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Oh happy blog-readers, rejoice! No more must your seat-edges erode under nervous gluteal shifting as you await the upcoming episode of the Orange Soda Challenge. No longer must you endure the slow march of time, the hours passing leadenly, their echoes the tears of a stone statue dropping into an iron bucket. For lo! It has arrived! Lean back in your chair, relax upon the entire cushion, and read on…

What have we here, within this plain glass bottle, remarkable only in that it is brown instead of the usual crystalline clarity of the standard recyclable soda container? The glue-affixed paper label with its distressed “typewriter” typeface declares this beverage to be a “mandarin orange soda”, as produced by “maine root handcrafted beverages”. I know, I know: you expected me to continue with the joke wherein I provide an inventory of all text printed, suggesting the beverage’s moniker to be something of absurd length and verbosity. Look again — look, look at the photograph above! The entire label is words, and the exercise is futile! (Frankly, I have my doubts concerning the continued efficacy of that joke anyway.)

So. What, you may ask, is this curiously wordy elixir comprised of? The ingredients — sorry, the “handcrafted ingredients” — are listed across the bottle’s neck-label, rather than being relegated to a small box in one corner of the primary device. No doubt they are rather proud of their “carbonated pure water Fair Trade Certified organic cane juice and spices.” In fact, there is no question whatsoever that they are proud — puffed up like an inflated Tetraodontidae, no doubt — of their Fair Trade Certification. The fact is mentioned no fewer than four times, including once on the very bottlecap itself.

With the label taking such dire pains to assure me that the liquid within is handcrafted, pure, organic, Free Trade, and presumably free-range as well, I am possessed to wonder: did they perhaps concentrate too much upon the moral qualities of their beverage, and too little on the gustatory? Because I see no comment here reading, for example, “Delicious!” or “Very Tasty Certified”. Furthermore, their ingredients manifest contains no mention of oranges, unless orange is a spice.

“Godfrey Daniels!” I hear you cry. “You have acquired a beverage manufactured by… hippies!” Undoubtedly, this is indeed the case, for their operation is based out of… Portland!

Amidst your gasps, I chuckle wryly to myself, for you have been fooled: they’re from Portland, Maine. Still, it is undeniable that this flask is a bearer of hippie-water, for the front page of their website features a long-haired man wearing a green, yellow, and red headband, and one of the topic selection options in the sidebar is “bio-diesel”.

But, enough. I have spent too much time judging this book by its cover. I am a thirsty man, goddamnit! It is time to open this potential Pandora’s Bottle and see what waits within.

First, the scent: this liquid’s perfume resembles nothing else so much as orange-flavored baby aspirin. Indeed, I would say it is precisely the same odor. Is baby aspirin a spice?

The liquid within is syrupy, and sweeter than my preference. A certain fizz is present, but understated; it sparkles across the back of the tongue, but quickly flees, leaving you alone with a thick sugar-water texture that coats the inside of your mouth, and not very pleasantly.

Surprisingly, despite the “spices” and the general hippyishness, it does not taste like, for example, tree bark, or dried lichens. It tastes like sugar. To be sure, there is orange, but only in the aftertaste, and fleetingly — like the misty memory of a dream of an orange, which wavers and vanishes upon awakening. Except for ‘awakening’, read ‘swallowing’.

Perhaps I’m coming across as overly harsh. It’s not a bad soda. I would never accuse it of pissing on kittens, for example, or attempt to drag it before the Hague to submit to a war crimes trial. It’s certainly not as repugnant as Fitz’s Premium Swill. But it isn’t going to reign victorious in this competition, not by a long chalk.

Jesus how does Tycho do this every day? I’m like physically tired now.

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Hello, friendly! Later in the orange soda water list for the great fight of the orange soda water to the death it is Jarritos, a tuna available of the Mexican soda water much throughout here in Table, Arizona.

It’s obtained a crystal bottle pay duty on-molded pleasant with the of-heightened name, plus an uneven texture pebbled that I conjecture I assume to evoke traditional huts Mexican of the adobe, or something? No idea. It’s done with the sugar and “true; flavor” natural; (probably ‘orange’), and not many chemical agents. I hope that this one makes, since I can buy it in the local overwhelmed one easily, only my experience with Mexican nutritional products well doesn’t gives much hope me. The Mexican caramel is particularly atrocious.

It approves well, the first note of thing I is that apparently, Mexico has still not developed technology of the socket of the torsion. It would have thought that one would be quite early in the technology-tree, but oh well. A ESA… of acceptable. Hmm! Good noise like the one of a gas that escapes, candy but not to dominate. The flavor is orangey enough, but not like the typical orange flavor of the caramel; it’ s more tangeriney.

This is quite good, really! Pleasant going, Mexico!

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And hey, look at this! We finally got around to going back to Pop the Soda Shop, and I got a bunch more orange sodas for the Gourmet Orange Soda Challenge Spectacular 2010! There weren’t many left to pick from — just ten — so I got one of each. I figure I’ll take the top couple from this set and the top couple from the last set to do a Final Matchup at the end.

Here we have Beverage Gray’s Company Quality Taste Since 1856 Janesville Wisconsin Gourmet Orange Soda. It’s in the standard glass bottle with an uninspiring paper label, sealed with a blank white bottle-cap, and is made of corn syrup, citrus oils, and chemicals. Not very encouraging!

I’m down with chemicals, though, so let’s give it a taste.

Hmm. Not overly sweet. Not very fizzy. Has a slight orange candy taste, with overtones of something I can’t exactly place, but… you ever visit someone in another state, and the tap-water tastes kind of funny? That’s basically what this tastes like.

Someone else’s tap-water with an orange gummi bear in it.

Not unpleasant, but definitely weaksauce.

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Who is this charming fellow? Why, he’s the newest addition to the giant Cute Video Game Monsters Group Photo Cross-Stitch, the Top Dogfish from Mother 3.

Mother 3 has a lot of these sort of portmanteau animal combo-monsters. The weirdest one is the Ostrelephant, and the scariest one is the Horsantula, but I like this guy best. He’s got chicken legs!

He’s also friggin huge, the second-largest character in the scene, which is why it took me so long to finish. The next guy is much smaller (though on the other hand, he has an assload of colors in him).

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The Walking Dead is a hell of a good comic book.

The Walking Dead on AMC? By the director of Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile?

This could be some damn good television.