Saturday, June 18, 2016
The term "taste test" is a bit disingenuous. As I've started to get interested in just what it is I've been drinking, I've discovered that ginger ale and ginger beer were, at least at first, two very different animals. Classically speaking, ginger beer is brewed like a beer, resulting in a drink with a very low but non-zero alcohol content; meanwhile, ginger ale is not much different from a soda: it's just carbonated water with ginger and sugar added to it. Chronologically speaking, ginger beer came first, having originated in England. Ginger ale, meanwhile, may have begun in Ireland, but the origins are somewhat disputed. Nowadays, the ginger beer/ale distinction has become blurred, especially as modern companies have taken to brewing the ales the way they brew the beers. (There's a good HuffPo article here.)
So comparing Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Bundaberg Ginger Beer may be a bit like comparing apples and oranges: they have basic commonalities that put them, taxonomically, in the same family or genus, but they're decidedly not in the same species—at least not yet, as the species may be experiencing some evolutionary convergence.
That said, I can say I definitely prefer Bundaberg to Canada Dry: the former has both greater smoothness and greater umami. The fizz in the Bundaberg doesn't force itself into your consciousness; it's more of a background white noise, like a gentle rain shower outside the covered pavilion of a restaurant with outdoor seating. Canada Dry, meanwhile, is all hard edges—about as subtle as a hammer to the head. I'm not saying it's bad—I like Canada Dry a lot—but it doesn't hold a candle to the smoothness and the depth of flavor of the Bundaberg, and this is obvious when you drink both drinks side by side. It's two completely different universes, and it's also no contest.