Friday, July 16, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 59

Soda Special

I was originally going to review each of these in a separate post, but I thought it would be pretty interesting to talk about them together. On one hand we have the most famous soft drink in the entire world, Coca-Cola. You probably have had it a lot, so it's probably silly for me to go into an in depth review of its taste. I will tell you that it's certainly not my favorite cola. On the other hand we have a name brand root beer from a boutique chain grocery store (unfortunately I already reviewed their cola, that would have worked nicely.)

This particular Coke can is different as you can probably see. It comes in a 7.5 ounce size rather than the typical 12 ounce. It only has 90 calories. Instead of making a product with less sugar (though they tried with the failed C2 brand), Coke has just made a smaller size. The TJ's root beer is a full 12 ounce bottle with a full 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar. Directly comparing these products is a bit foolish, but I think they are an interest contrast of the times. Coke has stuck to its "original" formula (except not using real sugar, a pretty big difference) for over a hundred years now. TJ's has only been making their soda products for a few months now as far as I know. It's a pretty good gourmet root beer though. It uses anise, wintergreen, tahitian vanilla, birch, sassafras, and cane sugar to create a classic yet complex root beer.

I thought I had a better point when pairing these beverages together, but I suppose it's that if you look past the history of it all, Coca-Cola isn't all that special. In terms of ingredients and taste, the TJ's product is superior. Unless there's something special in the "secret Coke recipe", then they've just gotten by on being there first. I'd like to see Coke take a stab at something at least like Pepsi Throwback and use cane sugar. Maybe that's too much a reminder of the "New Coke" fiasco. I suppose we can always settle for passover Coke, though I've never been able to track it down.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 58

Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout

This was one of the one's in the Southern Tier imperial series that I was anxious to finally try. It combines two of my favorite things; imperial stouts and creme brulee as a dessert. I believe vanilla beans, burnt caramel, and brown sugar were all involved in the brewing process. I was actually surprised how much I didn't like this one. The strongest flavor I got was the burnt caramelish brown sugar flavor. Admittedly, it did taste a lot like the crust of a creme brulee might taste, but it didn't do much service for the beer itself. The 10% ABV also came through a little stronger in this one than the other ST imperial series beers. It seems that maybe both the chocolate and kona versions are a better blend for the imperial stouts from Southern Tier. A disappointment taste wise, but still a pretty exciting beer to try.

Famosa Lager

This was bought after tasting a sample at my local beer store. I'll admit that I also purchased it because I happened to be wearing that chicken shirt. Weird, right? Anyway, this is a beer that the store just got in from Guatemala and its taste fit right in with the Tecate that it was shelved next to. It actually reminded me a little bit of Yuengling with that canned lager taste. The can design is really neat and it's got to be "Famosa" for a reason, right? I drank a few of these while watching an outdoor screening of Jurrasic Park on a balmy night and it was the perfect choice. It's pretty good, and I think the only thing preventing me from buying more of it is the fact that it's $6 per six-pack rather than $5 for some Yuengling.

Brooklyn Lager

I guess it's lager day here at TIWID. I always have pretty fond memories of Brooklyn Lager because it's probably one of the first microbrews that I had and enjoyed back in those dark ages when I didn't really drink good beer (ages 19-20?) I didn't know this before I looked at the bottle this 'go round, but Brooklyn Lager is brewed under the strict Reinheitsgebot, a Germany beer purity law that states beer can't have more than four ingredients; water, barley, hops, and yeast. While I respect the idea behind the law, it seems like an excuse not to be innovative. I'll give them credit though because they've made a pretty tasty beer with the four classic ingredients. There's definitely a great kick of hops there, and it is a very smooth beer to drink down. One of the better standard microbrews to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 57

The Slurpee

Every July 11th (7/11, doy), the great convenience store gives away 7.11 ounces (you can see it there on the bottom right) of its famous frozen drink brand, Slurpee, for free. As a fan of any chain or anything that gives you something for free, I'm a fan of this promotion. 7.11 ounces is a pretty good dose of a Slurpee anyway. As "slushie" style beverages go, I feel like the Slurpee is the king. It's not only got the best name recognition (perhaps other than the Simpson's Squishie), it also has the best consistency of those kind of drinks. It's so thick that it comes with the famous spoon straw which almost makes it the equivalent of a sugary and syrupy milkshake. On this day I went with a classic flavor combination, wild cherry and coca-cola. I started with a little cherry on the bottom, then filled it with coke, and then topped it off with a little more cherry. I was pretty pleased with myself. That's another great thing about a Slurpee machine is that it's inherently customizable depending on how many flavors are there. I think I've just realized how important of a beverage it is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 56

Honest Tea Half and Half

I've been a big fan of the products from Honest Tea for a long while now. I was excited that they took a stab at one of my favorite combos of all time; half black iced tea and half lemonade. While there are some tasty products that already make this bottled beverage (Nantucket Nectars and Arizona's Arnold Palmer), Honest Tea has taken a "less sweet" approach which I thought would be tough going because lemonade is always super sugary. While this is one of the sweeter products in Honest Tea's line, it still only weighs in at 100 calories per bottle. Normal Honest Tea products normally clock in anywhere from 0-80 calories per bottle. They've struck a pretty amazing balance here. It's still refreshing and sweet, but not overly sweet. You get both kicks of lemon and tea without either going overboard. And I think it is sweet enough. Some may not think the lemonade comes through enough, but this is definitely a great and healthier option.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 55

'Nother Beer Trio

First is another in the imperial series from Southern Tier, one of my favorites. It was also a chance for me to show off my Farmer's Tan which is also the name of this imperial pale lager. I really never thought I'd ever see the words "imperial" and "lager" next to each other in my beer drinking life, but here we are. I normally don't expect that much flavor from a lager, as they are usually (not always) a little bit shy on the flavor profile. Southern Tier certainly kicks it up a notch here. It still pours a very light color, but the taste is very intense. It kind of tastes like a bit of a pilsner, which is another style I don't normally like, but it's vicious it its sweetness and a bit of spice and hops. I've pretty much liked every beer in this imperial series to a degree, and this one lives up to the others.

Shiner Bock

This is a beer from Shiner, Texas that I've had a few times over the years. It's really no the best, but it's not terrible either. The bock is a pretty dark beer, but it doesn't necessarily come across in the taste. It seems to a beer that is fairly common to find even when not in Texas, and it's certainly better than a lot of the Macro boys, but it's not one I go to when I'm looking for a lot of flavor. Good session beer I suppose.

21st Amendement Hell or High Watermelon Wheat

I reviewed the IPA from these canned microbrewers from San Fran a little while ago and I'm back to try their watermelon wheat beer which is the only other style that seems to be available in these parts. I've had some fruit flavored beers before, but watermelon is a new one to me. In some ways it's a pretty good choice because actual watermelon doesn't have a very strong flavor to begin with, so it doesn't overpower the beer. That's pretty much what happens here. The watermelon is there, but you mainly get a standard wheat beer aftertaste. Wheat beers aren't my favorite, and this one was okay, but I had somewhat higher hopes for this one after enjoying their IPA so much. It's a great summer beer and the can helps it's appeal as well.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 54

Coco Rico Coconut Soda

This is one of the more unique entries for TIWID, and I thank my friend Jon for bringing it to me. Apparently this soda is very popular in Latin markets and can be found in the "ethnic" aisles of some stores around here, but it's not very common. I believe this beverage is produced in Puerto Rico. Anyway, I wasn't really sure what I was getting into with this one and I still don't. After some research, it appears this soda tries to replicate the flavor of coconut milk and not coconut meat. I don't believe I've ever directly consumed coconut milk before, so that's maybe why I had issues with this drink. I found the sweetness to be a bit unnerving (though natural coconut is certainly not anywhere near this sweet). I thought that the first three sips or so were delicious and unique, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish the whole can. I just can't see this being a drink I would go back to on a consistent basis. This definitely opens doors to a new market though, and I hope to find some of the drinks from this site very soon. I really like their website layout, I can learn a few things from those three cool dudes in Miami.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 53

Baltimore Beer Bundle

I was down in Baltimore a couple weekends ago and enjoyed a few brews as any good weekend will entail. Keep in mind that only beers #1, #3, and #5 actually have Baltimore connections, but the others were there, so they're included as well. Let's get to it!

Brewer's Art Resurrection

This one was brand new to me. I had never even heard of the brewery before this despite it just being an hour away or so down in Baltimore. I couldn't resist the idea of another microbrew in a can, so some us split the cost of this 6-pack. This is definitely the first Belgian style "dubbel" that I've ever had in a can and it's a pretty great experience. It has all the interesting notes you expect from a Belgian (fruity, sweet, hoppy, spicy), though I'm not so great at distinguishing them. A fun experience to have this beer out of a can.

Leinenkugel Summer Shandy

This is another one that I've seen often but never tried. A friend brought it to the mix so I tried one over a "friendly" game of Mortal Kombat. Shandy is typically some kind of beer mixed with lemonade and this beer definitely lived up to that description. This is a very good beer for summer, but it ends up feeling like you aren't really drinking beer. It's very light and refreshing if that's what you are looking for, but I don't get enough of a classic "beer" taste from this as the lemon overpowers almost everything. I think you've got to be in the right mood for this.

Baltimore-Washington Beer Works' The Raven

I'm glad I was able to drink a beer called "The Raven" in Baltimore. It's pretty much the only reason I even remember that I was there! I'm really glad I gave this one a shot. The restaurant was also serving Dogfish 60 Minute IPA which would have been the safe choice, but the Raven rivaled the dog. We actually sipped both the Dogfish and the Raven side by side and they tasted rather similar. It had me wondering whether the waitress just poured us all the same beer. The 60 Minute IPA maybe had a little more kick to it, but the Raven held its own to one of my favorites.

Genesee Brewing Co.'s Dundee IPA

This is from the same folks at the Genesee company whose famous Cream Ale made an appearance in my "Rochester Beer Explosion" a bunch of posts back. This is their craft brew side of things, and the quality definitely improves big time over their flagship beer. We can start off appreciating the neat bottle art, and then finish by appreciating a pretty good beer. You'll have better IPAs and you'll have worse, but the Dundee definitely hits all of the right notes. The hops, the bitterness, the citrus kick, it's all there at a nice 6.3% ABV as well. It's nice that you can go to this if you're tired of chugging down the Cream Ale night after night.

National Bohemian Beer

This is basically Baltimore's version of Genesee Cream Ale or PBR. I actually noticed that Pabst actually brews this stuff, so that makes sense. I don't have much to say about the taste because there's not much that differentiates it from some of the macrobrews that I've talked about, but it's always good to have the local version. They have the beer's mascot in the bars around and if you're going for a cheap can at the bar, you've got to go with a "Natty Bo" (which is how I would say it if I was more comfortable with myself.) A friend actually was laughed at for calling it by its full name at the bar, but hey, we were tourists.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 52

Acme Pale Ale

This was bought on a whim. I didn't know much about this brand, but I decided that it looked like it was worth a purchase. Only after did I realize that it was the same company (North Coast Brewing) that made one of the first imperial stouts I've ever tried (Old Rasputin). That's kind of irrelevant while reviewing a pale ale, however, so I think I just brought it up for the sake of bringing that up. It's a pretty good American pale ale. Nothing to distinguish as great and nothing that makes it terrible. It leaves me not regretting my purchase. That's not an entirely negative sentence, but not entirely positive either.

Philadelphia Brewing Company's Fleur de Lehigh

This was an interesting one. I had this with a group of friends when playing the wonderful board game, The Settler's of Catan (I haven't looked at this wikipedia article that I'm linking, but I can pretty much guarantee it will be extremely nerdy and entertaining.) This is a pretty weird beer. It's super herby and savory. It kind of tastes like a black pepper beer that I had a few years ago. It has a foreign version of the word "flower" in the title, so I assume that flowers are involved. Ginger seems like a possibility as well. I only had one for the night, and I couldn't see myself having many more because it's kind of an intense experience. I'm not sure I'd seek it out, but it was a good change of palate from my usual favorites.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 51

Cherry Vanilla Pepsi

It's been a little while since I've purchased a non-cane soda, but seeing this cherry-vanilla flavored Pepsi made me open the cooler. I've had cherry sodas and I've had vanilla sodas, but I'm not sure I've had them both combined until now. I think I've always been in the minority when it comes to the vanilla flavored colas. Most people I know despised the very idea, but it was a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I had a pretty intense love affair with Dr. Pepper Berries & Cream, so I felt like I was in good hands with this flavor. The final product was alright. It seemed like they played it pretty safe with the flavoring. The vanilla took over a little too much so that I couldn't really taste the cherry, but the standard Pepsi backbone was intact. I've had better Pepsi novelty flavors and I've had worse. It was a good indulgent mid-afternoon beverage purchase.