It's good to be reminded, now and then, that one is not alone. When I started this blog, I was the only person I knew with my calling--to quaff all which is quaffable (and to attempt that which turns out to be emphatically NOT quaffable). My family knew, from early on, that I was a bit odd. I was that kid who stood by the soda fountain and made ten squillion mixtures of different flavors of soda for no apparent reason.
This love of flavor mixtures did not extend to food, of course--I would recoil in horror if one of the foods on my plate touched another. Who knew what sort of unholy reactions might take place between green beans and yams? I saw "Them!", and "It Came From Beneath the Sea". I know what happens when you mess with nature. Don't let the food touch, for the love of God, lest it wreak a horrible vengeance upon us all.
And pass me some more of that Coca-PepperSquirt, please.
Mad? Mad, you call me?! They called me mad at Oxford, too. But I'll show them!
Anyway, shortly after becoming the Quaffmaster, I found that there were, in fact, others who shared my peculiarity. I became part of the worldwide Weird Soda brother- and sisterhood. If you look along the sidebar of this blog, you'll find links to a number of other websites (including an entire organization, the Obscure Soda Lovers Organization, or OSLO) run by others on the Quest. However, one in particular came to my attention: Soft Drink Reviews, Exotic and Non, run by my distinguished Quest Elder, Tim H. Tim shared not only my affection for sweet bubbliness, but also my love of tentacled things and general geekitude. Plus, he has a cool beard.
Tim did a fine review of Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel recently, in which he not only carefully assessed the gustatory nuances of this latest Mountain Dew variant, but also deftly dissected the use of art on the cans, the subtleties of orc armor and various incarnations of the Platonic "Orc" in media, and the difficulty of finding studio space in Brooklyn.
Then I got the email.
An email from Tim himself, offering to share his booty with me!
Er. The word "booty" here refers to "treasure" or "precious objects". Specifically, he had extra cans of Gamer Fuel, and wanted to share them with me. The generosity of the offer put tears in my eye. Another Weird Soda lover--my elder, whose work had become an inspiration to me--was offering to send me soda.
And yesterday it came--but that wasn't all he sent. The contents of the box:
1) Two cans (red and blue) of Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel, complete with Bottle Top can-to-bottle conversion units. These are spiffy little plastic contraptions which snap onto the top of soda cans and have flip-up bottle-type sealable lids. They are awesome.
2) A pencil
3) a standard six-sided die.
So my sincere thanks, Tim! I'll see if there is some way I can reciprocate.
NOTE: Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel is specifically associated with World of Warcraft, a game I have intentionally avoided after seeing the crack cocaine-like addictive effects on those who play it, and the haunted, scarred look in the eyes of those who have stopped. I'm sure that both the figures depicted on the cans, their armor and weapons, and probably subtleties including the number of nose hairs in each orc nostril have specific names and deep significance in the WoW mythos. I say this not out of mockery--I have deep respect for obsessive detail in fantasy and science fiction mythologies--but rather out of a desire to acknowledge my ignorance. Lest I draw aggro*, I won't even try to guess about any of it. Please feel free to enlighten me in comments.
Inspired by the artwork on the cans, and by Tim's review, I have decided to invite two guest reviewers to help with this review. The first is Orthog, an orc of the Crusted Fingernails clan, whose image graces the red can.
Orthog: ORTHOG GLAD TO BE WITH PUNY HUMAN TODAY.
Also with us at the lab is L'haerni, a glowing-eyed elf warrior maiden, featured on the blue can. The dominant word to describe her is "pointy"; her midriff-baring armor bustier seems to be made of overlapping triangular leather fragments, her shoulder armor has pointy eaves, and her ears are very pointy. Plus, she has elegant eyebrows which extend out at least six inches from either side of her face. They must be waxed. Can you have epic waxing?
L'haerni: Your insolence is noted, mud-spawn. However, I will forgive it on this occasion.
Me: Thanks to you both for joining us today in the Lab. Now, Orthog...that's an interesting name.
O: "ORTHOG" SHORT FOR "ORTHOGONAL".
Me: Really? Orthogonal, as in "perpendicular to"?
O: ORTHOG FORM RIGHT ANGLE WITH GROUND MOSTLY. EXCEPT WHEN DRUNK.
Me: I see. I notice that your can is labeled "Dew With a Blast of Citrus Cherry Flavor".
O: CHERRY FLAVOR COME FROM CRUSTED FINGERNAIL CLAN SECRET INGREDIENT. CLAN NAMED AFTER IT.
Me: Well, I'll look forward to trying that.
L: No you won't. You'll enjoy mine much more. The flavor in my can is an extract of the T'lithia berry, which grows only on mountain peaks struck by lightning. The berry is crushed gently by hand, and the sparkling, milky juice stirred thrice with a spoon of pure gold. It is then aerated with winds from the deep forest, exposed to sunlight atop the ancient temple of Hru at dawn on the solstice, and kept in the catacombs of Mnar for three centuries before we add it to the drink.
Me: It says "Dew with a Punch of Wild Fruit Flavor".
L: It loses something in the translation.
Me: Well, let's get this quaffing started. Well begin with your can, Orthog.
Where and when: generously donated by Tim H, December 2009
Color: Surprisingly, bright orange. It's slightly cloudy, not perfectly transparent.
O: ORTHOG FIND IT REMIND HIM OF MURDEROUS GLEAM IN EYE.
Scent: Stronger than standard Mountain Dew. Strong citrus and sweet, but with an oddly smoky component. If you added a tiny bit of lapsang souchong tea to Mountain Dew and upped the orange content significantly, you might get this.
Taste: Quite strong, *extremely* sweet. There's a powerful cherryish tone, sweet to the point of syrupy. I actually like the flavor well enough, but it's so incredibly sweet it's hard to drink. Imagine Mountain Dew mixed about 2:1 with the liquid from a jar of Maraschino cherries.
O: THAT THE SWEET TASTE OF VICTORY. AND SECRET INGREDIENT.
Me: You keep mentioning this secret ingredient. You said the "Crusted Fingernail" clan was named after it?
O: YES. CLAN FOND OF SHARPENING CLAWS ON CHERRY AND ORANGE TREES BEFORE DISEMBOWELING PUNY HUMANS AND PONCY ELVES.
Me: How fascinating. This is actually a good example of how something can be high on both the quaff and cough ratings. The flavor is nice, and would be nice at about a fifth the intensity.
I note with interest that this has 46 grams of sugar per can. Compare that with about 40 in a can of regular cola.
O: PROVIDES NICE ENERGY BURST TO GET THROUGH LONG DAY OF HEWING.
Quaff rating: 3.5. The flavor is pleasant.
Cough rating: 1.5. Good googly-moogly, it's sweet.
O: BUT STILL HAS POSITIVE WSR INDEX. GOOD. NOT HAVE TO EVISCERATE QUAFFMASTER NOW.
GALT: DON'T YOU EVEN %@##%!ING THINK OF THREATENING THE QUAFFMASTER, ORTHOG. I'LL &@*% YOU UP SIDEWAYS WITH A @#$*ING SPORK IF YOU THREATEN THE NEUTRALITY OF THIS REVIEW.
O: HERE. HAVE CLAN MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION.
GALT: RIGHT $$@^*ING ON.
Next, we have L'haerni and her can of blue fruity goodness.
Where and when: also generously donated by Tim H, December 2009
Color: A frighteningly intense shade of blue. I'm talking BLUE blue. Also slightly cloudy.
L: As if one had distilled the very essence of the twilight sky?
Me: Yeah. Blue.
Scent: Lighter than Orthog's brew, and cooler in tone. Orthog's made me yearn for the heat of battle. This makes me imagine starlight glistening on a huge pile of key limes and oranges heaped on the soft moss on a riverbank.
ORTHOG: HUMAN STRAYING DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO PONCY.
L: Be quiet, you great baboon. I know that riverbank well.
Taste: No smokiness here. This has more pear and flower notes than rough-hewn iron and burning villages. It is, however, also almost appallingly sweet, although not quite as much as Orthog's can. The flavor is a bit smoother.
Quaff rating: 3.5. Nice.
Cough rating: 1.0. Not quite as sweet as the other one.
They're both still recognizably Mountain Dew, but I think they are distinctly different enough that I could tell them apart in a blind test.
Actually, let's find out.
The Lead Assistant Taster is helping me. I've cleared my palate with a drink of water, and closed my eyes. He has handed me the first cup.
Mmm...a bit rough, pleasant, very sweet. I think it's probably the orange one, but let's wait a moment. Clear the palate. Now the next.
Wait, no, this one is the orange. Isn't it? In retrospect, compared to this one, the other was a bit cooler. This one must be the orange. Let's go back and make sure.
Er...no. I think this one is...wait...well...let's try the other one.
*I hold up the second one.* Me: "Orange?"
How fascinating. I can't, in fact, tell them apart. When I taste them knowing which is which, I think there's a difference--but it is smaller than I thought.
It's almost as if there's a point to be made here--something about how two sides in a conflict can actually have deep similarities, and how their differences can be mostly in the presentation and the perception it engenders, but an objective assessment shows them to be nearly indistinguishable.
O: SOUND LIKE QUAFFMASTER IS SAYING WE MORE SAME THAN DIFFERENT.
L: I concur. Quickly, Orthag--we must silence him!
How when one discards what one is told to think about two opposing sides--when one tries to really see them for what they are, rather than what we are told they are--we can find that the conflict between them is largely manufactured by other interests who profit from the rivalry.
O: PUNY HUMAN MUST SHUT UP OR DIE.
L: Indeed. Silence, or face my blade, worm!
GALT: OUR %$@*ING INTEGRITY DEMANDS ACTION.
Me: Orthag, L'haerni, wait...those faces...they're just masks!
*pulls them off, revealing two identical scruffy-bearded men*
L'hag and Orterni: AND WE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO, IF IT WEREN'T FOR YOU MEDDLING WSR LAB STAFFERS!
*This is the extent of my mastery of WoW jargon, and I'll bet I even got it wrong.
Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla Soda
3 hours ago