Recently I noticed a small, non-chain grocery near the area where I'm currently located. It's Nadia International Market in Winooski, Vermont (a suburb of Burlington). I was hoping to find lots of new products for post subjects. Alas, it wasn't as fruitful as I'd hoped. Most of the foods were either foreign brands of common things I've already had, or were things that needed more preparation than I could accomplish with only a microwave oven.
Fortunately, there was an exception in the beverage section. I was able to get some exotic soft drinks. Oddly, I think these were basically all Lebanese, even though, true to its name, the rest of the market includes foods typically eaten by Somalis, Congolese, Bosnians, Turks, and folks from various Middle Eastern countries. I went with a fair sampling of sodas-- 4 total, from two different companies. Both of these produce both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Most of the breweries that survived Prohibition in the U.S. were forced to switch to soft drinks and other products during that time, but since then, that isn't that common here in America. But it's evidently more common in the rest of the world, especially with Japanese companies (Kirin, Suntory, Asahi for example) and in the Middle East (where due to religious restrictions many countries don't allow the production of alcoholic beverages, of course).
Anyway, let's get to the ratings. I'm using my usual rating system of "F" for failing, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, "C" for average, "B" for good, and "A" for excellent, with pluses and minuses as needed.
1) Freez Pineapple flavor, made by Kassatly Ghtaura: C+. Has a strong, distinctive pineapple taste (it does contain 2% pineapple juice). Since pineapple isn't one of my favorite fruit flavors, this was a bit of a risk going in. It was okay, but not dazzling. The serving was a little smaller than I'm used to--9.3 ounces, or 275 milliliters.
2) Freez Lemon Mint flavor, also from Kassatly Ghtaura: C+. I was a little surprised by this flavor pairing--I've never seen this before. The lemon definitely dominated. It tasted kind of like 7UP or Sprite. Rather like its comrade, I had a "meh" reaction to it. It was alright, but neither great nor terrible. I could pick up on the slight mint tinge as an aftertaste, which did bump it up a bit to a C+.
3) Laziza Regular, made by Brasserie Almaza S.A.L. Listed as an 0.00%, non-alcoholic malt beverage: D-. This was strange. It had barely any taste. Like water with a hint of corn, with vaguely beer-ish undertones. It was like the lightest of light beers (See June 19, 2014 post for more information). Also, according to Beer Advocate, there might be false advertising going on, as they list an alcohol content of 0.10%. (This is barely worth mentioning, as this would mean that 40-50 of these would equal the typical "real" beer's 4-5% alcohol content, meaning I think even a premature baby could probably drink a six pack of Laziza and not get drunk, but still. I couldn't discover if Beer Advocate's assertion is true or not, but I pass it along just as a possibility. (Also, for legal reasons, I don't recommend giving Laziza to infants for real.))
4) Laziza Raspberry flavor, again made by Brasserie Almaza S.A.L, again listed by them as 0.00% alcohol, and by Beer Advocate as being 0.10%: B. This was definitely the pick of the litter. Unlike the Regular type, this one did have a significant taste, and it was pleasant. Mild yet tasty.
To sum up, then, the Regular Laziza was bad, the Freezs' were just okay, and the Raspberry Laziza was good. I would consider buying the latter again, and perhaps trying the other fruit flavored Laziza's that Nadia carries. Furthermore, I did have one of Almaza's alcoholic types, their Pilsner. I found it to be mediocre at best, maybe a D+, or a C- if I was feeling generous.
Finally, when I googled Nadia International Market, I got an unusual amount of background about the family that owns and runs it. According to the U.S. Committee to Refugees and Immigrants, they're political refugees from Iraq, by way of Jordan. Not shockingly, they found the colder temperatures of Northern Vermont (especially in winter) to be quite a switch from the hot desert climate of their homeland.