Literary conflict is commonly divided into six categories. There’s Man vs. Society, which involves a protagonist fighting against rigid social norms. There’s Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Technology, and Man vs. Supernatural, all of which tend to involve sinister outside forces and/or bears. In Man vs. Man conflict, our protagonist goes toe-to-toe with a wretched villain. But the sixth type of literary conflict—Man vs. Self—involves a moral struggle. In this scenario, our protagonist may ask: “Am I making the right choice? Should I be doing what I’m doing?”
It’s a question I wish the inventors of HARD MTN DEW had asked long ago.
HARD MTN DEW is, on the surface, a perfectly palatable addition to seltzer canon. Well, technically, it’s not a seltzer; it’s a “flavored malt beverage,” or “FMB,” per the brand. For our purposes, let’s just call it a “drink.” Regardless, the product’s bitchin’ branding features eagles, wolves, and bears alongside a heavy metal typeface meant to summon Dew-heads from ‘round the globe. But unlike traditional MTN DEW, the hard version has no caffeine, zero added sugar, and 100 calories per serving.
Per a press release sent to The Takeout, the new product line will “offer adults of legal drinking age a delicious way to dial up the fun with a bite.” The “bite” in question is the drinks’ alcohol content—5% ABV, to be exact. Unfortunately, the drinks offer another, less welcome bite: the tooth-achingly sweet presence of artificial sweeteners. We tried ‘em all just in time for the HARD MTN DEW rollout across Florida, Tennessee, and Iowa.
Does HARD MTN DEW: Original DEW smell like hand sanitizer, or does hand sanitizer smell like HARD MTN DEW: Original DEW? This question continues to plague me and is a perfect example of the Man vs. Technology literary conflict.
Actually, all of the literary conflicts are present in this beverage, which tastes like Sprite consumed immediately after downing a tablespoon of bubblegum-flavored Amoxicillin. The Man vs. Society conflict emerges in Original DEW’s artificial sweetener content. As in, this drink is so full of Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K) and Sucralose that I cannot enter society because I am farting so, so much. The Man vs. Nature conflict exists in the sinister suggestion that this product tastes anything like a mountain. But, Lillian, you might ask. How does the Original DEW flavor evokes shades of Man vs. Supernatural? To find out, you need only take a gulp. This thing is sickly-sweet enough to turn anyone’s insides into ectoplasm.
I did a double-take when HARD MTN DEW Black Cherry arrived at my door. “Ah, Code Red!” I cried, excited to try the boozy version of one of the world’s premiere soda pops. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, this beverage is not Code Red-flavored. It’s just... red. It is, in fact, cherry-flavored. Well, as close to cherry as you can get with enough artificial sweetener to paralyze a blue whale.
I wanted to like this flavor. I really did. I’m a sucker for artificial cherry products, and cherry-flavored colas are some of my absolute faves. But Black Cherry had the same problem as Original DEW: tasty fruit flavor up top, followed by an immediate acrid flatness that coats your tongue before you have time to swallow. This flavor was the most palatable of the bunch, but that still isn’t saying much.
In terms of artificial sweetness, this flavor was the hardest to stomach. I shared it with a friend who immediately made a face and held the can as far away from her body as possible. “Tastes like medicine,” she said, puckering her mouth and sticking her tongue out. It does—and there’s not even a hint of that fabulous artificial watermelon flavor we celebrate in Jolly Ranchers. It tastes like Cherry Lite. Why are you doing this to me, MTN DEW? Am I not HARD enough?
I don’t drink a ton of soda, but when I do, Baja Blast is my personal Big Kahuna. The release of a boozy Baja Blast is what initially got me excited about this product line. Putting that zingy, zesty, tropical lime storm in a can for my drinking pleasure? And adding booze? I could hardly wait to try the stuff.
Unfortunately, the Baja Blast goodness I know and love was entirely lost in this product. Like all of the HARD MTN DEW flavors, the Baja Blast flavor was drowned out by the screaming of the artificial sugar replacements. Would it have killed you to use actual sugar, MTN DEW? I doubt that die-hard DEW drinkers are counting calories in a way that would necessitate this product’s low-cal appeal. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying these drinks unless their tastebuds were already burned off by years of aspartame consumption.
The thing is, I really like MTN DEW. I even used it in a casserole one time. Unfortunately, HARD MTN DEW lacks the thing I love most about the original soda: tons and tons of sugar. While I wholeheartedly support the idea of hard sodas, we’ve gotta do better than this.