Arts & Entertainment

Dowd On Drinks: New Products for Many Tastes

Summer may be the doldrums for most businesses, but when it comes to beverages there is no off-season.

Here’s a rundown of some of the newer products.

— Sweet tea has been a Southern beverage staple for generations, but McDonald’s and other fast-food companies only recently discovered it and are offering their version to the public at large.

— However, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is an entirely different thing. In just three weeks on South Carolina store shelves it has become the top-selling flavored vodka in the state.

— Firefly, which is based on Wadamalaw Island, 30 miles south of Charleston, S.C., now is distributing its new flavored vodka in New York, Nevada and Colorado as well as South Carolina.

— Back in March, I wrote about Miller Brewing Co.’s test marketing of a new beer called MGD 64. That testing has worked so well that the Milwaukee company is planning a national rollout of the 64-calorie version of its Miller Genuine Draft Light brand. MGD 64 was initially launched last summer in Madison, Wisc., and now is available throughout the Midwest and West. Miller CEO Tom Long said in a message to distributors that MGD 64 will replace the 110-calorie MGD Light brand around the country by mid-September.

— This may be a case of “This town isn’t big enough for both of us” taken to the extreme.

A Japanese visionary is working on what promises to be the first outer space beer, aimed at the small niche known as “astronauts.”

The brewer Sapporo announced that it is planning the beer for November, using offspring of barley once stored at the International Space Station. The project makes use of the third generation of barley grains that had spent five months on the space station in 2006.

Sapporo will have enough space grain to produce only about 100 bottles of beer and has no immediate plan to make it a commercial venture, Sapporo officials said. Managu Sugimoto, a biologist at Okayama University, is the lead scientist on the project. He also has been part of a Russian venture looking into ways to grow edible plants in space.

— A non-alcoholic line of soft drinks using wine grapes is being offered on the Hello DELICIOUS Modern Gourmet Boutique online site (

It better be delicious. The new sampler pack of 12 bottles goes for $35, or nearly $3 a bottle for rose, chardonnay and pinot noir flavors of what are called Vignette Wine Country Sodas.

The sparkling beverages have no added sugar, are 100 percent natural, and the line is billed as “the first of its kind to be made with California wine country grapes.”