There are the niche sodas that you drink because they're old and familiar, or new and unusual, and you like that. Then there are the small-time sodas that you drink because you actually like the flavor. And if they were to expand beyond their little production plantsif everyone on Earth had a case in the kitchen and your allegiance no longer made any statement except that you were just like everyone else, you'd still drink them. For me, South Carolina's Blenheim Ginger Ale is one of those sodas.
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When I'm not making homebrew and writing about it, my other life is training to become a pediatrician. One of the hazards of this career is exposure to tons of infectious viruses and bacteria. Good hand hygiene, diet, and exercise can ward off most infections, but last week one got through—and it was a nasty gastroenteritis. As I lay in bed contemplating my impending death I dreamed of an elixir that could ease the pain and wet my lips without causing a crisis. I dreamed of ginger beer.
Back in November, I wrote a short post about Vernor's ginger ale, one of the oldest soft drinks in the country (if not the the oldest). It's a great, golden-style ginger ale with some nice vanilla-cream flavors and a reasonably punch of spicy ginger. Tasty, for sure, but there are times when what you really want is a blow-your-head-off, destroy-your-nose, no-question-this-is-curing-my-cold ginger ale.
I've been a fan of Vernors Ginger Ale for a little over a year now since discovering the stuff at Motz's Burger in Detroit. It's popular around those parts, something like the official drink of Detroit, and with good reason. Golden in color and hyper-effervescent, it's only mildly sweet with a mellow ginger flavor coupled with a distinct vanilla aroma. It falls somewhere between a cream soda and a dry-style ginger ale and goes amazingly well with hamburgers and hangovers alike.
Some find the earthy flavor and slow-burn heat of ginger ale a bit harder to appreciate than, say, cola. Some ginger ales are definitely more intense than others, with brewers pushing the ginger-tolerance envelope to the limit. But the good ones balance vanilla and caramel notes with the spicy flavor of ginger, and lighten it with hints of citrus. We tried 13 brands in a blind taste test in order to pick our favorites.