In our continuing quest for worldwide Weirdness, we found ourselves in downtown Carlsbad. Now, if you are familiar with the geography of north San Diego county, you might be aware that downtown Carlsbad is about fifteen miles from Vista, where the Lab is located. Being aware of that, you might regard a fifteen mile trip as something less than impressive in terms of a "worldwide quest". You might, in fact, conclude that we were less than dedicated in this quest. If you were of a particularly rude turn of mind, you might even (heaven forfend!) scoff at our dedication to a global Weirdness perspective, and make pointed remarks as to the pluck, vim and vigor, and "can-do" attitude which seems less than evident.
I can only respond to such scurrilous calumnies in two ways.
Riposte the First: there is a store in downtown Carlsbad called "Bit O' Britain", which sells genuine British foodstuffs, and...
Riposte the Second: the second "Dollhouse" series DVD came from Netflix, and the Lab staff REALLY wanted to watch it on the Lab theater system that night, so an actual trip to Britain was unfeasible.
There. I will expect your apology by post within the week, or I shall demand satisfaction, sirrah!
To be perfectly honest, our visit to Bit O' Britain was not motivated primarily by a quest for Weird soda, but rather by a hankering for sausage rolls and Caerphilly cheese for cheese muffins*. However, my job as a Quaffmaster requires me to be alert at all times for the possibility of acquiring new samples, and markets selling foreign foods are excellent opportunities to broaden the palate. Thus, I discovered several British sodas which might be called "Weird".
The first we will review is called "Tango", with a subtitle presumably denoting the flavor variant (in this case, cherry). I was particularly drawn to this one because the can employed a gimmick. A potentially rude phrase is imprinted on the side of the can, with a strategic word missing and replaced by a white box. In this case, the phrase is:
"Chilled Tango Made My ________ Shrink"
It's sort of like a redacted document, in which euphemisms for body parts are regarded as classified national security information**.
In this case, the gimmick is that the missing word is printed in some sort of temperature-sensitive dye, so that it only appears when the can is cooled to a temperature suitable for soda. I believe a similar gimmick is employed on cans of Coors beer***.
In this case, upon spending some time in the Lab refrigeration apparatus, the missing word was revealed to be "Stones".
The can is further emblazoned with a lead-in to the gimmick phrase, "It started in my toes, and froze up my leg until...". Near this, there is (for reasons which are unclear) an image of a bear trap. The mixture of mildly raunchy phrases and vaguely threatening images on this can has left my mystified.
Let's see if the soda itself is any less mystifying.
Where and when: Purchased at Bit O' Britain, Carlsbad, CA
Color: Transparent red, fairly light.
Wyvern: "Lightish cherry-colored."
Scent: Very much like unsolidified cherry Jell-O. Very sweet, moderately tart, synthetic cherry. Not especially promising in the eternal quest for the perfect taste of cherry Popsicles.
Wyvern: "Mmmmnnneeaahhh. Not good, but not bad."
Taste: Wow, much more tart than expected. The initial feel is of tart rather than sweet, with an odd burning sensation similar to Pop Rocks. It goes beyond carbonation.
That tart is followed by a cherry which is very similar to the smell; very sweet and heavily synthetic. This goes beyond the innocent, artificial cherry sweetness of Popsicles, and on into some sort of cyborg-level synthetic taste. Reminds me of hot dogs, for some reason. It doesn't actually taste like meat, but there's something in the overtones of the taste which brings the juice in a pack of hot dogs to mind.
Wyvern: "Tart-ish. What I think a 'tart' would taste like."
I wait a while, and then try it again. The tart is still there, but the burning has faded somewhat. The cherry flavor hasn't gotten any better; it's still very unnatural, and seems to be developing more of a bitter aftertaste.
Wyvern: "It doesn't make me pinch my throat closed after I sip it anymore."
The cherry is slowly devolving into medicinal cherry, but with a heavy unnatural note, a weird combination of tart and bitter. Kind of vile. As fond as I am of cherry flavors, I don't care for this. And it's making my stomach hurt. I blame King George III.
What the heck is in this, anyway? I am astonished to find that the second ingredient--just after carbonated water--is actual cherry juice from concentrate. I believe the British word for my state would be "gobsmacked". How can something which tastes like this actually be made of fruit juice?
Another swig, and I'm still mystified. This is not a nice cherry flavor. I'm trying to not even be swayed by my love of cherry Popsicles; I wouldn't have guessed that this was flavored with cherry juice. I like real cherries. Still, in the interest of integrity, I must admit that I was wrong about the synthetic nature of this one; it is (apparently) the real thing.
This had better not actually be making anything shrink.
Quaff rating: 1.5. I'm really trying to like the cherry, but I can't quite manage it.
Cough rating: 2.0. Not actively awful, but possessed of a certain quiet horrendousness.
Update: Ten minutes later, by stomach is actually uncomfortable. Bad British!
*"Hey, Jim? How do the British make their toasted cheese muffins?"
"I don't know, Bob. How?"
"CAERPHILLY! BWA HA HA HA HA!"
"I hate you, Bob."
**One can only wish that the redactions in United States governmental documents were hiding the same things. "The Director of the Department of Homeland Security made the decision to close the airport based on _____________" would be much more entertaining (and less disturbing) if the missing words were "bodacious ta-tas".
***Sales of Coors would probably improve if the thing which appeared when the can was cooled was not a stylized image of the Rockies, but rather something along the lines of the ideas described elsewhere in this review.
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