I will forever associate Clearly Canadian drinks with family road trips, as we’d find the distinctive glass bottles in gas station fridges along the way to wherever we were headed. Whether in Gasoline Alley in Red Deer, or at one of the stops along the Yellowhead to or from Jasper National Park, they were a nice alternative to standard pop flavours. While there were a few choices in the Clearly Canadian line, I would almost always pick blackberry.
Why blackberry? Because of my family’s connection with Canada’s west coast, I grew up with blackberry pie, jam and other treats that were mostly alien to prairie kids. Blackberries were my little secret, back in the day when you couldn’t easily find plastic clamshells of unripe, overly tart blackberries in grocery store berry sections, next to strawberries that look like heaven but stink like a pile of warm California manure.
While Clearly Canadian drinks were never a regular staple in my life, they became a liquid comfort food, purchased on the increasingly rare occasions when I’d find one in a cooler. They seemed to have vanished entirely until recently, when I spotted a few flavours at a 7-Eleven in Edmonton. Last week, when I found a handful of bottles in the giant fridge wall at the local Circle K, I snapped up a glass bottle to savor. These are strange times, and comfort comes in equally strange forms.
The scent as you open the bottle is ripe, freshly picked blackberries. The taste is both lightly sweet and surprisingly tart, refreshingly crisp and bubbly. The flavour is both subtle and mouth-filling, and it tastes natural and true to the berry. It’s not thick and syrupy like a standard pop, but it’s still got some cane-sugar sweetness, unlike the Blackberry Bubly sparking water I reviewed here last year. Think of it as halfway between a premium pop and a sparking water with a fruit essence added. But since it uses cane sugar for the half-sweetness, there’s no strange artificial sweetener flavour or aftertaste to get in the way of the berry.
Price: $2.99 for a 325 mL bottle at Circle K in Edmonton.
Value for Money: Upper end of standard convenience store fizzy drinks.
Availability: Spotty at best. Some 7-Eleven stores seem to have it. Check convenience stores with a large refrigerated drink section.
Calories: 90 calories per 325 mL bottle.
Verdict: Blackberry nostalgia, served in a glass bottle. It’s not something I’d drink even once a month, but it’s a refreshing treat when I can find it.