Ginger Beer by The Ginger PeopleWe may have found the perfect ginger ale. Yes, dear readers: we have found the ginger beer against which all others wilst be judged.

My lovely compatriot and I spent a week in Vermont where we swam, played tennis, biked, picked vegetables, and both literally and metaphorically ran around with our arms outstretched saying “wheeeee!” Upon our return home however, our cupboards were appropriately barren, and so I trekked out in the Sunday morning Brooklyn drizzle to the fancy grocery store for some breakfast fixings.

Of course, I couldn’t help but notice an untested type of ginger ale in the fancy grocery store’s glorious drinks case: Ginger Beer made by The Ginger People. The logo features a piece of ginger root anthropomorphized into a laughing nimrod wearing a purple turban and riding a galloping tiger. This is but a glimpse of the extraordinary wonders in store.

The first sense impression for both of us was the gorgeous aroma. It caused us both to exclaim out loud. It’s fresh and almost floral with powerful notes of unadulterated GINGER.

Gingeryness: Very strong. A perfect balance of the two competing ginger ale flavor profiles: the hot spicy ginger and the sweet gentle ginger. This ginger beer has both.

Fruitiness: Fruity and floral without patronizing you.

Bubbliness and dryness were both strong. Not super dry, but has that good palette cleansing mouthfeel.

Little bits: Yes, some little bits! Nothing big enough to get stuck between your teeth.

X-Factor: YES. Both your nose and your tongue will say “wow!”

Price: $1.79 at the Fancy Grocery Store.

Overall: 9.5 out of 10.

“I leave the possibility open that something better exists, but this is the best I’ve had.”

Grumpy Gus Ginger Ale & Bitter LemonDear readers of LovesGingerAle, I have a confession to make. I have a weakness for fancy grocery stores. Some women love shoes, others love jewelry. I love fresh organic kale and artisanal olive oil. And of course, free samples of fancy cheese.

On my way home from a job interview and while the lovely compatriot cooked us dinner at home, I stopped by our local fancy grocery store to get some essentials : coffee, toilet paper, and Red Bull.

The fancy grocery store is small and packed tightly with goods, and the toilet paper was on a very high shelf. I am quite short. “C’mon my little munchkin!” the compatriot will sometimes say to hurry me along.

With no store personnel in sight and my blood sugar running low, I dashed over to the kitchen supply section, picked up a sturdy spatula, and used it to tip a four-pack down into my waiting arms.

That dramatic moment passed, I stepped into line and I could not help but notice an array of Gus Grown Up sodas. I bought one ginger ale and one bitter lemon* (the lovely compatriot’s favorite).

The label says “not too sweet,” and they’re not fooling. This is a minimally sweet ginger ale. No fruit, that I could taste. No bits whatsoever. No real bite either.

We appreciated the earthy, “hot” ginger taste, as opposed to the sweet pickled ginger flavor favored by Bruce Cost. “The flavor profile is good, it just tastes watered down.” I felt like I was drinking a medium-strong ginger ale mixed with an equal part club soda. The bitter lemon was the same: a good flavor in there, if you can get past all the water that stands between it and your taste buds.

Price: $1.69. Not too bad a price, fancy grocery store!

Overall: 6.5 out of 10

It could be good, but as is tastes diluted. Does being an adult mean that your sensory experience must be  adulterated? Are grown-ups too old to handle real flavor? LovesGingerAle says no!

*To clarify, the lovely compatriot adds that he doesn’t love bitter lemon generally, but rather, “the real, strong Schweppes. Not this weak American crap.”

The lovely compatriot and I took a spin several blocks south to the Coffee Den. We’ve code-named it the Bat Cave, both for its out-of-the-way location, and for its regenerative properties to our spirits and powers of concentration.

The Coffee Den came under new management in April. The fresh-faced naïve owners fancy that they will transform The Coffee Den into a combination café and wine bar. Not unlike Batman, it would live a double life as public figure by day, sexy beast by night. Unlike Batman, the schizophrenic nature of this endeavor threatens to tear it apart. To date however, the café side is winning.

Maine Root Sarsaparilla and Root BeerWe picked up a few sodas to go with our coffee as per our custom; in this case, since there were no ginger ales available, we selected a root beer and a sarsaparilla*. Both are produced by the excellent Maine Root company founded by two brothers who fuel our appetites with organic ingredients from their native Maine and their trucks with straight vegetable oil. LovesGingerAle puts them to the test!

The sarsaparilla had the full expression of flavor that exists as but a mere simulacra in a Dr. Pepper. It’s strong and spicy and almost licorice-like, similar to a Good ‘N’ Plenty if Good ‘N’ Plenties were tasty and not vile (I do not endorse this baseless condemnation of Good ‘N’ Plenty, a most excellent candy snack. —Lovely Compatriot).

I experienced three distinct phases on each loving sip: the crisp first fruity tang, the bubbly sweet middle, and the gentle afterburn. Our only criticism: it lacks real raw bite, which is something that Dr. P does oh so very well.

Overall: 8 out of 10

As for the root beer, here were my lovely compatriot’s notes:

Root beer is solid
No weird corn syrup taste
Flavors are well balanced
Not terribly sharp
Or spicy
It is nicely dry ☺

Overall: 8 out of 10

High score especially related to the root beer’s palette-cleansing dryness.

* re: sarsaparilla, peculiar spelling of

cf the following. Relevant portion starts at 8:45:

My lovely compatriot and I are fond of dinners that we call “the mush pile”: a blend of vegetables, grains, and soy-based protein cooked in a single pot. The key to making sure that dinner is perennially interesting and not insanity inducing (cf Chinese Water Torture) is to cook with an array of tasty sauces from the cuisines of Asia, the Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent.

Reeds Ginger Brew from FairwayOur refrigerator door was nearly empty of sauces, and so yesterday we took a long walk down to Red Hook, Brooklyn to the wondrous grocery paradise known as Fairway.

For San Francisco Bay Area readers of LovesGingerAle, Fairway is equivalent to Berkeley Bowl. The produce is cheap and gorgeous, the cheese is exotic and abundant, and the place is generally mobbed unless you go there off-hours.

Before selecting any new sauces, we made short work of the hot salad bar (Mini Review: surprisingly blando, esp. the macaroni and cheese, spinach pie being a notable and quite tasty exception).

I attempted to grab a Reed’s Ginger Brew before checking out, but the lone bottle was on a high shelf and I am quite short—too short to reach it. My lovely compatriot, who is smashingly tall and normally attends to those tasks that I am too munchkin-like to perform myself, had already completed his transaction and awaited me outside. Fortunately, a nearby cashier noticed my dilemma, and came to my rescue using the powers vested in him by normal human male height.

Ginger ale safely in hand, we enjoyed our meal by the water of New York Harbor, in view of that great green lady known as the Statue of Liberty.

Gingeryness: very good. Real ginger. Not pickled sushi-ginger. Ginger root ginger.

Fruitiness: Very noticeable. Plum-like.

Bubbliness: Good. Normal.

Dryness: Not dry. Oh, not at all.

Sweetness: And here is where we come to the real rub of Reed’s. It is so sweet. Candy sweet. Diabetes-inducing sweet. In order to be The One True Ginger Ale to Rule Them All, there must be some bark, some dryness, and some punch to it!

Little Bits: Entirely bit-free.

The “X” Factor: Not present, at least not yet. I see promise in that distinct sloe-flavor though.

Price: $1.29 at Fairway. Fairway! The gift that keeps on giving!

Overall: 5.5 out of 10

So sweet. Ah, but tell me something I couldn’t learn from a sugar bowl! In fact, I voted this a 7.5, while my lovely compatriot scored it a 3. Our compromise vote is 5.5. Keep trying, Reed!

Ginger Ale by Bruce CostThis morning I had a particularly successful round of busking with my ukulele, pulling in $12 in 45 minutes (as opposed to the usual $10 in one hour). To celebrate, on the way back home to my sweet and kind compatriot, I picked up a half pound of cherries and a bottle of Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost (original flavor).

Below is my lovely compatriot’s review:

Bright, not dark. Could be stronger and earthier.

Fruit: Definite fruit overtones. Strong.

Bubbly: Normal

Dryness: Not dry at all!

Sweetness: Not Jamaican, but this is pretty sweet stuff

Little bits: In spades! they don’t have a lot of strong flavor, though.

X Factor: Good balance between ginger and sweet. Perfect sweet and fruity ginger ale without being too sweet and fruity.

I agree, especially on the fruitiness. It called cucumbers and hibiscus to my mind. The ginger flavor was exactly like sushi ginger, in soda form. Oishii, naa!

Price: $1.99

Overall: 8 out of 10

This is good stuff, if you are in the mood.

Schweppes!Last night, I left my good and gentle compatriot to fend for himself in the early evening, whilst I met up with a friend in Prospect Park to write a sitcom pilot about our former workplace and also watch a couple of modern rock bands perform.

I came unprepared with any dinner victuals or libations, but thankfully, my friend had bought gazpacho. And, naturally, there were several drink purveyors offering everything from cheap beer to vodka Red Bull cocktails to simple sodas.

I of course opted for a cold dry Schweppes. There’s a reason why Schweppes has had so much staying power over the last 130 years. If you had any past lives in the United States since the Civil War, you probably enjoyed a Schweppes. They’re absolutely delicious, that’s why.

After sampling so many of the fruity, slight ginger ales currently in vogue, it was a refreshing treat to revisit that strong, dry,  puckersome taste of Schweppes that I remember oh-so-well from childhood, when soda was a combination ambrosia and rocket fuel*. Schweppes has a little of that industrial chemical aftertaste which is unacceptable in broccoli, but yet can be so welcome in a soda.

I took a few delighted sips, then combined the rest of the can with a bottle of Dragonfruit Vitamin Water for a lovely outdoor concert cocktail. All was well, until I noticed a maelstrom of tiny ants descending on the empty Schwepps can. I felt momentary horror, as if they were a pack of roving zombies instead of ants, after brains instead of sugar. After the concert I recycled the can, leaving the ants to new adventures.

Price: $2.00. For a single can! These outdoor festivals, I tellya.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

*Who’m I kidding? It still is!

Boylan Ginger AleDuring a recent heavy bout of programming and vector art, my compatriot and I picked up a nice cold Boylan ginger ale to cool off a hot Brooklyn evening.

There were many wonderfully appealing about this green bottle right out of the gate. First of all, the old-timey emerald glass and unassuming non-serif font all signaled that this was a straight ahead ginger ale, not one to futz around with pomegranate, kombucha, or any other modern nonsense. Just good ginger ale, giving you what you came for.

We were disappointed to find that the Boylan’s lacked any true power. It was plenty sweet, but the ginger flavor just said a quiet hello to the middle of our tongues then meekly walked away. There wasn’t much edge or pop to it. It was like meeting a cute shy girl wearing a 1950s style dress and cat-eye glasses, and just when you’re about to ask her for her number, she ducks the under the table and hugs her knees while rocking back and forth.

Price: A nice $2.25 at the fancy grocery store down the street.

Overall: 7 out of 10

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