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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zuberfizz Key Lime Cream Soda

It's a happy occasion at the Weird Soda Review Lab. Today, we have visitors who are interested in participating in the quest. The visitors are mostly from a family near whom we used to live, who are visiting from Denver. Anglophilia, Ph.D. is a health sciences and policy consultant, and is accompanied by her children, Mikey and The Moose. Also present (and adding significantly to the international credibility of the Lab) is Yue, an exchange student from Tsingtao, China. Unfortunately, they arrived one day too late for the Jones Tofurky and Gravy Extravaganza (although they did sample it, and their comments have been added to that review), but we can instead offer them something which might be somewhat more palatable. Today, we have Zuberfizz Key Lime Cream Soda.

Where: purchased at Cost Plus World Market
Color: Teal--that is to say, a bluish green. Mostly green. Not perfectly transparent, and despite the label ("Feel the Fizz!"), not particularly strongly carbonated.

Anglophilia: "Looks like lime jello."
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Wow, that's not the color I expected."
JAT: "It kind of reminds me of alien planets."
Moose: "It reminds me of goop."

It looks familiar, but I can't quite place it. And then it hits me: it's halfway between the neon green and dark green translucent Lego colors, as seen in canopies and windows, especially in the Space lines of the 1990s.

Scent: Very sweet, but not without some interest. A darker/mellower note, which for some reason makes me think of the work "foresty". The lime and vanilla are there (lime much more than vanilla). Not much tang. The lime is close to that scenting Sunkist lime jelly candies.

Anglophilia: "Mmm! It's refreshing."
Yue: "Mint...lime..."
Anglophilia: "I'm sensing a hint of lime jello."
K-i-C: "A broad hint."
Anglophilia: "And something about Pine-Sol?"
K-i-C: "That could be it. Like dish soap."

Taste: Very sweet, nicely mellow. The lime is reminiscent of lime Jolly Rancher, but not as tart at first. The tart does come out slowly and mildly after a few seconds. Cream is faint, but noticeable if you look at. Not much beyond what one would expect in key lime. Fairly tasty, inoffensive except that I'd like more tart and less sweet.

JAT: "Yummy!"
Me: "Not quite as lime Jell-o-ey?"
K-i-C: "No, more Pine Sol-ey."

Apparently, the K-i-C is not so fond of this one.
K-i-C: *pours hers into the JAT's cup*

Anglophilia: "What would this go with?"

This is a question which, to my knowledge, has never come up before. The K-i-C is a good cook, but we rarely consider trying to combine Weird Sodas with actual food. Anglophilia is proposing a course of analysis which is heretofore unexplored.

Anglophilia: "A blackened steak with Cajun seasoning."
K-i-C: "I'm thinking salmon."
Me: "But you don't like salmon."
K-i-C: "Well, yeah. But it would look so pretty next to it."
Anglophilia: "Beef Wellington!"
K-i-C: "It would be good with lamb."
Anglophilia: "And scalloped potatoes. Or mac and cheese."

Well, there you have it. Zuberfizz Key Lime Cream Soda is a very sweet, moderately lime-flavored soda, in which the cream aspect is minor. However, it is pretty tasty. And, apparently, it would go well with roasted leg of lamb, blackened Cajun steak, or boxed macaroni and cheese. Alert your nearest sommelier; the 2009 Zuberfizz Key Lime Vanilla Cream is the vintage of choice.

Quaff rating: 3.0. Would be higher with a bit less sweet and more tart.
Cough rating: 0.5. No particular urge to retch.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jones Soda Tofurky and Gravy

The Kibbitzer-in-Chief is, without a doubt, the best wife (and research assistant) EVER. She is one of those rare people who doesn't like chocolate--and yet she willingly makes brownies which are outstanding morsels of moist chewy rich chocolatey goodness. She doesn't much like soda, but she consistently finds samples of the Weirdest Weird sodas around.
And this season...she has outdone herself.
For lo, she did order for me a package of Jones Soda, which includes three bottles of their 2009 Thanksgiving special holiday flavor, Tofurky and Gravy.

Verily, I tremble in anticipation.

Jones Soda has been putting out unbelievably Weird products around the holidays for several years. In previous years, there were often four unique flavors (such as Green Bean Casserole) in a holiday pack. Ive never been able to get my hands on them before, so I have never had the privilege of sampling one...until now.
This year, it's just the one flavor...but what a shining paragon of Weirdness it is!

Also in the package were three bottles of their new "Zilch" line, which are sucralose-based zero-calorie versions of existing flavors. I'll review those soon, but they'll have to wait their turn.
Also in the package is a metal Tofurky lunchbox. Yes, a lunchbox. It features cartoon drawings of anthropomorphic vegetables--possibly soybeans--performing as part of the Cirque du Tofurky.

That's pretty breathtakingly Weird, yes...but then you come to the bottle. No, wait, that should be capitalized. And italicized.
The Bottle.

First of all, it is labeled "Vegan".
There is no sugar in it.
There is sucralose, but it is the eighth ingredient. Preceding the only sweetener are (in order): carbonated water, salt, natural and artificial flavors, glucono delta lactone, modified food starch, caramel color, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Following sucralose are ester gum and medium chain triglyceride.

Yes, this soda is the only one I've ever seen which contains more salt and starch than sweetener. I'm not sure what "modifications" the food starch has undergone, bu according to the nutritional facts, this contains no carbohydrates, so it must be something which modifies them beyond recognition by human digestive enzymes.
This soda contains actual triglycerides.

My God, what madman concocted this?

Reluctantly joining me for this most joyous occasion are the Kibbitzer-in-Chief (who doesn't get to dodge this one) and Punctilius, who has earned her place as the one who not only managed to drink Biotta Digestive Drink, but also (through liberal dilution with raw honey) made it consumable without retching. Not enjoyable, true, but drinkable.

Where and when: purchased directly from Jones Soda, December 2009 (a day which will indeed live in infamy)
Color: A muddy, translucent dark amber. Cloudy, but without visible particulates.
Me: "K-i-C, would you care to register an opinion on the color of this beverage?"
K-i-C: "I don't think you really want me to do that."
Me: "Please?"
K-i-C: "It looks like toilet water, and that's the most polite way I can put that."
Punctilius: "Looks like blood in urine."

Hold the presses. There are tiny bits of there.

Scent: Faint. Salty. Like tears or blood. A bit sweet.
K-i-C: "It doesn't have a strong smell, luckily. Wait, I'm trying to get my nose closer." *does so* "Ugh. There's the turkey."
I don't smell it, but as I get closer, there is a faint hint of something like meatiness.
Punctilius: "The smell's not too awful."

Wait, this is too historic an occasion. I must record it for posterity. I'm going to mike myself. I'll attach an MP3 of the recording, somehow, to this blog post.

Taste: Ummm...hmm.
K-i-C: "UUUUGH."
Punctilius: "It's not that bad."
K-i-C: *spits it back into the cup*
Punctilius: "I kind of like it."
K-i-C: "You're a sick, sick woman."
Punctilius: "I would be if I drank a whole bottle."

The initial taste is pretty sweet, actually, with a strong undertone of saltiness. The Tofurky flavor is faint, barely detectable. However, a few seconds after the sip...the gravy strikes.
And therein lies the horror.
The gravy seems to be the source of the saltiness, but the really bad thing--the thing which even now I can feel corroding my soul--is the hint, the little hint, of fat. That slight tone of greasiness somehow, like a single word whispered into your ear from across a dark room where you thought you were alone, manages to contain a sensation which causes ones viscera to freeze and recoil.
Disgust is the semi-digested flavor of Biotta and Abali.
Horror--REAL horror--is in that hint of grease in Jones Soda Tofurky and Gravy.

I'll try a smaller sip.

No, that's worse. The greasiness hits much sooner with a small sip. The rest really isn't so bad--certainly not a refreshing drink after a hot day of work, but really not as bad as it could be.

I am astonished to find myself wishing that Jones had left out the sucralose. If I'm going to drink a Tofurky and Gravy soda, then it shouldn't be sweet. In that sense, the sucralose really detracts from the authenticity. It gives it the surreal, vertigo-inducing character of a dream, rather than the prosaic, woodcut-like, Norman Rockwell-ish sense of a family Thanksgiving dinner.
Although at some houses, that dinner might also fall under the "surreal, dreamlike horror" label, I suppose.



Yep. The greasiness is bad. Not as immediately grotendous as some things, but pretty awful.

I do so love my calling.

Quaff rating: 2.0. Some of the taste is sort of pleasant.
Cough rating: 3.0. Some of it REALLY ISN'T.

UPDATE: Twenty minutes later, my stomach is cramping and I can still taste the greasiness.

FURTHER UPDATE, THE NEXT DAY: Our visitors (described in the review of Zuberfizz Key Lime Cream Soda) decided to try the Jones. Their reactions:

Anglophilia: "It's like carbonated dishwater! It's like carbonated dishwater on Thanksgiving night!"
Yue: "I just recalled my memory of my grandmother making medicine for my asthma. This was worse. I've never had anything worse than that."

She seems really horrified. This may not be the best way to introduce a visitor to the USA.

Yue: "At first, it's a little bit salty." *waits* "It's...I can't tell what it is." *waits some more* "Not as bad. Can I have yours?"
Anglophilia: "Enjoy!"

Okay, maybe it's not so bad after all.

Click me to hear the initial quaffing.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spirit of Koiwai "Kirin" Yogurt Taste

You know, the Weird Soda Quest is inherently masochistic. We go out, find the strangest stuff we can, drink it, and if it's particularly unusual, we count that as a Good Thing. (Note that "unusual" does not inherently imply "unusually good"). Thus, it makes a sort of sad, twisted sense that, while out at Mitsuwa, when I beheld Spirit of Koiwai "Kirin" Yogurt Taste on the rack before me, the internal conversation went something like this.

Me: "Oh my God. A Japanese yogurt soda-like thing. I didn't know they had yogurt soda-like drinks in Japan. Isn't lactose intolerance more common there? Why would they subject themselves to such a thing?"

Me: "You know what sorts of Weird drinks they have in Japan. This isn't all that strange in comparison."

Me: "True. But think of the other yogurt sodas we've had. Those were unbelievably foul."

Me: "Some of the commenters say they're good after trying more. They're probably an acquired taste. Maybe you should try this one, and expand your horizons. Plus, look at the ingredients. This has sugar. And remember your mission. It's all for the mission! You must not fear."

Me: "Hmm. I suppose you're right. It's certainly Weird. Your arguments are compelling. Come, let us purchase and quaff it with joyous abandon. And if copious vomiting should follow, then we shall wear the splatters as badges of pride."


So now I see before me a bottle of Spirit of Koiwai "Kirin" Yogurt Taste. According to the ingredients list, it does indeed contain sugar. And soybean polysaccharides. And milk powder. And lactic calcium acidulant. I think I'm going to quaff it.


Where: purchased at Mitsuwa Marketplace
Color: Thinner than the Abali--resembles watered-down skim milk. Slightly translucent, white.
JAT: "Kind of dark white."
LAT: "Creamy."

Scent: Sweet smelling, with the milkiness definitely present. Smells like sweet fruit yogurt.
LAT: "Kind of smells like cherry yogurt soda"
JAT: "Yeah, kind of. It kind of stays in your nose."

Taste: Not bad at all. Tastes almost exactly like fruit yogurt, but thinner, like very thin milk.
LAT: "Peachy!"
JAT: "Yeah!"
They're right. It does taste almost exactly like peach yogurt. Almost none of the lactic acid taste--very little acid at all. Not carbonated at all.
The lead and junior assistant tasters like it a lot. They're currently chanting "Yummy...yummy...yummy..." and smacking their lips.

My horizons have indeed been expanded, although this "yogurt drink" is so utterly unlike the previous yogurt sodas as to be completely different beverages. Actually, this is almost too sweet, but in small doses it's quite pleasant.
The main differences between this and the Abali are the presence of sugar, the lower viscosity, the lack of acid, and the lack of carbonation. I'm pretty sure that carbonation and thickness are not the problem, and while I like sweet drinks, I'm not inherently afraid of those which are not. It must be the acid taste--that horrible "already digested stomach contents" taste--which makes the other yogurt sodas so much worse.


Quaff rating: 3.5. Very nice, if slightly too sweet.
Cough rating: 1.0. The milkiness is still off-putting to me, but not really bad.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fentiman's Full Bodied Shandy

Though ages passed, and stars did wax and wane
And through their courses sped, regarding not
The man who stood below, his cup in hand
Awaiting word from some dark god, he thought,
The word which to his lips would tip the cup
Which, ever-filled with brews sublime or foul
Would spell his fate until again he quaffed.

The word has come, and now the bottle found
Which on this day gustation shall offend
The brew shall doubtless lead me to expound
To mark my fate, my immemorial end

--The Quaffing of the Brew, Act II, Scene 3

A very happy holiday to you, dear hypothetical readers. It's been a long time since Ive been able to fire up the Lab. One reason--a good one, more or less--is that I've lost almost 40 pounds. While this is a good thing for my health, the effort to avoid calories has made it more difficult to justify the quaffing of such wondrous delicacies, most of which are laden with wonderful, wonderful sugar. Sweet, delicious, delectable sugar...

Er. Anyway, I believe that as Christmas nears, I can justify occasional consumption of something interesting. Plus, it's not truly a festive occasion without the risk of retching, is it?

Of course it isn't.

Today, we at the Lab will be trying another find of the Kibbitzer-in-Chief's: Fentiman's Full Bodied Shandy. You may remember how successful some of her other finds have been. I'm sure I needn't remind anyone that the two most hideous things we have ever consumed here--the Biotta Digestive Drink and the Abali Yogurt Soda--were both K-i-C acquisitions.

Which, come to think of it, she avoided drinking...

In any case, we've had Fentiman's before. One of the first things I reviewed was their Dandelion and Burdock soda (one of the rare weed-flavored Weird Soda variants). This one is a Shandy, which is apparently beer flavored with lemonade or ginger ale. However, this bottle specifies that, while it is made with traditionally brewed beer, it contains very little alcohol. Like the other Fentiman's, the label says "Best Before: See Neck", but the neck bears no indication of an expiration date.
It occurs to me that it does not specify the neck of the bottle. Perhaps some other neck? Upon inspection in the mirror, my own bears no such inscription. Perhaps it is borne within the shandy itself, in some sort of rod-logic-containing nanotechnological system. After consuming it, the nanosites will migrate to my neck and form a subcutaneous organic LED display, which will read "It's expired. You're gonna die."

Oh, what the heck. Take me to Shandy-town!

Where and when: I have no idea where she finds these things, but it came to the Lab in December 2009.
Color: A fairly rich yellow-orange, like a nice apple juice.
Scent: Quite pleasant, actually. Lemonade-ish, with just a hint of creamy bite.
Taste: Huh.
Okay, this is a complicated one. The initial taste is tart and lemony, followed quickly--a few seconds--by a growing nuttiness, which must be the beer. This is underlaid by an interesting combination of tart and bitter/creamy. It's pretty similar to some of the lighter beers I've tried--wheaty, crisp, citrusy. The lemonade is mostly in the initial taste, then hides around the edges.
Actually, it's very good. Let's see what the young'uns think.

Lead Assistant Taster: "Smells nice, kind of like a cross between root beer and apple cider. *quaffs* Sweet, but the aftertaste is kind of bitter. And the aftertaste rolls along with the taste."
Junior Assistant Taster: "Uuh. Doesn't smell that good. *quaffs* Doesn't have much taste."
LAT: "The aftertaste is like grapefruit!"
JAT: "I can't explain the taste." *runs off to the back yard*
LAT: *runs off with him*

I'm honestly quite surprised that they liked it as much as they thought.

Me: "You know, this has beer in it."
LAT: "Beer?"
JAT: "That's what beer tastes like?" *sounds hopeful*
LAT: "Actually, that's not that bad, is it, then?"
JAT: "That's what beer tastes like?" *runs back to the backyard, faintly overheard* "I guess I wouldn't mind trying beer sometime."

Oh, good.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Tasty!
Cough rating: 0.5. The nuttiness would be off-putting, if you didn't like beer.
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