Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mountain Dew: Pitch Black

I finally managed to get my hands on one of these on my way up to D.C. this past weekend. I have been looking for it for a while now in South Carolina, to no avail, so I was happy to see this one sitting on the shelf at a stop during our trip.

Mountain Dew: Pitch Black was a pretty big deal when it was originally released back in 2004. Many people to try the drink hailed it as the best flavor of Mountain Dew ever to be released, and sales of the limited edition flavor were generally regarded as very successful. After leaving Mountain Dew fans in suspense for the better part of seven years, Pitch Black was finally re-released this year, again on a limited edition run.

In the interest of fairness, I feel that I should start off by saying that I have never been a huge fan of Mountain Dew. I don't dislike it, but it is generally just too sweet for me, particularly in its tempting 20 oz. serving size. Pitch Black is also very sweet, as you would expect a Mountain Dew with extra fruit flavor to be, but the sweetness is offset by a pleasant and more interesting taste than the original. The added black grape flavor seems to bring down the acidity a bit and almost mellows out the overall flavor. The grape flavor is good, although artificial, and is more prominent in the mixture than the rest of the Mountain Dew flavor. As mentioned before, Pitch Black is still pretty sweet, and I did not finish the entire 20 oz. bottle, but it was still much easier to drink and I did not tire of the sweetness as fast as other Mountain Dew varieties.

After finally being able to experience the Pitch Black phenomenon for myself, I can say that I now understand what all the hype was about. Mountain Dew: Pitch Black is pretty good. It's a little bit on the artificial, sugary side, and 20 ounces is still a little bit much at one time, but I would definitely buy it again.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Unremembered filling station on I-95.
Size: 20 fl. oz.
Price: $1.60

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No posts this week.

So as the title of this post suggests, I will not be doing reviews this week. I have decided to take the week off for vacation, as I am leaving tomorrow to go to Washington D.C. for the weekend with some friends of mine. I am originally from the Baltimore area, so I have been to D.C. quite a few times in the past, but it has been a while since I've been back (almost seven years), and I am very excited to see how the city has changed since my last visit. I will hopefully be trying a myriad of different beverages while I'm there, and we are planning on recording a podcast or two during the trip.

I will be returning to the regular update schedule next week, and I am very much looking forward to investigating  new material for the site over the weekend. In the meantime, be sure to check out my review of CrazyDrops in the post below. L3 Home has developed a great product that definitely deserves your attention.

Anyway, those who are interested can keep up with my beverage-related exploits in D.C. by following me on Twitter or facebook, or just checking in with the sidebar widget. I am looking forward to sharing some of the good beverage news from D.C. with all of you upon my return.

Until then,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Crazy Drops

I was recently sent a couple of samples of a new liquid water enhancer by an independent company by the name of L3 Home. To date, this is the second liquid water enhancer that I have tried, and although only two brands is certainly not a huge data set from which to pull information, these liquid flavorings have a pretty good track record so far.

CrazyDrops are very small bottles of highly concentrated fruit flavor. And when I say small, I mean small. These things are about the size of a prescription eye drop bottle, if not a bit smaller.

No camera tricks here. These are just that small.

Each bottle contains approximately 30 servings of flavor, with the recommended serving being 8 drops of flavoring per 8 fl. oz. of water. One drop per ounce of water means that there is a lot of solute packed into these small containers, and it is always nice to be able to modify your serving to better fit your personal tastes. One thing that I really like about CrazyDrops is the "dropper" style nozzle on the top of the bottle. It makes adding the flavoring a slower process, but it allows the user a lot more control over how much is being added. Once a comfortable level of flavor is established, it is very easy to add the same amount of flavoring each time by simply counting out the right number of drops. My only complaint about the packaging is that the lids do not seem to tighten down super securely. Although the seal is probably tight enough for most circumstances, it's not unreasonable to imagine the lids being knocked loose if left to be tossed around inside of a pocket or a purse. This is not a huge problem for me, as I typically just leave these sorts of things on my desk at work, but those intending to travel with their CrazyDrops should make sure that they are in a secure spot before setting out.

Overall, I really like the taste of CrazyDrops. I received both the blueberry and passion fruit flavors for my review, and they are both quite tasty, particularly the blueberry. Despite the name containing an adjective indicating a lack of control, CrazyDrops are actually fairly subtle in flavor. I was somewhat surprised to discover this, but I actually prefer water enhancers to be subtle. I think that the purpose of water enhancers should be to make your water more interesting and enticing, not completely transform it into something else. L3 Home seems to understand this, and has engineered a product that is light and refreshing, yet still offers an interesting flavor without overpowering the water. The flavors are also fresh and crisp, and I found the blueberry taste in particular to be pretty close to the natural taste of the fruit.

CrazyDrops are sweetened with sucralose, but the sweetening is also subtle and does not leave the typical sucralose aftertaste. There is some aftertaste, but it is nowhere near as strong as the taste left behind by other artificially sweetened beverage products and does not linger quite as long. One thing that I found particularly interesting about my experience with CrazyDrops is that although the flavoring itself is colored, the drops are so highly concentrated that the coloring simply dissipates into the water, leaving you with a clear, non-colored beverage. The use of artificial colorings tends to cause a controversy amongst fans of completely organic beverages, but the coloring used in CrazyDrops is so minimal that it barely even offers grounds for complaint.
All in all, I really like crazy drops. They are convenient, inexpensive, tasty, relatively healthy, and they offer a great alternative to highly sweetened beverages for those who shy away from the often boring tastelessness of water. I, for one, love drinking water, but even I sometimes have trouble getting motivated to drink it in large quantities. CrazyDrops offers an excellent solution to the often tiresome doldrums of our essential dihydrogen monoxide intake. I would definitely recommend them to those seeking to make their daily water dosage a little more interesting, and I know that I will certainly be purchasing more of these in the future.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I really like the blueberry flavor?

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Check out CrazyDrops here at the L3 Home website.
Or check them out on facebook.

Review samples sponsored by L3 Home
Size: 6 mL [Approximately 30 servings per bottle]
Price: $2.60 - $2.75 per bottle

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rogue Mocha Porter

Beer is a very popular beverage, and rightly so. This popularity benefits the consumer by allowing him or her access to an almost limitless variety of different beers to try and enjoy. However, this popularity can also detriment the consumer by allowing him or her access to an almost limitless variety of different beers to try and enjoy. The huge market variety available in the world of beers insures that the consumer will always be able to try something new and fresh, but it also insures that some very good beers will be surpassed unknowingly for less favorable alternatives, and many beers will be missed altogether, never to be discovered by many potential enthusiasts. It can, for the discerning beverage enthusiast, be a distressing dichotomy. But it is the natural economic result of any market saturated with what are largely substitute goods, and it is certainly hard to complain when the resulting selection of tastes is so vast and interesting.

Rogue Mocha Porter is one of the aforementioned beers that I probably never would have tried of my own accord. It is a bit on the expensive side (not crazy expensive, just a bit high for my current budget), and I likely would have just overlooked it forever had I not found a six-pack on clearance at a local grocery store. I'm glad that I got a chance to try this one after all, because it's pretty good. It's a very dark, malty beer with heavy hints of bittersweet chocolate mixed into the brew. The beer has a very natural cocoa taste, and aromas of very dark chocolate linger in the olfactory throughout the experience. Overall the taste is good, and is definitely interesting.

Although the taste is deep and appealing, Rogue's Mocha Porter is a very heavy beer. I am, in general, a big fan of stouts and dark ales, but this one was almost too much even for me. I usually enjoy the taste until a little bit more than halfway through the bottle, at which point finishing the beverage becomes quite a daunting task. I typically have to take this one in two sittings. This is definitely not a beer for those who shy away from heavier flavors, but it is otherwise a great one to try at least once, especially if you are able to arrange small portions or split it with someone. I don't know that I would recommend Rogue Mocha Porter to everyone or even buy it again myself, but it was definitely worth trying out at half price.  

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Bi-Lo [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $5.99 [Discounted from $11.99]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Orange Fanta (Mexican import)

As stated on the most recent episode of the Drinkable Review Podcast, I have never been a big orange soda drinker. It is typically too sweet for me, and I have trouble drinking more than a few sips. I can like it in small doses, but I generally just avoid it altogether.

That being said, I recently found that a grocery store near my place of work keeps a regular stock of Orange Fanta imported from Mexico. Let's just go ahead and put this out there: I am not a fan of American Fanta. I find it to be much too sweet, and the flavors all taste like candy. However, I have heard good things about the foreign versions of Fanta from travelling friends, especially in regard to the European formulas, so I decided to give this Central American variety a taste. Having excitedly returning to the store several times since then to continue to purchase the stuff, I feel safe in saying that Mexican Fanta is almost an entirely different beverage.

The first thing that stands out as different is the aroma of the Mexican formula. It is much more mellow and reminiscent of real oranges than the harsh sweetness of its American counterpart. It still does not smell like sniffing an actual orange, but it is definitely closer to the source. The taste follows in this trend, and is much more flavorful than our typical gas-station variety. The "reduced" sweetness of the drink allows one to really taste the orange flavor of the beverage, and works well in the formula to help emphasize some of the more subtle elements. The aftertaste is also much more dry and does not linger on the palete as long as other drinks of its type, although this is a fairly common result of using natural sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.

Mexican Fanta is great. It's less sweet, more flavorful, easier to drink, and really just better than most American orange sodas that I have had, making it an easy recommendation. Putting aside the issues and arguments about sugar taxes and the controversies about high fructose corn syrup, I think that it is safe to say that, at least in my experience, sweeter is usually not better, regardless of what sweetener is being used. The rest of the world seems to understand this a little bit better than the United States, and this case of Fanta "hecho en Mexico" is a great example. 

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Piggly Wiggly [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $1.69

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Polar Ginger Ale

 I have been a big fan of ginger ale ever since I was a little kid. Although my interest in mainstream ginger ales (i.e. Canada Dry, Seagram's, etc.) has been waning lately in favor of the more natural and spicy alternatives, I still loving having a good, sweet ginger ale from time to time. Polar Ginger Ale is a new favorite of mine in this regard.

Polar Ginger Ale is not terribly different from many other more common ginger ales that you might find in most convenience stores. That recognizable ginger taste is there amidst the sugar, but it is a good bit more subtle than in Polar's more mainstream counterparts. I am tempted to say that Polar Ginger Ale is less flavorful than its competitors, but I don't think that this is really the case. Rather, I think that Polar's flavor balance is more even and carefully proportioned. It also tastes a lot less sweet and syrupy than others of its type, and has a clean, dry aftertaste that does not linger strongly in the olfactory.

Overall, I like Polar Ginger Ale a good bit. I'd definitely recommend it above other sorts of mainstream ginger ales, and I think that the more mild and subtle take on the conventional ginger ale taste is a good approach. I've also found that the "reduced" sweetness of Polar Ginger Ale makes it a very good cocktail mixer, as it works very well with and does not overtake the flavor of whatever you mix with it. I personally enjoy a simple mixture of two ounces of bourbon with five or six ounces of ginger ale, but that is certainly not to imply that Polar would not work well with any cocktail of your choosing. If you are a fan of ginger ales, or are looking for a good, "low-key" cocktail ale, Polar Ginger is definitely one to add to your list.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Piggly Wiggly [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 33.8 fl. oz. [1 L]
Price: $0.99

Friday, June 3, 2011

Abita Turbodog

I have really had a thing for dark beer lately. I never used to like the darker stuff, as it was too strong and flavorful for me on the advent of my interest in beer, but dark beers really are one of those acquired tastes that everybody talks about all the time. The more dark beers that I tried, the more that I began to like the stuff, and it didn't take long before dark ales and stouts became my favorite types of beer. 

I had seen Turbodog in stores for a while before I finally decided to give it a try at a favorite bar of mine a few months ago, but I avoided it for several months because the name "Turbodog" gave me this totally unjustified feeling that it might have been a "bro beer," and I subsequently put it towards the bottom of my need-to-try list. However, I am glad that I finally got around to trying one, because I really like it. 

Turbodog is an American brown ale that is brewed with a combination of malts, giving it an interesting dark chocolate-like flavor. Turbodog also boasts a unique toffee flavor that at first I did not recognize, but after educating myself with the bottle and returning to my glass, it seemed almost like a no-brainer. The toffee taste is subtle, but I think perfectly so. Once you know that it's there, it is fairly easy to pick up. Overall, the flavor of Turbodog is strong, pronounced, and homogeneous. It's not necessarily bad if a drink's flavor is not homogeneous, but there's just something about the harmony of a good, well-balanced taste that makes the drink go down so much more smoothly, particularly with regard to beers. 

I really like Turbodog. So much so, in fact, that it has become my new "exit beer" (the predetermined last beer of the evening, so as to guarantee leaving on a good note) at one of the local bars that I frequent. If you are not a fan of dark ales, then you may just want to steer clear of this one, but if you like the darker side of beer, or are looking to expand your beer horizons to include some of the more strong and flavorful stuff, this is definitely one to check out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Corley's Market and Grill [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl.oz. [355 mL]
Price: $8.99 [Six-pack]