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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v10n3 (01/19/2011) » Five Questions With...

The Thirsty Dudes: Beverage Reviewers

Get to know a Buffalonian...

The Thirsty Dudes: Beverage Reviewers

Jason Draper, Mike Literman, and Derek Neuland are the Thirsty Dudes: online reviewers of beverages refreshing and strange, exotic and banal, delicious and intolerable. All three are Buffalo natives—Draper and Literman still reside here, Neuland recently moved to Portland, Oregon—and all three are straight-edge, so they review only nonalcoholic beverages. The site,, has reviews of more than 600 drinks from more than 250 manufacturers around the world, from the biggest corporations to the smallest microbreweries and restaurants.

With so many consumer review websites out there, how do you make stand out from the crowd?

I think the main thing our readers like about the site is that we try to keep things interesting. We don’t write our reviews textbook style. We are fans of hilarity, so we write comedic stories and scenarios into our reviews in an attempt to amuse ourselves, as well as our readers. Another thing is that we’re not concerned about how companies view the site. As a result we’re not afraid to give a bad review. Our only concern is to tell the world how we honestly feel about what we’ve been drinking, be it awesome or incredibly gross barf sauce. We’ve gotten positive feedback from readers and companies alike. One company, whose products we gave both glowing and horrific reviews, even sent us an email to tell us “ [We] enjoy reading your witty and irreverent reviews. Keep up the great work.”

Have companies ever been upset by your reviews?

Oh man, have they ever. On average we get an email a week from a company that is upset/disappointed about something we have written. Some of them are very bitter, and others just want to prove themselves to us. A couple of them have sent samples for us to review in hopes that we will enjoy their other products more.

We have had a handful of companies email us to explain why their drinks taste the way they do. Our first upset email was from the guy who runs Taylor’s Tonics. We hadn’t had the site up for long, so we were still getting the hang of things. He wrote us an immense email explaining everything about his beverages and asking us to give them another shot keeping in mind his explanations. That email opened our eyes to the fact that an entire world of drinks exists outside of the norm. We learned that you have to approach different drinks in different ways. We have never retracted a review, but we are not above going back to some drinks, giving them another chance and appending an addition to our original review.

Do you ever seek out locally made beverages?

We are big fans of Buffalo. We get excited when we find something that is locally made. Flying Bison produces small batches of soda that you can get at their brewery. Sometimes the Village Beer Merchant carries them as well. They made a candy cane soda earlier this winter that was pretty spectacular. We’re also fans of Johnnie Ryan’s line of pop, which is made in Niagara Falls. They recently released a loganberry that is made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. It’s a nice change of pace from the classic version.

What was the weirdest drink you’ve tried?

All of the weirdest beverages we’ve come across have all been from Asian markets. Some of the strangest (also some of the best) drinks that we’ve reviewed were the Hey Song Shaking Jelly Sodas. They are basically cans full of carbonated Jell-O that wasn’t in the fridge long enough to become completely solid. We’ve also come across some strange stuff that just terrified us. A couple of those are Basil Seed drinks (it looks like Chia Pet mix on day two, or a sea of amoebas floating around in liquid), Irish Moss (like the slime you got out of a quarter machine as a kid, except egg nog flavored), and most recently White Fungus Bird’s Nest Drink (it tastes like cake batter, but looks like the water in your sink after you brush your teeth when you have a cold).

Have you abandoned your favorite drinks to try new ones every day or do you still stick to classic drinks come lunch time?

You have no idea how many times we utter the words, “I wish I could just drink something for pleasure.” All of us have a backlog of drinks stashed in our homes. There is only so much you can drink in a day. At this point we have over 100 different things sitting around waiting to be reviewed. On the rare occasions when we do revisit an old friend, it’s like we’re on a tropical vacation.

Bonus question: How do you keep your beards so luscious?

Practice. Loads of practice. Either that, or we just let them grow and pay no particular attention to them.

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