Monday, August 30, 2010

This is What I Drink: 65

Royal Crown Cola

Royal Crown cola has always been the under-appreciated little brother of the cola world. Coke and Pepsi get all the attention, while Dr. Pepper rules the roost at the Dr. Pepper/7UP company which RC is also distributed under. However, it's pretty much been around as long as those other guys, so I think it deserves more respect. The tough thing though is that at least on the East coast, it's not quite as readily available as the midwest. I guess Pepsi and Coke have the monopoly on distribution over here because it's definitely more rare to see RC around these parts. Anyway, taste wise I've always really liked RC. I'd say it's more similar to Pepsi than Coke, but it definitely has its own thing going on. I think part of it is that I rarely drink it, usually only on tour, so I definitely have a soft spot for it. I'm thinking that a cane sugar RC out of a bottle would go down really nicely. I've still also never made my Crown Royal + Royal Crown cola cocktail, the "double Royale" if you will. There are a million great names for that cocktail. I'll make it soon enough.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This is What I Drink: 64


Well, I presented ya'll with some of the artificial offerings a few days ago, and they're fine for what they are, but let's get down to the real stuff. To me, there's nothing better than walking into the local coffee joint in a city and getting a great cup of coffee. Since this was a summer tour, you'll be seeing mostly iced varieties. There are some exceptions with those chilly Pacific Northwest cities (brrrrrr!), but otherwise it's icy cool. This should be a long one, so let's get to the goods!

Olympia Roaster's Iced Americano + Latte

You couldn't help but love this little shack by the road. From my few experiences out West, this style of coffee shack is pretty common, and why not? They're small and most likely cost effective. Just an espresso machine, some freindly baristas, and some good benches outside and you're set. The Seattle area is reknowned for their coffee, and the attitude of this place lived up to it. They were readily prepared to make a 4-shot Americano for a bunch of caffeine needy dudes and they did it without hesistating. The first day I went for the iced Americano which was very good. It definitely had a nice bitter flavor and served properly in a corn cup. It was the perfect flavor and strength to fuel a trip around the lovely city of Olympia, Washington. I should note that the price was a little above $3, which is a bit pricey, but I understand since it's a quad shot. The next day I went in for a latte. A latte is something I only order on occasion usually because of the price. With three shots, this sucker will run you something north of $3.50, but that's around what you expect. You'll certainly notice the beautiful "latte art" that I presume is an evergreen, very common in the region. I can't say I've ever had a bad latte, but this one was especially good. It takes a certain amount of skill to make it, and it was a very good start to a cool 50 degree morning.

Batdorf and Bronson Latte - Olympia

So I had this latte just a couple of hours after the previous latte. We had just walked around the suprisingly big downtown of Olympia for a while and were looking for a place just to relax (and possibly use the restroom, believe me, it's rough on tour) for a few minutes. We were definitely surprised to see that the local Starbuck's was hopping. You'd think that with all of the other quality coffee options that nobody would go into the Starbuck's, but I'm not sure of the dynamic here. Anyway, I ordered up a smaller 10 oz. latte because I felt adquately caffein'd. You'll see that this time I got a really nice <3>

Floyd's - Portland, Oregon

This was a must stop. I was feeling the early afternoon tiredness when a friend we were staying with recommended Floyd's which was close by. Everything was great except for the price. A medium standard brewed iced coffee cost a hefty $3 while the largest at 20 oz was $3.50. Personally, this is just enough for me to be bummed out enough about a coffee place. There's not enough specially done to ice a coffee that makes this kind of price acceptable. It was fine for the coffee, but when your push your price a little too far, you're going to push the people away, and that's how I felt here. Nice shop, but not for the everyman.

Vinacafe - Los Angeles (kinda)

Here is another bonus given to us by a fan. When I see instant coffee, my first instinct is definitely "bad news." Instant coffee normally equals the least common denominator to me. Surprisingly, this was not the output of this particular brand. Vinacafe uses a typically "Viatnamese" blend which is very sweet. They get this right because it is very drinkable. On the package they say it's a "three in one" because they include creamer, sugar, and coffee. Of course it's true because they pump some sugar and "artificial creamer" into it, and I'll say that it tastes great, but really, what are you drinking? If we were in a good spot to snag a drinkable coffee I would go there, but I'll give this stuff credit. It may have been the first time I've ever gone for seconds for an instant coffee and that's saying something. But in reality, a good instant coffee is like a fantastic McCafe (you'll see later).

McCafe - Utah (just outside Salt Lake City)

There aren't many positive reviews here. Actually, they had a good restroom. They had a big screen TV with ESPN to watch while taking a whiz. Otherwise, they didn't take my request. I had heard from my brother that it was pretty easy to order a BLACK iced coffee with no sweetener. I specifically asked for this from my clerk. She even responded "no sugar?" I said, "yes." What did I get? A super vanilla-ey ultra-sweetened disaster. I drank it because I felt there was some positive caffeine hidden somewhere there, but otherwise I felt defeated. I was even more defeated when my friend in the band discovered a hometown coffee shop within the city. Oh well. I've given McD enough shots. No more. This is the end of the line. Peace out, Ronald.

Progress Coffee - Austin, Texas

It was super hot down in Texas, something like 105 degrees. There's nothing better than an iced coffee to counteract that heat. This place was incredibly friendly and there were a lot of cool looking people on their laptops. I can't totally recall the price for a large iced coffee here, but I think it was pretty standard for the size. Something like $2.50. I forget because I also bought a bagel with it, so it's all jumbled in my brain. I should take better notes. Oh well. Anyway, they serve this iced coffee in a biodegradable corn cup which always makes me feel better. There's nothing particular memorable about this coffee, but it was pretty good and I would return to this establishment again.

Java Joe's - Des Moines, Iowa

This was at least my third stop in at Java Joe's in my life. We've played the venue right next to it twice. This time we happened to stay at a hotel nearby so we decided to pop into town to see JJ again. This is a gigantic coffee shop. I'm also pretty sure that more people were in the coffee shop than at our shows both times we've played there. Anyway, there's a reason for that because it's a very nice shop. They had rare sizes for their iced coffees (16/24/32). I wasn't quite feeling bold enough to go for the large with a long car ride coming up, so I stuck with the 24 ounce (also got an egg sandwich, yo.) The coffee was pretty good, but I think the environment of the place really makes it. It's probably the one spot I would definitely recommend in Des Moines because it's kind of a weird town otherwise.

Javaroo - Baltimore, Maryland

Chronologically, this was the final iced coffee for me on the tour. We had some time to wander around in B-more and we were searching for some coffee and we came accross this place. How can you turn down animal-related coffee? They had something like a "lion latte" as well, but I stuck with an iced coffee. This place also sold fudge, and the very nice young lady behind the counter gave us free fudge! This has nothing to do with how the coffee tasted, but free fudge usually makes you feel better! The coffee was okay, but again, it was a friendly place and I had a good experience. I think a large iced coffee was $2.25 or so, fairly reasonable. The fudge was $0.00, extremely reasonable.

Opening Bell Coffee - Dallas, TX

For some reason videos show up after pictures, so this one is out of order, but whatevs. I remember this place had a very sarcastic clerk. I kind of thought he was funny, but some other patrons seemed a bit weirded out by him. Anyway, I remember really needing a coffee, and despite it being after my 4 PM caffeine cutout, I went for it anyway. I remember this coffee being pretty tasty. The price was in the familiar range as well. I wish I had more to say about it, but it was a pretty nice place. It seemed like the only nice place in a strange neighborhood.


Well, due to some technology fails on my part, a couple of the iced coffees I had didn't get transferred over to the computer somehow and now are lost in the air somewhere. I'd like to mention them though.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I can't remember the name of this place, but it was nice. We had a bit of a scare here when we asked for iced coffee and we saw the clerk pour hot coffee into a cup of ice. Luckily for us, this place uses coffee cubes, so basically it just melted coffee into more coffee. Otherwise it would have been a lukewarm mess. I think this is the first time I've ever been served coffee cubes and I loved it! It just tasted really great as the coffee cubes melted. This may have been one of the better iced coffees of the tour and I think it was actually my first! Coffee cubes all the way.

Stir Crazy - Los Angeles

I'm really pissed that the video I took of this coffee didn't make it through. The whole video was of me walking down the street and chucking this shitty iced coffee into the trash can. That's how bad it was. I rarely throw away coffee, even if it's terrible, so it really had to be bad. It just tasted old and completely stale, like they had made it four days ago or something. It was also not even that cold even with ice. I think it may not have even been in the fridge. What made it worse was the douche talking about "e-mailing his script" on the patio. Bad time all around.

Alright, well, that took a while! The Pacific Northwest is still my favorite coffee hotspot, but there's good stuff all around out there. Mediocre and bad stuff too. I guess that's that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This is What I Drink: 63

Powerade Zero??? - Mixed Berry

Here's an oddball entry for the day. I feel like this is a drink I would probably never buy, but after we were given some for free and I saw it rolling around in the van, why not give it a go? We had just taken a particularly long walk down the main street of an Indiana town and I was legitimately sweating an awful lot. We had no water in the van, and we weren't all that close to any stores to buy some, so it was Powerade Zero time! In context of feeling really dehydrated, this tasted pretty good to me at the time. In any other context I'd say that it's kinda gross. That shouldn't be much of a surprise. I've never been very fond of artificial sweetener in any drink, and so it goes for sports drinks as well. I'm not saying that a super sugary drink would be better for you (it would probably be worse actually), but the weird taste has always rubbed me the wrong way. I suppose "the enhanced electrolyte system" is helpful, but I don't if they're just telling me what I want to hear or if there's some kind of special blend of stuff in there or not. Anyway, it's not bad and it quenched me a bit, but plain 'ole water has usually done me well when I'm working up a sweat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This is What I Drink: 62

Canned Coffee Competition!

Ahh, the energy drink business. I've never really been able to get behind the standard energy drink. The style and flavor of something like Red Bull or Monster has never been very appealing to me. But if you mask that with a coffee-base? I'm right there with you. You put all those vitamins and guarana in there as much as you want as long as there's a decent coffee flavor there.

Touring is a great time to indulge in these beverages as well. If I'm at home I will make my own coffee or go to the coffee shop to get some iced coffee. But on tour you find yourself at a convenience store where your choices are usually shitty gas station coffee or one of these drinks in the cooler. I'm more likely to go for the cooler, especially during a hot summer tour. I'm going to take a stab at pointing out the positives and negatives of a few of these RTD (ready to drink) coffee lines that I've tried and which I enjoyed the most.

Java Monster (Mean Bean, Russian, and Xpresso varieties)

As far as I can remember, Java Monster was the first of these coffee+energy drinks that I ever tried. Looking at the ingredients before hand, you kind of know what you're getting into. It's way sweeter and creamier than I would ever want my coffee. I never sweeten my coffee with sugar anymore and I go pretty light on the cream, so it's certainly different in that regard. You then accept that for some reason there's 200% of vitamin B6 and B12 and all sorts of other vitamins and the BUZZ word of an entire generation of energy drinks "guarana". With all that other garbage in there, there's actually a lot less caffeine in these things than coffee, but that other stuff is supposed to balance it out.

Flavor wise, it's pretty clear what you are getting. The "Mean Bean" has a vanilla taste, the "Loca Mocha" has a chocolate taste, there's an "Original" flavor that's supposed to be more of a black coffee taste and so on. The "Russian flavor is where things get kinda weird. The packaging basically explains that they are going for the flavor of a White Russian without the alcohol. Okay, so a White Russian is cream + coffee liquor, and vodka. Does that mean that Monster puts some kind of artificial flavor that's supposed to taste like vodka in this? It's confusing because otherwise coffee and cream would be the only flavors which would be normal. After tasting it, I'm still not exactly sure what they're going for. Either way, I bought it because I think it's funny. Taste wise, the Xpresso variety is the true champion of the lineup. In terms of volume, you are getting less (9 ounces vs. 15), but in terms of concentrated coffee flavor, the Xpresso actually tastes pretty good and not as loaded with sweetener. Java Monsters usually run anywhere from $2-$3, so they can be kind of pricey. It's not a great drink, but I find it provides the function and enough good taste that I keep buying them while on tour.

Starbuck's + Seattle's Best

Starbuck's is really why this whole category exists. I can't remember exactly when they first launched the RTD Frappuccino, but that's really when we first started seeing coffee in the coolers. They were a bit later to the game on the whole coffee+energy thing, but of course they have their own line now. It's actually my least favorite of the bunch though. The Starbuck's brand does the worst job of hiding the gross guarany/vitaminy taste which clearly makes it the worse. You'd think their focus would be on providing the best coffee flavor, but I think they got carried away with the whole energy thing and lost sight of the coffee.

Seattle's Best doesn't quite fit here because it doesn't have the same kind of "energy" ingredients as the others, but I included it here because Starbuck's recently started distributing it. Because it doesn't cater to the same ideas of Java Monster/Doubleshot, the flavor is more concentrated and there is less volume, similar to the Xpresso variety I mentioned earlier. For that reason, it is a bit tastier. The pure coffee focus is good, but I'm not really sure what differentiates this from a Starbuck's Frappuccino. I suppose people don't know they're technically the same brand, so it doesn't really matter. Anyway, these also run around the prices of $2-3, but you always feel slightly ripped off when getting less than 10 ounces, or at least I do.

Rockstar Roasted

Rockstar (distributed by Coke) is the last to enter here. Somehow I don't have a picture of the one I drank on tour, so I had to steal one from the greats at By now you probably get the gist of the basic flavor profile of these drinks. Cream, coffee, vitamin, guarana. There's not a whole lot different here, but I think Rockstar Roasted happens to taste the best of them all. Before this tour I thought I was a Java Monster man, but I've changed my mine. Rockstar Roasted definitely does the best job of disguising any of that "energy drink" taste and just letting the coffee do it's work. It's still too sweet and creamy for my taste, but it's my favorite of the full volume drinks I've talked about there.

Well, as you see I've got a lot to say about this category and I have a lot of fun drinking these RTD coffees. In the land of the highway rest stop, the coffee lover is usually not the king. If you're lucky there will be a Starbuck's and you can just buy a regular black iced coffee for the same price as these drinks, but that's rarely the case. In these cases, I wouldn't reach for Starbuck's in the cooler though (at least in the energy category). Stick with Rockstar or Java Monster Xpresso. They may gross you out a bit, as they usually do to me, but I keep coming back on tour. I don't think I'd ever buy these at home though.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is What I Drink: 61

Dogfish Head/Stone/Victory Saison du Buff

There was a lot of hype behind the release of this beer and with good reason. These three breweries are pretty big players in the craft beer scene, so for them to collaborate is a pretty big deal and pretty cool as well. I was severely disappointed when I missed out on Dogfish Head's last collaboration with Sierra Nevada, so I wasn't going to let that happen this time. I kept scouring the local liquor stores until I finally saw a couple of bottles one day. It was a pretty hefty price at $4 a bottle for a beer with a mid-range alcohol content (6.8%). But just this bottle design is worth it. I really like the TriForce design and as I recently bought the Dogfish bottled version, I can tell you that this Stone design is definitely cooler! As for the beer itself, it's pretty unique. If you told me I was about to drink a beer made with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, I probably would put the odds pretty low that I would actually like it. Dogfish/Stone/Victory have pulled it off though because it's pretty tasty. It's not something that I could envision drinking a ton of, but since I've only got a couple bottles of it, I'll gladly drink them down. The herb flavor doesn't completely take over and I think that's the key. You still get the familiar hop flavor to go along with it. Anyway, these collaboration beers definitely work for me in terms of a marketing standpoint. I couldn't wait to try it, and I'm just glad it wasn't super terrible.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This is What I Drink: 60

The Triumphant Return

As my few loyal readers may have noticed, I've been on a pretty big hiatus. That's about to come to an end. I'm back from traveling the country and I've had beverages from all over. The archive is bubbling over like a shaken up soda. The coming weeks should provide some fun new beverages and context of their location in this great nation. I can't wait to tell you what I've been drinking!