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Thursday, September 29, 2011

WSR's contribution to understanding human nature and the Internet

Writing this blog has been a wonderful adventure for me, and (hopefully) for the rest of the Lab staff. We have discovered new heights and depths in the Weird soda world, and made contact with a variety of interesting people.

I will also admit that another interesting aspect has been poring over the web statistics which keep track of our visitors. I like getting to see where our readers are visiting from around the world, and what sorts of things bring them here.

It was in such a contemplation that I made this great discovery: people mostly come to our site because they are interested in sex.

"But, Quaffmaster..." you may cry out, "...your site contains very little sex! Believe me, I've looked, and nary a titillating phrase nor suggestive image have I found!"

It's true, the Lab has avoided putting any significant amount of racy content in this chronicle of our explorations. And still, I maintain that people come to our site for sex.

How do I know this? 20% of recent visits to the site came from one of these four Google searches:

neurogasm review
what does neurogasm do to you
does neurogasm work?

On the list of "Entry Pages", the review of neurogasm has had 27 hits. The next most common entry page is Visvita Aloe Vera juice...with four.

The Neurogasm review is nearly five times as popular as the main page of the blog, in terms of total visits.

Somehow, I doubt it's because the review has gained renown as a magnificent example of the fine art of beverage analysis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Review: Country Club Merengue Soda

One of our non-hypothetical readers (The Doc, who previously reviewed Inca Cola for us) has submitted a guest review of what sounds like a fascinating offering popular in the Dominican Republic. He seems quite taken with it, although not without any reservations. In addition, he has included input from The Doc Sr. and his wife (who we will refer to, in as confusing a mishmash of articles, honorifics, and suffixes* as possible) as "Mrs. The Doc Sr."

I'm especially fond of his reference to this as a "beverage d'hubris". Thanks so much for the guest review, The Doc!


Living as I do near a golf course, I find it highly appropriate to drink
Country Club soda as it neatly befits my pretentious lifestyle, because I
really am that great. And it befits it further because this flavour of
Country Club soda, at least, is as pretentious as I am. Not merely content
to call itself a cream soda as significantly more humble beverage brands
would do, it calls itself a MERENGUE soda. Because, at its home in the
Dominican Republic, as the natural beverage of the country (pretentious),
it would not do to simply be a cream soda and roll about in the carbonated
muck with those other inferior, hoi-polloi, beverages.

The history is a little weird, which works as well. Apocryphally there was
a Country Club Soda Company during the first half or so of the 20th century
primarily in Massachusetts (pretentious also). Around 1985 Seven-Up bought
them out and the brand faded in America. However, Country Club is sold by the
cartload in the Dominican Republic and pretty much anywhere they live,
including many specialty shops (pretentious encore) in the USA. The Country
Club you will get the USA comes in the classic (pretentious times infinity)
glass bottle that you need a bottle opener for (I'm too pretentious for
this shirt), but is sold in regular plastic bottles in its home country (not
pretentious) and now is a mark of the Coca-Cola Company (extreme megaloss of

Where and when: I've been enjoying this beverage d'hubris for a good two
months now, but I requested additional snooty opinions earlier this month
and brought samples to The Doc, Sr., and The Doc, Sr.'s Wife. The bottles in
question were purchased from BevMo (pretentiousness under review).

Color: A rich, golden amber draught, in a bottle that looks like it travelled
forward in time from 1955 with Marty McFly and a DeLorean, if he were
actually Marco McFeli and the DeLorean was really a Chevrolet truck with a
ridiculous big rusted chrome bumper and solid axles.

Smell: Fruity, but not strong, and I really don't have a joke about
pretentiousness to go with that except if this were the national beverage
of West Hollywood.

Taste: There is a common thread with Caribbean/meso-American beverages that
they want them to have a bit of a kick. Despite the pretension, it's a rough
merengue and it's strong. However, there's only a minimal amount of aftertaste
and the cream flavour is really rich with a superb vanilla base layered on
top with a selection of mild and delightfully intermingling fruit notes.
It is, truly, like eating a merengue pie, except this enables you to belch
in a much more satisfying manner afterwards (whereupon I was given a
disapproving look from The Doc Sr's Wife). Doc Sr. agreed that it was a very
nice cream soda and rated it favourably compared to more mass market brands.
Doc Sr.'s Wife had a few sips and said it was nice, and also that I should say
excuse me after I burp. This is high praise.

Quaff rating: 4.5. Dad's is probably the smoothest cream soda I can think of
(particularly the Red Cream Soda), and this is not nearly that smooth. That
said, it is much more luxurious and complex-flavoured than Dad's, let alone
many other simplistic and, yes, less-pretentious beverages. This beverage has
its beautiful Dominican nose in the air from the beginning, and yet, it really
does deserve the name "merengue."

Cough rating
: Let's say 1.5. The kickback is there, but not nearly enough to
merit a full two. However, don't belch in front of your mother like I did.
Coughing may be more polite in the long run. Not to mention pretentious.

I wonder if the other flavours are this egotistical.


*Shouldn't the plural of "suffix" be "suffices"? More than one matrix or dominatrix are, respectively, "matrices" and "dominatrices"...maybe it's the "-trix" which pluralizes to "-trices"...

Timpo! Ultimate High-Grade Time Travel Fuel

The Lab moved to north San Diego county in 2006. Prior to that, we lived in Los Angeles for ten years, while I was in graduate school. When we came here, and people asked where we were from, the conversation almost invariably went something like this:

Other Person: "Where did you live before this?"
Me: "We lived in Los Angeles for about ten years."
Other Person: "Oh, you must feel so happy to have escaped!"

There is a powerful assumption in this area that people would only live in LA under severe duress or as a hostage. Los Angeles is seen as some sort of alternate hell-dimension, 75 miles north, which any sane person would go to great lengths to avoid.

When I would respond with something along the lines of "Actually, we enjoyed it a lot", I could see the other person's amygdalae light up all the way down in the temporal lobe. I had become the Other, a slavering beast who must be watched carefully, lest my contagion be spread by bite or claw. In a few sympathetic cases, I think I was regarded as suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. So let me get this right out here:
I loved LA. I loved the incredible diversity of people and cultures. I loved the museums, symphonies, and operas. I loved the fact that you could hear five languages by walking five miles, and get any kind of food you could image by driving twenty minutes. Are there bad things about LA? Of course. Nobody likes traffic like that, the air isn't so hot, and inland it can get pretty miserable in the summer. No question, there are problems, but it's a wonderful place.

I like north county San Diego too! We can afford a house and yard here, and we can grow an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables all year round. When my relatives from Kansas visit, they are always jealous of the fact that "growing season" around here is effectively January to December. There's a lot of green space here, and most of the parking is free.

But we love LA too.

In fact, the other day the Lab staff took a trip up to the Echo Park area of LA, as Olorin was attending a writing workshop. And, as it turns out, this workshop was hosted by a rather remarkable organization called 826LA, who have taken the concept of Weirdness to new heights. For example, the workshop was hosted at their location...which is a market selling supplies for time travelers.

This is very promising for one such as I.

Seeing this, I reached the conclusion that Weirdness--maybe even in soda form--could be had within. Upon entering, I found that they sold a variety of useful items for the time traveller, such as Caveman Stationery (cement blocks), anti-evil-robot weaponry (magnets for erasing hard drives), and barbarian repellent (a spray listing ingredients such as "culture", "ballet", and "deodorant"). My Quaffmastery inclinations were thrilled to see a slurpee machine, but alas, it was out of order.

All was not lost, however. In a cooler at the back, I did find what I believe to be a Weird soda. At least, I think it's a soda. It's definitely Weird.

I handed over my money (I wonder if they would accept currency from other time periods?) and became the proud owner of a three-liter bottle of "Timpo! Ultimate High-Grade Time Travel Fuel".

Really, I have no choice but to buy this. None.

Now, you can probably see why I could not possibly pass this up. Here I had an opportunity to quaff a soda which might not even, technically speaking, exist at the time I was quaffing it, as it had not yet been invented! Such things do not happen every day. My geek mind gleefully dove into the array of possibilities as if it were a playground ball pit in which the balls were, in fact, round Cheetos. I had images of sharing a glass of Timpo! with Marty McFly under the sheltering arch of the Guardian of Forever.
On the other hand, there was nothing on this bottle which conformed that it was actually soda, or any other sort of drinkable liquid. It could be antifreeze, for all I knew. No ingredients list was provided; instead, there was a blurb which read:

Face it: Running out of time machine fuel is the worst. Not only does it make you late, but it also leaves you even more vulnerable to sudden dinosaur attacks.

The cap does say "Shasta", though, so I'm hpoing for the best. Or at least not to die.

Where and when: Purchased September 2011 at the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, 1714 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, CA.
Color: Yellow-green, almost exactly the same shade as Mountain Dew. Scent: Very sweet, almost candy-ish. A bit like cotton candy. Almost no citrus or tang in the smell.
Taste: Very, very sweet. Like the smell, just a hint of candyish lime, but not sour at all. More like lime jelly candy. Almost no carbonation, just a hint of bubble bite.
The sweet is nearly overwhelming. Apparently, hummingbirds are time travelers.
Aftertaste is not especially pleasant--the sweet/lime is persistent, but a vaguely oily feeling creeps up from the back of the mouth about fifteen seconds in. It carries just a hint of something bitter. I'm not sure why, but I want to call the taste "nostalgic". Perhaps it's the temporal dislocation. The feeling is worse than the taste.

Honestly, I can't say that I'd recommend this as a soda. It's lacking in character and subtlety; there's nothing very distinctive about it. It's just a very sweet, vaguely lime-y, slightly carbonated liquid. On the other hand, it's time machine fuel, which increases its awesomeness factor as an object d'art. This is best enjoyed as a conversation piece; once it's opened and decanted, it loses what makes it special.

I do recommend a trip to the Time Travel Mart on its own merits. Plus, they do good writing tutoring.

Aftertaste update: a few minutes later, the oily feeling is still there, only now it tastes worse. Blech.

Quaff rating: 1.5. Not very pleasant.
Cough rating: 1.5. The aftertaste and texture is icky.
Special Weirdness bonus (not factored into the Index): 1.0. It's time machine fuel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chai Cola

The arrival of autumn is a joyous time for me. As a young Quaffmaster, I lived in Topeka, Kansas. Now, for many people, the words "Topeka" and "Kansas" elicit mental imagery of Dorothy, tornadoes, and endlessly flat grasslands. I will admit that Kansas does contain more than its fair share of the latter two, although the beauty of the plains is underrated. However, for me, Kansas is associated with many other things, such as chicken-fried steak*. But that's just one of its many appealing aspects.

Another is weather.

Now, you may respond to that by saying "Quaffmaster, to mention tornadoes in one sentence and then to imply that Kansas has good weather seem somewhat inconsistent." I understand the objection, but please allow me to raise one point of contention: I did not say that Kansas has good weather. In fact, much of Kansas's weather is of the unpleasant or destructive variety. That being said, though, it is undeniable that Kansas does have weather. As opposed to some other locations, such as Southern California.

SoCal does get warmer and cooler, and it usually doesn't rain in the summer (although to a Kansan, the gentle drifting down of water droplets here wouldn't really qualify as "rain"). We here in semi-coastal SoCal are, indeed, blessed with a remarkably pleasant climate the vast majority of the time, ranging between "cool enough that I might wear a long-sleeved shirt" to "hot enough that I might, if pressed, perspire". It's one of the reasons that many people like to live here. It does have the drawback, though, that the turning of the seasons is something which you can fail to notice if you're not paying close attention.

The advent of autumn in Kansas produces a spectacular show of color as the trees shed that summer chlorophyll for the racier pigments underneath. One morning, you wake up, and the air has suddenly gained an unmistakable crispness. The sky turns a deeper shade of blue, somehow, and suddenly you bust out the sweaters and turtlenecks. At night, you're no longer lying on top of the bedsheets, with your naked body pressed against the screen window in a vain attempt to allow a breeze to strip the centimeter-thick layer of sweat from your skin; suddenly, it's time to put on the jammies and snuggle in a bed against that just-right bite in the evening air. It was always my favorite season, as a child. It still is, even though now it manifests for me as an almost imperceptibly lower angle of sunlight and more students pestering me in office hours.

Today's Weird Soda review is inspired by the coming of autumn.

I am a soda quaffer, and tea has never been a favorite of mine. I like my drinks cold and bubbly, not hot and tasting of bark. However, an event which occurred a few months ago may have opened up a new path in my beverage worldtrack. My wife and I were out on a date, and we stopped at a tea shop. While there, she obtained a cup of some sort of steaming concoction which smelled...well, fascinating.
I had a sip.
Spices...cinnamon...cream...and pepper...
"What is this divine mixture?" I asked.
"Chai," she said.
"More," I said.

The taste of this stuff was the brick hearth in front of the fireplace on a cool autumn day in Topeka. The blue sky, the brilliant trees, the heat and sweater; it was all there. She assures me that this Chai was not like all other Chai, that most chai is simply spiced and tasty. This was chai of times past, chai of idyllic days when chai could only be found at Indian restaurants and certain coffee shops run by the Illumina-tea, and obtainable only by the exchange of coded passphrases, obscure hand gestures, and making certain unmentionable and disquieting sacrifices in mountaintop stone rings shunned by wholesome folk above witch-haunted Pomona.
Or something like that; it might be that she said "This isn't the usual chai," and the rest came from my just having read a bunch of Lovecraft at 3 am after eating cold pizza.

So now I like my drinks cold, bubbly, and sweet...unless they're chai.
So what do I do in this case? Tonight, we're trying something called Chai Cola, by Taylor's Tonics. I'm going to assume it's not hot and peppery, but I'm truly not sure what else to expect.

Chai Cola is pictured here next to my favorite tea-drinking mug. It seemed appropriate.
Pictured here is my favorite tea-drinking mug with my second-favorite tea-drinking mug (which I picked up in South Miami Beach). They go rather well together, don't you think?

Where and when: I think I picked this one up at a BevMo.
Color: Slightly lighter than I expected, with a foamy head more commonly seen on root beer. Definitely in the dark brown family, but without the unplumbed dark red depths.
Scent: Hmm. The spices are more reminiscent of cola than anything else, but there is a faint bit of something slightly more acrid. Imagine some cola with a fair bit of cinnamon and cumin, sprinkled lightly over a campfire.
K-i-C: "Smells vaguely like chai root beer."
Taste: Huh. It's actually pretty nice--tastes of caramel, cinnamon, maybe wintergreen, a bit of coriander, and cola under it all.
K-i-C: "Tastes vaguely like chai that somebody poured some Pepsi into. Tastes like Chai when you breathe out, on the roof of your mouth."

Yep. Interestingly, this one's taste has a distinct physical location in my mouth: the roof, right at the back of the hard palate. About 40 seconds after drinking, there's a distinct peppery burning at that spot, which I have never experienced with a soda before.

It's pretty nice. The cola and caramel-spice-pepper-coriander of the chai go well together, and are well balanced. We get a nice, cool brew with pleasant, heady vapors. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite manage the fireside on a perfect autumn evening. Actually, with the temperature, volatility, and spiciness, it has an almost noir-ish feeling. I feel as though I should be wearing a trenchcoat.
But it's a good kind of noir. This one will probably end with me getting paid, rather than bleeding to death in the gutter, watching the beautiful autumn leaves swirl by.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Unusually nice! Especially noteworthy for good balance.
Cough rating: 0.5. A slight burning sensation.

*It should be noted that, among the many reasons on which my decision to marry the lovely and eloquent Kibbitzer-in-Chief was based, not least was the fact that she can make a darned fine chicken-fried steak.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Coco Fizz Chocolate Soda

Happy Labor Day, everybody!

The Lab isn't doing any of the traditional barbecue-related Labor Day festivities, partially due to the highly anomalous rain north San Diego county has experienced today*. I suppose that Labor Day would be more appropriately observed with...well...labor. And, of course, here at the Lab, we have one real labor; the consumption of sugary beverages!

So in honor of America's laborers, past and present, we'll open up a bottle of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's Coco Fizz Chocolate Soda.

The screw is also in honor of Labor Day, recognizing the labor conditions many workers experienced historically.

We haven't tried a lot of chocolate sodas at the Lab. Chocolate has a long history as a soda flavor, and only recently does it seem to have fallen under the umbrella of Weirdness. My understanding is that during the age of the soda fountain, chocolate would not have been at all an unusual ingredient to add to a soda mix; no eyebrows would be raised, neither would parenting be questioned. Why, then, has the concept of a chocolate soda become something which strikes the average soda consumer as being Weird?

I am guessing that the domination of the market by bottled (and then canned) colas and lemon-lime sodas is responsible. After all, in a day when a fruit-flavored soda preference marks one as a nonconformist (I'll bet Ron Paul drinks Welch's grape soda!), what hope does something like a chocolate soda have?

Yet even now, one can obtain carbonated chocolate, as we have. Let us honor the history and tireless work of the soda jerks of yore by quaffing this example of chocolateyness.

And who do we have to thank for this?
Well, the label says "Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company"...except where it says "Durango Soda company"...whose address is "". I suppose this is by the same folks who make Zuberfizz Key Lime soda.

Where and when: The K-i-C got this at Cost Plus World Market a few months ago. Let's say June.
Color: An odd light brown. Roughly the color of apple juice. Not what I would associate with chocolate. I'm experiencing some cognitive dissonance. Not quite completely transparent; there's a hint of cloudiness.
Scent: Powerfully chocolate. The scent is quite strong, becoming inescapable from the moment the bottle is opened. Entropy has forever permeated the Lab with the scent of chocolate.
I suspect the K-i-C will not be pleased.
Olorin: "Whoa. Pure chocolate." *pause* "No, it's a tootsie roll. No other smells mixing in, just pure Tootsie Roll."
He's right. That's a more accurate description of the smell.
Nazgul: "Yeah. Tootsie Roll."
Taste: Very sweet. The chocolate is the only significant taste at first, and Olorin is correct: it's not regular chocolate, it's Tootsie Roll chocolate. Unusual for the purity of the flavor. This hits like a ten-foot Tootsie Roll falling off a logging truck.
About ten seconds in, there's an interesting bit of pleasant bitterness around the edges. This makes it momentarily a bit more like chocolate syrup.

Nazgul: "Tastes like it smells."
Olorin: "Tootsie roll with BUBBLES! Holy cow. It's a Tootsie roll infused with bubble. It's a potent beverage."
Nazgul :"Mmmmmmmm..."

Apparently, Nazgul likes it, while Olorin isn't quite so sure. As for me, it wouldn't be my first choice. I like Tootsie rolls and chocolate syrup as much as anyone, but they don't really work well for me as a soda flavor.
That said, if I were going to seek out a chocolate soda, it might well be this one. It's fairly crisp, and the flavor is saturated and pleasant.

I'm not even going to offer this one to the Kibbitzer, as she is one of those rare people who honestly don't like chocolate. A Weird Weird Soda Reviewer, if you will (hat tip to The Crossed Pond for the title).

Quaff rating: 2.5. Pleasant enough, but not something I'd seek out.
Cough rating: 0.5. VERY strong.

UPDATE: After posting the review, I took a much bigger swig. The taste was surprisingly different...much more of the bitterness, so a bit more like actual chocolate.  liked it better that way, so if you're taking bigger mouthfuls, up the Quaff rating to 3.0.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Americana Vintage Soda Root Beer

As Labor Day approaches, a Quaffmaster's mind turns to thoughts of American history. Or, possibly, childbirth; I imagine that mothers of children born on Labor Day view the irony with gaiety and laughter*. But in this case, I have chosen to celebrate the approaching festival with a review of a soda which, by its label, calls to mind nostalgic visions of my nation.

The drawer pulls are supposed to be reminiscent of old-style buttons on a smart waistcoat, suitable for a gentleman of leisure.

Americana Vintage Soda Root Beer has an American flag high on the label. The "Vintage" designation is undoubtedly designed to call to mind idyllic afternoons, in which one would ride down to Mr. Friendly's corner market with one's pack of lovable rapscallions to trade in nickels and dimes for a glass of genuine root beer and a bag of licorice whips, to be consumed whilst sitting by the local creek and listening to that new rock-'n-roll music which would mildly scandalize one's parents.

One wonders what sort of nostalgic reminiscences of Earth-That-Was a ten-year-old today will have of his or her youth when said ten-year-old is eighty and living in a retirement pod on one of the Inner Worlds**.

In any case, this bottle firmly fixes the chronological target of the intended reminiscence by pointing out, on the side of its label, that it is bottled (by Orca***) in a 50's style bottling plant. I'm not completely clear on what that means, except that I suspect there are matronly ladies, rulers held at the ready, roaming the conveyor belts, alert for impropriety and necking in the dim corners of the factory floor.

We've tried two others from Orca's Americana line, the Black Cherry (which was justifiably recommended to us, and reviewed at the Madonna Inn) and their Honey Lime Ginger Ale. Both were tasty.

Where and when: I'm dealing with a backlog of Weird acquisitions, so I'm not honestly sure where this came from. Or when. However, the K-i-C won't let me get any more until I deal with some of this.
Color: Dark brown, ever-so-slightly more yellow than the deep red of some root beers. Decent head at first pour.
Scent: Fascinating. A sweet smell, which first strikes me as a bit citrusy, with cream and spice, but I have some trouble nailing it down...and then I get it. Cinnamon toast. It smells like cinnamon toast! Or maybe cinnamon rolls. This is a good thing. It's quite clear and smooth, strongly spicy/cinnamon, cream-ish, sharp. Not much of the more herbal/bitter you get on some other root beers, not a lot of gentian or coriander.
K-i-C: "Smells oddly like Sweet tarts. It's got this chalkiness, tablet-y. Like licorice Sweet Tarts." She's not as fond of it as I am.
Me: "I thought it smelled like cinnamon rolls."
K-i-C: *doubtful* "It smells like something you're supposed to chew."

You chew cinnamon rolls! I am declaring victory.

Taste:Very sweet, quite smooth. The traditional root beer flavor is there, with the aforementioned cinnamon strong among them. Notably smooth; almost disturbingly so. Hints of tart linger at the edges, but not nearly as strong as a Sweet Tart. Licorice is also present. Vanilla is another very strong component.
Actually, the vanilla and cinnamon are almost too strong; it's on the far sweet/sharp border of what I would even call root beer. That's not to say it's bad; I actually like the taste quite a bit.
Let's get some other opinions. I summon the rest of the staff.

Me: "Hey, guys. Come taste this Weird soda."
Nazgul: "What is it?"
Me: "I'd like you to taste it without knowing."
Nazgul: *suddenly trudging, rather than running, to the Lab* "Oh, <i>no</i>..."

Olorin: "Hmm. Chocolatey cola root beer. Like a mix between chocolate, cola, and root beer. I like it."
I see what he means about the chocolate.
Nazgul: "It's good. Has Mama tried it?"
Me: "No, she didn't like the smell."

So this one gets approval from me, Olorin, and Nazgul, but fails to win over the Kibbitzer. This isn't all that unusual; the K-i-C fills the (scientifically critical) role of Lab skeptic on soda matters.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a worthy contribution, if barely root beer. A very interesting, pleasant taste and texture.

Quaff rating: 4.0. Could be more complex, but lovely in its simplicity.
Cough rating: 0.5. Maybe just a bit too sweet. Not completely a root beer.

* In the years after childbirth, anyway.
** "Hey, you browncoats! Git off mah lawngrid!"
*** I presume the company, rather than in the sense of "made by killer whales".
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