When I saw that our beloved leader, Mr. Giles, had revived this feature, my heart leapt with joy. “At last!” I thought. “A legitimate excuse for eating and drinking really weird shit!”

Of course, weird is relative…I mean, I’m a religious viewer of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” but I wouldn’t touch 95% of the stuff that guy indulges in…but let’s just say that I’m a sucker for unique flavors and strange culinary concepts within the mainstream. That’s why I regularly scour my local Big Lots, Dollar Tree, and Ollie’s locations to see what product lines have been abandoned for lack of interest (or, more likely, for lack of acting tasting even remotely good) and can be had for really cheap. And by happy coincidence, I was in Big Lots only yesterday, where curiosity forced me to purchase a 4-pack of Java Pop, a “coffee soda” produced in Woodstock, VT.

Despite my curiosity, I admit that I still had a certain amount of trepidation. I mean, I’m a coffee fiend, but when it comes to attempts to blend it with other beverages, I haven’t found much love in my heart for the results. Despite Drew Carey’s best efforts, the concept of blending coffee and beer has — based on my purchases of two different attempts at such a product — failed miserably. And by “miserably,” I mean they were fucking disgusting, as bitter as all get-out and impossible for me to even finish…and when it comes to beer, that’s really saying something.

Still, coffee soda…? Could there be something of merit here? Time to find out.

The first thing that catches my eyes is that the bottle is emblazoned with the announcement that this is both USDA Organic and Fair-Trade Certified. Neither claim will have any effect on how the product tastes, but I feel good about the political correctness of the beverage, and that’s something, anyway. Another bonus: at first sniff, it smells more like hazelnut than coffee, which seems like it could be a good thing in this case.

No point in belaboring the inevitable, might as well just take a chug.

First swig: Huh. It’s not half-bad. It’s not something I’d necessarily use to replace a steaming hot cup o’ joe, but it’s sure a heck of a lot more successful than coffee-flavored beer. I’m not sure what process was used to make it, but as someone with absolutely no scientific background, I like to imagine that it just involves brewing hazelnut coffee with carbonated water. (That’d work, right?)

Second swig: Uh-oh. It’s like the coffee taste and the hazelnut taste are splitting off into different camps, and the coffee is winning. I’m probably just imagining it, but I swear I can actually taste the grounds. This is not a good thing.

Third swig: I’m finding myself progressively less pleased with the taste. Perhaps this chocolate chip cookie, which is conveniently at arm’s length, will help the situation some. Coffee + cookies = delicious, right?

Fourth swig: Abort Project Cookie! For God’s sake, ABORT PROJECT COOKIE!

Fifth swig: There’s still a lingering blend of chocolate / hazelnut / indescribable awfulness in my mouth. Somehow, I suspect that the Java Pop is not going to rally back from this…and I’m pretty sure we can’t blame this entirely on the cookie.

Sixth swig: Actually, it’s bouncing back better than I expected. It has actually returned to being halfway decent again. I did not forsee this occurring.

Seventh / Final swig: Well, it’s over. I’m not rushing back to have another one anytime soon, but I’m not saying the remaining three bottles won’t get polished off at some juncture. After all, my stash of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt energy drink isn’t going to last forever.