The Soda Jerk – Oddballs, Part 1

With summer break ending and gearing back up for the start of the school year, it’s been a full month since I’ve posted anything. Not that I have not drank any soda pop, perish the thought! Just that I’ve had other things on the brain. I hope to make one or two entries each week, now that I’ve settled into my new school year routine.

So a while back, after I finished my Ginger series, I started thinking about the unusual kinds of soda pop we sell here at Klassic Arcade, and I thought I would ruminate about the “Oddballs” of the soda pop world. My wife said something about takes on to know one, but I didn’t quite catch it.

The first two soda pops in the Oddball series are AMERICANA HONEY CREAM and JIC JAC BLUE RASPBERRY. Both are insanely good soda pops, and can be found in the Klassic Arcade cooler for $1.75 each.

So think of a really good vanilla cream soda, then think of honey being added in, and you have AMERICANA HONEY CREAM soda pop. It is a great twist on the traditional cream soda, and makes for a refreshing change of pace from the norm. Every flavor from the Americana line that I’ve had (4 of the 7 flavors we carry) is good, but Honey Cream is easily my favorite. Made with real cane sugar so it has that nice natural sweetness, without being overwhelming, it reminds me of my childhood, when a dessert treat would be a bowl of vanilla ice cream with pancake syrup on top (my parents, for some reason, did not believe in ever letting me have chocolate syrup). If you’re a fan of cream sodas (and who isn’t?!?!) and of honey, pick up an AMERICANA HONEY CREAM on your next trip into Klassic Arcade!

Or maybe you’re more of a super-sweet, fruity-candy-flavor lover. In that case, you can’t do better than a JIC JAC BLUE RASPBERRY. I have no idea who first decided that a raspberry flavor should be made blue, but thank goodness it exists! Sweet raspberry flavor, mixed with uber-sweet candy flavor! It is a taste treat that harkens back to one’s childhood days, vaguely reminiscent of cotton candy in a bottle. I’ve had three different brands of blue raspberry soda pop, and JIC JAC BLUE RASPBERRY is clearly the best of them. So pick one up on your next trip into Klassic Arcade!

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The Soda Jerk – Ginger Ale Part 3

So for this new entry in my ginger series, I am tackling a bottle of COCK N’ BULL GINGER BEER…in fact, I am drinking as I am typing (actually, I alternate between drinking and typing). Let me start with this simple statement: I absolutely love Cock n’ Bull!

So what makes this a ginger “beer” instead of a ginger “ale”? Actually, it’s not a true ginger beer. It’s a ginger ale (carbonated water flavored with ginger), but my guess is that it has such a strong ginger flavor that the term “beer” is used. A true ginger beer is brewed/fermented, though it does not have to necessarily have to be alcoholic. I have made my own ginger ale that might be considered a ginger beer, since there is not carbonated water involved, but yeast provides carbonation. But I sidetrack myself.

So what’s Cock n’ Bull like? To paraphrase a classic Simpson’s episode, it’s like there’s a party on my tongue, and everybody’s invited! Unlike the last two gingers (Americana and Boylan’s, both available at the Klassic Arcade), Cock n’ Bull attacks your tongue from the moment it leaves the bottle, like a bunch of little ginger pieces clawing onto your tongue and not letting go! Yeah, you could say it has a sharp flavor.Ginger overload, and it is so good! I find it so sharp, that the vapors coming off your tongue can sometimes tickle the throat.

Cock n’ Bull is as good with the last swallow out of the bottle as the first. The aftertaste on my tongue is like a piece of ginger-flavored candy, coexisting with the lingering bite. That’s what I really love most about Cock n Bull, a razor-sharp ginger taste that stays with you. 

Try a bottle of Cock n’ Bull Ginger Beer next time you’re at the Klassic Arcade…it will be a taste treat for your mouth!

The Soda Jerk – Ginger Ale Part 2

So why do I love ginger ale so much? One word – refreshing! Ginger ales are never heavy or syrupy. They are instead very light and crisp, which is probably why I prefer them in the summer versus the winter.

And gingers are not even my favorite flavor! Just wait until I sing the praises of root beer and orange cream soda pops (mmmmm….orange cream!)

So after I threw back some pizza rolls (because I make wise decisions, that’s why), I decided to have a bottle of BOYLAN’S GINGER ALE (which, coincidentally, can be found at the Klassic Arcade, along with several other flavors of Boylan’s). I poured the bottle into my frozen Klassic Arcade glass mug (which can also be purchased at the arcade for only $5, with $1 refills of our draft root beer for life!) that I keep handy. Now I really like every flavor of Boylan’s I’ve ever had, and Ginger Ale is no different.The one word that I think best describes the bottle I had would be…”crisp”.

BOYLAN’S GINGER ALE is not too heavily flavored, it does not have the “bite” that some other gingers have. Instead, it has an elegantly simple pure ginger taste. It is made with cane sugar, and the flavoring consists of ginger, lemon, and lime oils. Clearly the ginger oil is the dominant one. It pours almost clear, with just a slight ginger color to it. On a sunny day, it tasted nearly perfect!

So I can highly recommend that the next time you’re out at the Klassic Arcade and a thirst comes on you, crack open a bottle of BOYLAN’S GINGER ALE (we do ask that you pay for it first). You’ll be glad you did.

Join me tomorrow when I have another brand of ginger ale with the grilled New York strip steak dinner I’ll be having…I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about it!

The Soda Jerk – Ginger Ale, Part 1

Whether it’s Ginger ALE or Ginger BEER (don’t worry parents, it’s not alcoholic!), it’s an extremely refreshing beverage in the warm summer weather. Granted, we haven’t had a whole lot of summer weather in SW Michigan, but that does not take away from it’s gingery goodness. Heck, being a fan of Alton Brown’s classic show “Good Eats,” I have for the last several summers even made my own ginger ale to enjoy on those hot summer days.

In other words, I absolutely love a good ginger ale.

Now, I need to preface this series of posts with the following information (still a source of tension between me and my wife): while I like it, I do not consider Vernor’s to be a real ginger ale (It’s more of a ginger cream soda), so it will not be included in my discussion on ginger ale.

So the discussion begins today with my thoughts on AMERICANA HONEY LIME GINGER ALE. It’s ingredient list is simple enough: carbonated water, cane sugar, extracts of lime and ginger, organic honey, and a couple other standard ingredients. Carbonated water flavored with ginger is the mark of ginger ale (vs. ginger beer).

So how was it? For me, it is not one of my favorite gingers that the Klassic Arcade sells, but it is a bit different than most gingers, and that’s because of the lime. Honestly, I could not tell that there was any honey involved. I could tell there was a bit of lime involved, which provides an interesting counterpoint to ginger’s sharpness. The lime is not strong enough to take away the innate ginger flavor, but for several minutes after drinking, it’s the lime that remained dominant in the aftertaste (again, I couldn’t sense any honey).

This is a solid ginger ale, worth it if you want something a little different or like knowing that real can sugar is involved. You can get AMERICANA HONEY LIME GINGER ALE for $1.75 at the arcade, in the middle of the five cooler sections.

I have four more bottles of gingers, just begging me to drink them and discuss their virtues. And I am more than willing! Be back soon with thoughts about another ginger.

The Soda Jerk: And the Winner Is…

No, it won’t be that easy for you. 

First, a review of the contest…in order to address the question of whether there is a taste difference between soda pops made with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) versus those with made with real cane sugar. People seem to have very strong feelings that real sugar is so much better. I don’t know if I could tell the difference. So I got a plastic bottle of Faygo Rock n’ Rye (with HFCS) and a glass bottle of Faygo Rock n’ Rye (with real sugar). After all, this would really only work by tasting the same flavor made by the same company, right? My wife and I put them side by side and took turns drinking each to go along with our supper of bratwurst burgers and chips.

The Rock n’ Rye made with real sugar was sweeter…by a little bit.

Honestly, I could not tell a real taste difference right away. The plastic bottle seemed a little more carbonated, that’s the only real difference I could tell right away. But by the time both bottles were empty and I had had several alternating sips of each kind, I began to realize that the real sugar version was, in fact, just a little bit sweeter. However, it was not a difference that hit either of us over the head in a major way. She noticed it before I did (no surprise there).

My highly individualized, non-statistical, almost-but-not-quite-scientific conclusion (based on a large sample of just one soda pop flavor): sure, real sugar makes it sweeter, but it’s not a big difference. I still have nothing against soda pops made with HFCS (after all, the glass-bottled Stewart’s flavors the arcade sells are delicious AND made with HFCS), but don’t think that using real can sugar makes soda pop “so much better”. As with most things, it is in the eye of the beholder…so long as the beholder is buying their glass-bottled soda pop at the Klassic Arcade.

The Soda Jerk – Real Cane Sugar vs. HFCS?

So one of the big things in the soda pop world is whether the soda pop is made with “real” sugar or with high fructose corn syrup. Most of the mass-marketed soda pop on your local grocery or convenience store shelf has the latter, but of course we all see the commercials for a certain kind of soda pop that’s “now made with real sugar”, and many of the soda pop brands carried at the Klassic Arcade (www.mrsodapop.com) have it labeled right on the bottle that they’re made with real cane sugar.

So I ask: is there really a difference? And here I’m talking about taste only…I’ve read things on the interweb that would lead me to believe that Satan himself is responsible for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) being in foods, and that aspect won’t get discussed. But I do wonder if there is a real difference, or is it all in the individual’s mind?

So the best way to compare is to drink the same company’s product made each way, right? So I have a 20 ounce plastic bottle of FAYGO ROCK N’ RYE from the grocery store (with HFCS) and a 12 ounce glass bottle of the same (but made with real sugar) from the arcade here. Both my wife and I will compare the tastes of the two. Yeah, I know it’s a rotten job, but I will take one for the team! Let you know in a few days what our findings are.

The Soda Jerk ruminates on Stewart’s

The Klassic Arcade sells 140 varieties of soda pop, and 9 of those are brewed by Stewart’s. In the last few weeks I have drank bottles of Stewart’s Key Lime, Grape, Root Beer, Cream Soda, and Orange Cream Soda. While none of their flavors would rank as my absolute favorite, every flavor of Stewart’s has been very good. Frankly, I wasn’t really expecting that much from their Grape soda pop, but when I drank it I immediately went back to those carefree days of childhood, and it was like I was holding a grape popsicle (and getting yelled at by my mom for dripping it onto something white!) on a hot summer day.

The best of the Stewart’s flavors has got to be Key Lime. Talk about a departure from normal! Now I love a good lime soda pop (something about that green color), but STEWART’S KEY LIME is not your typical lime soda pop. It’s a lighter, cloudy green, and the key lime tartness is amazing without being overpowering. Evocative of a key lime pie with carbonation. On a nice warm summer day, there is nothing more refreshing! Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a real warm day…notice we haven’t had too many of those this summer? I for one am thankful. Anyway, I would probably put Stewart’s Key Lime in my top 10, maybe even top 5, overall.

Stewart’s also makes a Diet Root Beer and Diet Orange Cream, as well as Black Cherry and Cherries n’ Cream. I have not yet tried any of those, mostly because I am not a fan of diet soda pops or cherry in general. But my guess is, based on how much I like the other flavors, these are probably pretty good, too.

So when you’re in playing games this weekend, or just driving by, grab yourself a bottle or three of Stewart’s. The best thing is that this brand sells for only $1.25 a bottle (compared to $1.75 for most other brands).

And if you ever happen to be somewhere in the area and see Stewart’s Ginger Ale, let me know, I would love to try it!