Monday, June 1, 2015

Mountain Dew Dewshine!

Could this be the Crystal Pepsi of Generation Y?

In the early-to-mid 1990s, PepsiCo was quickly losing ground in the Cola Wars. A lot of that had to do with a 1993 tampering scare, in which dozens of people reported finding assorted debris (including such delightftul "prizes" as syringes and bullets) inside their cans of Diet Pepsi. It was salt in the wound for the ailing beverage giant, who at the same time, was watching its newfangled Crystal Pepsi (for all you millennials out there, a short-lived offering that was basically the same thing as normal Pepsi, except the same translucent hue as Sprite) falter hard in the marketplace.

The company invested a lot of money into Crystal Pepsi, beginning with a self-congratulatory Super Bowl ad featuring Van Hagar. From a food science standpoint, there was really nothing at all special about the product, since pretty much all colas are naturally water-colored before the brown food coloring is added to them. To this day, some people swear up and down that Crystal Pepsi tasted noticeably different from the regular brand, even though they were biochemically the exact same recipe -- as all color psychologists will be quick to tell you, the power of aesthetics is quite the mother.

So, imagine my surprise when I was waltzing down the aisles of big box America and saw this little item staring me in the face...

Oh, sweet mercy, history do indeed doth repeat itself. While the transparent Pepsi of the Grunge Era was just a small part of a perplexing "clear" consumer product trend, I'm not quite sure what the catalyst for Dewshine is supposed to be. Was there really that much consumer demand for Zima-hued Mountain Dew, and if so, just who are the people who have been clamoring for it? 


Obviously, the variation is meant to mimic the moonshine runners of yore, in more ways than one. The actual exterior packaging seems to replicate a cardboard box, and even features a crude hillbilly stereotype cartoon character lifting a jug of home-made (and probably toxic) liquors, stating oh-so-humorously that the contents of said container will, and I quote, "tickle your innards." PepsiCo even went the next step and included a warning on the package that the contents therein actually aren't alcoholic, which has to be the first label of its type that I have seen on any mainstream soda.

Ingredient-wise, it seems to be fairly similar to the regular stuff, despite all of the ballyhooing about the product containing "real sugar." By the way, how come there are no recommended daily allowance percentages listed for sugar content on any food label? Methinks serious shenanigans are afoot on that one...

The bottles themselves are really generic, but keeping with the whole moonshine motif, that's probably intentional. Basically, they are just translucent glass bottles, with little plastic stickers around the neck and waist to remind you that you are drinking Mountain Dew and not hillbilly poison. Which brings me to the product mascot...

Taking home four of these bottle caps (complete with the simulated chipped paint!) is probably reason enough to purchase a pack of Dewshine. For one thing, that is just a fantastic shade of dark green, which would look right at home as a bumper on any 1970s pinball table. Secondly, the mascot cartoon himself is so authentically vintage -- just try and tell me this guy wouldn't pass for an old ABA team logo. I may have discarded the bottles as soon as I finished my beverage, but rest assured, those caps will be among my most treasured keepsakes for the foreseeable future.

As for the beverage's taste, you may be wondering? Well, it does a fairly serviceable job of replicating the taste of regular Dew, but there are certainly some key differences. For one thing, this iteration doesn't have the same amount of fizziness as the normal beverage; on the whole, the taste and texture is quite similar, but the overall mouthfeel is very different. Additionally, while the product still has that trademark brominated vegetable oil kick to it, it seemed to me to be a much pulpier beverage than the traditional cola. Irony of ironies, that real sugar switch-up leads to a product that tastes a lot less saccharine than standard Dew. 

Additionally, while I know it is all in my head, I couldn't help but periodically pick up a distinct alcoholic tinge every other sip. I swear, the longer I swished the cola around in my mouth, the more it tasted like Smirnoff Ice -- and if you've ever tasted that particular alco-pop before, you already know how you're going to feel about the flavor of Dewshine. 

At the end of the day, I suppose Dewshine is a decent enough beverage, but it's clearly not meant to be anything other than a cheap summertime cash-grab. It tastes differently enough from the standard Dew to probably warrant a test-taste, but it's not really different enough to qualify as some kind of extraordinary consumer experience, either. It's good, but I'm afraid it's just not that good -- which, considering the comparably low-key marketing for the product, is probably by design.


Of course, Dewshine ain't the only Dew spin-off on store shelves this summer. Pictured above is the all-new (but technically, not really) Mountain Dew Sangarita Blast, which has been a Taco Bell in-house exclusive up until now. For those of you unfamiliar with the beverage, it's basically the same thing as the beloved Baja Blast Dew variation, although with a slight  pinch of cranberry. Or a really, really overpowering cherry. Or maybe even strawberry. You know, there might even be some apple in there, too -- the important thing to take away here is that it tastes a lot thicker and more bitter than just about anything else with the words "Mountain Dew" plastered on it, and if that sounds like your kind of drink, by golly, buy this shit by the truckload. 

And then there are the newfangled Mountain Dew Kickstart Energizing pineapple orange mango and strawberry kiwi variations (yeah, I know these things technically came out in winter, but I am just now getting around to trying them out.) To be frank, I wasn't really a huge fan of the first two waves of Kickstart offerings, but I actually liked these scaled back, coconut water-based drinks a lot more than I thought I would.  The strawberry-kiwi combination, despite being the same hue and texture as cough syrup, was pretty flavorful, but it's the pineapple-orange-mango drink that's really worthy of your attention, since it seems to be the closest contemporary consumers are likely to get to a relaunch of the gloriously underrated Pepsi Next Paradise Mango cola from a few summers ago.

So, there you have it, fellow Dew-ers. No matter if you're into translucent alco-pop styled novelty beverages, super-sugary energy drinks that taste like defunct colas from 2012 or sodas that taste kind of like Sierra Mist with a bunch of blue Sour Patch Kids residing at the bottom of the bottle, you no doubt have many options when it comes to getting your MD on this summer. Or, you can just drink the regular stuff and not even bother monkeying around with all of the drinks I just told you about. Either way, Pepsi gets your money, don't they?

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