Sunday, January 27, 2013

Help Save Oogave

Today, there will be no review.

In its place, however, I would like to discuss an issue of personal interest and concern to me. Two years ago, I received my first email from a company offering to send me samples of their beverage to review on this site. Now, almost four years after their instantiation as an independent, health-oriented, organic beverage company, Oogave is in need of our help.

For those who are unfamiliar, Oogave is an independent soda company that produces a line of all-natural sodas sweetened with organic agave nectar. Oogave is a delicious, refreshing, and unique beverage in a market segment so often fraught with tiresome non-originality, and anyone who has the opportunity to try it should do so without hesitation. But while Oogave produces an amazing beverage, the company has found itself in a bit of a financial quandary this year, and has turned to the beverage community for assistance.

I don't want to belabor the point too much in this post, as Oogave has explained the situation in full in the description of their Indiegogo campaign, but the basic gist is this: Oogave needs $500,000 in donations (consider them "community investments, if you prefer) if they are to smoothly continue production into the next several years. For a small, independent packaged goods supplier in the United States, it takes about five years of sales to reach cash flow positive--business terms for sustained profit. Oogave has big plans for the next several years (signing on with major distributors such as Super Target and Sodexo), and if they can make it through this critical fourth year, they should be set to succeed in the years to come.

This, now, is where you come in. Oogave is currently a little bit short on cash in their plan for expansion into more major North American markets. Without the funds required to keep up with the costs of production, Oogave may be in danger of having to close their doors for good--something about which anyone who has ever tasted Oogave would be very upset. Oogave has estimated that they need approximately $500,000 in funds to reach cash flow positive, at which point they will be able to grow organically and continue seeking new opportunities for brand-building and expansion. If they can reach this goal, Oogave will stay in business and will continue to grace the beverage industry with their delicious products. If not, well...the future is very unclear.

If you are interested in helping Oogave reach this goal, head over to their Indiegogo fundraiser and take some time to read through their explanation of the issues at hand before determining how much money you might be able to contribute to the cause. Each level of donation does come with a corresponding reward perk, so if you are on the fence about bumping your donation up to the next level, just know that you will see some return on your investment (aside from a great company getting to stay in business, of course). If you are unable to donate, you can still do your part by sharing the information about the campaign with your friends, family, and social media networks.

$500,000 may seem like a long way off, but every little bit helps. If we all work together in donating and doing what we can to get the word of the campaign out to others, we should be able to help Oogave stick around for the long run.

For more information about Oogave and their products, please visit their website at:
Help get the word out with Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to share the link to their Indiegogo campaign ( wherever you see fit.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

Having a beverage review site on which one reviews all sorts of beverages can be, at times, surprisingly limiting in terms of approaching highly "technical" beverages. While I have allowed myself the freedom to review whatever sort of beverages I choose, my lack of any sort of formal system or grading rubric sometimes comes back to bite me when it comes time to review drinks as complex as Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA. The industry-specific terminology required to "adequately" describe the experience of drinking a Racer 5 would be a harsh departure from my typical writing style—a departure that I'm not sure would fit within the confines of my rather amateur reviewing persona. So, for now, I will do what justice I can to this incredible beverage with my only mildly relevant opinions. 

Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA is a superb beer. As I'm sure that I have alluded to before, India Pale Ale is currently my favorite type of beer, so I jump at the opportunity to try as many as I can. I first had Racer 5 about a year and a half ago at a bar in Columbia, SC, and I immediately fell in love with it. I quickly realized, however, that Racer 5 is apparently a bit hard to find in this particular area of the states, and I did not see it again until I stumbled across it at a beer and wine store in Asheville (North Carolina) several weeks ago. I am very glad that I did, too, because I had sort of forgotten during the interim just how good Racer 5 actually is.

The flavor of Racer 5 is actually sort of hard to explain. It is very complex, and the flavors shift over the course of each sip in such a way that pinning down one particular, descriptive flavor element is difficult. Because Racer 5 is an IPA, the hops are very present. However, they are such in a more mild way than other sorts of similar beers. IPAs are typically much more bitter than other kinds of beer, but Racer 5 manages to be bitter without actually "being bitter." It's a difficult concept to explain, now that I have actually sat down to do so. The bitterness is just more ambient than it usually is in other India pale ales; it's certainly there, but the hops aren't as strong on the tongue. If you like the flavor of a good IPA, but are regularly put off by the often extreme bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste, Racer 5 will suit you quite nicely.

The thing that interests me most about Racer 5 is that, while it is a bitter IPA, it is much more malty than other beers of its type. The malts come through very strongly both in the body of the beer and in the aftertaste, but they evolve as they do so. The beer starts off with a hint of sweetness on the tongue, but as the flavors progress the sweetness dissipates and moves in to a very "grainy" malt taste. The malt combines with the natural flavors of the grains used in the brew, resulting in a very interesting and constantly shifting flavor that will surprise you with something new and intriguing all the way down to the bottom of the glass. 

Overall, this is just an excellent beer. I have found that some of the best (or at least, most interesting) drinks that I have had have been the ones that result in a "you just have to try this one for yourself" verdict, and this one is definitely one of those beverages. Bear Republic's Racer 5 is great, and you should really try it sometime.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Purchased: Weinhaus [Asheville, NC]
Size: 22 fl. oz. [650mL]
Price: $4.99

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water Coconut

When Victoria's Kitchen first contacted me about sending me some samples of their new Coconut Almond Water, I must admit that I was a bit...concerned. I very much enjoy their plain almond water, but my recent beverage history is riddled with bad experiences with coconut waters, and the last thing that I wanted to do was share another negative post about a new coconut something - particularly one from a company as competent as Victoria's Kitchen. This, as I found out immediately upon opening the bottle and taking my first sip, was a silly concern - one that almost makes me feel a bit presumptuous in retrospect. While I am ashamed to admit that I have now officially doubted Victoria's Kitchen two times in a row, I am also excited to be able to report that my preconceived notions about a beverage have never been more wrong.

In my original review of Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water, I actually touched upon my initial hesitation toward the drink due to its conceptual resemblance to coconut water. It's sort of funny, then, that the first foray into expanding the Victoria's Kitchen product line would contain coconut, but I'm very glad that it does. Victoria's Kitchen's Coconut Almond Water does not actually contain any of the all-overwhelming coconut water that I was afraid of, but rather uses a delicious and natural coconut flavoring on top of their already very solid almond water foundation. All of the original traits of the almond water are still there, but this time with the addition of a new tropical taste.

Coconut is one of those flavors that is fairly difficult to actually get right. While I enjoy the taste of coconut a good bit, I have definitely had plenty of beverages touting coconut as a main ingredient that were either overwhelmed by the flavor, tasted artificial or were just not very good representations of the various subtleties of coconut's relatively complex taste. Coconut is a complicated taste to match with other things, and then even harder to proportion after a pairing has been reached, but Victoria's Kitchen has gotten it just right. There is just enough taste of the coconut in the beverage to be noticeable without overpowering the almond water base, and the light sweetness of the drink really helps to bring the two flavors together. On top of the drink being very well-balanced, the coconut flavoring is also very natural and tastes like the actual meat of a coconut fruit, rather than the candied, unchewable confectionery flakes with which the term "coconut" has unfortunately become so synonymous. All in all, this is a very tasty twist on an already very tasty beverage.

While I never would have guessed that almond and coconut would have gone well together, Victoria's Kitchen has demonstrated very clearly that they do. The coconut brings an extra element to the almond water that gives the beverage a slightly more interesting level of appeal (the combination of flavors may actually be an easier sell to less adventurous, non-almond-loving friends), while at the same time enhancing the taste of the original drink and punching up the uniquely impossible to describe taste (I've resorted to calling it "roasted," but even that isn't quite right) of fresh almonds. If you like almonds or coconut or things that taste fantastic, you will love Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water Coconut.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Victoria's Kitchen, LLC.
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