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    Monday
    May182009

    Bubble Up

    Bubble Up bottle. Sketch © 2009 Anthony D. PaularThere are times when I don't feel like I need caffeine. Those times don't occur very often, but when they do it's nice to have a good tasting soda around. Tonight was one of those times.

    Bubble Up is a soda that features a "kiss of lemon • kiss of lime." Originally developed in 1917 by Sweet Valley Products Co. (10 years before 7-up was introduced),  Bubble Up was distributed by the Coca-Cola bottler network before Coke introduced lemon-lime Sprite. This particular bottle of Bubble Up is one of the sodas I purchased at my local BevMo store, and was bottled by Real Soda in Real Bottles, under license from the Dad's Root Beer Company.

    As a kid in the 1970's, I remember watching Bubble Up commercials on TV. That memory attracted me to this soda. While I don't actually remember much detail about said commercials, the link helped me to remember to "take a Bubble Up break." My Google search of Bubble Up not only turned up old commercials, but also current international commercials for the beverage. Turns out that it's pretty popular outside of the United States.

    Like other lemon-lime sodas,  Bubble Up is caffeine free. While I wouldn't normally consider that a "feature," my dinner of home made chow mein and veggies called out for a lemon-lime soda, rather than a cola. Since I had consumed enough coffee for the day to make up my caffeine quota, it didn't matter. Taking a Bubble Up break was a good thing.

    The taste of Bubble Up was refreshing. The lemon-lime flavor was subtle, not overwhelming. "Kiss of lemon • kiss of lime" is an apt description. Because this bottled version was sweetened with real cane sugar (a feature, not a bug), the flavor was slightly different from a fructose sweetened soda. I suppose that it was sweeter than I expected, but still in balance with the lemon and lime flavors. 

    The carbonation was also subtle. It was enough to make me notice, but not so strong to make me pull away. This isn't the first soda I've reviewed that had subtle carbonation. All were packaged in glass bottles, rather than cans or plastic bottles. That leads me to believe the subtle carbonation is related to the glass bottling process.

    Retro Bubble Up logo from dadsrootbeer.comFrom a packaging perspective, the Bubble Up bottle had a retro-modern look. Brown and white ink on a green Bubble Up in a glass bottle is an apt alternative to more popular lemon-lime sodas. Sweetened with cane sugar, it has a flavor that isn't overwhelming, but rather provides a refreshing (and caffeine free) companion to any meal. 

    Rating: 3 Shacks (out of 5)

    Friday
    May082009

    Jeff's Diet (!) Chocolate Soda

    Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda. Sketch © 2009 Anthony D. PaularSo I was driving home from work last night, and a profound question came to my mind. "What is the "Mo" (More) at BevMo (Beverages and More)?"

    My curiousity nearly overwhelmed me. I had to find out.

    Turns out that the "Mo" included cheese (yay!) snacks, and yes... sodas. I was elated.

    The Soda and Snacks section included the usual suspects: Coke, Pepsi, Seven Up, A&W, and so on. Also included were old time style bottled sodas. That's where I picked up several bottles of soda to try.

    My first botle of soda was Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda, from Egg Cream America, Inc.

    The labels on this bottle of soda feature design elements that show off the qualities of the beverage. 97% Fat Free, Less Than 25 Calories, Do Not Shake, and Low Carb are shown alongside an exhortation to Get Creamed! and the Jeff's DIET Chocolate Soda — Amazing New York Egg Cream logo. A dark/light brown checkerboard pattern dominate the two labels. They help to catch the eye on a shelf full of sodas, but on a standalone product, I find them distracting, as the contrast of the checkered pattern takes my attention away from the logo. To be honest, I didn't notice words Do Not Shake on the top label at first glance.

    (More to come after work on Friday, May 8. Maybe after Star Trek.)

    (OK, I'm back. The new Star Trek movie is phenomenal. If there are any who have reservations about it because of rumored plot lines, give it a shot, and then make a judgment.)

    Now those who know me know that I wouldn't normally drink a diet soda. I used to drink Diet Coke, and discovered that the artificial sweetener gave me headaches. Besides, if I want something sweet, I want the sweetness to be real! Thus, I was very hesitant to choose Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda, but when I noticed that the sweetener was sucralose (the sweeter in Splenda), I decided to go for it. I'm glad I did.

    At first sip, the chocolate taste was quite evident. It wasn't an overwhelming flavor, but enough to let me know this wasn't a typical soda. It was a chocolate soda. The best way to describe the taste is that it was like a combination of a creme soda and chocolate milk. Carbonation combined cleverly with chocolate. Very tasty.

    Given that this was a diet soda, I was afraid there would be a nasty diet aftertaste. Not so on that count, either. While there was a lingering taste of the chocolate and cream (presumably because of the milk in the soda), I didn't notice any bitterness or chemical flavor.

    Finally, I discovered why the top label instructs "Do Not Shake." Because milk and cream are two of the main ingredients (numbers 2 & 3 on the list!), the soda at the bottom of the bottle was thicker. It had a smooth creamy texture, similar to the bottom of a chocolate malt that had been mixed with whipped cream. I found myself swishing around the creamy soda in my mouth to savor the flavor. I liked it, and was quite conflicted (How could I dare like a diet soda?).

    Given how much I enjoyed Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda, I can't wait to get my hands on the non-diet version!

    For more information about this soda and its manufacturer, Egg Cream America, Inc., click here.

    Rating: 4 Shacks (out of 5)

    Saturday
    May022009

    Coca-Cola

    Advertising and info on a Coke can. © 2009 Anthony D. PaularI have always loved Coca-Cola. It’s Classic kind I have a fondness for, not the lame “new” Coke that was introduced in 1985, only to be yanked from the shelves months later (they must have paid Bill Cosby handsomely to endorse it). 

    As a freshman in high school, I once took the Pepsi Challenge, a game in which a contestant sips from unlabeled cups containing either Pepsi or Coca-Cola. Although Pepsi is the choice of a new generation, I chose the taste of the real thing.

    This particular can of Coke produced the typical wonderful experience I've come to enjoy. Popping the top of the can produced the usual “schwii...tt” sound. A large gulp of soda had the right amount of sharp taste and enough carbonation to make me pause before I have the chance to finish my first sip. 

    The design on the can was a blend of advertising and branding. In any language, the red color and swoosh design are instantly recognizable. What made this can interesting was the inclusion of a “Save up to $20” discount to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood (Too bad I couldn’t use it. The discount expired in January 2008). Combined with the ingredients and nutrition facts, a full 1/3 of the can was devoted to information and advertising.

    The ad itself wrapped around the top of the can, and then down the side as though it were a hang tag. There was a lot of tiny type, but the Universal Studios logo and “Save $20” stood out. The ad did not diminish the branding on the can.

    Given how old the can of soda was (the ad was over 1.5 years old), I was surprised at how fresh it tasted. I'm thinking that I need another one right now.

    Rating: 4.5 Shacks (out of 5)

    Sunday
    Apr262009

    IBC Root Beer

    IBC Root Beer sketch © 2009 Anthony D. Paular

    One of the things I enjoyed about family vacations as a kid was the opportunity to visit an A&W restaurant and enjoy a root beer float. The fizz and distinct taste of the root beer blended nicely with vanilla ice cream. Now you might think this is a review of A&W Root Beer, but alas, you'd be wrong. This is a review of IBC Root Beer in a classic old time bottle.

    IBC Root Beer came in a dark brown bottle. There was no printed label, but rather the product information was molded on the surface of the bottle. This gave it a classic look reminiscent of the brand’s origins in 1919 (for IBC Root Beer history, click here). When packaged in a six-pack, the carrier has a full color design, with the classic logo on the side.

    This bottle did not have much carbonation, much to my chagrin. As a reference, I prefer the carbonation and “bite” of Coca Cola—the sharp taste that makes you stop sipping before the carbonation goes through your nose, and IBC Root Beer did not have this. Instead, in a mental comparison of IBC to A&W Root Beer, the IBC was smoother and creamier, possessing a mild taste without as much “bite.” I suppose this is because there wasn’t as much carbonation in the bottle I had. As a companion to my veggie panini, the smooth mild taste was great. 

    When looking for a root beer for floats, I’d say that IBC would be just the thing. However, combined with a cheeseburger, I’m guessing I’d be reaching for something else.

    Rating: 3 Shacks (out of 5)

     

    Friday
    Apr242009

    Chillin’ at the shack

    What exactly is The Soda Shack? I have no idea.

    Actually, a good friend suggested that The Soda Shack be a place where one could muse about 2nd careers... dream jobs... what one would do if making a living wasn't important. You know, whatever you’d do if somebody else won the lottery and decided to give you half of it (the bigger half!).

    My goal, among other things, is to review different sodas. Although I’m a die-hard Coke fan, I know there have got to be other great sodas out there. In nicely designed packages. I'll find them, and spend some time obsessing over them.

    In the meantime, here's one of my favorite pics from Hawaii, taken at 8:00 am in Honolulu, while I was on my way to have breakfast at Duke's.

    Lifeguard shack in Honolulu. April 8, 2005