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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cherry 7-UP Antioxidant

In the last two days, I've received two donations at my primary job. The first was from the Mysterious Stranger; I haven't done that one yet because I still haven't remembered to bring a bottle opener to work.


Well, yes. However, today I received a donation from a different source entirely. As I entered the classroom today, I found a can of Cherry 7-UP "Antioxidant" on the front desk. Cool! I had been meaning to try to find some for the Lab, and lo and behold, someone brings it right to me. Huzzah!
It turns out that it was one of my students. In keeping with WSR tradition, I asked this kind soul to choose a pseudonym by which she could be identified.

So many thanks, Pain-In-The-A**! (I swear that's the name she chose, I did not select it, so don't think I'm being rude or anything). And just so that we avoid any possible accusation of bias toward this student, GALT has asked that he be allowed to speak.


Er. Ha ha. Don't worry, nobody's grades are riding on this.

The can is bright, cheerful red, with a big cherry on it. Apparently, it is an antioxidant because it contains 10% of your RDA of vitamin E. I'll admit it will probably go down easier than a typical multivitamin. Other than that, it says that it is flavored only with natural flavors, which apparently means HFCS and other "natural flavors".

Where and when: Donated by Pain-In-The-A** in October 2009.
Color: Pink!
Scent: Bright and sweet. There is a definite smell of 7-up, but where 7-up is biting and citrusy, this is more mellow and fruity. It's still quite a bright scent, but I like it better than regular 7-up.
Taste: Interesting. The initial taste is not exactly cherry, more of a nonspecific "fruity" flavor. That lasts about two seconds. Then, at the edges of the tongue, this really interesting tart sensation creeps in. It overwhelms the mellow fruitiness, eroding its support like incoming tide undercutting the wall of a sandcastle. This barbarian tartness causes the walls of mellow fruitiness to crumble, allowing the hordes of synthetic cherry flavor to overrun the smoking ruin of the battlements.
So the tart leads to some cherry-like flavor, synthetic, but not like medicinal cherry. It's probably somewhere between pie filling and a sharp cherry soda. Overall, it's actually kind of pleasant. It's not all that complex, although the segue from bright and mellow to barbarian cherry onslaught is intriguing.


Quaff rating: 3.0. Kind of nice, especially for a HFCS mass market soda.
Cough rating: 0.5. Really nothing to object to.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A request for help from other Weird Soda lovers

A reader has asked for help. In a quest to provide familial affection, she is seeking the name of an obscure cream soda which I (to my shame) am not familiar with. She describes it as coming in a miniature barrel, about the size of a soda can, with a cork. It may be some sort of regional specialty.

In any case, I have not seen such a thing, nor have I been able to find anything out about it. If anyone out there is familiar with it, and can provide any information, please either leave a comment to this post or contact me by email ( Your contributions will be acknowledged in some way which I am sure will occur to me sometime soon. *grin*

Anybody heard of this Weird soda?

Sprecher Fire-Brewed Cream Soda

So far at the Lab, we've only reviewed one of Sprecher's offerings--the Ravin' Red. It did not go well--not only did it make our "Weird in a Bad Way" list, it made me write a poem. And that's not usually a good thing.

We've decided to give them another chance, and try out their Cream Soda. Given my great affection for cream soda, I have high hopes for this; on the other hand, given the really unpleasant aftertaste of the Ravin' Red, I am prepared to have those hopes cruelly dashed. In short, I am prepared for anything.

Well, except for the newly discovered freaking enormous orb weaver that was recently discovered in Madagascar, Nephila komaci. *shudder* I might need a cape to be ready for that. I'm not sure I could possibly be ready for that.

Anyway. The JAT and I are going to give this Sprecher a try. The label names is "Sprecher Fire-Brewed Cream Soda". How fire is involved in the brewing process is not further described. The label features a picture of an anthropomorphic bee in a chef's hat, drinking from a bottle of Sprecher's cream soda while holding three other bottles with its other appendages. The bee seems happy about this.

He probably hasn't read about Nephila komaci yet. I looked that happy, too, before I read about that.

Where and when: purchased at Galco's, Los Angeles, CA
Color: medium amber. Darker than some, kind of the color of stained oak or maple. JAT: "Golden."
Scent: Honeyish and vanilla. There's an interesting acrid bitter scent in there too, faint. Not the bitter of beer--a more acid bitter. Honestly, the bitter of stomach acid, but very faint and not quite as unpleasant as that.
JAT: "Cherryish."
Taste: Definitely vanilla, the sweet kind--this is a little like the Faygo, in that it has a strong note of french vanilla ice cream.
JAT: "Vanilla!" He is apparently speaking in single-word sentences for this review.
Unlike the Faygo, however, this has an undertone of bitterness, but not like Bourbon vanilla. It's the same bitter from the scent--again, faint, but present. It shows up mostly in the aftertaste. The front taste is almost entirely French vanilla, with some honey-like notes. Quite sweet.
The bitter/acid is worse in the scent than in the taste; in the taste, it mostly comes out as an acid or citrusy kick at the end of the taste. I like the honey vanilla flavor, it's quite nice. The honey lends a complexity that a more pure vanilla cream soda lacks.
Sprecher seems to have an affinity for Weird and slightly unpleasant aftertastes.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Pretty good, nice smooth honey and vanilla.
Cough rating: 1.0. The unpleasant acrid scent makes the approach problematic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Visvita Juice House Aloe Vera Juice

For some reason, at the moment we here at the Lab are long on non-Soda juices. But that doesn't mean we're short on Weirdness--oh, no, certainly not. For what do I see before me now?

Aloe Vera juice.

Yes indeed, a bottle of Aloe Vera juice, from a company called Visvita. It is distributed by Chimex Produce Co., and is a "Product of Korea", so I'm not sure exactly what role Visvita plays in the process...but that's beside the point.
The other day, I sustained minor burns to my hands in an ill-fated attempt to make chili in the Lab kitchen. (While I am expert in quaffing Weird things, a cook I am not). Aloe vera seemed appropriate at that point, but it never occurred to me to try an internal route of administration. Perhaps between a topical gel and a Weird aloe vera beverage, I can deal with the burn from both sides?

Looking at the ingredients list, the Weirdness becomes even more evident. This drink contains--and I quote (bold emphasis is mine)--

Aloe Vera Gel Power (12%), Aloe Vera Crush (8%), Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Calcium Lactate, Vitamin C, Water

Apparently, they found a way to extract the Gel Power from aloe vera. And soon, its power shall be MINE! ALL MINE! MUA HA HA HA HA! THEY CALLED ME MAD AT OXFORD, TOO!

Er. Sorry. Further evidence of the Weirdness of this beverage can be found simply by looking at it. It is chock-full of floating wisps of some lacy, translucent stuff. I'm not sure of that's the Aloe Gel Power or Aloe Crush; I'm guessing the Crush, not knowing what raw Power looks like.

Really, given the color of the bottle (bright lime green), and the ingredients (Power and Crush), this is some sort of Weird Hulk Juice.


Where: Purchased at Mitsuwa Market, West Los Angeles, CA
Color: Very, very pale green, almost clear. Lots of little wisps.
JAT: "Clear, with a bunch of greenish-grey...stuff."
K-i-C: "Have you ever looked into an emesis tray?"
Scent: Citrusy, but not very sharp. A bit lime-ish.
JAT: "Ginger ale-ish."
K-i-C: "A grapefruit soda kind of smell. Actually, it smells a lot like the Trident I'e been chewing lately."
Taste: Tastes just like it smells. The taste is pretty nice, actually...and then I feel the first of the little bits of floaty gunk hit my lip. In solution, it looks like tiny scraps of paper.
It's not.
They're thick, and jellyish. Very similar to what was in the Tsubutsubu Jelly Drink. And just as off-putting now as they were then.
JAT: "It's very hard to explain." *swigs, discovers bit of slimy goo.* "What's this stuff?"
Me: "I think it's aloe vera."
K-i-C: "You hope that's aloe vera."

The overall taste is good--lime/orange citrus, mellow, with a pleasant smoothness. But I'd recommend quaffing quickly, so the fragments of nameless horrors don't have a chance to get a grip on the walls of your esophagus, coalesce into something formless and horrid, and take over your brain.

Quaff rating: 3.5 for the taste. 1.5 for the texture. Let's call it 2.5.
Cough rating: 1.5; doesn't make me want to puke, but somehow, I feel as if it should.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pocari Sweat Ion Water

We're back!
After a brief hiatus, the Weird Soda Review lab staff is back on the job. The life of a Quaffmaster has many demands, but always I come back to this, the calling of my heart; to find, quaff, and report to you, hypothetical loyal reader, on the Weirdest beverages we can find.

I don't know if today's drink is actually Weird or not, but I strongly suspect it is, for the following reasons:

1) I bought it at Mitsuwa Marketplace. It comes from Japan, and I haven't yet seen a non-Weird Japanese beverage. Bless the Japanese!

2) It is called "Pocari Sweat Ion Water"

3) The ingredients list includes, as the fifth item, "crude".

Also, as a bonus, the ingredients list does not include any dairy products at all. However, after the ingredients list is the following notation:

*Contains milk

This is already one of the Weirdest things I've ever consumed, and I haven't consumed it yet.

It seems likely that "Pocari Sweat Ion Water" is some sort of electrolyte-replenishing, Gatorade-like drink. Now, normally such a thing would be made in some sort of factory by adding sugars and salts to water. However, based on the name, I'm guessing the company responsible (apparently "Otsuka") has decided to bypass the middleman. I can hear the conversation in the planning room:

Bright young corporate mind: "I have a suggestion for a new sports drink."
Stuffy executive type: "There are a gazillion sports drinks on the market. How would yours be different?"
BYCT: "Well, what is the purpose of a sports drink?"
SET: "To replenish electrolytes lost in sweat."
BYCT: "And how would we normally make such a drink?"
SET: "By adding sugars and salts to water in some sort of factory."*
BYCT: "And we buy those sugars and salts on the market, correct?"
SET: "That is correct."
BYCT: "Well, if athletes are already losing electrolytes in their sweat, and we want to make a drink containing electrolytes, then why do we need the factory? Could we not simply collect the honorable sweat of the hard-working athletes, bottle it, and sell it?"
SET: "That is brilliant. Bring me an athlete right away."

Somewhere in Japan, there is a man, an elite athlete. That man is made to sprint, throw a discus, lift weights, and solve difficult math problems (for the critical "skull-sweat") under heat lamps for eighteen hours each day. An IV containing water and Mountain Dew is plugged into each arm. All of his labors are performed in a large ceramic dish, in the center of which there is a drain. Underneath that drain, a pipe leads into a bottling plant, where this man's perspiration is collected in plastic bottles (after having the all-important "crude" added).

His name, of Pocari.

Where: purchased at Mitsuwa Marketplace, West Los Angeles, CA
Color: Crystal clear.
Scent: Sweet, faintly citrusy. And just a hint of discus. Reminiscent of orange Gatorade.
Taste: Bleh. I was kidding above. I HOPE I WAS KIDDING!
It's mildly sweet, and has the usual slight tang of such drinks (like very watered-down Sunny Delight). Most sports drinks have a slight taste of salt, but are dominated by sweet. However, Pocari Sweat is somewhat saltier than the sports drinks I've tried...almost as if it...was made...from...

EEEEAAAUUARRRRRGHGHHHH! *gibbers with mounting, cyclopean horror*

*another swig*
Yes, there's definitely a different undertone. Saltier, maybe ever-so-slightly musky, as if there were just a touch of very ripe cantaloupe. Combined with the name, this is a most disturbing and unpleasant development.

For my own sanity, I'm going to assume that the different taste is the "crude", and not the other, hideous possibility, that nameless choice among quantum worlds wherein twitches and glibbers the eldritch, twisted figure of something which was once a man, but which now moans over and over in the throes of his athletic exertions the one sound which he can recall...the syllables which form his only fraying rope by which he dangles above the nethermost pit wherein is found only the monotonous clink of plastic bottles and the queasy dribbles of dripping fluid...those syllables by which he was once known, his unknown and unknowable, immemorial name--

"Pocari-ri! Pocari-ri!"

Quaff rating: 1.0. I like Gatorade well enough, but this is not as enjoyable.
Cough rating: 2.0. There was something about the taste which I cannot and must not recall.

* Told you so.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Zevia Black Cherry

Well, now we've done it. Most of the Weird beverages we've sampled to date have been sweetened with either cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (or, notably, not sweetened at all, as in the yogurt sodas and Biotta...*shudder*). Recently, we tried out the notably yummy offerings from Oogave, which are sweetened with agave nectar.
Well, here's another. Today we have Zevia, which is sweetened with an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Apparently, this sweetener has no calories and produces a slower and longer-lasting sweet flavor as compared to sugar.
According to Wikipedia, there is evidence that not only does it not impact blood glucose, it may also even improve insulin sensitivity. There is also a little bit of evidence that it might be a mutagen, although no evidence that it actually causes genetic damage.
It was banned by the FDA as a potentially unsafe additive, although that was because it hadn't been proven safe, and there is controversy over the suggestion that the artificial sweetener industry coerced the FDA into the ruling given that stevia is easy to grow and widely available. Interestingly, the FDA has granted acceptable status to two sweeteners based on stevia developed by...wait for it...Coke and Pepsi.

Well, sounds fine to me. And, to make it even better, a good friend decided to donate two cans of Zevia (a soda sweetened with stevia extract) to the Lab for our tasting pleasure. This good friend doesn't have an official WSR Lab nickname yet, but neither is she mysterious nor a stranger. Let's call her--for the moment--"Pepper Trot".
Pepper Trot was kind enough to give us a can of Black Cherry and a can of Root Beer. Today, we'll try the black cherry.
Thanks, Pepper Trot!

Oh, and I have decided that the anti-bias personality we developed during the Oogave Odyssey needs official WSR Lab status. It shall be designated the Grumpy Alternative Libations Taster. Welcome to the team, GALT!

Galt: %@$%^ YOU AND YOUR &^@*ING STEVIA.

Where and when: Donated October 2009 by Pepper Trot.
Color: Completely clear. Quite bubbly.
Scent: A nice black cherry scent. Crisp, somehow alpine. Very good scent.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Smells like...lollipop."
Junior Assistant Taster: "Mmmm!"
Taste: Hmmm, that's pretty good. A little more tart than the smell suggested, but that's not a bad thing. The cherry taste is nice, fruity, not particularly artificial. The aftertaste is odd, though--fairly tart, with a strange note--a bit bitter or bark-like. Herb-y.
K-i-C: "Tastes like raspada.
K-i-C: "Like a snow cone. But not one of those crappy snow cones you can buy with the stuff already on it."
Yeah, good cherry snow cone syrup is pretty close. This is better than I expected, except maybe the aftertaste. The tart is maybe just a bit strong; I prefer a slightly more mellow, berry-ish tone to my cherry flavor. But this is good.
If I'm right about the stevia, I'm not sure it will go well with the root beer. But we'll have to wait and see.

Quaff rating: 3.5. A very nice cherry soda.
Cough rating: 1.0. The aftertaste is weird. Not Weird, just weird.
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