Meijer Crystal Quenchers White Grape Sparkling Water Beverage (Meijer)

Bottle of Crystal Quenchers White Grape Sparkling Water Beverage, from Meijer
I think I'd rather drink my own piss.

Anyone remember the sparkling water brand known as Clearly Canadian? For some reason, I feel like it’s one of those products that everyone has heard of, for one reason or another, whether or not they bought it. Was it the first sparkling water beverage on the market? Or was it just one of the first that did so without sugar? Or was it just cheaper than competitors? Or did it just have a taste that appealed to the masses more than any before it? Whatever the reasoning, it always had a place deep inside my memory bank. It also brings back more personal feelings of nostalgia: shopping with my mom at the long-defunct discount drug store chain Phar-Mor, which is where I first saw the clear drink (and whose dubious history could fill up an entire blog post all by itself).

Anyway, flash forward to the present day. Clearly Canadian is still a brand, though mismanagement and other setbacks have pushed it toward the back of the “sparkling water” wars, replaced by such heavyweights as Polar and La Croix.

But here we have an example of what I assume to be Meijer’s take on the whole “clear” sparkling water beverage rush: Crystal Quenchers. That’s right, it’s a registered trademark. That’s the name they chose for it. Out of all the possible names they could have taken, “Crystal Quenchers” is the one they settled on. Okay, whatever.

At any rate, like many sparkling water beverages of this ilk, bottles of this can be had for well under $1, which probably helps to explain their appeal. In fact, that's the reason I decided to try one.

Enough rambling, let’s dig in, shall we? Well, judging from first impressions, it smells...expired. Stale. I don’t know how to explain it, but it doesn’t have nearly the aromatic strength I was expecting. Usually these drinks are cartoonishly exaggerated in terms of scent, sometimes reaching candylike intensity.

The taste is somehow even worse. White grape juice has a very distinct flavor, and while the same could literally be said for almost any fruit or veggie item, white grape juice has a hit to the tastebuds that’s a little more...intense than others. That’s what always baffles me: why drink makers always seem to attempt recreating drinks that seem to physically be outside their limits. Many of these are sugar free, and so getting strong flavors without the use of sugars is virtually impossible. Why not try a more straightforward, “neutral” taste? Why aim for the stars

The fact is, it’s not just the flavor that falls well short of expectations, it’s the whole damn experience. In fact, I don’t even think I’d be able to detect what they were even going for, were it not for the flavor descriptor on the packaging. It’s just a jumbled mess that, if you really strain your brain, you can convince yourself that there’s grape in there somewhere, but it’s not worth the brainpower required to even do that.

Even beyond the taste, the texture leaves an almost gritty texture in your mouth that makes it feel like it’s dry. This is a common issue with certain sugar-free drinks - most likely from the alternate sweeteners they use - but it seems more pronounced here than in other ones I’ve had. (Or maybe it just seems that way given how poor the taste is.) There’s also a horrible aftertaste that lingers in the back of the throat. It’s not sweet, it’s just a lump of...gross. 

Really, there’s not much here to recommend, but I suppose one shining point is its price: $.59 for a 33.8 oz. plastic bottle is a fantastic price that puts it on par with the likes of Aldi's private label version. At least you won’t have to fork over a ton of money to be completely disappointed. And if that’s not I don’t know what is. 

Overall: 2/10. I had some tapered expectations going into this, and that wasn’t even enough to prevent this from being awful. It tastes nothing like white grape juice, giving off a rather paltry flavor that doesn’t remind me of anything except maybe what cleaning products would taste like if you were dumb enough to drink them. Then, there’s a gritty coating that settles on your mouth, presumably from the sugar substitute used; either way it makes your mouth feel dry. Lastly, there’s a terrible aftertaste that lingers in the back of the throat. The price is the only “plus”, but does it count as a plus if you’re still going to be disappointed, no matter how little you pay for it?