Vena’s Fizz House

Saturday found me in Portland, Maine walking around the shops and eating the wonderful food found in the Downtown/Waterfront.  One place was of particular interest Vena’s Fizz House.  A place where the soda junkies can find all the great ingredients to build their Ginger Tinis, Ginger Beers, Ginger Julips or find some inspiration from Vena’s menu.

I picked up some syrup from Liber & Co Fiery Ginger Syrup. I was easily sold on the syrup “For our Fiery Ginger Syrup, we combine fresh yellow ginger juice and pure cane sugar to create a bright and full flavored syrup with a silky texture. This syrup’s high heat lends the perfect burn needed to enhance a wide variety of both classic and novel cocktails”  It’s everything I want it to be, at least description wise.

I poured some seltzer water and a shot of the syrup.  I mixed.  I sipped.  I think it’s quite good.  Time is the only one that can tell if this syrup holds up, so far, so good.

LIber & Co Ginger Syrup
LIber & Co Ginger Syrup

From Liber & Co Fiery Ginger Syrup - http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0583/3185/products/Ginger_medium_f7a4ce22-39e8-4c8e-a4e7-da5a1bf99c90_large.png?v=1415645399
From Liber & Co Fiery Ginger Syrup

Richmond and the Visit to Rocket Fizz

Fortunes found me in Richmond Virginia (second time in three years), this time I was running the Monument 10K.  I more or less jogged the distance, and proceeded to enjoy Carytown to recuperate of course.

My recuperation was a three phase approach – sweet treats, chocolate and ginger.  My walk up and down the scenic Carytown “Mile of Style” found me visiting Jean-Jacques Bakery for my sweet treat, For the Love of Chocolate for my chocolate and Rocket Fizz for my ginger.  Apparently, I picked the right time to visit Carytown as the shop opened within the last year.

Rocket Fizz is worth a trip – 100s of sodas.  The sodas range from birch beer to ginger ale to ginger beer to classic colas. I scanned through the bottles (with the help of my other half).  I found four candidates – Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer, Sprecher Ginger Ale, Reading Draft Ginger Beer and Australia Style Ginger Ale.  The four bottles were refrigerated, and ready for consumption.

Cock n' Bull - GInger Beer
Cock n’ Bull – Ginger Beer

Sprecher Ginger Ale
Sprecher Ginger Ale

Reading Draft Ginger Beer
Reading Draft Ginger Beer

Australian Style Hot Ginger Ale
Australian Style Hot Ginger Ale

I went back to my hotel with a full bag of goodies, and a desire to sample them all.

The Reading Draft Ginger Beer was by far the best.  The Rocket Fizz Ginger Ale and Sprecher Ginger Ale were terrible. The Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer was OK.  The only one that I would recommend is the Reading Draft Ginger Beer, it was sweet with a spicy kick.  I’d love to have more.  The Sprecher was sub-par; I firmly believe in not using Honey as a sweeter in sodas.  The Rocket Fizz didn’t blow off any socks, it was blah.  The Cock ‘n Bulll was decent.

Great Trip to Richmond… I found sodas and had some fun sipping the sodas.

Bundaberg… Interesting Experience… Not for Everyone

Bundaberg, the brewery not the City in Queensland Australia, has been a crown jewel in the eyes of many Ginger Beer lovers.  I’ve read reviews.  I’ve seen the ratings.  I’ve heard the rumors.  Thank goodness for Amazon.com I acquired it for my evaluation.

From Amazon.com
Amazon.com – Purchase of Bundaberg

Since the 1960s, Bundaberg Ginger Beer is created using Queensland, Australia sourced ingredients – spices, herbs and fruit in a glass bottle.  They even recommend “…inverting the bottle for a few seconds before you pop the top, so the real pieces of fruit, herbs and spices are released into the drink…”.   I almost missed this direction when I opened the top.

Bundaberg Ginger Beer Front
Bundaberg Ginger Beer Front

Pop The Top
Pop The Top

Bundaberg Ginger Beer Back
Bundaberg Ginger Beer Back

I broke into the four pack, inverted it, pulled the top, and took a sip.  My initial impression is  yeasty and citric.   I reviewed the ingredients and the history of Bundaberg.  It’s not my type of ginger beer.  I handed it around the room, and they LOVED it.

When I look at their ingredient list, I understand why – “Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, sarsaparilla brew (water, sugar, molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, vanilla bean, yeast), colour (caramel IV), acid (citric acid), preservatives (202, 211), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), sarsaparilla flavour.” I don’t enjoy the yeast flavor.

The experience for me was A+.  The flavor wasn’t my favorite, and resonated with everyone else who are true beer lovers.  It’s a Ginger Beer for those who don’t want Alcohol, but desire the flavor, it’s not for me.

The Final Scene
The Final Scene

Trust the Ginger People

If you can’t trust the Ginger People, who can you trust to deliver a great Ginger Beer? Did the tag line grab you?  The Ginger People’s Ginger Beer grabbed me, and clearly a few people as it was named “Outstanding Beverage of the Year in 2000 by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT)”.

I found this bottle in the local Whole Foods‘s beverage isle.  There were two Ginger Beers I hadn’t yet tried, and I picked up a four pack for about eight dollars.  It’s about as pricey as any gourmet ginger beverage.  (The good news is the product held up for the price).

I drove home and loaded up the fridge with my Ginger Beer.  I cooked dinner, and grabbed one from the fridge. I popped the top.  My first instincts were smooth, slightly sweet, and delicious.  The smoothness is clearly from the pressed Ginger Juice, it doesn’t feel harsh.  The sweetness could be cut with a small bit of ice.

The ginger beer is so good, I am going to go out of my way to pick it up again.  I’d give this ginger beer an A- or 9 out of 10.  Awesome Job to the Ginger People.

Ginger People - Ginger Beer
Ginger People – Ginger Beer

 

Experiment #1 – Can it be that easy?

Like so many hobbyists, I have taken my hobby/passion from consumption to production.  I did my research, I found many recipes and a wide range of time needed to create an amazing drink.  I decided to select the simplest.

Simple is good.  I picked the following approach – Simple Syrup, Ginger and Canadian Seltzer Water.  I purchased the ingredients, and cheated a bit with one of them.  Gourmet Garden has a prepared diced/ground Fresh Ginger, and the ginger has a consistency between liquid and paste. The ginger was peeled and prepared – how easy could it be.

Gourmet Garden - Ginger
Gourmet Garden – Ginger

To start, I measured one cup of water and one cup of sugar into a sauce pan (equal parts of a simple syrup which I found on AllRecipes).  Into the sauce pan squeezed out all the Ginger in the tube.  I turned the heat to medium, and prepared to wait for it to boil and dissolve the sugar.  I also realized I need to dissolve the sugar, and whisked the sugar and ginger in the syrup regularly.

Preparation
Preparation
Whisk and Boil
Whisk and Boil

Looks interesting …. Don’t loose track of it like I did.   It boiled over in 15 minutes, and created a small mess.   I cleaned that up quickly.

I poured the mix into the a bowl to cool, and I waited until today to sample. I poured an ounce of the mix into a large glass, and poured in a seltzer water to top it off.

Tasty
Tasty

The Ginger Beer was delicious, yet slightly harsh, it needed to be cooked a bit more to limit the harshness of raw ginger .   I was so close.  I am excited to do experiment #2.

Kutztown Ginger Beer

Yes, Yes, Yes.  That’s what I say to anything ginger. I walk through any store, any open air market, and any location which has the faintest possibility of having ginger, and I think my goodness – Ginger is good.  I however also run into the reality that some ginger products are not good – not good at all.

On a getaway weekend with my other half, we ended up in the beautiful city of Philadelphia. We walked all over the city, and we looked for the amazing eats which we were promised – Pennsylvania Dutch and Cheese Steaks.  This mission/excursion lead us to Reading Open Air Market. (a map is attached below)

Philadelphia
Philadelphia

I wandered through eateries, shops and found one very interesting item – Kutztown Soda – Ginger Beer. Kutztown Soda is a Pennsylvania Dutch Bottling Company that dates back to 1851.  Kutztown reminds me of Polar Sodas in Massachusetts, a local brand and the local favorite.  It however may not be a national favorite.

I opened the top of the bottle (right from the vendor’s fridge), and I took a sip.  I did not enjoy it – the flavor is off. I think it’s the Sodium Benzonate which gives a slightly bitter taste based on the flavors it’s paired.   The ingredients are not exactly forthcoming with the natural and artificial flavors.

INGREDIENTS: Triple-Filtered Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Natural And Artificial Flavor,
 Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Yellow #5 And Red #40.

The net of my experience is I did not like it.  I threw it out, it wasn’t a ginger beer I liked or could really finish.

You can try the Ginger Beer out for yourself.

Saranac Ginger Beer

Walking through Wegmans in Northborough, my eye caught a view of a ginger beer.  My first instincts were to buy the ginger beer, my second was to walk buy, and my final instincts ended with the ginger beer in my basket.  I knew when I got home, I’d have some new ginger beer to sample.

The ginger beer was from  Saranac Ginger Beer. I grabbed a bottle and poured a nice drink of ginger beer.  Unfortunately, the ginger beer has high fructose corn syrup. I prefer to see cane sugar used, it does effect the flavor.  I wouldn’t put it on the top of my list of ginger beers – it’s an average ginger beer.

Interestingly, Saranac Brewery has tours.  I may have to put it on my list of places to go visit.

Saranac Ginger Beer
Saranac Ginger Beer