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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Henry Weinhard's Vanilla Cream

Cream soda. Ah, cream soda.
When I was but a wee lad, my parents brought home Shasta sodas. Even at the time, this was fascinating; whereas soda pop (as I called it then) was usually just Coke or Pepsi, this was different. It came in a lot of different flavors. It had variety.
And it came in cream soda.
I had never had cream soda before Shasta. What a fantastic flavor!
Even then, my relationship with soda was not normal. Already, I had come to value Weirdness in this beverage--this fizzy, sweet family of possibilities. Shasta showed me the first hint of what Weird Soda could be, and it made me the man I am today.
But back to cream soda--for me, cream soda is one of the real highlights of the soda world. It is without a doubt my favorite soda phylum, and I have found that it can possess complexity and subtlety rivaled only by root beers. There are so many varieties, and to the layperson they sometimes all seem alike. But to the initiate, to the one who has the "tongue to taste", they show incredible variance.

At some point, I will gather representatives from the Cream Soda Clans. They will gather here at the Lab, and a tasting will be had like no other tasting before. We'll explore the volatile frontiers of Weird Soda knowledge. We'll explore unknown cul-de-sacs of bubbly creaminess. We will plunge deep into the difference between "cream" and "creme". We will drown ourselves in the lush, heady aromas, immerse ourselves in the essence of cream soda, tumble headlong into a world of sensual abandon, reveling in the embrace of vanilla and sugar...
I really like cream soda.

But until that glorious day, I'll take it slow. Tonight, we'll just keep it simple. Before me, I have a Henry Weinhard's Vanilla Cream Gourmet Soda. The label aims for classy, embossed with pictures of barrels and a portrait of a guy with a beard. This is, presumably, Mr. Weinhard, although this is not confirmed, and I suppose it could be anybody. It could, for instance, be my uncle Loring in his heady, impetuous youth. It could be Randolph Carter. It could be Genghis Khan, in the years he spent as a Mongolian preppie.
I digress. There is one disappointing thing: while below the aged barrels as Genghis "Loring" Khan, the label claims that this is "A gourmet soda, hand-finished with natural flavors, and only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients", on the nearby ingredients label we find "High Fructose Corn Syrup" as the second ingredient. I hope it's at least fresh HFCS. As to it being "hand-finished"...some things are best left un-speculated-upon.
Interestingly, honey is one of the ingredients. That's a new one on me. We also have "pure vanilla bean extract", as well as unspecified "botanical extracts". I think those are sometimes found in shampoo or something. With some luck, this has the same stuff that's in "Herbal Essences" know, the one which claims to be a "totally organic experience". That would be fun.
Or maybe it's Genghis "Loring" Khan's lawn cuttings, steeped in Mongolian yak milk. We really don't know. But it's hand-finished. And fresh. I know it's fresh, because "sodium benzoate (preserves freshness)" is also in the ingredients.
In any case, the upper label tells an interesting story, in which it is suggested that this recipe provided a "refreshing alternative for our beer-drinking loyalists both during and after the 'Ignoble Experiment' of the early 20th Century". Theyre talking about Prohibition. Apparently, people denied their alcohol saw this as a refreshing (and presumably perfectly satisfactory) alternative to beer.
This stuff is either the greatest cream soda EVER, able to calm crazed beer-deprived hordes, or it is being marketed by the same people who make the cheesy teen health education videos shown in high school.

Let's do this. Cream soda rocks, even if it's marketed by Genghis "Loring" Khan. Especially then.

Where and when: purchased in May 2009 at Vons, Vista, CA
Color: Surprisingly pale brown. Has a significant beer-like head when poured.
Scent: sweet, vanilla-ey, and sharp. Some bite to it--a tart vanilla, as opposed to the more bitter, heady bourbony vanilla you sometimes get.
Taste: Creamy, with significant tartness under the vanilla. Quite sweet. A definite creamy mouth feel. The vanilla is strong, but still a tart/sweet vanilla. Less tart than some; A&W vanilla cream is more tart, if I remember it correctly.
Aftertaste is interesting. There's some headiness to it; the taste on the tongue remains sweet with a sour undertone, but the vapors are noticeable, more than I expected. The tart seems to be decreasing as I drink more, now dominated by a sweet which is beginning to resemble vanilla ice cream (though not as much as the Faygo Vanilla Creme was; maybe that was "creme", this is "cream"?)

Overall pleasant, very drinkable, slightly too sweet for my taste. It's still a cream soda, though, and that's almost always a good thing.

Quaff rating: 4. Pretty nice.
Cough rating: 0.5, just for the fact that it's very sweet.


  1. Regarding HFCS, have you checked out Pepsi Throwback? Since the formula is identical to normal Pepsi, it presents a great comparison of HCFS and sugar.

  2. I love a Henry's to go with my wife's homemade bread. The hearty bread cuts the sweet down a bit and makes the experience a little more enjoyable.

  3. I just bought my first Henry Weinhard's Cream Soda, though very sweet and pleasant was very disappointed in the "A gourmet soda, hand-finished with natural flavors, and only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients", on the nearby ingredients label we find "High Fructose Corn Syrup" as the second ingredient."

    Because of the HFCS I will no longer buy it, I am trying to stay away from that ingredient and feel that statement they put on the bottle is somewhat misleading. Oh well good review!

  4. Best stuff in the world.

    You missed flavors of honey and almost molasses like!

    I'd walk 3 miles for a Henry!

  5. This is a very useful and skillfully written review.

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