Being the tireless nerd that I am, I can’t pass by a selection of potential cocktail mixers without at least a cursory glance. I’m sure some of you picked up on that the last time I matched mixers head-to-head, but it really is a compulsion that I have a hard time ignoring. (My health food store is now carrying rhubarb, lemongrass and lavender sodas. Be still my pounding heart!)
As such, when I found myself once again venturing through one of my favorite off-the-wall shopping destinations and came upon their delightful assortment of old-fashioned sodas, I couldn’t help myself. Charlie Brown Farms is a cultural smörgåsbord that lies along Pearblossom Highway in Littlerock, California. Anyone who has done the drive from LA to Vegas has passed Charlie Brown’s, a ramshackle red farm-style building that only hints at the wonders it contains. Life size dinosaurs, a village of gnomes, room after room of dolls, toys, knick-knacks, lawn ornaments, fruits, nuts, snacks, sodas, pickles… It’s something like how I imagine the Mad Hatter’s cottage, had he the space and inclination to acquire a lifetime of popular American ephemera.
After half an hour of perusing the vast selection of snacks (the reason for our visit), I stumbled upon the sodas secreted behind the lunch counter area. In the end I had to limit my selection to three bottles of ginger beer (and two bottles of root beer) only because I avoid purchasing things that contain HFCS, but these three naturally sweetened choices represented themselves proudly despite their small number.
Buderim Aussie Style Ginger Brew | Queensland, AUS | cane sugar – ginger
Cloudy with a distinctly yellow color, akin to lemonade. Very little carbonation. Strong, earthy fresh ginger flavor with some overt spicy notes. Sweet but not saccharine. Category champion!
Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer | Pennsylvania, US | sugar – ginger root oil
Golden color, similar to ginger ale, with moderate carbonation. Very spicy, with a pronounced ginger flavor and hefty bite on the end. Moderate sweetness. Category runner-up—makes an excellent Moscow Mule
Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer HOT! HOT! HOT! | Pennsylvania, US | sugar – ginger root oil
Dark golden color, like Grade A maple syrup, with moderate carbonation. Very, very spicy, with a pronounced ginger flavor. Clears your sinuses and warms your stomach.