REVIEW: Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream

When the folks at Dr Pepper aren’t busy at the soda fountain mixing together as many random flavors as they can while still having their beverage be palatable (somehow 23 is the magic number), they apparently dabble in berry farming. In 2006 Dr Pepper released Berries & Cream and 2019 saw Dr Pepper Dark Berry. The latest trip to the patch brings us Strawberries & Cream. This variety, with its pink label and strawberry flavor, seems like it would make a good limited edition for Valentine’s Day, but it’s actually set to be a permanent addition to the lineup.

The first whiff upon opening the bottle is definitely strawberry forward. It reminds me more of strawberry candy than a real strawberry, but as someone who eats more strawberry candies than the fruit, I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. The semi-spicy, peppery kick that makes Dr Pepper unique isn’t totally lost to the strawberry and cream flavors, although it is more muted here. I found the flavors smooth and very drinkable, but I wish something stood out more. Despite being tasty, it was sort of underwhelming.

I think the cream could be more pronounced, and maybe also the Dr Pepper. Something about this falls flat for me, which leads me to my next issue – it’s literally a bit flat. I tried this straight out of the bottle and poured it over ice, and it seemed less carbonated than usual. There was a slight initial fizz, but it disappeared right away. I don’t know if this is something to do with the formula or if I just got an odd batch, but I missed the bubbles.

I appreciate Dr Pepper leaning into old-timey soda fountain themes and I think this new concoction would be an excellent base for an ice cream float. As a stand-alone drink, it lacks something, and I’m not sure I’d have chosen it for a full-time product. Considering there are few mainstream strawberry sodas on the market, I can see fans of that flavor really enjoying this. But it’s worth noting that the other person who tried it with me found the strawberry aspect to be medicinal tasting. I’ll look back on this as a pleasant novelty drink, but to me, it’s just not the cream of the crop.

It’s worth noting this also comes in a zero sugar version. Dr Pepper has a history of excelling with these alternatives, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available at my store yet.

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 20 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 250 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 66 grams of total carbs, 65 grams of total sugars (incl. 65 grams of added sugars), and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starry Lemon Lime Soda

PepsiCo is aiming higher by replacing Sierra Mist with the new lemon-lime soda Starry. Mist Twist, the previous rebranding effort, failed to unseat the current king of the lemon-lime mountain, Sprite. Will aiming for the stars be enough to achieve the stratospheric sales growth Pepsi desires?

Let’s get to brass tacks: Starry tastes like every other lemon-lime soda I’ve ever had. The difficulty in describing this soda is how similar it is not only to its precursor but all lemon-lime sodas. If you taste a Coke next to a Pepsi, you can tell they’re the same flavor but also have notable differences. A Mug Root Beer tastes different than Barq’s. Sprite and 7Up or Sierra Mist and Starry? Not so much.

I tasted both the regular and zero sugar versions, and there was more of a difference between these two than between Starry and the competition. I prefer the zero sugar version because I’m used to diet sodas, and it tastes crisper. Full sugar Starry was comparatively syrupy, but I imagine someone with different preferences would think otherwise.

If I had to guess a change between Starry and Sierra Mist, it would be that Starry has a slightly more natural citrus aroma. To test this, I ran to my local Kwik Trip again to pick up a remaining bottle of Sierra Mist before they either were sold out or agents of PepsiCo confiscated them. A head-to-head comparison between old and new sodas revealed that I wasn’t mistaken in thinking the aroma was different, but it’s so negligible that you have to be looking for it.

Because the lemon-lime sodas are so similar, the best way to differentiate Sierra Mist from Starry is through their labeling. And on that count, Starry comes out on top. Sierra Mist’s combination of lemon, lime, mountains, and color palette creates something light and crisp but also a bit busy, making it easy to overlook. Starry removes the mountain, uses a more vivid yellow and green, and most importantly, has bold black outlining. The black banding on the Zero Sugar version is especially striking.

Starry is another solid entry in the lemon-lime soda market. It may not do anything new, but taken on its terms as a rebranding effort, it succeeds.

Purchased Price: $ 1.39
Size: 20 fl oz bottles
Purchased at: Kwik Trip
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Regular), 7 out of 10 (Zero Sugar)
?Nutrition Facts: Regular – 240 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 mg milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 65 grams of sugar (including 65 grams added sugars), and 0 gram of protein. Zero Sugar 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 mg milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Pitch Black (2023) and Mtn Dew Pitch Black Zero Sugar

NOTE: Mtn Dew Pitch Black and the Zero Sugar version will be released in January 2023. Thanks to Mtn Dew for sending samples.

Mountain Dew Pitch Black made its debut in 2004, a time before Mountain Dew lost most of its vowels to become Mtn Dew, which I assume happened because it drank a sugary soda and didn’t brush those vowels after. While Mtn Dew’s name got shorter on bottles and cans, Pitch Black’s description has gotten slightly longer. While the original was a Dew with a blast of black grape, this latest version describes itself as having a blast of dark citrus punch flavor.

Wait. What?

I have so many questions now. What the heck is dark citrus and why does it sound like something that would cause me to lose hit points in an RPG? Why doesn’t Mtn Dew say this is dark grape flavored? What is it hiding? Is it a dark secret? Is that dark secret hiding in a dark cave? Is it Batman? But I guess the most important question is: Does this Mtn Dew Pitch Black taste the same as Mountain Dew Pitch Black?

Yes, and it’s confusing that Mtn Dew is trying to push it as a “dark citrus punch” because when I drink it, all I can think of is grape Pitch Black. To be honest, despite it being one of my favorite Dew flavors of all time (Pitch Black I, not Pitch Black II), I kind of forgot what it smells and tastes like since it’s been so long. But all those memories came (pardon my use of this verb, Mtn Dew) blasting back with the first sniff and sip. Along with those memories came a bit of frustration that this flavor doesn’t come back as often as it should or isn’t permanent because it’s as delightful as I remember.

But Mtn Dew has not only brought back the beloved Pitch Black, it has also spawned a Zero Sugar version. It smells like the original and its flavor hits all the right grape-y notes, but it tastes like a somewhat watered-down version of the original with an artificial sweetener chaser. It’s fine, but I like regular Pitch Black so much that I feel it’s hard for me to accept the taste compromises that the zero sugar version has. There are other Zero Sugar Dew flavors that I don’t mind over the full sugar version, but this is not one of them.

I’m so happy Pitch Black is back, although I’m a little sad it’s no longer attached to Halloween. Enjoy it before it ends up back in the Mtn Dew vault, which I assume is in a dark cave in a dew flower-covered mountain that also contains whatever dark secret Mtn Dew is hiding.

DISCLOSURE: I received free product samples from Mtn Dew. Doing so did not influence my review.

Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 20 oz bottles
Purchased at: Received from Mtn Dew
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Original), 6 out of 10 (Zero Sugar)
Nutrition Facts: (20 oz bottle) Original – 280 calories, 0 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 75 grams of sugar, (including 75 grams of added sugar), 0 grams of protein, and 91 milligrams of caffeine. Zero Sugar – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 85 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 91 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Can

This review started with seven simple words, texted by my partner as he checked our mail: “Hey, did you order an exclusive Dew?”

I hadn’t… but my confusion quickly gave way to unadulterated joy. A month or so prior, I’d tracked down all three of Summer 2022’s Baja flavors — the OG and its new and surprisingly-elusive-in-my-neck-of-the-woods friends Baja Mango Gem and Baja Gold — diligently plugged the codes on their caps into Mountain Dew’s website for a stab at the Lost Treasures of Baja Island sweepstakes, and then summarily forgotten all about it… until I returned home triumphant to a coveted six-pack of my Baja Deep Dive winnings!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Box

Sure, it sounds a little less impressive when I specify that I’m a mere one of 18,000 beverage buffs who got lucky this time around, but still, free, surprise, only-available-from-a-contest Mountain Dew straight to one’s doorstep is nothing to scoff at!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Glass

I eagerly cracked open a tall, spiffy dark purple can of this subnautical nectar, which is decorated with what seems to be an artist’s interpretation of what normal fish would mutate into if oceans were made of Mountain Dew. A poison-dart-frog-bright, slightly bluish green (appropriately, one could even call it “sea green”) liquid whose hue I can best describe as “Yep, that sure is Mountain Dew-colored” pulsed out.

The perplexing potion smelled deliciously — and aggressively — fruity, candy-like even, but not in a way that I could immediately attribute to any particular flavor. If you’re familiar with Mountain Dew, such sugar-soaked ambiguity is probably not surprising. It is probably also not surprising when I report that this aquatic libation tastes… pretty much how just it smells. It’s violently sweet and heavily reminiscent of its citrus-y, mango-y, pineapple-y Baja brethren, but with a strange aftertaste that, bizarrely, reminded me of cucumber. A thorough sweep of the pleasantly active Mountain Dew community on Reddit suggests that I may literally be the only person in the world who thought that. Neat!

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Descript

Oh yeah, did I mention this is a mystery flavor? As of late I’ve been on an equally amused and bemused quest to try as many flavors of Dew as possible, but nevertheless, I haven’t yet developed the skill of actually being able to differentiate between them very well. So, when it came to cracking this maritime mystery, I was a bit lost at sea.

Mtn Dew Baja Deep Dive Graphics

A deep dive into, well, Deep Dive produced a few hints that were as well-buried as a hidden treasure. Notably, there is a diver on the can whose mask looks like a pineapple, but that was about all I could fish up on my lonesome. (The can also prominently features, among other things, an eel, an anglerfish, and what appears to be a sentient grenade with a narwhal horn, so I hope those aren’t also clues about the ingredients at play here!)

Fortunately, the trusty True Dew-ers of the internet have also unearthed the tantalizing tidbit that the font used on this can is the same as on the dearly departed Mountain Dew Pitch Black, which was grape flavored. Come to think of it, aren’t sea grapes a thing? If that somehow ends up being this flavor’s secret identity, Team Mountain Dew deserves a hearty tip of my pirate’s hat (but maybe also an eye roll).

All in all, the allure of this oceanic new edition, just like the allure of any Mountain Dew, is both difficult to describe and difficult to deny.

Purchased Price: Free as a sweepstakes prize
Size: 16 oz cans
Purchased at: n/a, only available to winners of the Lost Treasures of Baja Island sweepstakes
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 220 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of sodium, 59 grams of carbohydrates, 59 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 72 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Limited Edition 2022 Mtn Dew VooDEW

Limited Edition 2022 Mtn Dew VooDEW Bottle

It’s specDEWlation time! It’s the annual Mtn Dew VooDEW Mystery Flavor Guessing Game! If the previous three years are hints, it’ll be candy. In 2019, it was candy corn. In 2020, it was Skittles-like. In 2021, it was Starburst-like. In 2022… it’s, well, let’s find out.

First off, this smells like Skittles. But there’s no way VooDEW will taste like original Skittles for a second time, right?

So it’s sour, and I taste lemon and some berry, which got me thinking it might be Sour Skittles. Or it could be Sour Patch Kids, although now that I think about it, it might not be because it’s not as sour, and the lemon and berry flavors don’t remind me of the candy. Um, kind of wondering if it could be Lemonheads and, um, Berry Lemonheads? Are berry Lemonheads a thing, and are Lemonheads considered a Halloween candy?

Sour and fruity. Kind of thinking it might taste like a roll of Smarties. It’s a standard Halloween candy because I remember getting it as a kid and putting it in the unwanted candy pile after a night of Trick-or-Treating. They’re usually given out by heartless people. That’s still the case, right? Let me think about what else this could be. Extra caffeine is needed beyond the 91 milligrams in this bottle to help me think. SweeTarts?

Limited Edition 2022 Mtn Dew VooDEW Pour

All right. After pondering, I will base my guess mostly on how it smells. I believe this year’s Mtn Dew VooDEW Mystery Flavor is…Sour Skittles. Oh crap! I forgot to hide my guess using primitive cryptography in the paragraphs above. Argh!

While I’m not 100 percent sure what this year’s VooDEW tastes like, I do know this is one tasty Dew. I love the 2020 version that tasted like Skittles and this one equally. I also love the sourness and how it reminds me of Mtn Dew Pitch Black (which is rumored to return this year).

Limited Edition 2022 Mtn Dew VooDEW History

I hope Mtn Dew never stops with the mystery flavors. It would sadden me if they did quit like other brands.

NOTE: This year’s VooDEW is also available in a Zero Sugar version.

Purchased Price: More than anyone should pay for a bottle of soda
Size: 20 oz bottle
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 270 calories, 0 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 72 grams of carbohydrates, 72 grams of sugar (including 72 grams of added sugar), and 0 grams of protein.