Friday, September 30, 2011

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

I have been trying a lot of different IPAs lately. I am generally a fan of dry, hoppy beers, but for some reason had never taken to India pale ales until fairly recently. Among my list of current favorites is Red Hook Brewery's Long Hammer IPA.

Red Hook's Long Hammer is a very tasty beer. It has a light, dry taste that is crisp on the palette and tastes heavily of citrus. Although the taste is bold and bitter, it does not linger long in the aftertaste, giving the beer a relatively clean and refreshing finish. I was really impressed by the aromatic citrus flavor of Red Hook's IPA. It tastes noticeably of grapefruit, a flavor of which I readily approve. Grapefruit is one of my favorite citrus fruits, and I have yet to have a grapefruit-oriented beverage that I have not enjoyed. So, needless to say (although I am about to say it anyway), I really enjoy this beer.

I think that I may add this to my list of "standby" beers. It is delicious, well-balanced, easy to find, and relatively inexpensive. Red Hook's Long Hammer IPA is a very satisfying beverage, and it is very easy for me to recommend, especially to drinkers who favor bolder beers.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Exxon Filling Station [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $7.99 [6-pack]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mr. Q. Cumber

I have been hearing/seeing things about this beverage for a while now, and although I have had cucumber beverages before and not really enjoyed them, I thought that I would give this one a try after finding it at a local organic market. Now that I have had one, however, I understand what some of the hype is about.

Mr. Q. Cumber, while not wildly different from other drinks of its type, strikes a balance between sweet and savory that many of its competitors seem to disregard. Cucumber is very strong, and it can often be quite an odd flavor to incorporate smoothly into a beverage. Many of the cucumber drinks that I have had in the past seem to simply embrace the odd bitterness of cucumber's flavor and do nothing to reduce or impair the overwhelming taste. Mr. Q. Cumber, however, is different from others in that it is more of a cucumber soda, rather than a cucumber flavored seltzer or water. The cucumber taste is, overall, not very strong, and the drink is sweetened just enough to compensate for the remaining bitterness of the diluted flavor.

As I have already said, my previous experiences with cucumber beverages led me to not expect much from this one, but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know that this one is one for the record books, but the strong balance between the cucumber flavor and the sweetness of the beverage results in a light and refreshing drink that is definitely worth a try. The seven ounce serving size is also a perfect portion of the beverage, as a larger serving size would likely grow tiresome towards the end of the bottle.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Rosewood Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 7 fl. oz. [208 mL]
Price: $1.19

Friday, September 23, 2011

Honest CocoaNova

As I am sure that I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of Honest Tea. So, needless to say, I was very excited when I saw the company's new line of CocoaNova beverages sitting on the shelf of my local organic foods market. Although all that I knew about the drink at the time was that it was some sort of chocolate and cherry infused beverage, I was still very much looking forward to giving it a try.

CocoaNova is unlike any other drink that I've had in the past. As one would expect, the theme here is certainly chocolate. However, the chocolate is not as strong as other chocolate beverages that I have had in the past, and tastes more like natural cocoa than many other drinks of its "type." I say "type" in quotations because although there are obviously other chocolate-oriented beverages on the market, Honest CocoaNova is quite unique. Rather than tasting as though the drink is made from chocolate, the chocolate serves to add more of a background flavor to the overall drink as a whole. I was not anticipating this subtlety, as there was a thick layer of chocolate sediment that had to be shaken into the drink before consumption, but I really enjoyed the lighter, almost watery taste of the beverage. I have had both the cherry and mint flavors, and I must say that both are very well balanced, although I prefer the combination of mint and chocolate over that of cherry and chocolate.

Overall, CocoaNova is a very unique and delicious beverage. It is surprisingly refreshing for a drink that contains a significant amount of chocolate, and I have really enjoyed both of the bottles that I have had so far. However, with most highly unique beverages, there is a bit of risk in purchasing this one. I don't know that this is the drink for everyone, and there are sure to be some consumers out there who find the subtlety of the flavors a bit strange and off-putting, but I think that anybody with a taste for chocolate will almost undoubtedly find something to like in Honest CocoaNova. Definitely give this one a try.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 10.1 fl oz
Price: $1.50

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dry Lemongrass Soda

For those of you who are unaware, I absolutely love to cook. Although it usually leaves a bit of a mess behind, I am a particularly avid fan of Asian cooking. Lemongrass ranks pretty high on my list of favorite Asian seasonings, so I am sure that you can imagine my excitement when I found this beverage sitting on the shelf in my local organic grocery store. 

Upon buying the beverage, I was not familiar with Dry Soda Co., but after doing a bit of research, I came to find out that they are a fairly new soda manufacturer that focuses on creating all natural sodas that are less sweet than the competitors and better for your health, overall. I always tend to enjoy sodas that focus more on the flavor and less on the sugar, and I was naturally excited to give this one a try.

Unfortunately, I was met with a flavor that I can only describe as "strange." Although the drink did have hints of a distinctly lemongrass flavor, I'm not entirely sure how to describe the overall taste. The aroma of the beverage smells a bit like lemon-scented dishwasher detergent, which is a bit odd, but not necessarily bad. It just didn't smell or taste like I what I was expecting. I think that I was anticipating a taste more along the lines of lemongrass after it has been cooked into a recipe, but was instead met with a more raw, natural lemongrass taste. 

Overall, the drink was not bad by any means. The level of sweetness is well-balanced, and is present without being overbearing. However, I don't know how much the sugar adds to this particular flavor, as the taste of the lemongrass is so prominent that the marginal sweetness almost doesn't affect the beverage. Again, the taste is not really bad, per se. It's just really strange, and I don't know that I can say that I like it. I think that this one is definitely worth a try if and only if you like lemongrass, but I would not recommend this one to the general consumer.

Lemongrass makes for an excellent spice, but I don't know that it is the best ingredient in a soda. The "healthy soda" ethos of Dry Soda does incline me to give some of the other flavors a try, however, and I think that many of the other flavors that the company offers would lend themselves better to a "less sweet" soda approach.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $6.99 [4-pack]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Crystal Light Pineapple-Lemonade Punch

This is the last of the three drink recipes recently sent to me by Kraft Foods. Due to an unexpected grenadine syrup shortage at the stores nearby my place of residence, I was not able to procure the ingredient on my way back from class. I should be picking some up soon, however, and I will update this post with my feelings on the drink once I am actually able to make it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Crystal Light Strawberry Lemonade

(Click for larger image)

Although Labor Day typically marks the end of the summer season in the minds of many, I thought that it would be a great day to keep the summer spirit alive by sharing with you all some wonderful Crystal Light lemonade punch recipes that I was recently sent by Kraft. Today's recipe marks the first of three that I will be posting to the blog this week, and it is a tasty and refreshing strawberry lemonade made with Crystal Light's Natural Lemonade flavored drink mix. I was recently sent a sample pack of Crystal Light Natural Lemonade by Kraft so that I could give these recipes a try for myself, and I was able to mix this one up early last week.

I really liked Crystal Light's strawberry lemonade concoction. The tangy bite of the Crystal Light lemonade lends itself well to the sweetness of the strawberries, and the two flavors just worked very well together, melding into one appetizingly sweet-and-sour taste. The drink did not blend up into the same thick consistency that is pictured in the recipe above, but that may be because I was preparing a double portion for some friends and the berries may have just not blended as well given the larger quantity of things in the blender. With regards to consistency, the resulting drink was more like a viscous lemonade with small chunks of strawberry floating throughout, but I actually really liked the extra texture provided by the bits of fruit floating around in the liquid.

Overall, this drink is an easy recommendation. It is easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and tastes great. This is definitely one to consider whipping up for your next party, cookout, or otherwise equally casual social gathering.