Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pepsi Natural, Journal Entry Two

Pepsi Natural, Journal Entry Two:

I've visited dozens of stores and called many more, no one seems to have ever heard of Pepsi Raw or any all natural Pepsi product. At each turn I am greeted by a lack of understanding, whether due to the fantastic assertion that there is an organic Pepsi product or because most deli workers speak English as a second language I do not know.

My wife hollers at me whenever I try and break away and investigate a new shop, my will is breaking. Does this marvelous thing exist, or is it a hopeful wisp of fantasy? Will I be jostled by a swarthy seaman and wind up dead by poison, a victim of those who wish to keep Pepsi Raw out of the eyes of man?

I had a dream last night, I drew it out:

My whole Pepsi Natural Saga:

The Prelude
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

It's a bottle of Pepsi Raw atop a volcano spouting lava. The banner of the top reads "Persevere", there's a bunch of other words but I didn't bother reading them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pepsi Natural, Journal Entry One

Pepsi Natural, Journal Entry One:

A friend sends me a link to a webpage which mentions the release of Pepsi Raw to a handful of markets in the US. New York City is on the list. I use the marvel of "social networking" to see if any of my Facebook associates have seen the stuff for sale. I'm greeted with derisive jeers, and assurances that Pepsi Raw is only for sale in Europe.

The fools, I'll prove them all wrong.

My whole Pepsi Natural Saga:

The Prelude
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The lucrative world of soda reviewing

So I just received a check from Google for $107, which means that my blog averages about $25 a month in clicks. Yep, those annoying ads in this blog are finally paying off. As the old joke goes, I need to start one hundred more blogs and I'll be sitting pretty.

Fanta Orange ah la Russia

I kind of dig that orange slice graphic.

Fanta Orange, Russian

So I fall all over myself singing the praises of sugary soft drinks, as opposed to their corn based cousins. Sugar can do no wrong in my book. Well, this crazy Eastern European Fanta I bought falls flat. Not in a non-carbonated way, but in a flavor way.

I've never been a big Fanta fan, but sometimes when you travel it's all you can get. I've drank enough of the stuff that it doesn't bother me, and I'll even sometimes pick it up on a whim when given other choices. It definitely has a European reputation, and I have a vague memory of some guys I used to play the Palladium RPG with calling me "Eurotrash" when I brought a bottle to their game. I'm not sure if these guys had ever left New York City much less gone to Europe, so that reinforces its Back East reputation.

I'm so unenthused about Fanta that I changed my plans for this review minutes after buying this ginormous bottle of the crap. My plan had been to buy an American bottled Fanta as well, and then taste test the two back to back. Common sense stepped in and declared that this was going to be way too much Fanta, and I shouldn't think about that sort of crap.

So, one huge bottle of Eastern European Fanta. That's what I have. The little sticker says it was imported by "Trilini intarnational Imports..." That's all I can read of their name, as the sticker is rubbed away at that point. Or burned away, or something. Their phone number is (718)437-2700, I'm going to call them and ask what other wonders they import. The best thing about this little white sticker is that it reads "Drink with taste of an orange".

That is pretty much what Fanta is, I cannot deny it. There is definitely a taste of an orange in there. The oddness about this stuff, though, is that it tastes like corn syrup. The sweet is the burned corn husk sweet of Coca Cola. So, Russian Fanta loses big time. How can you screw that up?

Further investigation of the little white sticker tells me that there are a whopping 31 calories per serving, with 20 servings living inside this big old bottle. Europeans certainly are classy folks if they drink their Fanta a third of a cup at a time. This is a soda, not a hard liquor. Wait, Russians don't drink hard liquor in small doses, clearly they flipped their drinking volumes around.

But that little white sticker is where the sanity ends. Everything below is in cartoon Cyrillic, except the actual "Fanta" itself. And the numbers. And the Pepsi Cola logo. Blah blah blah.

So, to wind up: Eastern European Fanta is not much better than US Fanta. And US Fanta is pretty unremarkable, so the idea is not to bother with either. The follow-up thought is to wonder why someone would bother importing this stuff if it's so similar to what we already have?

Edit: Oh neat, there's a little raised star inside the cap. It probably means I just won a zillion rubles.

The bottle text comes out looking like a lonely chat log.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mountain Dew Slurpee

The chartreuse, which so becoming on fishing lures,
doesn't quite come through here.

Mountain Dew Slurpee

I used to be a true Mountain Dew fan. I'd drink a can almost every morning before going to school. I'd get a horrible stomach ache, but it was better tasting than the water where I grew up. I'd drink them at night, in the afternoon, whenever and wherever I could get one. In one night of playing Dungeons and Dragons I drank two 2-liters, after everyone left I did this vomit hiccup thing that resulted in Mountain Dew bile rushing up into my sinuses.

I sat for hours, staring into a mirror, weeping Mountain Dew tears which I would gently blot away with a tissue. It hurt a lot.

Today I got home from my two hour commute and was feeling a little wild, what with it being a Tuesday night and my not working the next day. I stop at the 7-11 and buy a plate of nachos and a medium Mountain Dew Slurpee.

I'd not had a taste of Mountain Dew Slurpee since the Bad Days of 7-11 drinks, when the Slurpees all tasted like Sweettarts. I'd had a marvelous Mountain Dew crushed ice thing at a bowling alley in Maine, in 1996, which set a pretty high bar for other icey Dew drinks. In fact, when I returned to that town six years later, I beelined for that same bowling alley only to find out that the slurpee-type machine had long since broken down and been discarded.

The guy behind the counter agreed that the Mountain Dew pseudo-Slurpees had been really good, then we wept in each others arms. It was beautiful.

So I carry my nachos home in my jacket, as its twenty degree outside. The Slurpee I carry in an ungloved hand, gingerly swapping it back and forth when the cold gets too great. At home I get my first taste and...

...it's really good. It has all the wonderful flavor of Mountain Dew, but none of the carbonation. MD does well with it's carbonation, it's an odd thing for it not to be present with the taste. There's some kind of poppy bite there, though, is it possibly to have carbonation magically locked in the icy slush of the Slurpee? Regardless, it doesn't just taste like flat Mountain Dew, and it isn't the horrid Sweettart flavor of six or seven years ago.

The bad news is that I happily pig my way through the Slurpee, feeling a caffeine rush creep up behind my eyeballs. I don't get much caffeine nowadays, so it really kicks me in the ass when I have some. I vibrate my way over to the computer only to find out that I DO work tomorrow, so I'm screwed. I'll be up till 3am, staring goggle-eyed at the ceiling and levitating off the bed at every noise the cats make.


But, 7-11 Mountain Dew Slurpee is a go.

I'm gonna give you bums the science on 7-11 nachos, but not today.

Edit: Yes, I was up all night. Asleep maaaaybe at four and was up at six to catch a train.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stewart's Root Beer

Stewart, I like you. You're not like the other root beers, here, at the trailer park.

Stewart's Root Beer

I'm a big fan of some of the uber-sweet Stewart's drinks, especially the Cherry Cola and the Dark Cherry. They're mostly syrup and totally rock. The root beer flavor, on the other hand, doesn't particularly rock at all. It's kind of a Disneyland-esque pretend root beer flavor, and acts strangely in the mouth.

Most root beers are a foamy explosion as soon as they hit the tongue, Stewart's Root Beer takes half a beat before it expands. It's a little odd, a little unnerving. The taste is a little off, too. There's not a whole lot of what I would call root beer flavor in there, just a parody of most of the flavor and a weird aftertaste.

The best thing about this particular bottle, though, is that I drank it with my lunch from Five Guys. Five Guys is a really good hamburger chain that has pretty much eclipsed any other hamburger maker in my neighborhood. I'd called my order in to the place, and then called back a few minutes later to change my hamburger to a cheeseburger. When I got home I found a piece of cheese wrapped in tinfoil, separate from my hamburger.

So it might be a little unfair to judge Stewart's Root Beer at this time, as it is being consumed alongside a really good, oniony hamburger.

There's the separately wrapped cheese slice. This photo
is both better arranged and more sanitary
than the first one in this posting.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Missed Connections: Top Pop Cola

What sort of logic has someone neatly putting the cap
back on an empty soda bottle and then throwing it on the sidewalk?

You: Drunk, abandoned on the sidewalk. Full of the spittle of the person who used and discarded you. Still handsome in your blood spattered blue vest. Uou caught my eye and certainly were "20% More Than 20 Oz" in my book.

Me: Chubby guy with a bad beard, glasses. Spiderman suit. Desperate to top the taste. I walked to all the local delis, but couldn't find hide nor hair of you. Let's get together.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Inca Kola Commercial

I loathe Inca Kola, but with this commercial it moves from "destroy on sight" to "genteel enemy".

The image of the guy holding the Inca Kola logo at the end is really striking for some reason. Well, I know the reasons but I'm too lazy to write it out.

And Rob, thanks for the link.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ubuntu Cola

Royal mail! Did that Vicountship I ordered finally come through?

Dude, I don't even use a PC.

The British cans use the pamphlet to erect a laager
for defense against the Zulu threat.

Ubuntu Cola, Ubuntu Trading Company
This can of Ubuntu was sent to me by a friend of a friend in Britain. How cool is that? Soft drinks getting mailed to me from across the Atlantic! And for free.

It sat in the refrigerator for a couple of months, I couldn't bring myself to drink it. It's too nice of a thing, this gift from overseas. And it came with a cool fold out pamphlet, informing me the many ways in which Ubuntu helped the world.

Sadly, I lost the pamphlet. I think my wife might have tidied it away, she steadfastly denies it, but does so in a shifty manner indicating to me her possible guilt.

Anyways, Ubuntu is delightful. A joy to sip. It's a very crisp and clean drink, tasting like an amalgam of all the best things of the cola world. It has that light sweetness of Pepsi, but not overly much. It has the good bits of Tab in it, too. Some of the roughneck flavor of RC is in there as well, swaggering quietly in the background but not drawing too much attention to itself.

The stuff is mild and lightly carbonated. There is a very slight ugliness to the initial aftertaste, a mixing of a numb tongue and mud, but it doesn't reappear after the first couple of swigs. Maybe the Ubuntu was just rehydrating the dried foulness already present in my mouth.

It's a Fairtrade product, something which I heartily approve of. According to the can, it "Guarantees a better deal for Third World Producers". There's nothing wrong with that at all. For a few cents more a heck of a difference can be made in someone else's life. That's great. I'll quote the rest of the can:

Ubuntu: "I am because we are"

Through Fairtrade, sugar cane farmers in Malawi and Zambie receive a better deal and a social premium to invest in social, economic, & environmental projects. Plus, we will return one third of our profits into those communities through our Ubuntu Africa program. Visit: www.ubuntu-trading.com

Hmmm. I'm not sure if I approve of all of that sentence. I hate it when ampersands are used unnecessarily. And that last sentence is a little oddly phrased: "...we will return one third of our profits into those communites..." That seems like odd english. Shouldn't it be "return to" the communities? Or "invest into"? Or something?

But then again, this a product of London. They certainly have the upper hand when it comes to good English.

The ingredients list reads:

carbonated water
fairtrade sugar
colours: sulphite ammonia caramel
acidifier: phosphoric acid
preservative: sodium benzoate
flavour: caffeine, natural flavors

96% (excluding water) fairtrade ingredients certified to international fairtrade standards

So listing items with their function is a new one on me. Sulphite Ammonia Caramel lends it the color, eh? We all love the color of ammonia. And caffeine is listed as a flavor? That's a little wacky.

Like I mentioned above, the pamphlet disappeared before the review. In this instance, I don't feel terrible about doing a little research on the website - all I'm doing is replacing the info that came with the can, right? It's not cheating, I swear it.

The first thing I notice is that the http://ubuntu-trading.com/our-fairtrade-cola page says "Each year We'll [sic] give at least 15% of our profits to our Ubuntu Africa Programme". 15% isn't equal to 1/3rd. A discrepancy between the can and the website. Alas. And what's with that royal upper case W on the "We'll"?

Ah, heck with the website. This stuff is really good, and you can drink it with a clean conscience.

Edit: So I found the pamphlet which came with the Ubuntu. Like you might expect, it's touting the good-for-the-worldness of Fairtrade goods. It has a printed excerpt from a blog by an African sugar farmer, he talks about cows. It has a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It mentions Zulu community support. Etc. The most important thing about this is that it turned up in the stamp drawer. My wife's stamp drawer. She seemed embarrassed and claimed to have no idea how it got there, though I will point out that the pamphlet is conveniently stamp book shaped and could easily fool someone not paying attention.

Crafty Ubuntu.

Hurrah! Reinforcements!

Pepsi Raw, I Ain't Had None Yet

So folks have been emailing me about Pepsi Raw, which is apparently being testmarketed in NYC. As far as I can tell, it's not quite the same as the Pepsi Throwback stuff - the Raw is apparently marketed towards a health conscious crowd.

Again, my hands are tied by my vow to not research things on the internet for fear of having my opinions tainted.

I aim to find some soon, maybe tonight. Or maybe NEVER.

My whole Pepsi Natural Saga:

The Prelude
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Monday, March 9, 2009

Virgil's Root Beer

A regular ol' root beer. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Virgil's Root Beer

Using Natural Ingredients, Brew a Root Beer So Pure, So Rich and Creamy, You'll Swear It's Made in Heaven

Virgil's ain't bad. It tastes natural but not pansy-ish, with a strong taste of cloves which I could only identify after reading the ingredients list. It's apparently made by Reed's, purveyor of evrything I hate - maybe it's only owned by Reed's, because this is good.

It's good. What else can I say?

Root beers are getting hard for me to judge, they all taste so similar.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Fridge Monkey

Combining drinking with stacks of glass bottles, brilliant!

The Fridge Monkey

My wife showed me this gimmicky device, I could see the hopeful glint in her eye, right through the email. A good idea, I think, but not for me. I have eigth bazillion bottles in my refrigerator and none of them are the same size, it kind of spoils the trick.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ginger People Ginger Beer

Aw, look at the little dude on the tiger.

The Ginger People Ginger Beer

The bottle art is thoroughly charming, a cute little ginger guy in a turban rides on the back of a tiger. Arcing over the head it reads "A Toast to Your Strength and Vigor". The bottle is suspiciously cloudy, but we are reassured everything is fine at the bottom of the label: "Natural ginger juice gives our ginger beer its uniquely cloudy appearance..." How nice! They knew we'd be concerned but took the time to ease our fears.

The best part is the instruction to "Gently tip to and fro and enjoy". To and fro! I want the copy writer to read me bedtime tales.

I pop the cap with my everpresent Leatherman after realizing it wasn't a twist-off. "Realizing it wasn't a twist-off" is code for "nearly tore my shirt". The first whiff of the ginger beer lifted me off the ground, it smelled like heaven. Like concentrated Canadian made Ting. I literally snorted the CO2 mist drifting out of the can up into my nostrils, there was no visible gas left after I whiffed it all up.

Heaven. Then came the first drink. It's not so much that this stuff is bad as it is that it doesn't measure up to the promise of the label and the smell. It's foamy but not full of carbonated fight, it expands in my mouth and sits there like a big slug. This corpulence is matched in the taste, nothing much happens. It's not a typical ginger taste, not at all. Compared to other ginger beers it's more like a root beer than anything else, this is reflected in the foaminess as well. There's also a hint of something like damp earth, from a forest. Which I guess makes sense, considering that this is made from a root that likes loamy soil.

Which brings me back to the label. The little root guy riding the tiger, I am suspicious of who exactly he is. What root is known for resemblance to a man, eh? Not ginger, but most certainly mandrake. Unless gathered under the most carefully arranged circumstances, mandrake root gives a death wail when pulled from the ground that will strike any hearers dead. DEAD. Furthermore, mandrake can be used to create a homonculus, animating the mandrake into a little person that will do as its master wishes. We are now back to the label, where we see a little animated root man riding a tiger.

The tiger, of course, is the hole in this theory. Unless we have tiny tigers this would mean that root man on the label is actually quite large. Bigger than a person, actuallly. At this point, I'll fall back and blame the disproportinate scale on photoshop trickery.


All that said, Ginger People Ginger Beer ain't that great. It's sweet, and leaves a delightful residue on the lips and wherever else you slop it, but otherwise the taste is pretty bland. Sure it's a ginger beer and not a ginger ale, but that ain't no excuse.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Turkey Hill Iced Tea - Lemon Flavored

Okay, so I seem to have lost the photo I took of the bottle,
here's one swiped off their website. My bottle was this shape,
but the flavor was "Lemon Iced Tea".

Turkey Hill Iced Tea - Lemon Flavored

I've seen Turkey Hill stuff around for some time. They make ice cream, and I believe I've seen Turkey Hill convenience stores in Pennsylvania, I think they had Slurpee type dispensers there, too. In NYC I see the teas in the medium to large sized supermarkets, but had never actually seen anyone drink one till an evening of games at a pal's house.

It was a bad evening, I lost at Power Grid and Around the World in 80 Days.

Early in that dismal evening, a brother-in-law of my host showed up with a bottle of Turkey Hill Iced Tea. Someone said something about him being addicted to the stuff. That sparked my interest and moved the Turkey Hill onto my "acquisitions" list, an item I checked off just today.

My first drink almost made me vomit. Once again, I drank something without reading the fine print on the back instructing me to "shake well". Bah. That first sip was pure, unflavored syrupy sweetness. Horrible.

A good shaking makes the stuff much more bearable, but still not great. Not bad, but not very tea like. It tastes alot like the instant powdered iced teas I grew up with, and that ain't a great thing tea wise. The real pull of this stuff is in the sugar/caffeine rush, I think. Drinking about a cups worth puts me in race car mode. Brrrrrrrummm-bum-bum-bmmmmmmmmm. Honestly, the taste is only about half a pip less good than Snapple Lemon Tea, and it isn't really that it's worse but just different in a slightly less desirable way.

It's much more mellow than Snapple, that's for certain.

The bottle art is pretty tacky, with a poorly drawn polar bear wearing sun glasses and a scarf, hugging himself for warmth. He's there to illustrate that it's "cold fashioned for freshness". On the back they boast that the stuff is kept cold throughout the entire process. Wait, they DON'T say that. The cold part starts at the bottling, it's supposedly kept cold from then on. I confess I was suspicious of any tea that could be made cold.

It's sad to think that in another decade or two it might be in bad taste to use polar bears in advertising.

The side of the bottle has a relief that says "Imported from Lancaster County TM". Trademarked. They trademarked that phrase. That's sort of silly and sad. And I wonder if they sell these same bottles in Lancaster County, where it wasn't imported because it was made there. Maybe I'll call 800-MY-DAIRY and ask.

Anyways, this stuff ain't great but it ain't bad. It's a pretty neutral way to get lots of sugary crap in your body fast. Honestly, I don' really recommend it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

White Rock Ginger Ale

White Rock and Power Grid share a similar color scheme.

White Rock Ginger Ale

Wow, this is some mundane crap. My first drink tastes like flat carbonated water. I put the cap back on and give it a few light twists, hoping that the stuff has separated in the bottle and needs to be remixed...

...No, it's just awful. The flavor is really weak and all I can really taste is the carbonation. My taste buds don't rebel completely because of the delightful amount of corn syrup, it's still a sugar rush. Basically, it tastes like weaker and slightly sweeter Schweppes.

It has a sideways chemical taste hidden in the carbonation reek. Mixed in there is a flat 7-up taste that isn't all bad. The whole thing ends in a watery aftertaste, not the usual cardboard burn found in ginger drinks.

"Psyche the Goddess of Purity and White Rock's trademark, signifies White Rock's commitment to the upmost quality, purity and refreshment in beverages". Personally, I think Psyche should hit them with a defamation suit, both for being associated with this soft drink and being labeled "the Goddess of Purity". She was no such thing, at least I'm pretty sure she wasn't. I invoke my "no research" rule as an excuse for not coming up with a footnote on this.

Positive things about this drink... Hmmm. It comes in a bottle with the picture of a girl with wings on it, that's a plus. It's not caffeinated. I like that. Simple ingredients list is a plus as well. I bought a quart and not a two liter, that's the best part .

So yeah, White Rock Ginger Ale tastes like a cheap discount soda. Why it was for sale in an upscale New York grocery store, I have no idea. It certainly didn't measure up to its surroundings.

Regatta Ginger Beer


Regatta Ginger Beer

There's a lot going on in this ginger beer, it's seemingly sweet at first but that quickly dissipates in the busy melange of spice and flavors. For all the complicated nonsense, it still seems a straightforward taste. You have to listen to hear all the different instruments.

It smells perfect. It smells cold, and gingery, and clean. This level of nose perfection I've only found in Canadian Ting and Australian Bundaberg.

It's not too hot, it doesn't fight on the way down but does tend to simmer in the back of the throat long after the bottle is finished. Such is the nature of ginger and carbonation, though, and I can't find fault with a ginger beer for doing what comes natural to a ginger beer. It's like getting mad at your neighbors dog for barking all night and day until its fed poisoned hamburger.

The funny thing about this, is that it's good but soulless. It's all the good stuff of ginger beer, but none of the bad - no cardboard taste, no overwhelming ginger wackiness. Even the label is a little too well designed, what with its logo of two boats about to crash. It's a little too classy looking.

And the old rule applies: Anything that says 'authentic' on the label, probably isn't authentic. But don't avoid it, it's better than most.