Posted June 4, 2012 by Big Red Boots in caffeine Free

Black Bear decaffeinated energy drink

I am always a bit confused by the idea of a non-caffeinated energy drink.  Sure – such a thing is technically possible, but most other stimulant drugs are kinda illegal.  This means that many decaf energy drinks try to fit all sorts of other herbs in their drinks to help stimulate your body.  Black Bear energy is one of these drinks that try to overload your system by all sorts of other good things with the promise of giving you the boos you crave without the jitter and hum of caffeine.

Unfortunately it did not work.  Fortunately, it was delicious enough that is made for a lovely natural sparking drink that was a pleasure to try out.  Black Bear is a cute little plastic wrapped can of strawberry lemon yumminess, with the big selling point of over 500 times your body needs of Vitamin B-12.  There is a whole lot I like with their drink, although there are the few missteps along the way.

At first glance, Black Bear has a lot of interesting things going for it.  THe logo is cool and prominent, and the whole look is quite clean and unique.  I love the overall design and the call out for both being a local product (made in the mountains of Maine) an that there is no caffeine to be found in here.  This can is very pretty, even if their logo of a purple bear face makes little sense to me (it took me a while to figure out that was even supposed to be a bear).

That being said, I wonder why thy went the cheaper route of having the bare aluminum shrink wrapped rather than actually printing on the can. The wrap certainly is cheaper, but it can get ripped up much easier, and when you get a small ding in the can, the wrap rips, and it no time you have a bare aluminum can in your hands.  The only time I have really seen an energy drink that is shrink wrapped take itself seriously is Boston America’s novelty energy drinks, like the kinds you find in Hot Topic and FYE.  Black Bear looks great – it is just time to take it seriously, dump the plastic wrap and actually print it on the can itself.

This is where Black Bear shines, coming up with an original and delicious bend of strawberries, lemons and blueberries.  This really tastes clean and fruity, without being overly sweet or candied.  The initial odor is very pleasant, like a pink lemonade only with a slight herbal twinge.

Now for those who have not tried it before, Vitamin B is one of the most bitter vitamins you can have – more bitter than the flavor of caffeine or any of the other nutrients in energy drinks.  This means that masking the Vitamin B is the most important part of an energy drinks’ flavor, and this drink has more of it than most.  Still, they managed to make it taste quite delicious!

Because there was no caffeine, I gave them to my kids to try out and report how they felt and what they thought of it.  The first reports from all three kids is that it tasted great – although not mind-blowing.  They would certainly have it again, but would prefer most sodas over the taste.  I know I would prefer my kids drink this than most other sodas or even high – calorie juices that they seem to consume all summer long.

Black Bear really tries to give a non-caffeinated buzz, packing all sorts of good things in here.  Unfortunately, there is only so much one can do with Bitter Orange, ribose, carnitine, ginseng and Gotu Kola to get that edge.  However, nutritionally they put some cool ingredients like Oolong tea and blueberry extract, all while being natural and low-calorie.


One of the more cool and interesting things with this drink is it does not contain cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Instead it uses a chemical known as trehalose. Trehalose is a natural substance, found in mushrooms like shiitake, some sea algae, and sunflower seeds, as well as shrimp and various insects. This new sugar substitute is popular in Japan, but just making its way here to the USA. This trehalose and added Xylitol help keep things sweet and tart, and keep the calorie content low as well. As for energy, Black Bear is staking its power claims on the amount of B-12 it has in it, just like 5 Hour energy does.  When talking with people about energy products, it is very common for people to tell me in authoritative tones that their energy shot or drink or whatever works not because of the caffeine, but because of all the B Vitamins it has in it.

The truth of the matter is: B Vitamins Do Not Give You Energy.  Not in the falling-asleep-needing-an-immediate-boost kind of way.  Certainly it can not replace caffeine if you are a coffee or energy drinker – your body craves the caffeine goodness. Vitamin B12 is a super common vitamin found in everything from milk and eggs to cereals.  So unless you only eat veggies and fruits, you already are getting enough Vitamin B12.  While there are lots of places to explain the placebic effect of taking Vitamin B12, the Nutrition Diva does a great job of explaining the basics.

So what happens if you flood your body with this muh of Vitamin B12?  Well, it certainly can not hurt you.  A small bit of that 41,666 % of the RDA of it will get absorbed in your system, and the rest of it turns into some mightily nutrition heavy pee.

Unfortunately, there was absolutely no energy boost at all from Black Bear. Not even my kids – who are really prone to suggestion – felt any sort of immediate energy lift from drinking a can.  However, the drink is very natural, and quite delicious too.  While this might be a tasty enough drink for an anytime refresher,  I would steer clear of this for late nights, long working sessions, times you need to keep your energy pumped up (like at the gym) or road trips.

Big Red Boots