Adam had been making his own home jerky and sharing it with friends. As demand grew, he found himself churning out 50 pounds of jerky each week, and spending too much time doing it. After a move to Texas, Adam launched his new jerky business.
Van Cleave Dry Goods offers two types of jerky, "Steak Strips", and "Nuggets". Each type comes in four flavors. Only one of their flavors, "G-Dub" is made with MSG, because according to Adam, it was his first flavor, and is the one that all his friends loved. Another flavor, "T-Bucket" is the only one that is real-wood smoked.
According to Adam, this "G-Dub" refers to "Gateway", meaning it's the original, or introductory, flavor from Van Cleave Dry Goods.
The first taste I pick up on the tongue is a dominant Tamari (soy sauce). Some garlic comes in later. The chewing brings on more of the Tamari, with a bit more definition.
It's an otherwise, mild jerky in terms of spiciness. But it has a lot of flavor, mostly the Tamari. There's a bit of garlic, and perhaps some onion, noticeable in the chewing. But for the most part, this is a dominantly soy sauced jerky.
The chewing is chewy, not tough and still easy to get through. It's lightly moist, but mostly a dry jerky. It's very meaty. Once chewed down soft, it feels just like real steak, cooked medium. I can see light marbleized streaks on the surface, which imparts a light fatty flavor. I find only little stringiness, but no gristle, and nothing unchewable.
Verdict: Despite being largely a soy sauce-flavored jerky, it's still quite good. It's actually the meat consistency and chewing that really makes this jerky a treat to snack on. I don't find the soy sauce overwhelming, nor the saltiness. But as far as the flavor goes, there's little natural meat flavor, and is mostly soy sauce I taste.
The company says "Type-X" refers to an "out of the box experiment", claiming to be made with a generous amount of fresh garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
The first flavor that hits my palate is a spicy ginger, but definitely mixing in the cayenne. There's also a thick, pasty sauce flavor, much like the tomato sauce ingredient. The chewing brings on a light smokiness from the smoked sea salt, along with a light blend of the Tamari and worcestershire.
This is a moderately hot jerky in terms of heat. On my personal heat scale, I'd rate this as "medium hot" (level 4 out of 5). It's also bursting with flavor, largely with that initial ginger, but quickly giving way to the cayenne, and then tomato sauce, and finally the soy sauce and worcestershire.
The chewing feels a little more tough than the G-Dub, and a little more dry. But otherwise, it feels very meaty, and once chewed down soft, is rather steak-like, though not quite as much as the G-Dub. This is also somewhat messy to eat with seasonings falling off on my desk and laptop as I rip off a strip.
Verdict: This is a very unique flavor, one that I can't say I've tasted before. If you like ginger, you'll like this jerky. If you like new and unusual flavors, you'll like this jerky. The best way to describe this, it's comparable to a BBQ sauced jerky, having even a bit of smokiness, but with the additional ginger kicking in an alternative spice.
The company describes this Apocalypse as being made with "seven different chili peppers, like the seven signs", resulting in a "devious deliciousness".
The first thing I taste from this jerky is a smoky, rich chile pepper flavor, comparable to a complex chipotle. The chewing brings on the tomato sauce, but mixed with the Tamari. I can also pick out light amounts of tanginess in the chewing.
If you like the flavor of chile peppers, you'll love this Apocalypse. It's really more the flavor of smoked chiles particularly with the smoked salt ingredients. The tomato sauce gives this flavor a lot of body. It's actually not that hot, despite the claim of seven chile peppers. On my personal heat scale, I'd rate this as mild-medium (level 2 out of 5).
The chewing is comparable to the Type-X, a little more chewy and dry than the G-Dub. It's still quite meaty to chew, and does have a steak-like resemblance, but not as much as the G-Dub.
Verdict: I really like the rich chile pepper flavor in this jerky, and I think the tomato sauce and smoked salt play an important role in making this jerky taste so rich. The light tanginess in the chewing kept me interested as well.
Named, "T-Bucket" in reference to the old Model-T hot rods of the 1950s, the company describes this jerky as a teriyaki variety, but one holding true to the classic teriyaki style, along with some added "spicy mojo".
The first flavor I pick up from this jerky is a noticeable, real wood smoke flavor. Some saltiness comes in, along with a faint soy sauce. The chewing brings on more of the real wood smoke, a light Tamari flavor, and touches of worcestershire. I can also identify a faint sweet. I actually pick up a light natural meat flavor in this.
As far as the teriyaki goes, it's hard for me to identify this as teriyaki. Having grown up in a Japanese household, I've had teriyaki all my life, and this doesn't quite impart the classic teriyaki I've come to know. The dominant flavor is actually the real wood smoke, with the Tamari, and lighter worcestershire offering a background flavor. I don't pick up the fermented character commonly found in Japanese style teriyaki, nor any of the ginger. And despite the company claims, I don't find any of the "spicy mojo".
The meat consistency in this T-Bucket feels even more dry than the other flavors, perhaps because it was smoked rather than dehydrated. It still has the chewy quality of the other Van Cleave varieties, and is comparable to the Type-X and Apocalypse in terms of chewing ease. But, it seems more steak-like, though drier.
Verdict: I really like the real wood smoke flavor in this jerky. Even though I don't agree this jerky has a "classic teriyaki" flavor that the company claims, it's still a good jerky in its own right. I can actually detect a light natural meat flavor, perhaps because it was smoked instead of dehydrated. But aside from the smokiness, it's a rather mild jerky with an overall light marinade, which I don't see as being above and beyond the bulk of jerky brands out there. But I am giving this jerky good marks for that real wood smokiness, and it's meaty, steak-like chewing.
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