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Friday, August 26, 2011

Judge Wapner's Root Beer

The Weird Soda Review Lab is dedicated to exploring soda Weirdness in all its aspects. Most of the time, we end up quaffing sodas (or similar beverages) whose Weirdness is most manifest in their flavor or texture. It is useful to be reminded now and then that soda Weirdness can have other aspects. A soda could have an unusual scent, for example. A soda might even have Weird history.

Or, in this case, just a really Weird name.

When I saw Judge Wapner's Root Beer, I really had no choice but to take it home. Root beer is hardly, in and of itself, Weird; it's nearly ubiquitous. And while there are many varieties, possessing varying degrees of intrigue and deliciousness (Boot Rear is one of the best I've had, but I can't find any to review!), the simple fact that it is root beer doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

The fact that its label contains the name and picture of a figure from a popular court-TV show from the early 1980's, does qualify as Weird.

I'm not sure what complaint was just decided against Indy, Boba Fett, Batman, a stormtrooper, an unnamed Jedi in aqua sweatpants, and an alien, but it must have been a doozy.

I didn't watch the show, but I do clearly remember several things about it. I remember Judge Wapner saying "I know you've been sworn, and I have read your complaint...". I thought I remembered the theme song, but whenever I try to get it going through my head, it invariably becomes the theme song to either Hawaii Five-O or The Prisoner*. Just the other day, it was revealed to me that the court in The People's Court was not in fact a courtroom, but rather what amounted to binding arbitration**. Why Judge Wapner is now showing up on my root beer is somewhat of a mystery, although the fact that he is depicted saying "I sentence you to drink my root beer!" may not bode well for the upcoming experience.

This is from the "Real Soda in Real Bottles" company, who produce a whole variety of Weird products. Their web site is something to behold. It mentions that they have an outlet store, too...

I feel a pilgrimage coming on.

But back to this one. It's cane-sugar-sweetened, with no other ingredients of note mentioned. Let's give it a try!

Where and when: Purchased at BevMo, but I truly don't remember when. Color: Quite dark brown--almost opaque. Some head.
Scent: Tart/spicy, fairly typical root beer. Perhaps a little more tart than some, with a stronger smell of something like gentian root. Slightly reminiscent of the smell of Moxie.
Taste: Quite smooth. The initial taste is mostly sweet, with vanilla and cinnamon tones strong at the front. These fade into the background, leaving an interesting situation. It feels as though there's a strong lemony flavor trying to come in, but not quite making it. In my mind, I see a stretchy, soap-bubble-like membrane just holding back a flood of bright yellow citrus. It's straining, bulging in, but the smoother and spicier flavors are left to frolic and play, safe from the lemon tsunami. The herbal, gentian-like flavor isn't as strong as its smell would suggest.
It's pleasant. It's a bit more herbal than I usually associate with root beer--I usually prefer more cinnamon-y flavors--but it's enjoyable as it is.

A pleasant follow-up observation: there is no unpleasant aftertaste! It just sort of saunters off.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Kind of nice, actually. Surprisingly smooth and pleasant, with good aftertaste.
Cough rating: 0.5. The herbal background is a bit off-putting, but not really any problem.

*I'm looking forward to "Number Six Soda", or "Rover's Refreshing Lifestyle Drink". If I remember, based on the little animation that we saw whenever he was summoned, Rover was effectively an example of semi-sentient carbonation gone bad.

**Next they'll tell me that the Village doesn't really exist.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drank Extreme Relaxation Beverage

We at the Weird Soda Review Lab, being sober, serious types, tend to observe societal trends and memes from a detached and analytical perspective. "This new thing, which all of the young folk are doing," we ask, "what is its nature? Is it virtuous? Does it contribute to wholeness of soul and body?" For example, it has recently come to our attention that something called "Nyan Cat" has spread its influence over the internet. Despite our curiosity about this, we have not yet gone in search of it for two reasons.

1. We hear it involves rainbows and singing. As sober, serious types, we are suspicious of such indications of possible frivolity and lightheartedness. Hi-ho, round-the-maypole, tra-la-la-here-we-go-wibbling and all that. Humph.

2. "Nyan Cat" is dangerously close to sounding like "Nyarlathotep". As an entity with a thousand forms, each more monstrous and sanity-shaking than the last, Nyarlathotep can be a tricky one. A rainbow-spewing, flying kitty doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility as an Avatar of the Dark One.

Oh, what the heck. *Google*

Huh. I didn't expect the Pop Tart body. I don't think my sanity is particularly threatened, though...if it is Nyarlathotep himself, he's got some work ahead of him before he cameow meow MEOW meow MEOWmeowmeowmeowMEOWmeowMEOWMEOWmeowMEOWmeow...


Oh God...the things I have seen...

As I was saying, we are skeptical about cultural memes. Another amusing example is the EXTREME EVERYTHING movement, which has somewhat petered out in the last few years. For a while there, everything was extreme. It seemed that there could never be a thing worth doing which was not worth doing in an "extreme" fashion. A favorite of ours (which was poking fun at the whole thing) was this ad.

No activity, no matter how self-contradictory, was immune from being Extremed. And today we have the logical endpoint of the phenomenon: Drank Extreme Relaxation Beverage.

Drank (third from the left) pictured along with alternate methods for Extreme Relaxation. The Kibbitzer, who has a degree in literature, wishes to express her dissatisfaction with the inclusion of the leftmost item.

The name is especially intriguing. I would have expected the imperative form of the verb, i.e. "Drink". Such a name would be taken as a command to the person browsing the soda aisle, presumably increasing sales. On the other hand, perhaps that isn't specific enough; a general command to "Drink!" might result in the one receiving it simply seizing the nearest beverage.
The past-tense form gives an odd cast to the message. Is it implying that the drinking has already occurred, in a "why question fate/disrupt the timeline" sort of way?

Time to call our Wikipedia skills into play. Let's see..."Nyan Cat"...wait. No! NO NO NO!

Ah. That explains it.

Apparently, "Drank" can also refer to a brew consumed by youths who have insufficient respect for their elders. It consists of codeine and promethazine (from cough syrup), Jolly Ranchers, and soda, mixed into a sort of punch. It is evidently often made with grape candy and grape cough syrup, and thus is often known as "purple drank". It is associated with the hip-hop scene, and is linked to several deaths. I'm presuming that this contains neither codeine or promethazine, but maybe I'd better check the ingredients.
Nope. A bunch of B-complex vitamins, valerian root, melatonin, and sugar. This hardly seems to qualify as "extreme".

So what we have here is a Weird soda, clearly made to resemble or refer to an illicit and dangerous recreational drug, which makes claim to "extreme-ness" but is instead a can of vitamin-fortified herbal-supplement sugar water. *sigh* Kids these days. Get off my lawn.

Where and when: I have no idea where I got this or when. It's been in the fridge for months.
Color: You know, lavender doesn't really seem suitable for a beverage claiming Extreme heritage. Kind of pretty, though. Transparent.
K-i-C: "I'd say orchid."
Scent: Fairly strong, sweet, with berries being the dominant note. A strong contribution by something tart.
K-i-C: "You don't look relaxed."
Me: "But do I look extreme?"
K-i-C: "Smells like bug juice."
This catches me off guard, and makes me think I may have missed a chapter in my beloved's past. Did I marry Bear Grylls?
K-i-C: "Bug juice is extremely watered-down Kool-Aid."

Actually, that might be a good way to market homeopathic drugs. "Try new homeopathic digitalin, now in EXTREME 1,000,000,000-fold DILUTION!"

Taste: Huh. The taste isn't as strong as I would have guessed. It's sweet, but the rose hips add a lot of sour. There's an immediate but slight herbal bitterness, mild but present, which lingers a bit at the sides along with the sour. K-i-C: *grimace* *shrug* "Tastes like Fanta."

This is unimpressive. It's just not very interesting; it's not so much that it tastes bad, but I can't think of any reason why I would want to drink it. This is a beverage meant to appeal to those interested in or familiar with a dangerous homebrewed drug, but which will do nothing except (maybe) make you a bit sleepy, and which doesn't actually taste good. I'm not interested in the drug, and if I want to be sleepy, I just need to stay up late playing Mass Effect 2 or watching Deep Space Nine with the Kibbitzer. And that's a heck of a lot more fun.

Quaff rating: 1.5. Almost completely uninteresting to drink. Mildly interesting as a reference to sociocultural events.
Cough rating: 1.0. The herbal tastes are not especially pleasant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weird Soda Review featured on

Really, it was only a matter of time before a bastion of scholarship, research, and culinary adventure like the Weird Soda Review Labs would find itself in the national spotlight. I can only imagine that a seat at the UN Security Council will not be far behind*.

In any case, the Lab was recently contacted by a representative of, requesting permission to use some of the images and text from in a slideshow on their website. Careful consideration as to whether this would represent "selling out to the corporate world, hereafter known as the Man" ensued.

Quaffmaster: "I've called this meeting of the Weird Soda Review Lab staff to carefully consider an opportunity which has arisen."
Staff, in a chaotic burble of comments: "Tell us! What news? Is it the apocalypse?"
Quaffmaster: " has requested permission to make a slideshow featuring some of our work. Now, we should deliberate as to whether this would..."
Staff, in a unified chorus of enthusiasm: "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! WE'RE GONNA BE ON THE NEWS!"

Permission was granted, by a vote of everyone to nobody.

The slideshow is here:

*And we'll be ready. I participated in Model UN for several years during middle school, representing Thailand one year. If I remember, my co-delegate and I were unsuccessful in our grand scheme to end the session with a Thai takeover of the world.
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