When the Weird Soda Review Lab was in its larval stage--just a few of the staff members living in a West LA apartment, enjoying sodas but not yet fully immersed in their Weirdness--I discovered Natural Brew sodas at Whole Foods. They had all sorts of weird stuff at Whole Foods, and even though I had at that point been living in California for almost ten years, some of it still made the part of me born and raised in Kansas smile. (I grew up in Topeka. I still remember when I first arrived at UC Santa Cruz and saw posters advertising that the campus cafe was serving "organic" food. "As opposed to what? Silicon-based?" I thought to myself.)
In any case, Whole Foods is full of unusual stuff. Cheeses made from lemur milk, aged in caves for some ungodly number of years. Soups consisting of vegetable protein so thoroughly and sadistically tortured and processed into looking and tasting vaguely meatlike that I was surprised that PETCCO (People for the Ethical Treatment of Chloroplast-Containing Organisms) hadn't filed protests. Garden Burgers, which I grew to appreciate, but always suspected woul;d have been called "Field Patties" except that people would have assumed they were cow poop.
Someone really should make a burger chain called "Cow Patties."
Anyway, I fell deeply in love with Natural Brew Vanilla Creme Soda; it was unlike any other cream soda I had ever tried. And then we moved to North San Diego county, and I haven't seen it since.
Until the Kibbitzer-In-Chief told me that she had seen it at Frazier Farms.
God bless that woman.
I hurried over and got some, noticing as I did so that Biotta--yes, that Biotta--doesn't just make "Digestive Drink". More on that some other time. And now it is here with me. No second thoughts. I've decided...to quaff this and see if memory has become over-gilded.
Where and when: purchased May 2009 at Frazier Farms, Vista, CA
Color: pale golden brown, like a lightly-toasted marshmallow.
Scent: fairly bitter vanilla. Unlike some other cream sodas, very little tart in the scent, and not all that much sweet--this smells a lot like vanilla extract, like you get in little brown bottles at the store.
You know, the stuff that's something like 80 proof. Whee!
There's definitely something else under it--probably a sweetness.
Taste: Hmm. Quite clean--there isn't actually all that much taste. It's mild, slightly bitter vanilla, with a sweet tone. Very little acid. Tastes kind of like Haagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream, as opposed to some sort of french vanilla ice cream--there's a lot of vanilla bean in this. Interesting. Definitely the most vanilla-beanish of the cream sodas I've had.
According to the label, this is made from "the finest Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla Beans". The ingredients list simply calls it "natural vanilla with other natural flavors". There's an acid bite from the carbonation, but not much tartness at all; the vanilla bean flavor lingers for a bit, then fades quickly, leaving a plain sweet aftertaste.
Afterburp: Heady and volatile.
With the slightly bitter vanilla, moderate sweetness, and clean flavor, this is actually kind of reminiscent of some of the sodas from Dry Soda Co. They do make a Vanilla Bean flavor, and I got some at Galcos--I'll have to do a comparison. It's for Science!
This is nice. Maybe not the singular glory I remember--I've had some good Weird stuff since those days--but still one of the nicer cream sodas. Unusual, pleasant.
Quaff rating: 3.5. Not unearthly, but very good.
Cough rating: 0.5. I could imagine the bitterness putting someone off, but it's balanced nicely with the sugar. And who doesn't like vanilla extract?
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