I love soft drinks. If it's cold, non-alcoholic, and flavored - I want to try it (at least once). (After an unfortunate incident with a salty yogurt drink, I should also add "sweet" to that list.) Tina also shares my curiosity and likes to taste soft drinks (but taste is all she does - I love to drink the stuff - fruit juice, sparkling water, sodas, lemonade, and even Sunny Delight). We both have a special place in our hearts for cream soda, so we decided to do a taste test. In order to limit our selection - we focused on regular (no artificial sweeteners) cream sodas without high-fructose corn syrup.
(This is filed under Cooking Tests even though no cooking was involved... didn't know where else to put it.)
I should explain a little before I go on. In the United States, it's actually cheaper to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) than to buy cane or beet sugar. This is largely due to the massive corn lobby in the U.S. which has convinced the government to set import quotas and tariffs on sugar cane to make the environment more favorable to the corn producers. (America produces so much corn that it doesn't really know what to do with it - most recently there's been a big push for the corn to be converted ethanol for use as a fuel.) In any case, the corn goes through a fairly extensive process to form corn syrup, which is then treated with enzymes to convert glucose into fructose. The syrup is then further enriched to a higher concentration of fructose. Most beverages use HFCS that is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose as opposed to pure corn syrup which is close to 100% glucose. (HFCS can be as high as 90% fructose.) Because fructose is sweeter than sucrose (cane sugar) and glucose a bit less sweet than sucrose, this blend works out well for use as a cane sugar replacement - just replace the sugar with HFCS. Because sucrose breaks down during digestion into a glucose and fructose molecule, most people consider the two to be pretty much the same.
This isn't quite true - just because sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose doesn't mean it's the same as a 50-50 mix of glucose and fructose. First off (and most important to me) it tastes different. Whether it tastes better or worse is a matter of preference, but I think sugar tastes better than HFCS. It's currently unclear which is worse for you - HFCS detractors claim that HFCS can lead to and/or promote obesity while other research shows that HFCS has no detrimental effects when comapred to sugar. (The fact that the majority of the pro-HCFS research has been conducted with money from industry sources like the American Beverage Association and the Corn Refiners Association does not invalidate the results, but can lead to some eyebrow raising.)
In any case, for taste reasons (as well as reducing the number of sodas we had to buy), we limited our taste testing to only those products using cane sugar. We stocked up our fridge (these sodas don't usually come in singles - so we had four and six packs of them) with nine different varieties of cream sodas. Here's how we felt about them after multiple tastings.
We tried (from left to right): Natural Brew Hand Crafted Vanilla Creme Soda, AJ Stephans Pure Cane Sugar Boston Cream Soda, Virgil's Micro Brewed Cream Soda, Fitz's Premium Micro-Brewed Creme Soda, Dad's Classic Cream Soda, Journey Softbrew Java Island Vinalla Creme Soda Twisted Bean Vanilla Brew, Boylan Bottleworks Brand Creme, Boylan's Creme Soda (The Natural Kind), and R.W. Knudsen Vanilla Creme Spritzer.}?>
Virgil's Micro Brewed Cream Soda - Gentle vanilla flavor and smooth finish made this our favorite cream soda
AJ Stephans Pure Cane Sugar Boston Cream Soda - Rich solid vanilla flavor
Dad's Classic Cream Soda - Good, strong vanilla flavor but extra sweetness reduced the complex vanilla flavors
Fitz's Premium Micro-Brewed Creme Soda - Fruity taste, mild vanilla flavor
R.W. Knudsen Vanilla Creme Spritzer - Sweetened with fruit juice, this cream soda had a sweetness that hinted of grapes
Boylan Bottleworks Brand Creme - Crisp start with a slightly odd after taste; overall bland flavor
Boylan's Creme Soda (The Natural Kind) - Clean cream soda flavor, but a little bland and unexceptional
Natural Brew Hand Crafted Vanilla Creme Soda - Weird citrus flavor at end followed by a super-sweet lingering aftertaste
We really didn't like this one
Journey Softbrew Java Island Vanilla Creme Soda Twisted Bean Vanilla Brew - the winner of longest named cream soda had some overwhelming weird flavors of maple syrup and spice (as in spice cookies) which ended up tasting like medicine
HFCS-Free Cream Sodas
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