Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keepin’ it old school

Back in February of last year, I learned from blogger/soda enthusiast Matt Hinrichs that the Pepsi Cola people had planned a limited promotion by which they would manufacture their two most popular soft drinks—Pepsi and Mountain Mtn Dew—with honest-to-goodness sugar, the way nature and dentists intended. Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, as they were to be referred to respectively, would make their debut on a grocer’s shelf near you in April…but for a limited time only.

Suffice it to say, I saw neither product being offered in this area—and this from someone who ventures out to Publix on a once-a-week basis. But recently, Matt included a note at Scrubbles.net that announced they were giving the Throwbacks a second go-round…and as luck would have it, I found both products at the store last Thursday, along with a third brew, Heritage Dr. Pepper.

Publix was offering three 12-packs of any Pepsi 12 oz. can product for $10 last week, and even though I would have scored a better deal had I purchased the 6-pack of 24 oz. bottles (they were 4 for $10) I needed to try the Throwback beverages. (They were not available in the 24 oz. size.) So I put two of the Pepsi’s and one of the Mountain Dew’s in my cart (no Dr. Pepper for this guy, thank you very much) and I ended up taking one of the Pepsi 12-packs over to the ‘rents for the weekend so that my mom could sample the beverage tasting experience.

Now, I realize in posting this that I’m going to be branded a soda-drinking heretic. But the plain, simple fact of the matter is—I don’t see what the fuss is all about with regards to the Pepsi. I sampled a can or two over the weekend and was underwhelmed. It had a sort of flatness to it, almost as if they were forced to take out the carbonation in order to get the sugar inside. I’m sure there’s probably a valid explanation—maybe my taste buds have gone to seed, or perhaps I’m so used to the high fructose corn syrup stuff that I can’t tell the difference anymore. Here’s a rundown on the product over at BevReview.com in case you’re curious about what others (in a considerably more positive light) have to say.

Curiously, I’m sampling the Mountain Dew Throwback as I type and I can honestly say this is a beverage I can support. There’s a bit o’controversy about the product, however, in that they have apparently made a noticeable change in its contents since its introduction in April 2009, according to BevReview.com:

Mountain Dew Throwback (April 2009 Version)

Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, natural and artificial flavor, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), caffeine, gum arabic, brominated vegetable oil, Yellow 5

Mountain Dew Throwback (December 2009 Version)

Carbonated water, sugar, orange juice concentrate, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), caffeine, sodium citrate, gum arabic, erythorbic acid (preserves freshness), calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), brominated vegetable oil, Yellow 5

HFCS Mountain Dew

Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated orange juice, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), caffeine, sodium citrate, erythorbic acid (preserves freshness), gum arabic, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), brominated vegetable oil, Yellow 5

Simply by looking at the ingredients, you can see there's a substantial difference in the Throwback versions. Namely, the December 2009 version features orange juice concentrate, sodium citrate, erythorbic acid, and calcium disodium EDTA — all ingredients you won't find in the April 2009 version. Interestingly, however, they are found in the HFCS version of Dew.

BevReview speculates that Pepsi made the changes it did to the Mountain Dew Throwback because of a flurry of complaints that the soda tasted like “a diet drink.” The reissued version of Dew Throwback just can't stack up,” argues reviewer Steve. “It feels like a cop-out to the vocal batch of zombies who were brought up to think that high fructose corn syrup Dew is the way it's supposed to taste… and Pepsi caved in. I don't blame them, to be honest. It's not like they've had a good 2009. From marketing stupidity to eroding sales, they need all the cash they can get these days! But enough editorializing for now.”

He further states:

I think that authentic citrus flavor and full bodied experience are missing from the new Dew Throwback. For one thing, when you smell the drink, there's nothing there. Nada. Zilch. Compare this to the scent coming off the old Dew Throwback… which actually had a citrus aroma. This is surprising given that new Dew Throwback contains orange juice concentrate, thus you'd think it would taste better. Well, "better" is a relative term. If you are a fan of the way regular Mountain Dew tastes these days, then you are probably going to really love the December 2009 version of Mountain Dew Throwback. However, if you were a fan of the smooth, citrus flavor found in the April 2009 version, then you are going to be disappointed. This new Throwback is blander and less packed with unique flavor. It's not horrible, but compared to the distinct taste that we all were able to experience with the original Dew Throwback, it's a bit frustrating to a soda enthusiast.

I can’t honestly call myself a “soda enthusiast” even though I drink a lot of the stuff—and I certainly mean no disrespect to my friend Matt—but when I hear the phrase I get a mental picture of someone with a silver cup on a chain around their neck who samples the soda by swishing it around in their mouth and then spitting it out in the genteel fashion of a wine connoisseur. Of course, I am also at a disadvantage because I did not get the opportunity to try the Mountain Dew Throwback of 2009, which apparently was a better vintage. (Okay, I’ll stop with the wine jokes.) But, hey—I know what I like, and the Dew Throwback is certainly worth the trek to the store; the fact that they reproduced the original “hillbilly” logo and aren’t spelling it “Mtn” on the can is justification enough to lay in a supply—because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

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hobbyfan said...

Until I saw the Mountain Dew Throwbacks on a store display the other day, I didn't know Pepsi was doing those, too. "Heritage Dr. Pepper"? Are you kidding?

Remember the Pepsi Throwback ads last year, Ivan? The one with an Isaac Hayes soundalike voice-over? I wish they brought that back.

Frontal Lobe Jello said...

I have tried a throwback Pepsi and didn't think it tasted that different from regular Pepsi.

Since I haven't had a Mountain Dew in over 40 years (yeah, I'm that old) I felt no reason to start drinking any version now :-)

The real stand-out for me is Mexican Coke...it tastes like I remember Coke tasting when I grew up...it's made with sugar and comes in a real bottle.

Look for it your local Mexican grocer. Be sure to read the ingredients, since even some Coke made in Mexico is made like the US version with corn syrup.

Tom said...

Speaking of sodas, have you ever had (or heard of) a soda called "Mickey Melon"? I think it was Canfield's. I remember it from the early-mid 1980s; a local grocer used to carry it all the time (until the store went out of business). It was a watermelon-flavored soda and on the label it had an illustration of Mickey Rooney (circa 1938) in a farmer's outfit holding a bushel-basket full of melons. On the back of the label it said, "This is Mickey Rooney's Favorite Soft Drink", and had a replica of his signature. Am I the only person who remembers this?

I have been searching the internet to find some memories or some pictures but I can't find a thing.

Stacia said...

I'm heading to Target tomorrow to try these sodas out, if they're still selling them. I'll make sure to register my opinion on the Internet. What else is Twitter for?

Kevin Deany said...

Tom: You're not mistaken, I remember Mickey Melon. It was pretty bad. Still, people would ask me to bring it to parties, just to try it. I would pour a little into a cup and people would take a swig. There were never requests for more. That bottle never, ever emptied. I was never able to dispose of a bottle at a party and wound up just drinking the rest of it myself.

I can remember bringing it to one party and it was about the same time the Golden Throats LPs were out. Someone bought that as a gag, and we were listening to William Shatner "singing" Lucy in Sky with Diamonds while swigging Mickey Melon. Such memories.

Steve Tanner said...

Ivan, thanks for the links to BevReview.com in your article. It's appreciated! :)

If you can find some of the Heritage Dr Pepper, it's worth it!

- Steve at BevReview.com

Tom said...

Kevin, that's a funny story. I think I heard some of those songs on Doctor Demento. And I knew I wasn't the only one who had heard of the soda... I loved the taste of it. I should have saved a bottle for posterity. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this mentioned by Mickey Rooney on the 3–14 – 84 episode of Johnny Carson. I totally forgot about this stuff! I wish we could get it back now. I used to drink it at my uncles liquor store, Sometimes doctoring it up with a shot of Myers rum.