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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kvass Ochakovskiy

Okay, admittedly, I had to guess on the name of this one.

The Kibbitzer-in-Chief returned from one of her mysterious "go somewhere other than the Lab for a while" missions with a can of something yellow and an odd smile on her face.
"It's called Kvass," she said, "and apparently it's popular in Russia."
The can was extensively Cyrillic.

As a scientist and Quaffmaster, I do try to keep a cosmopolitan worldview. I try to sample Weirdness from around the world. Heck, we've even tried something from Antarctica!* But Russia is a new one for me. I'm out of my depth, and need to consult with an outside expert.
My good friend who shall for the moment remain nameless--a fellow scientist--was over the other day, helping put up gutters on the Lab.

Me: "So, GFWSFTMRN, you read Russian, right?"
Me: "What the heck is this stuff?"

My friend proceeded to describe Kvass. Apparently, in Russia, this stuff is brewed up from stale rye bread by the kegful and sold on street corners. It's technically a fermented product, but the alcohol content is very low. According to some quick and superficial research, for a while it was displaced by Coke and Pepsi, but it has made a recent comeback based on nationalist pride.

I'm going to quaff Russian nationalist fermented rye bread. I have the greatest calling EVER.

Color: Dark caramel brown. Slightly lighter than most colas. A pretty orange-brown, medium carbonation.
Scent: Malty, but less bitter than Malta Hatuey.
Me, to K-i-C: "Here, smell."
It's not that bad. Slightly spicy, strong malt, a bit of root beer/cinnamon.
Taste: Not nearly as sweet as I expected. A fairly strong beer/hops flavor, also a strong taste of carbonation (which is odd, given that the carbonation is pretty mild).
There's an interesting malt flavor. It's actually fairly mild, tends to linger around the top.
Me, to K-i-C: "Want to try it?"
She tries several times, but is actually unable to sip any.
K-i-C: "Can you make beer out of raisins?"

Hmm. I guess I can taste what she means. With the bread, it's kind of like bread pudding soda.

The aftertaste is fairly lemony, acid, with a slightly-sweet beer-like note.

This may be one on which the K-i-C will have to disagree. I kind of like it. Not a lot--I don't think I'd go down to the street corner for a refreshing cup of Kvass--but it's far better than some things I've had. If I were a beer afficionado, I would probably appreciate it more. Still, a big "Spasiba!" to the makers of Kvass. Pretty good stuff.


Or maybe not.

Quaff rating: 2.5. It's not exactly splendid, but I can see the appeal.

Cough rating: 1.5 (for me). I'm betting the K-i-C would go to about 4.5.

*And just in case someone should comment on this (see comments in linked review): yes, I know it's not from Antarctica.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Malta Hatuey

Have you ever had one of those months? A month in which your Federal grant money* runs out, the bill collectors come calling, you find yourself in a forest lean-to somewhere east of Manitoba with nothing but a hatchet, two pieces of French toast, a Greek-Pashto translating dictionary/thesaurus, and a bottle of Stewart's, and you're somehow on the no-fly list? A month where the only sounds you hear are the frenzied pounding of your heart while you desperately search for an opening in the ring of mutant fungi surrounding your crashed interceptor, and the thin, detestable whining of noisome flutes accompanying the rhythmic undulations of unknowable blasphemies, ceaselessly writhing and flailing around the nethermost bubbling blight at the center of all the worlds? A month where the fish ain't biting, the birds ain't singing, and the jam ain't pumping, probably because of the oceanwide bloom of lethal dinoflagellates which is only narrowly being kept in check by your unsung efforts with a colander and an eggbeater?

You have? Wow. That's terrible. Gosh, we've just been busy with other stuff here at the Lab. I had to build a Lego model of Fallingwater as if it were designed to Sauron's specifications, for one. That took a while. But finally, with sheepish grins and shifty eyes, we're creeping back to the bench. And waiting thereon is one I've been looking forward to for a while: Malta Hatuey.

Now, it's pretty much self-evident why this qualifies as a Weird soda. It's named after the sound of loogie-hawking. That's pretty darned awesome, as well as Weird. It further describes itself as a "non-alcoholic cereal beverage", and is adorned with a drawing of a stern-faced native American. He looks really, really unhappy, and a bit sad. If I were to guess as to his thoughts, they might be something like

"Alas. Not only have my people been ravaged by smallpox, cheated, lied to, and forced from our ancestral I am associated with Malta Hatuey. This is a #@%$-fest of truly EPIC proportions."

The ingredients list includes barley malt, fructose, corn syrup, "mellomalt", caramel malt, and hops. I have no idea what "mellomalt" is. My mind keeps trying to associate it with Mallomars, which is (hopefully) incorrect.

Color: Dark, dark brown, and mostly opaque. Kind of thick. Dense foam.
JAT: "Looks black to me."

Scent: Like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, except with beer instead of milk.
JAT: "Smells bad. Bleeeaaaahh."
LAT: "Smells kind of like molasses. Molasses root beer, actually."

Taste: Well, it's definitely malty.
Me: "Want to taste it?"
LAT: "Errrrr....wellll...uh...I don't know. Is it toxic?"

I give him some.

LAT: "It tastes doesn't taste like much. It tastes like a more bitter molasses, that only lasts, like two seconds." *smacks lips repeatedly, pauses, smacks lips again* "Hmmm." *Smacks lips*

JAT: "Ah...bah! bleaaah! Bleeeaaaah!" *goes to bathroom*

K-i-C: "Smells like blackstrap molasses." *sips* "Tastes like patent medicine. Mmmmm, nutritious."

In a remote, mountainous region, in a facility constructed of basalt and rough-hewn cedar, wizened alchemists are even now combining coffee, caramel, Whoppers, motor oil, beer, sawdust, cinnamon, and amaretto in their attempts to create the Philosopher's Stone. This is a byproduct of that quest.

Quaff rating: 2. I'd be pretty unlikely to seek this out. Bitter, strange. But then, I'm beginning to think that malt beverages aren't my thing.
Cough rating: 2. Definitely a grimace, but not a gag.

*National Quaffing Institute Grant EWW-12722, "Investigation of Relative Gustatory, Olfactory, and Spectrographic Parameters of Carbonated and Non-Carbonated Beverages and Their Impact on Pleasure/Pain Psychological Dynamics in Recipients", principal investigator Quaffmaster, T.
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