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Monday, March 16, 2009

Vernors

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.

33 comments:

  1. Vernors was made with Stevia until 1991 when the FDA decided to ban it for no apparent reason. Once it was banned they switched over to HFCS.

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  2. Really? That's fascinating. I'd love to try the stevia version. Personally, I'm not all that fond of stevia as a sweetener, but it might be interesting in Vernors.

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  3. I don't think they're actually bottling it with stevia. It's either HFCS or cane sugar. Never seen Vernors made with Cane sugar. Vons says HFCS and/or Sugar. Vons has it but I'm not a huge fan of it. My dad loves it though and he's from MI.

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  4. Vons in Rancho Bernardo carries it in bottles or in cans.

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  5. I love vernor's but I can't drink it without coughing. (is it just me?)

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    Replies
    1. So not just you! The smell kind of makes a catch in my throat...

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  6. Rob-you develop an immunity to it after a while. the key is too not drink too deep on the first couple of sips.
    I grew up in Ohio, but have been in Washington State the last couple of years, and can sadly only find Vernor's in 12-packs now(1 store in my entire county carries it). It's just a magnificent soda.

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  7. try vernors with chocolate milk, 1/2 and 1/2, in detroit its called a brown cow, its the coolest drink you ever have. i make one every week now i live in s. carolina

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  8. Vernors is just too good to be store-bought soda.

    BUT IT IS. :D

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  9. You know, I used to like you guys. I used to think "Oh, they like gaming and Lovecraft and Conan and I bet we could swap comic books and everyone be really happy because we wouldn't have to swap because we'd already have all the same comics".

    I used to think this, until I saw that you people liked Vernor's. Now I want to smash you with a mace.

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  10. Yes, I am aware of your blasphemous denial of the ambrosial qualities of Vernors. I had always ascribed it to your having absorbed the alien thought-patterns of Cthulhoid entities in your hesitant wanderings through the quaint streets of Oriab, delving into curiously carved ivory statuettes and the like. Only a mind tainted by the thin whining of detestable flutes, such as must sound around the court of the daemon-sultan Azathoth, could taste Vernors and pronounce it loathsome.

    However, given your status as my elder in the Weird Soda Quest, I must simply bow acquiescently and mumble something vague about agreeing to disagree, and each to their own. *grin*

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  11. Vernor's is good stuff, I agree.

    P.S. Hey Quaffmaster... have you tried this "brown cow" thing? That's seriously weird, I'd say. :)

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  12. OK ... here's one for all you know-it-alls! I grew up in Detroit and my father worked just down the street from the bottling plant. If my sister and I had been good, when we picked him up from work he would take us to the plant for a FIVE CENT (yeah, 5 whole pennies) Vernors and Cream. When we were sick, we got Brown Cows at home to help settle upset stomachs. If we were really good little girls, we got to go to the corner Sanders store for a Vernor's Soda - two scoops of awesome Sanders vanilla ice cream drowned in Vernors that foamed over the sides of the soda fountain cups. AND, we got hot Vernors with a little lemon juice and whiskey for bad colds or sore throats. Now, I invite all of you to find yourself some of the real original stuff and a bag of Detroit's famous BetterMade potato chips!!!

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  13. Vernor's is pretty much the official drink of Michigan. Mix it with vanilla ice cream until it's got a milkshake-like consistency and you've made the Boston Cooler, which is pretty much the greatest thing ever.

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  14. I agree, the Boston Cooler is one of the finest ice cream floats around. I hunt down Vernors exclusively for making Boston Coolers, much in the way Squirt is wonderfully transformed when mixed with a Canadian whiskey

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  15. Have any of noticed that Vernor's now tastes watered down? It has hardly any flavor, and now I don't sneeze when I breathe it in. What has happened? I am upset, as it was my most favorite soft drink.
    thanx

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  16. They now have Vernors in Richmond VA as of 2012! Today was my first day ever seeing the bottle! The big reason why I got it is because it's golden color and its "Barrel Aged, Bold Taste" logo. It looked official and when I finally gave it a taste I loved it! I was trying to find a 2-litter Canada Dry but Vernors worked out well. I couldn't find the 2-liter Canada Dry for some reason...Ih well, all I hope is that it is made of real ginger!

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    Replies
    1. where are they selling it live in richmond

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  17. Vernors is also best whence chilled in an aluminum can. Not glass, not plastic. Aluminum. It's SO weird but everyone in my family thought that before we even discussed it together :)

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  18. It used to be better, back in the '80s. You could really only find it in the Great Lakes states and they didn't market it just about everywhere, which probably meant they still used real sugar and actually aged it in oak barrels, something they now claim again on the packaging. Hard to believe that with the increased volume they can still do that. In any case, it is kinda weak now and lacks the bite, which I believe is the biggest thing missing, maybe the same intensity of the ginger taste. Try to find Buffalo Rock ginger ale and mix them together to approximate the original; careful, as BR ginger ale is likely to strip paint and the lining of your esophagus so I'd try 3:1 Vernor's to BR.

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  19. Ive grown upon Vernors whether i have a stomach ache or just thirsty. Vernors always makes me happy.

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  20. Found this bottled and made with cane sugar. Hooray!! Tastes fabulous. Coughed when I got the first whiff of the ginger. It does seem to be less strong than I originally remember it, but it's still a great, great soda.

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  21. vernors is amazing with whiskey

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    Replies
    1. Vernors is the best mixer for bourbon, then 7-UP

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  22. The last Vernor's manufacturing location in Michigan was located in Taylor, Michigan on Northline Road. They had barrels stacked so high to the roof, that when a fire started, the fire suppression system was blocked by the barrels. (This account is from local firefighters who were on the scene.)

    Sadly, this led to it being made by others.

    That said, I'm drinking one right now!

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  23. Had my first tast when my sister took a trip to Detroit and brought me a bottle back, the best soda I've ever tasted not a strong acid tast very and has a slight vanilla tast wich I tried to duplicate by mixing cream soda and Canada dry Ginger ale together, didn't work I'm in Philadelphia and looked everywhere and can't find it so ill be online ordering some its that good

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  24. Had my first tast when my sister took a trip to Detroit and brought me a bottle back, the best soda I've ever tasted not a strong acid tast very and has a slight vanilla tast wich I tried to duplicate by mixing cream soda and Canada dry Ginger ale together, didn't work I'm in Philadelphia and looked everywhere and can't find it so ill be online ordering some its that good

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  27. Sorry folks, this stuff has been sadly watered down. Now that Dr. Pepper owns it, they've deleted out much of the ginger and no more is there any wood aging in it, zero, and sorry to say, less vanilla as well. I'd say it is dead and was ever since Pepsico unloaded it.

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  28. I can barely taste any ginger either, for that matter. Very sad.

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  29. I sneeze when I drink it. Must be good.

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  30. I always remember Vernors having a far stronger flavor and a much more pronounced bite than Canada Dry or Schweppes, not to mention a much nicer color. As I'm from the Windsor-Detroit area, Vernors is a staple around here and I have many fond memories of it as a kid. Whenever my stomach was upset, I'd drink Vernors and like many of the posters above said, NOTHING beats a good Brown Cow. I personally think that Vernors is a well enough kept secret for those of us from the Windsor-Detroit Area. Even on the Windsor side of the river (where I'm from), you can get Vernors almost everywhere and in my opinion, it *was* the best darn ginger beer/ale out there. Nowadays, it seems to be a lot more watered down and has lost most of its characteristic bite and intense flavor. It's become too much like Canada Dry, which is another ginger ale that's been watered down to the point of blandness. Shame that Vernors isn't the same as what it used to be. Still, Vernors is Windsor-Detroit-Michigan thing that anyone from outside of this general region wouldn't understand, especially when it comes to Brown Cows ;) .

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