Thursday, May 29, 2008

Virgil's Black Cherry Cream Soda | Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory

Anyone who's ever tasted a Virgil's Root Beer can tell you two things. For one, it's really expensive. Also, it's mighty tasty (partially attributed to the fact that it's so expensive, thus leaving the taster no choice but to savor every intimate sip). The all-natural beverage "micro brewed with black cherry and vanilla beans" is a lot of things. It's a seagull perched on a tall rock. A drive through an old park with your lover. An observation of some mountains from the top of a ferris wheel, perhaps.

Honestly, I have never found anything remotely close to a Virgil's Black Cherry Cream Soda before today. It's worth the money. It might be worth all your money (assuming you make quite little, and your children are not enrolled in private school).

This Virgil guy claims to gather his ingredients worldwide. In his words, it's "what Ben and Jerry's is to ice cream," and "what Dom Perignon is to champagne." If you're a wine-taster turned soda-enthusiast (I know you're hiding out there somewhere) or a Wall Street gentleman who'd feel too second-rate chintzy strolling around with a Capt'n Eli's Parrot Punch in hand, what other choice could there be? All snobbery aside, I'm convinced this gourmet beverage would suit anyone well. Confession time: I drank it alongside some leftovers from Taco Bell, and it completely counterbalanced the otherwise deplorable quality of my table d'hote.

I got my bottle at Whole Foods Market. Check out Virgil's other products- their Root Beer and Real Cola- if you haven't already. A variety of places to find them are listed here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer | Less Kick Than a Buffalo Rock, More Rock Than a Buffalo Kick

Bermuda is home to many things: the world's prettiest beaches, a thriving economic community, tacky shorts-and-socks combinations, and none other than Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer. I was lucky enough to travel there (and drink me some) my freshman year of college. I remembered this experience only after uncovering this colorful can at a service station in Little 5 Points, Atlanta.

I'd like to say that ginger beer is basically the same as ginger ale, but that would be an injustice. Ginger beer is, across the board, more strongly flavored with ginger, less carbonated, and sweetened to a far lesser degree. Jamaica has some cool g.b. brands, but Barritt's has less cayenne than most of those. Really, if it was any easier to find, I'd drink it over Schweppes or Vernors any day of the week. But as many of my close friends will tell you, Buffalo Rock* beats them all.
(*more on this at a later time)

If you're ever in Bermuda (or, evidently, many parts of Australia), you might find folks drinking a mixed cocktail called a Dark 'N' Stormy. This is comprised of ginger beer and black rum over ice with a lime wedge. I never got to enjoy one since I was eighteen at the time-- and you shouldn't either, kids!

Go no further than the the Barritt's company website to read some history and find a link to their overseas availability.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Henry Weinhard's Vanilla Cream | Big Sky, Little Soda

If you were frantically looking for my father or myself sometime during the past week and a half, you would have had a tough time, as we were camping somewhere in the mountains of Montana. While there, my agenda included the task of finding as many unique sodas from the West to fill a suitcase. This job proved fruitless. The soda (or dare I say "pop"?) selection at all the tiny shops and service stations from Missoula to the Swan Valley displeased me. On trips prior, I had enjoyed bottles of Flathead Lake Monster Hand Crafted Gourmet Huckleberry Soda, but this time around, nothing of the sort could be found.

I did, however, find some Portland, OR vanilla cream soda while stopping in for some groceries. The gentleman on the label, who calls himself Henry, suggested I give his bottle a try. I took his advice because he had a beard that spoke honesty, and because I still haven't bought a can of Fanta since they started running those god-awful Spice Girl ads.

The Henry Weinhard people also brew beer, which my father and I partook of on a few evenings. This beer paled in comparison to MT's locally-brewed Moose Drool Brown Ale, and Colorado's Fat Tire (we drank both at a legendary hole-in-the-wall type of bar called Liquid Louie's).
To the state of Montana: you seem to support local businesses quite well. My hopes for shop owners is that you'll practice similar techniques and carry more alternative beverages in the future. That is all.

Henry Weinhard's drinks can be found at Beverages Direct.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weis Up! and The Awful Salesperson Who Should

Quick story. An unusually disturbingly outrageously wrong thing happened while buying this drink. At Sodamania/Subs-N-Such (the place I've already plugged twice, and was planning on remaining complete loyal to for eternity), I went to the counter to purchase this funny little can.  the guy told me the Weis Up! would be 81 cents. As I handed him a ten I watched as he handed back four dollars and some change. I said, "How much was that again?" and kindly explained he must've forgotten to throw a five in there with all the ones. He looked at me like I was an idiot, told me I should check my pockets better because he definitely gave me a five, and then made me wait- embarassed, people were looking, waiting- while he kicked his feet around, whispering something to the (presumed) manager about whatever stunt he believed I was trying to pull. He eventually forked over the rest of my change as I held my tongue. It was a tense situation. Quite the Larry David moment, I must say, as I almost told the guy, "Yeah, that's what I do. I go into stores for a drink every **ing day and try accusing salespeople of giving back incorrect change." Sigh.

Oh well. I'll still be returning there, because a) I have no choice, the place is an incredibly convenient source for my "research," b) this guy probably just has a mean-spirited soul and the rest of the staff (who have always seemed plenty friendly thus far) have to fight back the impulse to kick his ass daily also, and c) though implausible, the drink might be cursed*.

But ANYWAY.. on to the soda itself..
Weis Up! was created by Weis Choice, a division of (to my surprise) Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. We've all seen this sort of thing: a supermarket making generic sodas and foods under their private label. I mean, anyone who's ever thrown a BBQ party knows purchasing these fakeys is the only thrifty way to keep a cooler stocked. But how their lemon-lime soda ended up in a store's tiny cooler all the way down in Tampa Bay puzzles me. I would've stuck around and gathered information had I not been so angry at the aforementioned employee. Though direct comparisons to 7 Up are inevitable, the light drink seems more in line with Sprite. Whichever of the two it more resembles, one thing's for certain: unlike many predecessors, Weis Up! doesn't taste over-sweetened, probably due in part to the natural lemon and lime flavors (the soda still does have 38g of sugar). No unbearable aftertaste, either.

To my knowledge, Weis Choice colas can't be found on the internet. My advice is to decide how much drinking this product means to you, and remember if need be you can always find a lovely place of residence in the northeast. 

(*Implausible indeed. The rest of my day ended up alright.)