Chances are you've heard about Cascal Fermented Soda kind of recently, what with Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern helping to promote them and all. I'd heard of it, but not tried it yet. Cascal is a Whole Foods kind of company, and I'm really not a Whole Foods kinda guy.
So when I found Cascal at my local downmarket Big Lots, I grabbed a four-pack so I could check out what all the buzz is about. Although Cascal has a variety of pretentiously-named flavors (the names are designed to be evocative of wine, so there's an apple flavor called "Fine Dry," a honey and malt flavor called "Fine Dark," a cherry/chocolate/rose flavor named "Ripe Rouge," and so on) only the "Light Red" was on the shelf. On the front label, Light Red claims "notes of Black Currant and Mirabelle."
Most of the time, when you think of "fermentation," you think of alcohol (or spoilage, right?) Cascal's fermentation develops flavor, but the drink is non-alcoholic. It's kind of a wine-ish flavored sody-pop.
But it's obvious with the very first sip that this is no ordinary sody-pop. There is no sugary sweetness, only a dry and crisp flavor of red summer fruit with a slightly tart aftertaste. The carbonation gives Cascal a bit of fizz, but it's light compared with Coke and Pepsi's belch engines. Maryanne and I both found it to be snappy and refreshing - much more so than heavier sugary pops.
The back label tells the story. Cascal is 19% juice, and the ingredient panel lists no preservatives, no added sugar, no added acids - nothing but sparkling water, fermented barley malt, and a variety of different fruit juices (almost all of them from concentrate, and most of them fermented.) The final result is sparkly, fruity and quenching, and only 60 calories for the bottle (compare that to 140 calories for the same amount of Coca-Cola.)
Cascal Light Red is pretty good stuff. I might even try some of the other flavors.