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Thirsty? Consult the Thirsty Dudes!

If you’ve ever perused the beverage section in any decent-sized grocery store, it can be a bit overwhelming.  Even more so if you decide to venture into the unknown–all those unusual drinks made by companies you haven’t heard of.  Trying something new can be a tough choice.  This is where the Thirsty Dudes come in… is a website where you can find a full review on almost any non-alcoholic drink you can think of (and many you’ve never even heard of).  The site is run by Buffalo’s own Mike Literman, Jason Draper, and Derek Neuland–three bearded, straightedge, thirsty dudes.  They cover everything from smoothies to soda, energy drinks, and even those that fall solely into the category of “Other/Weird.”  Suffice to say these gentlemen are fearless when it comes to experimenting with new beverages.  Here’s what they had to share with Buffalo Rising about their site:

BR: What drew you to the idea of this site initially?
Derek: I love drinks. I’m always trying new sodas as I come across them. I’m also a big fan of writing, especially in the form of zines and blogs. I initially thought about starting a drink review zine, but I decided the immediacy and ease of a blog would be better. So in June of 2009 I launched the Thirsty Dudes blog. We have our friend Eva Becker to thank for the name. When I was trying to think of a name, she suggested “Thirsty Dudes” and I fell in love with it.
Jason: Derek ended up writing about a dozen reviews before letting his blog go stagnant. Mike and I are also big fans of weird drinks. Ever since we’ve known each other we would always buy out of the ordinary drinks whenever we saw them. A lot of the time the drinks would gross us out, but that was part of the fun. This past fall I re-stumbled across Derek’s blog. I thought it was a shame that it wasn’t active anymore. I approached Mike to see if he had any interest in bringing it back from the land of the dead. The only difference was that this time I wanted it to be a functioning website.
Mike: As soon as Jay said it was called “Thirsty Dudes,” I immediately went home, checked out the site, and started redeveloping it from scratch. Derek didn’t even know we were doing it until the site was nearly done. We were too excited.

BR: What are the criteria you use to review a drink?
Mike: The only real criteria we use are whatever fields we have on the site and those aren’t even criteria as much as just classifications. We would rather tell our you a story that makes you forget you’re reading drink reviews instead of telling you about how a drink has a lemon note, although we do try and blend the two together.
Jason: We will review any beverage that we come across that doesn’t have alcohol in it. For the most part we try to keep things humorous. In the world of review-based websites I think that is what gives Thirsty Dudes it’s own identity. There is really only so much you can say scientifically about 50 different types of iced tea. “It has a bitter green tea taste, with a nice aftertaste of peach. It’s also not very sweet.” Who would want to read a website that read like a textbook? Our stories and anecdotes are what make the site interesting. We use them to lead into a description of how each beverage tastes.

BR: Any new drinks you’ve come across that were interesting?
Jason: There is a recent trend lately of relaxation drinks. They are pretty much anti-energy drinks that are jam packed with things such as valerian root and melatonin. It’s interesting to see a response to the over caffeinated world that we are currently living in. More and more companies keep popping up all the time. Marley’s Mellow Mood seems to be the most popular. It’s also the tastiest one that I’ve tried so far.
Mike: We frequent Asian and Indian markets and have come across some great stuff. The company Hey Song makes a drink called “Shaking Jelly Soda Juice.” Now that’s a gem. It is essentially half Jell-O, half sparkling juice all magically crammed inside a can. You can’t pour the drink into a glass without using some tools to destroy the can. We’ve also come across a lot of great stuff from small breweries and people who make drinks in their sheds and stuff, too.
Derek: The most interesting one I’ve had recently was a Sweet Cinnamon Punch.  It tasted like liquid Big Red gum.

BR: How many people work for the site?
Mike: Three people “work” for the site. It’s funny that you said work. We drink drinks. We do a lot of reviews though, and I can speak for Jay and myself when I say that it has taken over our lives. Anyhow, three people contribute to the site and we are all originally from Buffalo. Derek lives in Portland, OR now, but Jay and I are still here.
Jason: It really is obscene how much the website has become such a huge part of our lives. I can’t go into a grocery or convenient store without checking out their beverage selection to see if there is anything that we haven’t reviewed yet. I’ve had dreams about traveling all over for the sole purpose of finding drinks for the website. For a while I started to get concerned about our health because we were consuming so many beverages. We made a lot of jokes about our teeth rotting out and getting diabetes. I got paranoid and did some research and found out that the sugar intake shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as we keep physically active and don’t gain a ton of weight. I’ve also been wearing down my toothbrushes with the insane amount of times I brush my teeth in a day.

How many reviews have you done so far?
Mike: As of 11:00pm, Monday night, we have reviewed 665 drinks. Today we reviewed four drinks; a sparkling drink from a company in England called “Bottle Green” that has the coolest bottles, a mate tea from a company called “Pacific”, Faygo “Rock & Rye”, and the another Bob Marley anti-energy drink which have all been consistently good.
Derek: I know we each have 20+ drinks in our cupboards/queue waiting to be reviewed as well.
Jason: I don’t see an end in site. We were worried at first that we would run out of things to review, but the deeper we delve into the world of beverages the more companies we find. Companies have started taking notice of the website and we get packages of samples all of the time. Last week we even got a package from Slovakia with a handful of drinks for us to review. Things have gotten pretty nuts.
BR: Do you have any plans for changing or adding on to the site?
Jason: Mike does all of the programming for the website. Whenever we think of something new for the site he writes the code and implements it. Most recently we added a feature that lists the country where each drink is produced.
Mike: I’ve got a lot of changes in queue like sorting, a press section, user images, and a handful of other fixes. After working a fulltime job and freelancing as a web developer, the last thing I want to do is work on the site. It’s unfortunate, but I would rather just drink something, review it, and improve the quality of the site with content rather than bells and whistles.
BR: Is the site interactive? Can visitors post on it?
Jason: When we first started working on the site, we decided that we shouldn’t let the general public add reviews to the site. We wanted to make sure that it was our voice behind the bulk of Thirsty Dudes. If our readers have opinions on specific drinks, or want to write their own reviews of products we already have on the site, they can do so with comments.
Mike: I have my stamp of approval, via comments, on a lot of drinks on the site. In our
reviews we also encourage people to try things that we found that they might not have heard of.
Derek: People can also leave comments on our Facebook page. We really appreciate all the comments and suggestions we get. There are so many drinks out there. It’s nice to get suggestions to point us in the right direction. We have also been tossing the idea around of having guest reviewers from time to time.
BR: Anything else you’d like to add?
Mike: Jay just decided that if we get to 1,000 Facebook friends, that he’s going to make me drink gross drinks on video.  They will probably be from Asia, Taiwan, and beyond. I remember seeing a mackerel drink at a market that makes me scared because I know I’m going to inevitably throw up. I’m actually a bit excited.
Derek: We love trying to hunt down obscure drinks.
Jason: If there is anything that we have yet to review on Thirsty Dudes that you the readers think we need to try, please let us know. We will seriously review any drink as long as it’s not alcoholic.
For more information about the site, check it out for yourself at or visit their Facebook page.

Written by Sarah Maurer

Sarah Maurer

I moved to Buffalo to attend Canisius College in 2007 and began writing for Buffalo Rising as a journalism intern in 2010. Working with Newell and meeting numerous entrepreneurs, activists and everyday folks who were working to make their city better made a huge impact on my decision to stay here. After witnessing all the positive development and grassroots initiatives happening in neighborhoods throughout the city, I was inspired to pursue a term of service in AmeriCorps and a career in Buffalo's non-profit sector. I currently work in the housing department at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY and am excited to be a part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood. I also volunteer as the project coordinator for Artfarms Buffalo. I continue to write for Buffalo Rising because I love having the opportunity to stay connected to those working toward positive changes for the Queen City.

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