping out into my cup. I may have to wax Lovecraftian again. The horror! "It wuz craimy, end it tuk a laong time to git aout uf th'bottle, and it had little lumps, lahk my Pappy after he got chainged by them perfesser types what came out of th'sky. Ia! Ia, Cthulhu fhtaghn!"

Scent: definitely chocolate. Chocolate milk or cocoa. Just a hint of bite (carbonation?) in the scent.
Taste: Weird, quite weird. Creamy like cocoa, and chocolatey, but fizzy, with a pretty strong citrus/acid bite. The carbonic acid from the carbonation is very present, and contrasts oddly with the chocolate. Fizzy, creamy chocolate milk with a dash of lemon.
This is probably an acquired taste.

Lead Assistant Taster: "It's like sweet, fizzy cocoa, with...(considers)...lemon!"
Junior Assistant Taster: "Yeah. Cocoa. Like lemon or lime."

It is probably worth noting that this is the only soda I have ever had which felt it necessary to point out on the bottle that it is 97% fat free. I never really considered fat content relevant to soda. Its also the only one I've had which actually supplied cholesterol.
Inspecting the ingredient list reveals that it is sweetend carbonated water with milk, cream, cocoa, and vegetable gum stabilizers. No eggs. Im not sure if that's good or bad.

Quaff rating: 2. I'll bet that those who are egg cream afficionados love this stuff. I'm not quite there yet, but it's an interesting experience.
Cough rating: 3, but mostly from the sight of glops. The taste, isn't all that offensive, though Im not sure about the acid/fizz/cream mix. It is unpleasantly reminiscent of milk and orange juice. But so far, it's staying down.

Afterburp flavor: pretty much the same.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Izze Sparkling Pomegranate

I bought a set of Weird Sodas today, so more reviews coming soon. Today's is another Weirdesque; not exactly rare, but not a common soda flavor either.

Where and when: purchased 3/11/09 at Fresh 'n Easy, Vista, CA
Color: deep red, garnet-like.
Scent: tart, faint, kinda pomegranatey, kinda grapey. K-i-C: "Smells kind of like cough drops". Mother of K-i-C (who was visiting the Lab tonight): "Like kimchee without the garlic".
The K-i-C suggested cranberry, which is exactly it. It smells a lot like the canned cranberry jelly seen at Thanksgiving.
Taste: It tastes a lot like canned cranberry jelly too, but not as sweet. The pomegranate is there, but it's overwhelmed by the cranberry. It's a losing battle.
I think this might be better if you added some Grenadine. Kind of nondescript tart cranberry soda. More boring than the image would suggest.

Quaff rating: 2 and a half. Not unpleasant, but not interesting, and a bit tart for my taste.
Cough rating: 1. The tartness is the only problem (and really the only benefit).

Sangria Senorial

First off: my apologies for the lack of appropriate Spanish letters in this review. I have not yet figured out how to enter accents or tilde-n characters here, but I'm working on it.

A number of good sodas come from Mexico. Aside from Jarritos, which can be amusing, there is also Mexican-bottled Coca-Cola (made with cane sugar, and definitely better than the domestically-bottled version--we'll have to do a full WSR head-to-head soon), and the one I'm reviewing tonight--Sangria Senorial (the i in Sangria should be accented, and the n in Senorial should have a tilde). For those who might not know, Sangria is a red wine/fruit juice concoction, and it's pretty tasty. This is supposed to be the carbonated, non-alcoholic version. It's not all that uncommon, so I'm not sure it qualifies as Weird. I can't do a Vaguely Odd Soda Review, though, so let's settle on Weirdesque.

Where and when: purchased 3/11/09 at Fresh n' Easy, Vista, CA
Color: very deep reddish-brown, so dark as to be almost opaque
Scent: complex. Sweet and deep, with something kind of like tannin, but not sour. Heady, fruity, maybe apple or cherry.
Taste: Strong fruit, grape and cherry, without much acid. What bite there is is from the acid in the fruit, not the soda water. I note that the ingradients list does not have phosphoric acid (although it does have citric acid). Very sweet, but not cloying. It doesnt taste like wine, but it's not utterly unlike it. Neither is it utterly unlike a number of other things, such as Kombucha Wonder Drink, but "utterly" is too strong a word. It's more like wine than it is like cheese or moon rocks, for instance, but less like wine than it is like a black cherry soda.
I think what I'm trying to say is that it's got a strong fruitiness, with some complexity and depth, but it doesnt actually taste quite like sangria.
It's pretty nice, although I'm liking it slightly less the more I drink. The sweetness is increasing, and it's not too far from cloying now. Still tasty, and goes down easily due to lack of acid (which, oddly, would make it more like sangria), but I wouldn't want a whole lot of it.

Aftertaste is slightly tart, but mild and pleasant.

I think it's worth noting that this is the first soda, Weird or otherwise, I have ever had which lists iron on its nutritional information (and apparently supplies 2% of my daily supply at that). It also has measurable calcium. I have no idea where those come from; meat, spinach, broccoli, milk, cheese, and yogurt are not on the ingredients list.

Quaff rating: 3 and a half. Would be a 4 except for the slight excessive sweetness with repeated exposure.
Cough rating: 1. Nothing offensive here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kombucha Wonder Drink

Here at the Weird Soda Review Testing Labs, we try to encourage diversity of opinion. For example, the Kibbitzer-In-Chief (one of the lead staff members here) doesnt actually like soda. She doesn't really understand the compulsion which led us to start Weird Soda Review, but she is brave and accommodating, and we love her.
In any case, while we were out gathering samples at Major Market, she spotted and acquired one of the weirder sodas we've seen. It comes in a very small bottle (8.5 oz) and advertises itself as "Kombucha Wonder Drink: A Sparkling Himalayan Tonic". Closer inspection reveals that it claims to be a blend of Rooibos (a South African red herbal tea) and "essence of red peach". This rated high on the Weird Soda scale (and claiming to be from the Himalayas adds extra weirdness), so we decided to try it out.

So this one is the special pick of the Kibbitzer-In-Chief. Let's see how it goes.

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Color: Opaque light reddish brown, with sediment. Sediment is unusual in Weird Soda, so we approve.
Scent: Tea, earthy, with vinegar. Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "It smells like someone was trying to dye their Easter eggs with Snapple."
Taste: Oh God.
K-i-C: "It tastes like my grandfather's morning health tonic. I swear it has apple cider vinegar in it, even though it doesn't. I'm guessing 'Kombucha' is secret code for 'apple cider vinegar.'"
Very, very tart. I can taste the peach. It is lightly carbonated, which adds to the acid bite. There is a clear note of tea, and it is recognizably rooibos (amazingly enough, I can actually recognize rooibos, although not as well as the K-i-C). It's carbonated peachy vinegar with tea.
Rather intensely foul at first taste, gets better with repeated exposure (or maybe it just numbs you).
K-i-C: "It would make an interesting salad dressing."
The K-i-C hypothesizes that it has a very small bottle mouth because smelling it while drinking it would make it much worse. Being who we are here at the Weird Soda Review Tasting Labs, we immediately get a wide mug to try it out. It turns out that she's right.
After offering some to Freya (the Lab's resident Chihuahua-Dachshund crossbreed), we can confirm that it makes excellent Dachshund repellent. She actually got up off the couch to get away from it, which is nearly unprecedented.

The ingredients label is informative:
An infusion of (filtered water, organic rooibos (red) tea leaves)
Kombucha concentrate (filtered water, organic cane juice, organic oolong tea leaves, yeast and bacterial cultures)
Organic cane juice
Natural peach juice concentrate
Natural peach essence

I'm guessing the complex tartness comes from baterial and yeast metabolism. Interestingly, the exact types of bacteria and yeast remain unspecified (more on that below).
K-i-C: "If I could be guaranteed that it would extend my life 2 to 5 years, I'd drink it."
As to exactly how the ancient residents of the Himalayas managed to get their hands on a South African herb to make this "wonder drink", I am baffled. However it came together, though, perhaps it shouldn't have.

A bit of research (i.e. entering "kombucha" into Wikipedia) gives us a fascinating and upsetting article, with paragraphs like these:
  • Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a "kombucha colony".
I can't help but notice that the ingredients list referred to this as "yeast and bacterial cultures", rather than "macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms (zoogleal mat) including Candida".

Weird Soda Review: We drink it so you don't have to.

Quaff rating: 1. This does NOT go down easily, although the taste is not wholly unpleasant
Cough rating: 3, until you read the Wikipedia article, at which point it goes to about 4. It's strong stuff, but not actively vile after the first taste. And then you learn about zoogleal mats.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Wave Strawberry 101

Where and when: purchased 3/4/09 at BevMo in Oceanside, CA
Color: clear reddish-orange, not all that intense
Scent: Extremely sweet, almost exactly that of strawberry jam, although the Kibbitzer-In-Chief says it's more like strawberry Jello.
Taste: Quite a bit more tart than the smell would suggest, but it doesn't actually taste like strawberry. The foretaste is strawberry jam, followed by a rapid fade of the jam and the presence of sour apple/cherry in the aftertaste. Oddly, the back of the roof of my mouth tastes it a bit differently--slightly cooler.
An odd blend of intensely sweet and quite tart. I can taste the synthetic strawberry, but it's not really anything at all like real strawberry.
The Lead Assistant Tester: "Tastes like strawberry cream soda"
The Junior Assistant Tester: "two thumbs up, and two wings up", holding up a Lego spaceship and making a grimace which resembles a smile.

Quaff rating: 3. It's pleasant enough, but the odd synthetic sweet/sour doesn't make it very easy to drink.
Cough rating: 3. I don't have anything against sour soda, but this sourness isn't good. Combined with the weird synthetic sweetness, this is as close as I've come to feeling a sense of real blech after a Weird Soda.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fitz's Premium Cream Soda

Where and when: purchased 3/4/09 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Color: a rich, deep orangey-brown, still transparent. Pretty.
Scent: Not a very strong scent. Vanilla, more complex than Faygo's, but still pretty sweet (rather than bitter) vanilla.
Taste: Oddly, it tastes like grape soda with vanilla added. This is not what I expected at all. There's a big berry/grape undertone, with sweet vanilla on top. Quite smooth, easy to drink. Very sweet. I'm liking this. The berry undertone persists in the aftertaste, which has the vanilla fading away, leaving the tartness of the berry as the last thing to disappear.
The Kibbitzer-In-Chief says (after grimacing) "It tastes like bubble gum." After I expressed disagreement, she went and got a piece of gum and made me eat some. She was right--but it was a berry-flavored gum, so I think we're both right. Celebrations later.
Lead Assistant Tester Kieran expresses satisfaction, and concurs with the berry analysis.

Quaff rating: 4. Very drinkable, even with the odd taste combination. I'd still prefer a stronger and more bitter vanilla, but this is quite nice.
Cough rating: 1 and a half. It's very sweet, but unlike some others (like the Filbert's Banana, for example), the sweetness is well-deserved, and balanced by some interest.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Faygo Vanilla Creme

Where and when: Purchased 3/4/09 from BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Color: Very pale, almost clear with just a hint of yellow. Beige? Ecru? Can a soda be off-white?
Scent: Almost pure vanilla, very sweet. Smells a lot like vanilla ice cream, as compared to vanilla extract.
Taste: Vanilla ice cream. Very little aftertaste; almost pure sweet vanilla, not much extra acid beyond the carbonation. This won't appeal much to those who like their vanilla cream sodas to taste like the kind of vanilla you get for cooking--that's got a much more complex taste, more bitter notes. This is more like french vanilla ice cream than the kind of vanilla ice cream with little bits of actual vanilla beans in it.
This vanilla cream soda is a testament to simpler times--days when you tipped your hat to folks you saw on the street, when little Jimmy rode his bike down to the lot to meet his friends for a game of pick-up baseball, then came home for a backyard hot-dog cookout with his dad, mom, sister Susie, and their dog Rex, followed by bedtime at 7:30. Days when vanilla was vanilla and chocolate was chocolate, and never the two needed to meet. Days before the scandalous Twist, and the advent of those new-fangled (and probably Communist) fancy foreign-tasting vanilla cream sodas, with their complexity and subtlety, usually consumed by suspect beatniks and hippies along with their chais and weirdo reefer coffee or whetever the kids are doing these days, I tell you, it ain't like it was while I was growing up, the kids of today, no respect with their long hair and no manners, oughta have some sense knocked into 'em...

Er. Sorry. Actually, while this is a nice vanilla cream soda, its a little too "plain vanilla" for my taste. There's nothing at all offensive about it, but nothing all that interesting either. Now I'm noticing that there is a very delayed, faint, but persistent tangy aftertaste, which is maybe a little interesting. Still, I'd rather have a more vanilla-y cream soda.

As it's getting warmer, there's just the tiniest hint of more complex vanilla. Sorry, Faygo, too little too late. I am deaf to your feeble attempts at charm.

I wonder what this would be like in a vanilla ice cream float.

Quaff rating: 3 and a half. Very pleasant, but not interesting.
Cough rating: 0. There's no reason one would throw this up unless one couldn't stand soda at all, and then everything on the blog would be a 5. Except maybe the Dry: Lemongrass.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fentiman's Fermented Botanical Dandelion and Burdock Drink

I was very happy today to discover that the Mysterious Stranger had left another donation in my mailbox. My interest was further piqued when I saw that the beverage awaiting me was a Dandelion and Burdock soda--not only that, but a DIFFERENT one than the one I reviewed previously. I never knew there could be more than one...
In any case, this has some differences from the Ben Shaws. For one, it's fermented! The label claims that it contains less than 0.5% alcohol, so I feel it still qualifies as a Weird Soda, rather than Weird Hooch. Second, I note that the label says "Best Before: See neck", but when I check the neck, no date is given. I interpret this as a roundabout way of saying that it just keeps getting better with age.

Where and when: provided by the Mysterious Stranger, 3/05/09
Color: darkish brown, sort of ale-colored
Scent: licorice and berry.
Taste: sweeter than the Ben Shaws. Very reminiscent of Twizzlers. Less lawnlike than other weed-based sodas. The strawberry is stronger than the licorice, especially in the aftertaste.

Quaff rating: 4. Pleasant and drinkable.
Cough rating: 2. There is a slight oddness to it.

WSR has an official Mysterious Stranger!

I am pleased to announce that the Weird Soda Review is receiving donations from our very own Official Mysterious Stranger. Several times over the last few weeks, bottles of strange soda have appeared in my mailbox at the job for which I actually get paid. They are unlabeled, and despite our best efforts, I have been unable to discover the identity of this generous donor. My current suspicions are leading toward disgruntled Buddhist monks in Nepal, but the Acme Mitochondrial DNA Lineage Analyze-O-Matic is on the fritz again, so further investigation will have to wait.

In any case, we have so far received a Leninade, an odd brew called "Looks Like Orange, Tastes Like Grape", and (just today) a Fentiman's Dandelion and Burdock. I am amazed and appalled to discover that Dandelion and Burdock soda is not an aberration (as I thought when finding the Den Shaws variant, as reviewed previously), but is rather an ENTIRE CLASS of Weird Soda. The mind boggles.

"But Wait!" comes the cry of our hypothetical loyal reader(s). "You haven't reviewed Leninade or Looks Like Orange! You had a Weird Soda and DIDN'T tell us about it? Are there no sacred trusts in this cruel world?" Fear not, anyone who might be reading this. Those sodas were provided prior to the assembly of our elite team of Weird Soda Tasting Technicians, and the establishment of the Lab, and thus were not sampled under the exacting conditions and circumstances necessary for a true Weird Soda Tasting Event. Rather than allow the possibility of a less-than-perfectly-controlled taste and review--from MEMORY, no less--to besmirch the reputation of WSR, I have instead decided to buy more Leninade and LLOTLG, and provide a proper review when they can be assessed by our exacting standards.

I'll try the Fentiman's tonight, and let you know how it goes. 

But in any case, we here at the Weird Soda Review would like to express our sincere thanks for the Mysterious Stranger. Thanks for the donation!

Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray

Note: the name doesn't make it perfectly clear, so let me do so: this is a "celery soda with other natural flavors". I believe that qualifies for Weird Soda status.

I have found that BevMo has an interesting, if not truly unusual, selection of sodas. Many of the major independent brands can be found there, and occasionally something more exotic. Dr. Brown's is a pretty common item where weird sodas are sold, but I personally had never heard of celery flavored soda before (much to learn I have). So let's pop it open.

Where and when: purchased 3/4/09 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Scent: slight anise, sweet, with a tangy note which seems to be getting stronger as I smell it.
Color: pale gold, very much like ginger ale.
Taste: Sweet, mildly tart, and it does taste a bit like celery.
Comment from the Lead Assistant WSR Taster: "It's kind of good and kind of bad. I told you it would taste like this!"
Not long ago, I decided I would try to make my own fruit syrup for an Italian soda. I took some kiwis, skinned them, mashed them up, and boiled them with sugar water (all according to a recipe I found). I discovered two things:
1. Boiling kiwis smell almost exactly like artichoke, which is not a good thing.
2. The resultant syrup tastes a lot like artichoke, which is also bad
3. The gelatinous green ex-kiwi goop left in the saucepan afterwards tastes mostly like kiwi, a little like artichoke, and makes an absolutely splendid spread for toast.

This tastes rather a lot like the kiwi goop left in the pan.

Quaff rating: 2.5. It's nice in a way, and could be pretty refreshing. Unusual.
Cough rating: 3. The sweet is pretty syrupy, and the vegetable taste could be weird.

BONUS NOTE: The afterburp flavor is a bit stronger on the artichokiness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Boylan's Creamy Red Birch Beer

Where and when: purchased 3/04/09 at BevMo, Oceanside, CA
Scent: vanilla and spearmint. Smells a bit like the Velamints I used to steal from my mother.
Color: deep garnet
Taste: minty, vanilla-ey. Not red, though. Very nice-mild, complex. Mildly sour aftertaste, but not citrusy. Imagine a cherry-spearmint breath mint and you're close, but better than it sounds. Oddly perhaps a slight meaty delayed aftertaste.

Quaff rating: 4 out of 5. Pretty nice.
Cough rating: 1 out of 5. Would only be a problem if you resented Velamints.

Green River

Where and when: purchased 3/4/09 at BevMo in Oceanside, CA
Scent: lime lollipop. Actually, it smells almost exactly like lime jelly candy tastes
Color: pure emerald green
Taste: Very strong lime candy. Sweet, which makes sense, given that it has 45g of sugar per 12oz bottle. The lime is fairly mellow, but there's a strong acid underneath it. It's pleasant, but somewhat overwhelmingly sweet. Carbonation is strong, which contributes to the bite. The aftertaste is mostly sweet, just the tiniest undertone of bitter. Really, it's nice to drink, and the lime is nice if you like lime candy. But it's not a life-changing kind of soda.

Quaff rating: 3 out of 5
Cough rating: 2 from the sugar (but might be stronger if you have had bad experiences with sweet medicine as a child)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Manhattan Special Vanilla Cream

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market in Escondido, CA
Scent: Sweet, with a strong bitter vanilla tone
Color: pale gold, a lot like ginger ale
Taste: bizarre. Quite sweet, and that bitter scent is still very present, but more so. The bitter is accompanied by a very mild acid, but the bitter is much stronger. It's quite metallic. Iron, or maybe blood, which is really weird in a cream soda. This may be influenced by the fact that I am watching an episode of Buffy while I drink this, but it's strong and not entirely pleasant. The bitter metal hits the roof of your mouth and lingers a bit, while the sweet disappears down the throat. Aftertaste is mostly sweet.

I'm a big fan of cream sodas; they're among my favorites in general. But this one was not pleasant. The iron/metal/blood taste is strong, and really not what I'm looking for in a cream soda. Or any other beverage, for that matter.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dry Soda Co. Soda: Rhubarb

Yes, I bought a variety pack of Dry products at the market. How could I not?

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market in Escondido, CA
Scent: virtually none, slight floral or maybe (according to my wife) aluminum. (Yes, we're dedicated to sensory accuracy here at WSR!)
Color: light brown. Slightly more brown than a lager. The color of urine when you're not drinking enough water.
Taste: slightly woody, significant sour taste, a hint of vegetable bitterness. Kind of tree-barky. The rhubarb is there, with more (and complex) acidity. At least I think that's rhubarb, having only tasted rhubarb in strawberry-rhubarb pie, and that only reluctantly. It's kind of good. Not very sweet, as I've come to expect from Dry Soda Co. products, but drinkable. Especially for something that tastes like rhubarb.
I'd buy this again, but mostly so I could give it to people and say "Here, have a rhubarb soda."

Send In Your Reviews!

Despite my best efforts, it is virtually certain that I will be unable to find and drink every weird soda in existence. The Weird Soda Testing and Tasting Labs have seen their funding slashed in the current recession, and our highly-trained staff or sodaphiles are having to pursue part-time jobs as septic tank repair technicians just to make ends meet.

Hmmm. "Jones Soda Essence of Septic Tank". I see possibilities...

But I digress. What I'm trying to say is this: Please feel free to email reviews to Include the name under which you would like to post the review, where you bought the soda, and your experience with it. I'll be happy to put up the review, unedited except where absolutely necessary.

You may also send me samples to drink, if it's something you want reviewed but you're reluctant to taste it yourself. I have developed an immunity to virtually every additive known to humanity, except iocane powder.

Not Soda, But a Fellow Soda Lover

I just found this site: Exotic Soda. They haven't done any reviews in a while, but one of their reviews (a grapefruit soda I've never heard of, called Rieme Grapefruit) sure sounds good.

Dry Soda Co. Soda: Lavender

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Scent: my wife said it best: "This smells like soap." It does, indeed, smell like lavender.
Color: Almost clear, ever-so-slightly purplish.
Taste: Like the other Dry Soda Co. I reviewed (Lemongrass), this is not very sweet. The acid from the carbonation and phosphoric acid comes through strongly, but there is a very strong lavender essence. It's not cloying, though. The lavender is slightly sweet, with a bit of herbal bitter. It is what it says it is, and that is bubbly lavender-scented water with a bit of sugar. It's an interesting novelty, but the lemongrass was more interesting. This is a bit more drinkable, though. It is getting better the more of it I drink. Toward the end of the bottle, I'm getting into it.
I might buy this again.

Dublin Dr. Pepper

Preface: I was really excited to find this one. I had heard legends of Dublin Dr. Pepper--a history is here, via Wikipedia. Brief summary: when Dr. Pepper switched to high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, a few bottling plants refused to make the change. They are allowed to bottle the original recipe (made with cane sugar), but technically can only distribute it in a small area around that particular plant. The Dublin plant is in Texas, so finding it here in north San Diego county was unexpected. I hope I don't unearth some vast sugar-Dr. Pepper smuggling consipracy with this post. In any case, there are those who swear by this stuff. I like normal Dr. Pepper just fine--generally prefer it to other mass-market sodas--so this was an exciting find (as in "making a fool of myself explaining to the person ringing me up and bagging my groceries about the history of Dublin Dr. Pepper with a manic look in my eyes" exciting).

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Scent: Very little aroma, faint Dr. Peppery smell.
Color: Brown. Maybe slightly gray, but could be the bottle
Taste is Dr. Pepper, but lighter. Sweetness is different—maybe a hint of peach? Almost no aftertaste, as if it was never there. The taste is pretty faint; neither the intense prune or lasting acid of Dr. Pepper. Much more delicate.
I suspect this would be a different experience if the soda was slightly warmer--this one was very cold when consumed. Obviously more research and sampling is needed.

Dry Soda Co. Soda: Lemongrass

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Scent: Smell of citrus; definitely lemongrass.
Color: Soda is clear.
Taste: Not very sweet; the carbonic acid comes through very clearly. Tastes a bit like club soda but sweeter, with grassy notes. Tastes more like lawn than the Dandelion and Burdock did, but not like thick weedy lawn. It's more of a new-grass lawn, rather than old overgrown lawn. The lemongrass is very clear; it's like drinking a cold liquid Thai spring roll. Not much aftertaste, what there is is faintly lemony, with a touch of bitter. This is sweetened with cane sugar, and not much of that.

Filbert's Old Time Quality Banana

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Scent: Smells like banana Halloween candy.
Color: Clear, intense yellow tint, maybe with a slight touch of green.
Taste: This one is sweetened with “corn sweetener”. Fairly sour/sweet, strong banana, especially in aftertaste. First taste reminiscent of cream soda, maybe A&W? Nothing all that special.
I wouldn't be inclined to buy it again. It's more banana candy than real banana.

Ben Shaws Dandelion and Burdock

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Color: Brown, moderately opaque.
Scent: Scent of anise or licorice?
Taste: Fairly sweet, no creaminess. Cola-like, with an earthy bite and an intensely sour aftertaste. Doesn't particularly taste like lawn. Not bad, really. Effectively a licorice soda over a not-very-sweet lemon-lime soda. I've never had dandelion wine, or spent time in the yard chewing on lawn cuttings, so I cant vouch for the accuracy. Would drink again, with only slight trepidation; slight fear that the batch I got was accidentally-mislabeled licorice soda, and that *this* time it will really taste like weeds.

Welcome to Weird Soda Review!

Soda (or pop, or Coke, or whatever else you may call it--see here for an interesting analysis of the different names for the bubbly stuff) has been popular for a long time. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in independently brewed sodas, somewhat like the passion for microbreweries among beer drinkers. A fine blog known as the Art of Manliness did a very nice review of small-company colas (with the strong implication that appreciation of a fine oda is no less manly than enjoying a lovely beer or wine--hurray!).

I've been enjoying sodas of all sorts for many years, and the time seemed right to make my own contribution to the growing throng of soda admirers. So I'll try to share some experiences--good or bad--here.

About me: I'm a professor of physiology at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, CA, originally from Topeka, KS. I have fond memories of soda (or pop, as I called it then) since childhood.

Oh--and the worst soda I've ever tasted, by far, was the "salty plum soda" at Noodle Planet in Westwood, CA. That's not to say it was badly made, or anything--I suspect it was exactly what it was supposed to be, assuming that it was supposed to be a decaying plum in bubbly seawater. *shivers*
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