Thursday, April 28, 2011

manhattan special

I seem to be on a NYC theme this week. I always renew my love affair with New York when the spring is finally in full swing, and summer just around the corner. It's finally warm, and the walk to the subway isn't nearly as brutal as it is in the dead of winter with snow and ice blowing in my face.

Manhattan Special is a beverage company that has been around since 1895. There's a bit of old New York in every bottle of their espresso coffee drinks and natural flavored sodas. In theory, the espresso coffee should be my favorite drink: espresso coffee and seltzer, finally together in a bottle, capped with a bottle cap. Sadly, it's kind of gross. After tasting Manhattan Special, I realized that I like my seltzer separate from my coffee. I like iced coffee, and I like fizzy drinks. Just not together. Maybe if there had been some vanilla ice cream to make it like a Manhattan Special Float. Now there's an idea.

Bringing old-time flavor to the present is something I try to do. I love old-fashioned/retro candy: Squirrel Nut Zippers? Mary Janes? Bit-o-Honey? I subject co-workers and friends to these candies on a regular basis. I will not subject them to a Manhattan Special. In the long run, they'll thank me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

brooklyn brewery

Ah, Brooklyn Brewery.  It really is lovely having a microbrewery in the city, and the opportunity to go on a brewery tour anytime I want. I've been on the tour -- and although it is just one room, (well, two rooms if you count where you go buy the beer afterward!) it is still a good time. They allow you to order in food while you wait for your tour, and the room is big and raucous.

Their bottle caps are simple, elegant and come in many, many colors. And even without the name Brooklyn Brewery emblazoned on the cap, I bet that most people from the tri-state area would be able to pick this bottle cap out in a lineup. Being one of the top 40 breweries in the country probably doesn't hurt either.

I find myself wanting to drink Brooklyn Brewery more when I'm not in NYC, though.  Maybe it is nostalgia for home, or maybe it's the closest thing to a good beer when there is only Miller and Budweiser around. Who knows? But I love their seasonal brews, and BB gives me something to look forward during each season: Summer Ale, Post Road, and the ever-delicious, year-round Pennant Ale (just in time for baseball season!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

newport storm

There was a period of time in my life when I was spending many a weekend in Providence, RI.  I had a good friend getting  a degree there, and it gave me the opportunity to have a "weekend house" away from NYC.

Providence is an underappreciated east coast city. River-Fires in the summer, a great local food scene (places like Luxe Burger Bar and Union Station Brewery), and plenty of junk -- I mean "antique" -- stores. I would drag my friend to every junk store in the area, even though I wasn't really sure what I was searching for. I have a fascination with things that others throw away, and junk stores allow me to look through other people's things in a way that is semi-acceptable. My friend used the opportunity to look for old baseball cards. To each his own.

One of the beers that we would drink regularly was Newport Storm: Cyclone Edition, and even then, I was saving bottle caps. I think my favorite thing about this cap is the writing on the side: "Newport Storm The Cap." The actual cap is a graphic of a cyclone with a bird in the eye of the storm.

Sadly, I don't spend nearly as much time in Providence as I once did, but there is talk of taking a trip to Newport, which of course, would mean a trip to the brewery (have I mentioned my love of brewery/factory tours?) and also eating many, many lobster rolls. Let's hope we can make it there this year!

Monday, April 25, 2011

flying dog

I love Ralph Steadman and have an appreciation for Hunter S. Thompson. One of the first H.S.T. books I read was The Curse of Lono, and I fell in love with Steadman's artistic style. This is why I love the Flying Dog bottle cap and website (I highly recommend you check it out!).

Rather than get into the nitty gritty of what gonzo journalism is, or give you a book report on Hunter S. Thompson (but seriously, read him already), I thought I would talk a little bit about this lawsuit going on between Michigan and Flying Dog and the Raging Bitch 20th Anniversary ale that they came up with.

So, the long and short of it is that Michigan doesn't think that it's appropriate to have a beer called "Raging Bitch" distributed within the state. But as the article points out, Michigan already sells "Doggie Style" and "Dirty Bastard" beer from Flying Dog, both with equally "inappropriate" names -- if you go based on what they say about Raging Bitch, of course.

I always give kudos to clever advertising and product names. And besides, the fact that Michigan already allows a beer named Dirty Bastard to be sold just seems downright inconsistent. Flying Dog, I salute you for sticking to your guns. 

I could go on and on about the politics of this whole thing, but dear readers, that is not what you come to this blog for. You come here for awesomely cool bottle caps. But I would love to know your thoughts, too. Please feel free to leave comments about how you feel about this lawsuit. In the meantime,  I'll step off my soap box, and have a Raging Bitch for everyone in Michigan that can't have one tonight.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

reed's, kombucha wonder drink - guest post by Michael Lober

All right, listen up all you ginger fanatics out there: enough is enough. Don't get me wrong, I like ginger just as much as the next person -- particularly when sushi is involved -- but I don't enjoy it in everything. In fact, I'd go so far to say that I don't enjoy it in most things: burgers, meatloaf, empanadas, ice cream, wine, etc. I understand that ginger is trendy--exotic enough to be hip but not enough to be alienating--and that ginger has made significant inroads with the organic foodie crowd. Fine. Shred it up and sprinkle it on your kale casseroles for all I care, but really, is it a good idea to make it the key ingredient in a soda? I enjoy a good ginger ale every now and then, but most of the time the ginger in these sodas isn't overwhelming. I understand that craft soda manufacturers often try to produce anti-Coca-Colas -- as in, a drink that tastes strong and earthy in such a way as to not seem mass produced -- but there's got to be a better way of doing so than by simply tripling the amount of ginger in the mix.

Reed's has gone one step further: They've based their entire brand around ginger. There are six different flavors of ginger brew put out by Reed's, which, in my opinion, is six too many. The ginger completely overpowers whatever fruit flavor it's mixed with, and the aftertaste isn't sweet like a ginger ale or biting like a root beer but pungent and nasal-cleansing like ginger. I mean, I like ginger in small doses on food that it complements, but I don't fancy the idea of eating (or drinking) entire stalks of the thing. Reed's can lecture me all they want about the health benefits of ginger. That's all fine and good, but when I want straight-up ginger, I'll just, you know, go buy some ginger. The bottle caps are pretty cool, though.

Kombucha Wonder Drink clearly has an inferiority complex. Let's start with the name. Wonder Drink? Seriously? And then there's the price -- $3.50 in my neighborhood, way too much for a bottled soda. Finally, there's the soda itself: Asian-Pear-Ginger soda. Asian pears and ginger taste just fine as a snack, but I don't need them in soda form.

Look, Kombucha Wonder Drink, I understand that you're trying to make a splash in a competitive marketplace; it's hard to compete with the craft soda producers of the world. I get it. But, seriously, everything about your soda makes it seem like you walked into a Whole Foods one day, bought a couple of items on sale, blended them to liquid form, and then charged Whole Food-like prices for the concoction. Good try, but maybe a little less pear and ginger next time. And your bottle cap could use an upgrade. Silver is so 2000s.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

mystery cap!

Faithful readers! Try this one on for size:

I can't remember what this one is, but I recall it being some sort of Irish beer, and had at an amazing restaurant in NYC.

Any clues are greatly appreciated. And have a wonderful weekend full of bottle caps and delicious drinks of all kind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

rebel, badass, rogue

Are you a Rebel or are you a Badass? Let's see, if you're a Rebel, you might be from the Czech Republic.  If you're a Badass, you might be Kid Rock. If you're a bottle cap collector, you could be either one. Or you could be Rogue...

I purchased Rebel at our local supermarket, and I'll be honest: the only reason I bought Rebel was because of the name and the prospect of writing a blog post about this and Badass (Badass was purchased at crownvention!).

Rebel was a surprisingly good beer. It didn't just taste like another Budweiser. It's the kind of beer that I would consider buying again. High praise, indeed.

I didn't realize that Kid Rock had his own beer. It makes me wonder what other celebrity beers are out there. I've never listened to Kid Rock's music (if you can call it that) but if I ever find Badass beer in my local bodega, I'll try it if only for the name. But seriously, why is Kid Rock making a beer? What's the deal with celebrities thinking they need to make beer or clothing lines or perfumes? Celebrities should stick to what they do best -- being celebrities. Because, really, are they brewing the beer or coming up with the designs for the clothes, or are they just paying other people to do the heavy lifting and swooping in at the last minute and saying "Yes, I like this. I'm a badass. Now I will put my name on it." Is that the scenario? (I'm asking you, Kid Rock.) In that case, I want to be a celebrity and just have my name attached to things. If you're going to endorse something (Pepsi, Coke, TD Bank, etc) that's all fine and well for your bank account, but these "this is mine, I created it" ideas just seems like a bunch of bull to me. In other words, Kid Rock, just because you call your beer Badass doesn't make it (or you) so. Hmmm, in the end, maybe I'm more of a Rogue....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

goya: malta & refresco

I'm not sure why I keep torturing myself with these Malta drinks. Each one is worse than the last. Yet, I keep spotting them in my local bodegas, and clearly people drink them and like them. I've yet to develop a taste for them and probably never will. Life goes on.
One of the most prominent Maltas in my neighborhood is Malta Goya.

Claiming to be nutritious, and brewed in a similar style to beer (hops and barley), this nonalcoholic  beverage borders on Sangria Senorial territory. And by that I mean terrible. Don't get me wrong: I love a good beer--even a good stout--so the fact that I cannot stomach a Malta is slightly puzzling. Yet, they are everywhere. I guess since I didn't grow up on Malta, it might be a taste that I never acquire. Or maybe one day I will wake up and crave the taste of chewed-up crackers mixed with grass and dirt, and then, lo and behold, a Malta will be waiting for me. I mean, it took me until after college to really like beer (man, that was a sad realization -- I missed out on good beer!!), so maybe by the time I'm 50 I'll be all about the Malta. And looking at how many Malta's there are in the world... I'm afraid that I will have to keep drinking them until I like them. It will take me until I'm 50.

Goya doesn't just stick to Malta though. In my travels I've also found Refresco Goya: a line of tropical fruit drinks. Being the adventurous type, I went for the coconut flavor over your typical berry flavor. I think I'll stick with the berries next time.

As for the design of the cap (always the most important part!) Malta Goya proudly struts its stuff. Big and bold and blue. Refresco is slightly more "refreshing" looking, as if saying, "Look! A tropical refreshing drink! I'm using a relaxed and cool font as opposed to the bold flavor of Malta." At least they advertise what they are! I'll give them points for that, but don't expect anything more....

Monday, April 18, 2011


While at the grocery store this week, gazing at the large selection of beers and sodas available to me, I wondered if there were any holidays coming up that might warrant a blog post. Last one I focused on (if you can recall, faithful readers) was St. Patrick's Day. I'm an equal opportunity blogger, so Passover seemed like an excellent reason to blog about He'brew, The Chosen Beer. Shmaltz, the parent company, also makes Coney Island Lager, whose familiar crown you'll recognize if you follow me on Twitter.

OK, the name alone is amazing. He'brew?! If you are a fan of puns this has to be in your wheelhouse. Shmaltz? C'mon!! Don't Pass Out, Passover?!?!?!?!? How this is not in every Jewish home across the country I will never know. I say we start a campaign with Rabbis across the nation for a national Jewish beer-drinking holiday. The motto can be:  Who needs Manischewitz when you have He'brew? Or if you can come up with a slogan with a pun, all the better.

Happy Passover, everyone! As the bottle cap says, L'chaim!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


If you had to choose the most ubiquitous bottled cream soda/root beer in NYC, Stewart's would definitely be at the top of the list. Found in almost all delis and many lunch joints across the boroughs, Stewart's is New York's craft soda of choice. Depending on which neighborhood you live in, you might also find Stewart's Key Lime or Orange 'n Cream or even Birch, Peach, or Grape, but I most often find the straight-up root beer, cream soda, and diet varieties.

I know there are many more varieties of bottle cap than my meager collection, but here we go:

Stewart's keeps it simple: I actually like the newer crowns better since they leave off the ingredients and let the logo really shine. It will never be in the HOF (sorry Stewart's!) but it's just the kind of root beer you'd want to snag at a moment's notice, which is another reason why I love living in NYC!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


When people say "Miller" to me, I don't generally think of a classy, delicious beer. I'm a little too young to remember when Miller High Life had the Girl on the Moon logo, and most Miller varieties that surround me at bars, restaurants and delicatessens are Miller Light and Miller Genuine Draft, which, let's face it, doesn't conjure the high-end beer that Miller High Life apparently is.

But Miller High Life is the Champagne of Beer, and the Girl on the Moon is pretty great. I didn't know that Miller High Life used to be in miniature Champagne bottles!

The Girl on the Moon is, according to legend, Frank Miller's (the founder of Miller Brewing Co.) granddaughter. This is a beautiful cap with a cork lining and was a gift by the wonderful Michael Lober.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

lion brewery, alaskan brewing co

Another day, another blog post about animals! Are we sensing a theme here? Actually, I don't have that many animal bottle caps, but the ones I do have seem to be begging for their 15 minutes of fame.

As you can tell, Crownvention was an amazing opportunity to find all sorts of bottle caps from all over the world. One crown I kept seeing over and over again was the Alaskan Brewing Co.'s "Made in Alaska" crown. Two polar bears -- a momma bear and a baby bear.  Same design for all crowns, but lots of different colors. Another great starting point for you beginner crown collectors. The one I got at Crownvention is purple with pink highlights. Who doesn't love a polar bear?

While at a local deli with a large selection of beers, I find myself choosing beers based entirely on what their bottle cap looks like.  New criteria for Lauren purchasing a beer: Do I have the bottle cap already? Is it unusual or visually striking? Does it have a lion on it? If these questions are answered correctly, the beer is mine. Recently I found Lion Brewery, a beer purveyor in Pennsylvania and their brew Lion's Head. Upon researching this brewery, I also noticed that they make soda! Which now makes me wonder: Is their soda crown different than their beer? I will certainly be keeping my eyes out for their soda as well.

The beer was delicious -- and the crown is awesome  A lion's claw mid-swipe, with a "claw off" instruction. Why twist when you can claw? It might be my new motto.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

bartles & jaymes

Bartles & Jaymes is an excellent excuse for me to talk about two things that I love: old men and wine coolers. OK, maybe I like only one of those things.

Crazy old men are awesome! From the cranky man in the movie UP (and by the way, there is an EXCELLENT bottle cap reference in this movie) to musicians like Tom Waits, who has been an old man since he was 12 years old, I just can't resist a crazy old man.

As for me liking wine coolers? Well, that is just a bold-faced lie. I don't think I've ever imbibed a wine cooler before. I don't know what they taste like, I'm not sure why anyone would drink them, and frankly, I'm amazed that I even found this bottle cap. People still make wine coolers?!? People DRINK wine coolers?!?!?!? I'm shocked! The only person I remember who drank wine coolers was this guy I knew in college. His nickname was Misty, and I think it was because he had a penchant for Arbor Mist Wine. Which is technically a wine cooler. But by the time I met him, he had moved on to boxed wine.  A step up, I think.

That said, Bartles & Jaymes, in all aspects, reeks of crazy old men hanging out on their porch. (I'm surprised they're not yelling at kids to get off their lawn. Or threatening to keep the baseball that accidentally made its way into their back yard.) I love it! Check out these old advertisements. Bartles does all of the talking, and Jaymes just sits there, looking content and folksy. Did you know that they weren't even the real Bartles and Jaymes? They're actually David Joseph Rufkahr and Dick Maugg, and neither of them were actors by trade (shocking, I know). And, seriously, could the real Bartles and Jaymes have been any worse than these two? I mean, if you're going to hire nonprofessional actors to play two men shilling their swill on the porch, why not just get the real thing? Anyway, you can find out more here.  If you have any favorite B&J ads, be sure to share them in the comments section! 

So enjoy the commercials....
Great Moments in B&J History "We will sell no berry that is ordinary"

And also enjoy a very young Conan O'Brien making fun of B&J. And here...

...and thank you for your support!

Monday, April 11, 2011

bavaria, kazouza

Living in a neighborhood that is predominantly Muslim, I run into a nice variety of non-alcoholic beverages from the Middle East (see Laziza, etc). A recently discovered malt is Bavaria, found at a new restaurant around the corner from me. At first, we mistook Bavaria for an actual beer, but upon realizing the error of our ways, we found one that was apple flavored (always a good choice for these malt beverages -- stay away from the Malta Goya!) and went on our merry way.

An interesting side note: there seem to be two schools of malt beverages that I've come across: those like Malta Goya that are dark and molasses-y in flavor/color, and those like Bavaria -- lighter, fruity beverages. Both claim to be malts but one tastes like sipping liquid mashed-up cracker mixed with dirt, and one tastes like nonalcoholic wine coolers. It will be one of my projects to figure out who on earth drinks the first kind.

Another newly discovered carbonated fruit drink is Kazouza, which has nine flavors to choose from (well, only two in my case). I tried the strawberry melon, which tasted like a strawberry kiwi drink. It was incredibly sweet, and came in a lovely bottle. Thumbs up!

Kazouza's bottle cap is fun - it has some bubbles on it, and also the numbers 1941 which is explained nicely here.  It's a Lebanese-based drink, adding to the many countries that I've found in just a few square blocks.  I guess when you can't drink beer or wine, you have to come up with some other interesting beverages to keep you occupied. I'm glad that I have the ability and proximity to all of these cool stores to try them all.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

fentimans, firehouse brewing co

Today's theme is based not on a beverage but on a cap. As Michael (or anyone who knows me well) will tell you, I'm obsessed with dogs. Whenever we walk down the street and there is someone walking his dog, I have to stop myself from staring. If the dog does something adorable, I coo. If the dog barks, I make excuses for it.
Growing up, I asked for a dog all the time, but the only pet I ever got was a gerbil. I made up for the lack of canine companionship by becoming the resident dog-walker of the neighborhood. Now I live in an apartment where dogs aren't allowed, so I have the next best thing: a cat that acts suspiciously like a dog.

Both caps in this post prominently feature dogs. Fentimans is a UK-based soda with a curiously old-fashioned name and unusual flavors. Established in 1905, Fentimans prides itself on its Ginger Beer and other herb-tastic flavors. While I haven't tried all of them, I recently found a storefront in NYC that carries quite a few of the flavors. Now that it's getting warmer out, trips to said storefront will be more common and hopefully more Fentimans will be enjoyed.
The bottle cap, as mentioned, has a lovely dog on it -- AND the name of the company! If it were in color, I'm pretty sure this cap would have made it into the HOF. And if they ever decide to make a series of caps (like Boylans does!) it would be an excellent starting point for a collector.

Florida Firehouse Brewing Co.'s cap was discovered at Crownvention. You would be surprised at the number of "firehouse brewing co's" that come up on Google. This one claims to be from Florida, but I'm not sure. Anyway, this cap has a regal looking Dalmatian surrounded by the name of the brewing company. Again, could be a contender for the HOF. But it's just not quite there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

mystery cap!

Dear readers, you have not failed me yet. I need you to help me locate the beverage associated with this bottle cap! Feel free to email be at laurenwalles (at) gmail (dot) com or leave a comment!

Want a hint? Go here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

thirsty just whistle, vess - guest post by Michael Lober

I grew up in southern Illinois in a family of soda drinkers right when aluminum cans were replacing glass bottles in grocery stores. When I was a child, my mother used to store glass bottles of soda on a shelf in the laundry room of our house, and then return them to the local store (this was pre-Wal Mart in my town) when enough had accumulated. We largely stuck to the standard varieties of Coke, Sprite, and A&W Root Beer, but occasionally we'd spring for a fruit flavor from Vess, the soda company headquartered in nearby St. Louis. Vess was cheaper than the more well-known brands of Coke and Pepsi and, in my mind, much tastier. You could buy a can for a quarter from a vending machine just off the town's main square, and, even though I understand that this is no longer standard practice in our health-conscious world, parents used to bring coolers full of Vess to youth soccer and baseball games. When play concluded, we'd sprint for the coolers on the sidelines, digging deep into the ice for the good flavors -- black cherry, grape, or orange -- while steering clear of the lemon lime and root beer knock offs. The cans had blocky Helvetica type and took on the color of the fruit they represented (red for black cherry, green for lemon lime, etc.). Nothing to write home about and, judging by the bottle cap Lauren found, the crown design wasn't exciting either. But, man, was that soda sweet after an hour of chasing a ball up and down a field.
Several times per year, my family would journey farther south in Illinois to my grandparents' house. In the basement they kept a boxy refrigerator invariably stacked with a variety of odd snacks: push-pops, hickory nuts, and glass bottles of Thirsty? Just Whistle! I loved this soda, not because it was good -- it tasted sort of like an orange popsicle -- but because of its strange name. What did whistling have to do with being thirsty? I didn't have a clue, but I made up a story about a soda vendor at the turn of the century who would deliver bottles of carbonated orange drink to whistling children. I found out later that the soda is actually made by Vess and its name is simply "Whistle," which I found odd because the Vess orange sodas that I drank after youth games weren't called Whistle. Hmmmm. Either way, when Lauren started her blog, I begged her to find a Thirsty? Just Whistle! bottle cap. Vess discontinued bottles a while back, and with them went my childhood. It's good to have these caps as reminders.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

sangria senorial

OK, Sangria Senorial. I see what you're trying to do here. You want a non-alcoholic beverage that tastes like sangria that you can enjoy on any occasion. I'm sorry to say, you have failed miserably.

When I popped open this bottle of Mexican bottled non-alcoholic sangria and smelled it for the first time, I knew I was in trouble. Wafting out of the bottle was a stench of rotting fruit. And the first (and only sip) was not much better. It tasted like sangria, yes. But not any sangria I would ever want to drink.

This proves that sangria will forever be best consumed at your favorite mexican restaurant or brunch hangout. And it will be made hopefully that day, and with fresh fruit and fresh wine.  It will be boozy, sweet, and delicious.

The bottle cap is mostly functional in its design.  Name of the beverage? Check. Made in Mexico? Check. Weird fruit-leaf thing? Check. And they advertise that this beverage is non-alcoholic. Why would you do that?!

I implore you, faithful readers, do not -- do NOT -- drink Sangria Senorial if you ever find it in your local deli. Hopefully, I have saved you from the horrible fate that awaits you beneath that bottle cap.

Monday, April 4, 2011

my pop's root beer, frostie root beer

This will be the last installment of the crownvention blog posts. (Sorry I missed Thursday! I got a bit backlogged with afterwork events this week!)  Today's theme is root beer.

My Pop's Root Beer is a fun cap with bright colors, fun fonts, and circles that might be bubbles. It just seems exciting to drink -- doesn't this crown make you want to drink a root beer?

And from the 10-for-a-dollar box, I found a Frostie Root Beer cap. This one is fun in a different way: there is a gnome or elf or some sort of magical creature seemingly excited at the prospect of you drinking a Frostie. And who doesn't want to drink a Frostie Root beer? No really, who?

Last night, Michael and I met up with some friends at a local pool hall. One of the options on the menu was a root beer float. It made me hope that it was either Pop's or Frostie on tap. Unfortunately, it was neither, so we didn't get a float. But we did play some foozball and Big Buck Hunter, which was a good second option.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

dry soda

The other day, Michael called me at work: "Have you ever had a Dry Soda? They have them at the health food store I'm in." I was excited. I had recently started following Dry on Twitter, but had not actually tasted their soda yet. That night, while watching a movie, we broke out the soda, and boy was it tasty! Michael got a juniper berry soda and it was just the right combination of sweet and fizz.

The bottle cap is understated in its design: Purple dots on a silver cap. It doesn't give me everything I want in a cap (no name!) but it is elegant. Dry Soda, if you ever do a redesign, make sure to put the name of your company on there! Years and years from now, don't you want future bottle cap bloggers to know who you are? Or at least put an animal on there. That's a good second option.