And now that we know the results of the Cola Round, we move on to another flavor altogether: cream soda. I have never had a cream soda float despite having a soft spot for root beer’s golden-pale cousin, so I was pretty excited to begin. Before I introduce the flavors we picked for this round, let me give you a quick recap of how we’re doing this challenge.
We use one brand of ice cream for a control: Stewart’s Vanilla, a local favorite.
As for the sodas, we chose six categories: Cola, Cherry, Root Beer, Cream, Fruit, and what I’m calling the “Brown Derby” with a bunch of Dr. Pepper-like sodas. Each round gets a night, spaced apart by a couple of weeks to give our bodies a break, and the winners of all six rounds move on to the semi-finals, and then the finals, where we’ll showcase the best three sodas, to be ranked in Olympic medal order of Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
We decided to rate each float based on the five metric categories below. We used a “1 through 5” rating system for each category, hoping that would keep our feelings from skewing the results too far out of proportion. This creates a max of 10 points per category when we each combine our scores. We then add up all categories for a max combined score of 50.
Flavor: A 5 might be that right balance of sweet, rich, creamy, and bubbly. A 1 would be when the flavor is muted or when either the soda or ice cream overpowers the other in a way that feels unsatisfying.
Sweetness: A 5 would be something noticeably sweet, but not disgustingly so. A 1 would be not sweet at all or OVERKILL sweetness.
Carbonation: A 5 would be when it retains some bubble and bite even after it melts the ice cream. A 1 would be when it falls totally flat.
Texture/Cohesion: This one is the most subjective, but we decided a 5 means it has a nice blend of creamy melting ice cream in the middle, a foamy head, and some soda holding out on the bottom. A 1 might be when it doesn’t mix much or the mix just seems…weird. See? Subjective. Science is hard, gang.
Visual Appeal: A 5 would be the visual equivalent of what we used in Texture/Cohesion, showing a nice balance. A 1 might be something that looks like we’re drinking sour milk or soda with a scoop of cottage cheese on top. No thanks.
Oh, and we’re also going to watch all the Harry Potter movies while we do this, one for each of the eight nights. We watched Sorcerer’s Stone for our practice round and Chamber of Secrets for the Cola round, so tonight it’s Prisoner of Azkaban!
And now, bring on the next delicious horcrux!
Round Two: Cream Soda
The sodas we chose for this round include one mainstream brand and three “indie” flavors, since we felt many supermarket brands tend to taste fairly similar while the harder to find regional brands offer more variations on the theme. We chose A&W Cream Soda, Boylan Crème Soda, Stewart’s Cream Soda, and Virgil’s Cream Soda.
Again, we attempted to disguise our bias toward any one flavor by creating the floats “blind,” where I make the floats for Amelia and she makes the floats for me, we mix them up, and don’t tell the other which is which until the end.
Like the Cola Round, they all had a very similar look in float form, and flavor is what played the largest role in differentiating between the different brands this time. We sipped, we gulped, we scanned and prodded, going up and down the line, taking notes and slowly settling on favorites.
A&W Cream: When mixed with vanilla ice cream, this one seemed to lose carbonation pretty quickly and it didn’t have as much fizziness, leaving the float with a watery texture. But the flavor was fine, a pleasant, mild vanilla flavor. It had a richer almost caramel look once it all settled down, which we both liked.
Stewart’s Cream: The flavor and sweetness was stronger than A&W, which I initially liked, but it soon took on an almost artificial or chemical aftertaste with a tart edge to it, and Amelia said she thought she tasted a hint of cherry? Something was different about the aftertaste, that’s for sure, and it was something we didn’t thoroughly enjoy. But it had a thick texture, good sweetness, and held it’s carbonation fine.
Boylan Creme: This one had a rich, creamy texture we both really liked. It was noticeably sweeter than the previous two, had average carbonation once it mixed with the ice cream, and had a malty, almost buttery (or butterscotch-like) flavor. This flavor tasted really good my first couple of passes, but after the third or fourth full tasting I started to grow a little tired of it. In smaller doses this would be an incredible option, and we liked this one much more overall.
Virgil’s Cream: Based on our notes, one might think this soda would fall in the middle of the pack. We both felt it was appropriately sweet and flavorful but more toned down than the others. It didn’t jump out and overpower you. Amelia though the texture favored the soda, retaining it’s carbonation and keeping separate from the ice cream, and I agreed, noting that the ice cream held it’s own ground, as there were smooth scoops still melting into the soda after three or four tastes, and I like that. Overall it was the most balanced and subtle of the sodas, and it really worked for both of us.
WINNER: Virgil’s Cream Soda
Post-decision notes: We didn’t feel nearly as overloaded with sugar as we did last time after the Cola round, which sent us skyrocketing into a sugar high before crashing into oblivion. Sure, we still felt a bit giddy but as we settled in for some Harry Potter goodness the sugar and caloric intake didn’t go all expecto patronum on us and banish us to the medicine cabinet for expecto Pepto-Bismol. And while Mexican Coke was pretty damn good, Virgil’s leads in overall points. But the big bad root beer round still awaits us, so we may see a new house points leader next time.