Friday, November 29, 2013

Waialua root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Waialua Soda Works, Inc. brings back the “experience” of drinking soda by using natural, high quality ingredients to create a refreshing and lightly carbonated gourmet soda. Down to the glass bottle, Waialua Soda Works is a source for the nostalgic soda connoisseur, and those who prefer to savor a purer beverage."

"Founded in 2003 by Waialua residents Karen and Jason Campbell, Waialua Soda Works’ recipes are inspired by the elements familiar to the Hawaiian Islands. Reviving a local soda bottling tradition that goes back more than 100 years, the company uses only clear glass bottles, pure cane sugar, and natural flavors to make its pineapple, mango, root beer, and vanilla cream sodas. The products feature local ingredients such as Maui Brand natural white cane sugar, Big Island vanilla, and honey from Kauai. Waialua Soda Works is owned and operated from a warehouse in the historic town of Waialua, located on the famous North Shore of Oahu."

"Reaching consumers through hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores as a wholesale distributor, Waialua Soda Works launched pineapple as its first, full-flavored premium soda in early 2004. With aspirations of reaching consumers worldwide, Waialua Soda Works' gourmet products will attract soda connoisseurs with the palate for a light and uniquely flavored beverage."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Waialua Soda Works Inc, PO Box 657, Waialua, HI 96791 USA 818.371.7556. 140 calories, 35g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar Blend (cans sugar and Maui natural white cane sugar), natural flavor, caramel color, phosphoric acid and hawaiian vanilla extract.

My thoughts: I had exhausted the variety of root beers from the local soda seller, but after a couple months, I thought I'd drop by and see if anything new had arrived.  Fortune was on my side, as I found a few new root beers, the first of which I decided to try was Waialua, Hawaii's own root beer.  So the question remains, is this root beer going to be more like Lost: Season 1 or the disappointing Season 6?

My initial impression is that it smells quite nice.  The flavor feels very natural, not at all like the cheap syrup flavor of the grocery store canned product.  The rootiness is nice and crisp, with a pleasant vanilla hint.  The flavor may be a bit more subtle than it could be and diminishes quickly, but instead of disappearing completely, it subtly lingers behind.  Sugar balance is perfect, as it leaves my mouth feeling clean and dry rather than sugar-coated.  The dryness is nice, but sort of reminds me of the sensation when I put a wooden spoon or Popsicle stick on my tongue.  Carbonation is not too bad, but could use just a little more kick to it.  It may seem like a contradiction, but the dry sensation left behind also has an oddly creamy feel to it.  I really like the aftertaste attributes to this soda.

My conclusion?  Waialua root beer is more Lost: Season 1 than it is Season 6.  Plenty of promise, intrigue, and a moderately complex but natural flavor that doesn't make me angry.

Rating: B+
flavor: B
aftertaste: A-
sweetness: A
smoothness: A-
carbonation: B

Monday, November 18, 2013

GuS (Grown-up Soda) Dry root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Founded in early 2003 by Steve Hersh and Jeannette Luoh, GuS was what the founders and their friends were looking for in a beverage; something not so sweet like everything else out there. But not so dull and lifeless like flavored seltzers and waters. Or artificial, like diet drinks."

"Steve grew up in a household where his father added seltzer to everything. This was done to cut the sweetness, and make juice and soda lighter and more refreshing. It also reduced the calories, but that wasn't really the point."

"Now that tradition continues with GuS sodas. They're distinctive sodas made with real juice and real flavor extracts, in refreshing flavor varieties. They're 100% natural, pasteurized and kosher, with no caffeine. And they're lightly sweetened with natural cane sugar, with only 90 - 98 calories in each 12oz. bottle."

(from the bottle) "Lightly sweetened root beer with birch oil & vanilla ."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Utmost Brands, Inc., New York, NY 10022 (212) 355-7454. 98 calories, 24g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Purified sparkling water, cane sugar, birch oil and other natural flavors, caramel color (from sugar), quillaja, citric acid.

My thoughts: With claims of being a"grown up soda", I was expecting a complex flavor, which GUS sort of delivers on.  The initial taste is quite good, with a nice blend of vanilla and rootiness.  It even delivers on the "dry" claim, a pleasant sensation on the tongue.  But where it really falls short is in the aftertaste.  The good flavor is fleeting, rapidly leaving behind the soda water taste I detest.  Sweetness is excellent, with just enough without leaving behind a costing of sugar residue.  Carbonation is almost spot on as well, with a pleasant smoothness that is a bit lacking in creaminess.  Overall, the overly rapid vanishing of flavor left me disappointed, and I wish it lingered a bit longer, as this could be a very good root beer.

Rating: C-
flavor: B+
aftertaste: D
sweetness: A
smoothness: B
carbonation: A-