Month: March 2015

Harvey and Vern’s: Ginger Beer

History: It’s refreshing when a company understands itself and its purpose. “It’s authentic. We know what we want. It’s about the good old days,” says Paul Meeks, owner of Kichesippi Beer Company. Paul and I have a 15-minute conversation about his soda business, Harvey and Vern’s. Paul’s voice is soft, friendly, and always understanding. I too understand myself and my purpose, and I’d now like to get a few words out of my system: Moose. Maple Syrup. Poutine. Hockey. Friendly. Eh. Tim Horton’s. Paul will appreciate this show of authenticity, even if it does reveal I’m secretly nine years-old. Because if you haven’t guessed, Paul and his company are from Canada… Ottawa, to be exact. After the success of their brewery, it was was Meeks’ wife, Kelly, who decided they were versed enough in beer to branch out and try soda. Harvey and Vern’s is all about harkening back to simpler times. Harvey was Meeks’ grandfather, a farmer; Vern is Kelly’s father; a doctor – both traditional, hard-working jobs that suited the nature of what Meeks and his wife wanted in their small business soda brand. As a child Meeks would go from his family farm to the river and back to the farm, but not before stopping in to buy some vintage glass bottle sodas on the way home. The company tries to capture that childhood nostalgia and bottle it in the form of three flavors: root beer, cream soda, and ginger beer. Everything is all-natural: no sodium benzoate, no added colors and only cane sugar as a sweetener. Today, we try our first Canadian soda – Harvey and Vern’s Ginger Beer. Fun fact: Paul was born in Jamaica and chose the ginger beer’s flavor. While he wasn’t trying to enter the cocktail market, he says “The number of Dark and Stormy’s poured in Ottawa has definitely increased.” The company will be introducing a fourth flavor to its soda line in April of 2015.

Where to get: Harvey and Vern’s is distributed throughout Quebec and Ontario, reaching somewhere between 250 grocery stores, cafes, and food trucks. But what about the Americans, eh? The company is currently talking to distributers in the states and hope to have an online store set up by sometime in May of 2015. If you need to get your little paws on it before then, contact the company directly and they’ll work with you on an order. Just be prepared to pay shipping… the only downside of glass bottles.

Nose: Pure, ground ginger. Buckle up.

Taste: Strong ginger; heat in the nostrils; light sugar. Pops bottle cap, tilts bottle at 45 degree angle, down the throat…

Gear up  for this Canadian concoction because ginger and ginseng root are upfront on the palate and they are handsy. We coughed on the first couple sips. The fire shoots up your nose for a sinister initial sizzle. But honestly, after a few sips, you adjust. And then you realize: this is tasty. You get a hot, earthy ginger flavor right up front that mellows into more of a candied ginger. This doesn’t taste like anything artificial has been added. It tastes like pure, unadulterated, natural ginger. There’s definitely heat to this. The cane sugar is noticeable, flavorful and does a nice job cutting the spice on the backend. But make no mistake, this is spicy. On a 1-10 spicy meter, I’d give this a solid 7.5. It’s an upfront heat. There’s no lingering. In fact, it’s a little sweet near the end. The previously mentioned ginseng in this gives Harvey and Vern’s’ Ginger Beer an extra bite.

Finish: Candied ginger with notes of soft spice that fade into crisp sugar accompanied by a final note of sweet ginger. Best part of the soda.

Rating: Our neighbors from the north weren’t messing around when they made their ginger beer. Canadians are often regarded as overtly friendly, but this ginger elixir is your naughty neighbor you crave. There’s something about it. It’s spicy up front, yet sweet and flavorful on the backend to keep you coming back. So it’s like the opposite of my ex-wife. I’ll make this simple. This is ginger beer. It tastes like ginger. Seems like a no-brainer, but so often this category of soda is dressed up to be something it’s not. There’s no games here. This is 12 ounces (355 ml, eh) of sinus-clearing, ginger-infused, taste bud-rocking soda. Novices might not be ready for its initial spiciness. There’s no denying it’s potent. The more you drink it, the easier it gets and the more delectable it becomes. And honestly, ginger beer as a whole isn’t for everyone. It’s more of an acquired taste. But if you like ginger beer, then I assure you that you’ll enjoy this. Paired with rum, the ginger beer becomes much sweeter, more of a candied ginger with airier citrus flavors. Careful, I’ve already had one just writing this review. For most, it’ll be a sipper on its own and when paired with alcohol, it’ll be a nightmare the next morning. That’s a compliment, Harvey and Vern’s. We approve, go get your ginger juice on.

Advertisements

Zuberfizz Ginger Ale

History: Hailing from the mountains of Durango, Colorado, Zuberfizz is the craft soda brain child of Banden Zuber and his business partner. And honestly, how can you not utilize a last name like that in your branding? Zuber and his college buddies used to brew beer and had aspirations of launching their own. But by the time they were ready to go public, the city of Durango had already become saturated with breweries, as had Colorado as a whole. So what now? Well, he already had all that equipment for brewing, and as Zuber says, gourmet soda “had the same footprint” as beer. Naturally, he started with root beer, still the company’s most popular seller today. Then came vanilla cream. But the soda that’s catching both of them? Zuberfizz Ginger Ale. Zuber says they tried shooting for something in between a spicy Reed’s Ginger Brew and a lighter ginger ale you could get at your local grocery store. Something not too pungent on the sinuses, but enough to let you know you’re drinking a ginger-infused beverage. All of the things you look for in craft sodas hold true here: they’re handcrafted in small batches, devoid of caffeine, and only use pure cane sugar as a sweetener. It’s for all these reasons that we needed to find out what Zuberfizz Ginger Ale was all about.

Where to get: Zuberfizz’s main distribution is found throughout Colorado and the four corners region. However, it’s also commonly found in Rocketfizz retailers. And if neither of those work, get your Zuberfizz Ginger fix on at their web site or Beverages Direct.

Nose: Ginger; more akin to smell of ginger beer than ginger ale; citrus.

Taste: Light ginger; earthiness; frothy carbonation; mild sugar. Earthy ginger coats the tongue first and then slowly enters the nostrils. It isn’t full of heat like a ginger beer, but has more of a kick than most ginger ales. I think if someone handed me this and didn’t tell me what it was, I’d probably say it was a mild ginger beer. But there’s definitely that traditional mellow ginger ale tartness near the end of the sip. This has a very natural taste, with no one flavor overwhelming the other. That said, no one flavor really stands out as remarkable. This tastes like it could be an excellent mixer, but doesn’t quite have the bold flavors that make it stand out on its own.

Finish: Tartness that mellows into an earthy, watered-down ginger beer taste.

Rating: Certainly, some people will enjoy this, but we found its flavors to be pretty average. I certainly don’t want you to get the idea that this bad. It has some good things going on with the nice initial ginger taste and an enjoyable level of sugar that doesn’t distract from the flavors Zuberfizz tried to get across in the soda. It’s just that none of the flavors aside from ginger for a few fleeting seconds really makes an impression. Some sips I think, “No wait, I do like you.” And then other sips I say, “Nah, you’re not worth it again.” It kind of reminds me of every relationship I’ve ever had. It’s just missing that special something. Perhaps alcohol (whiskey). Perhaps some kind of juice (whiskey OJ). I don’t know. This is pretty average. Worth a shot if you enjoy ginger beverages or need something to settle your tummy, but if not, it probably isn’t something I’d recommend to people. Just keepin’ it real. If you walked the line of sodas, this is almost smack dab in the middle.

Jackson Hole Soda: High Mountain Huckleberry

History: Yee haw, partner! Put on your boots and let’s go down to the saloon for the next few minutes. Or actually, let’s go north to Wyoming. The year was 2002 when Jackson Hole Soda Company popped up in Jackson, Wyoming. Don’t worry; it’s 2.5 hours away from Yellowstone National Park, so you should be safe for a visit. Don’t even tell me if they live in Jackson too. Anyway, the folks in Jackson really liked their rootin’ tootin’ soda jerks. So much so that the company outgrew itself and moved into western Colorado. And then it happened again. Now the soda is produced in Montebello, California. Typically expansion means success and success means good soda. And good soda is what you want in your fridge. Jackson Hole Soda Company produces eight different flavors, including traditional fan favorites like root beer and sarsaparilla and the more unusual High Mountain Huckleberry. The company changed ownership in 2011 when Bill Leary and his family saddled up and bought it. “Part of me always wanted to be in a fun business,” he says in a calm, joyful tone on the phone. Many of the company’s flavors have been tweaked slightly since the sale, but are all still similar to the original recipes. Leary says customers typically tell him they’re drawn in by the wild west-themed packaging and keep coming back for the flavors. Indeed we were drawn to High Mountain Huckleberry, among other reasons, for the label. Let’s see if we come back for what’s inside.

History: Jackson Hole Soda is distributed in pockets all over the United States. Check your local retro soda stores. They’re also available at many Rocketfizz retailers. But for those of us who live life with more of a pizza delivery philosophy, you can also buy Jackson Hole Soda on Amazon.

Nose: Strong black raspberry, the kind that used to grow at grandma’s house; intense berry; sugar-covered blackberries. There’s a lot going on here for your flavor snout. Definitely lots of berry scents.

Taste: Soft berry flavor; not quite blueberry; not quite raspberry. The carbonation on this is really noticeable right off the bat in a way that adds to the flavor profiles in this soda. Very light, frothy bubbles push a sweet black raspberry flavor to the forefront of your taste buds that quickly evaporates into a soft blueberry taste. The raspberry and blueberry flavors almost begin to meld into a… blue raspberry taste. Yeah, I know. Never saw that one coming. Very smooth for a fruit soda with a carbonation feel in the mouth much closer to cream than citrus or berry sodas. The bubbles are fun and different than most carbonation. The sugar in this isn’t overbearing, but is just a pinch on the sweeter side. That said, no harsh syrupy taste. The blueberry and raspberry flavors interchange back and forth. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle in your mouth.

Finish: Delicious blue raspberry ICEE. This is a no-brainer. If you’ve had a blue raspberry diabetes in a cup ICEE before at the movies or in the mall, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re unfamiliar with this beverage, then I’m sorry you didn’t have a childhood.

Rating: This is certainly one of the most interesting fruit sodas on the market today. Its multiple berry flavors, unique carbonation, and smoothness make this one of the more fun sodas sold on shelves. It’s definitely an experience that both confuses and pleases the drinker. There’s a lot of complicated flavor profiles occurring in this bottle. Making sodas with layers of taste is a difficult task, and Jackson Hole has done a very nice job of accomplishing that with High Mountain Huckleberry. It’s especially impressive considering no one really knows what a huckleberry is or where it naturally grows. Half of you just went to Google huckleberries, so welcome back. All in all, this is really fun and tasty. You may not be able to place the berry flavors exactly, but that makes it a mystery worth trying to solve until the last sip. The sugar can be a bit intense at times and really ramps up at the end of each drink. I wouldn’t advise guzzling this. Not just because of the sugar, but because this should be enjoyed for its intricate blend of flavors. This is a beverage passionate craft soda drinkers should invest in for its layered flavor profile and one younger drinkers can enjoy for its sweetness and drinkability. You can go back to Googling berries now if you want. We’ll be drinking this instead.

Fest Cola: Bourbon Cream Soda

History: Are you ready for a little southern hospitality? The phrase probably can’t get any truer when talking about Roy Nelson and Fest Cola. And no, not this Roy Nelson. Not only does he craft his soda from the bayou of New Orleans; he also has a Canadian background! So he’s like the nicest southerner you’ll ever meet, eh? Sorry. Had to. Nelson has over 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Wanting to branch out on his own, he chose craft soda for its blossoming opportunities. Fest Cola is actually not just cola. The company makes four flavors. It was important to Nelson that the brand stayed true to the New Orleans community. Each soda is actually named after some aspect or historical figure from the city. As for the flavors, they’re all standards with a unique twist. Almond Cola? Pecan Root Beer? Bourbon Cream soda? Yeah, those are all real things you can put in your body. Nelson says he wanted “flavors for today.” Fest Cola “needed to have a vintage feel, but something really progressive to establish itself.” They’re proud of their product. They aren’t ashamed to boast that they use expensive ingredients and 100% pure Louisiana ground cane sugar. But mostly, Fest Cola is about being original. In the words of Nelson, “We don’t try to be the best. We just try to be the only one.” And we’ve only heard of one bourbon cream soda. So we had to drink in the originality.

Where to get: Fest Cola is sold throughout the Gulf South region, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois. If that seems random, it’s because it is. Bottlers actually don’t have a lot of control where their distributors sell their products. You can also pick up Fest in Rocketfizz shops across the country. The company is setting up a direct order system through their web site, and they hope to have it live by the summer of 2015. In the mean time, you can get it online at Soda Emporium or by contacting Fest directly through their site to arrange an order.

Nose: Intense vanilla; caramel chews.

Taste: Whoa. There’s actually a bourbon flavor to this. Imagine that. It’s immediate on the tip of the tongue and explodes into rich vanilla waves almost on impact. It’s strong and different. But for a man (aka me) with a pastry chef for a mom, it’s strangely familiar. Dare I venture to guess, this may be actual bourbon vanilla. The vanilla profile here is exquisite. Bold, deep and rich that  lasts in intensity only for a fleeting moment before transforming into a softer vanilla flavor reminiscent of sweet bourbon sauces your grandma used to put on sweet treats like apple dumplings or yams. To be clear, this doesn’t taste like apple dumplings or sweet potatoes, but the vanilla-bourbon note on the backend of this soda is very similar to one found in sauces used to accentuate those desserts. The bourbon taste is long and slowly fades into a lighter version of itself. The sugar here is definitely noticable if you search for it, but really blends nicely under the symphony of sweet bourbon.

Finish: Sweet bourbon vanilla that tails off into light, burned caramel. Extremely pleasant. Maybe even a little bit of a powdered sugar note near the end as well.

Rating: The initial sip on this is an explosion of flavor every time. It’s wild and so incredibly fun, which is what soda should be. Fest calls this soda Lulu. You want to date Lulu. Lulu White was a New Orleans luxury brothel owner. So, actually… maybe you don’t want to date Lulu… unless you’re into that. But you definitely want to drink her…. err, I think I’m making this worse. The point is, it is strongly recommended you put this in your body. Bourbon, vanilla and light caramel highlight this wonderfully unique take on cream soda. Its flavors are bold and noticeable on their own, yet blend to create a layered taste you’ve never had before in a cream soda. Now, if you’re not big into strong vanilla, this may not be for you. That said, we’d still recommend it simply for the fact that you’ve probably never had vanilla in a soda in this way. Go out of your way to try Lulu. Do not go out of your way to find her brothel. This is cheaper, lasts longer and afterward you won’t need to see a doctor. Masterful. Put this in your permanent rotation.

Bundaberg Peachee Soda

History: Bundaberg is one of the biggest craft soda companies in the world. It is quite possibly the most widely distributed international craft soda brand on earth. We can’t confirm that, but let’s be honest; we know you don’t really care. The point is, they’re big. But if you know anything about the care they put into their products, then you’re aware there’s no cutting corners for this Australian craft soda powerhouse. Every brand has a “thing” that makes them unique. Bundaberg’s thing? They brew their soft drinks. They literally use yeast and ferment their sodas in tanks, like you’d brew a beer. You might be thinking, “Wait, fermenting? Doesn’t that mean there’s alcohol involved??” Yes, yes there is. Or at least, there was at one point. Bundaberg removes the booziness from their beverages before moving on to other parts of production, like carbonating the soda with water. There’s still trace amounts leftover that contribute to the soda’s flavor profile. If you can actually taste the residual amount of alcohol in it, then I’d contact your local medical laboratory because you may have special powers. You probably know Bundaberg for its ginger beer, but this process goes for all of their sodas, including Peachee, the one we’re reviewing today. Peach juice and Queensland cane sugar supplement the brewing process in this fruity elixir from down under.

Where to get: Bundaberg is one of the largest international craft soda distributors in the world. Their products are sold throughout the United States and the world. To find the neatest location near you, use the company’s online locator. You can also buy it online from Galco’s or Soda Emporium. We’d be shocked if it wasn’t located somewhere near you. And if it isn’t, contact your country’s international distributor. They’re all nice people and willing to help out.

Nose: Peach skin, scratch and sniff peach; Peach-O’s .

Taste: Ground sugar; earthy peach flavor, sharp carbonation. For a soda with such a vibrant peach-esque color, you’d expect a signature sweet peach flavor, but on the first few sips, the sugar is what’s most evident. It’s a little jarring at first, but mellows with time. The peach flavor comes in next, but it isn’t exactly like biting into a fresh peach with sugar on it. The sugar and the peach flavors really act separately here. The peach taste has a little more of an earthy bite to it as opposed to a crisp, fresh punch. It’s different, but easy drinking on the palate. Part of that comes from the soda’s carbonation, which really bounces off the taste buds, but does little in the way of distracting from flavor. This is pleasant, even for a noticeably sweet fruit soda.

Finish: Faint candy peach flavor that lasts just seconds. Very little in the way of lingering flavor, that for some, could lead to multiple bottles in one setting.

Rating: With fresh fruit sodas being all the rage right now, the current soda enthusiast may be a little spoiled. Upon looking at the bright peach color in this bottle, most will expect a very fresh peach taste. Instead, this is a little more of a candy peach flavor with some distinctive, natural earthy tones. It does maintain a little bit of that fresh taste you’re seeking. The sugar is pretty potent at first, but over time you wouldn’t want less of it. The sweetness actually aids the earthy peach flavor here, but pushes the limits for us in terms of what’s palatable for repeat bottle-popping. What we’re saying is you probably wouldn’t do more than two or three of these at a time. Newer companies like Brooklyn Soda Works and Cannonborough Beverage are simply changing the game on what “real fruit sodas” mean, using intense amounts of real fruit juices and produce. That said, this is totally drinkable and has good qualities. I want to be friends with benefits with this soda. I just don’t want to date it, at least yet. But that could change. I’m still newly single. On a hot day by the pool, yeah, drink this until your insides turn orange. I might even suggest a little booze to cut the sugar. As it is, Peachee is kind of like a fuzzy navel without alcohol. It’s definitely worth a shot and we could see it being a very divisive soda in terms of audience reception. Bundaberg Peachee, I’ll call you back, girl.

Wyndridge Farm: Crafty Citrus Apple

History: It’s not often a horrific injury leads to a delicious new idea, but that’s exactly what happened to Steve Groff. From his beginnings as a small-town farm boy, Groff transitioned away from that life into the medical world, becoming an orthopedic surgeon. It was a profession he excelled in… until the accident. While riding his bicycle, Groff was struck by a vehicle, leaving him with a bad neck injury. Luckily, his injuries didn’t keep him from walking, but his passion for surgery, his eye-hand coordination; it never felt the same. Plan B? Back to the farm boy roots. Groff and his family renovated a 120 year-old farm in York County, Pennsylvania. Groff calls it “the Napa Valley of apples” with vibrant orchards. So spoiler here: Wyndridge Farm is known for their apple cider. They also brew beer. Those two things led to craft soda. As Groff says, the “soda was born out of having the equipment.” The company already placed an emphasis on the quality of ingredients they used in cider and beer, so it was only natural that craft soda came next. Wyndridge Farm makes a cream soda, but their signature craft soda is “Crafty Citrus Apple.” It contains fresh-squeezed apple juice with just a pinch of lemon. The farm hosts weddings and corporate events, but for our purposes, they’re barnyard brewers. “It’s a combination of great packaging and great liquid, says Groff.”

Where to get: Crafty Citrus Apple and Crafty Cream Soda are both available mostly in the eastern seaboard to mid-Atlantic regions. The company is open to direct orders and are more than happy to work with people on getting their products where you’re located.

Nose: Apple juice; light V8 juice. Not sure where the V8 comes from. Odd.

Taste: Hey that’s apple juic…..zing! You’re greeted with a refreshing carbonated apple juice taste that’s like “‘sup?” and then peaces out in favor of a mild tartness. Really an interesting sensation that the mouth never quite adjusts to completely. The apple flavor is crisp and refreshing. The citrus aftertaste is comprised of lemon, lime and orange, but the lemon is what really does the majority of the flavor work. It actually plays off the apple in a way that contorts the sweet apple flavor into a sour one. So you actually get lemon-sour apple as the soda progresses. That tartness intensifies as you continue drinking, though the cane sugar also becomes more noticeable, just not as much as the citrus.

Finish: Sharp citrus that rises off the back of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth. While lemon is the most noticeable citrus element throughout the beverage, lime really stands out in the finish.

Rating: This is certainly original. The mouth does not expect a zing when drinking apple juice or cider, but Wyndridge Farm decided your traditional flavor profiles have no meaning here. The citrus kick combined with the natural acidity of the apples makes this drink like a hard cider at times. I’d consider this more of a sipping soda with the exception of hot summer days. Its refreshing aspect would be intensified during the hot and humid mid-year months. The apple flavor here is really well done. The soda actually contains fresh-pressed juices from the farm’s neighbors down the road. You can see why Wyndridge Farm has done so well with their ciders. The citrus punch on the backend is just a little too harsh for me to drink more than a couple in one outing. I think if this was paired with a sweeter bourbon or rum, you’d have something really dynamite for your cocktail book. Just a little something extra to cut down that acidity. Fans of more tart sodas are almost guaranteed to love this. If you’re looking for a nontraditional fruit soda, give this a shot. If your taste buds aren’t quite as adventurous, I’d stick to what you know. Groff went through a hell of a lot on his own, so why shouldn’t he make something totally different? When summer rolls around, you should be pulling this one out again.

Maine Root Mexicane Cola

History: Maine Root is a well-known craft soda brand. It’s nationally distributed, but despite its widespread availability, the company’s reputation is still darling. Sometimes the bigger a brand is, the harder the craft soda connoisseur will push back against it. Not so here. It still feels genuine. Maybe it’s because Maine Root is still a family business. Maybe it’s because they place a major emphasis on “organic” and “fair trade.” Or maybe people just love Maine. It is just kind of hanging out up there, all cutesy in the northeast. But it’s probably something you don’t see: the owners. Mark Seiler was working in a pizza place that sold a root beer he loved. Pepsi bought it out. Aw HELL NAH! That led to Maine Root and the creation of its root beer by brothers Mark and Matt Seiler. Today’s review, Mexicane Cola, is the company’s newest regular soda and came out about three years ago due to customer demand. What the owners will repeatedly emphasize to you is that Maine Root is the first and only company to use fair trade, organic cane sugar juice. They source it from Paraguay. This is in contrast to cane sugar. It’s also “incredibly expensive,” according to Matt Seiler. Let’s drink it in.

Where to get: Maine Root is a nationally distributed soda. You probably already knew about it. It can be found in well-known stores like Whole Foods and O’Naturals. And if you can’t find it in your city, order it online.

Nose: Not much of a scent on this, but sugar is what hits the nose most.

Taste: Cane sugar; soft kola nut; nutty; light cinnamon. Right away the kola nut is upfront. You’ll want to compare this to Mexican Coca Cola based on the name, but the two aren’t that similar in flavor. Coke is more bitter due to its use of high fructose corn syrup, while Mexicane Cola’s organic cane sugar juice gives it a sweeter, earthier taste. Maine Root keeps the spice in this a secret, but you can taste them swirling around after the kola nut wears off. Cinnamon is identifiable, but it’s very faint. The cane sugar flavor is constant throughout, which is the staple of a mexican cola. Definitely more a rustic flavor than most colas. The sugar permeates the mouth. It’s the soda’s defining trait, but at times it overpowers the spices.

Finish: Cane sugar juice that trails off into spices.

Rating: A new take on an old classic, Mexicane Cola is anchored by its use of fair trade cane sugar juice and secret spices. The cane sugar powers this soda from beginning to end. It’s a natural sweetness not found in many other sodas. The spices help mellow the intensity of the sugar’s flavor, but it still packs quite a punch. If you’re not a fan of sweeter sodas, then I’d keep looking for your dream cola. The use of kola nut in this soda plays nicely with the rest of the spices to help create a nuanced flavor profile. Unfortunately, the sugar limits the opportunity for more of those flavors to come through in the mouth. This is solid as is, but could really go to the next level without as much sweetness. Our suggestion? Try it on ice to help limit some of the sugar’s effect. If you see this in a coffee shop or grocery store, it’s worth a shot. It’s an adventurous take on a soda that’s often so dull, and the craft soda world needs more adventurers.

Brood Soda: Smoky

History: Jon Lehman was a lawyer. He ended up a craft soda brewer. No objections here. Perhaps it was his background in the law industry, something that had become mundane to him, that caused Lehman’s vision for soda to be something completely new. “There’s no reason new recipes can’t be created,” he says. Lehman wanted to venture away from the “classics” and “retro” feel that many companies strive for in their look and taste. In 2012, Brood Soda was born. It’s a bit darker in its marketing than your average craft soda bottle. That little gothic-looking fella is called “Rood Boy.” He’s the face of the brand. Originally, Lehman wanted to go even darker, but scaled back because this is soda and not death metal booze. Something else that makes Brood different? The flavors. They aren’t named after ingredients. “It’s supposed to be a very generalized product that doesn’t fit within parameters.” The soda flavors are all based on an urban feel. Odd, right? In fact, the only things that Brood really does in the traditional senses are source natural ingredients and make an impact in its local Durham, North Carolina community. Today, we’ve got Smoky, a soda judging by the ingredients, that looks to be something of a citrus cola. We’ll find out.

Where to get: Brood Soda has actually been sold out for six months, and the company is working on getting it back in stock. But if you wanna get your ‘lil paws on some of this out-of-the-box soda, it is still possible. Contact Brood directly through their site. They’re pretty chill.

Nose: Mulled sangria wine; faint orange; unique.

Taste: This is one of the most unique-tasting sodas I’ve ever had. This took at least 10 minutes just to decide on what to say and it’s probably still wrong. There’s definitely some citrus going on here. The bottle lists orange, lemon and black cherry. What comes through the most initially is lemon and a honey taste (though there’s no honey actually in this). It’s almost like a carbonated tea with more sweetness and citrus. It’s very relaxing, something you wouldn’t expect from a soda with caffeine. The more you drink this, the more you get the orange and kola nut flavors, though they mostly stay in the background. Eventually it becomes a meld of unfamiliar citrus flavor with light herbal notes. It’s almost like a carbonated sangria. The carbonation is good and the sugar levels don’t distract from the flavors – I just wish the flavors were a little more distinctive. It’s just very puzzling. A mouth mystery.

Finish: Muddled orange and lemon tinged with natural herbs and kola nut.

Rating: Smoky by Brood Soda is one of the most peculiar sodas you can put in your mouth. It isn’t overly harsh or pleasant, but more of an experience. Even as someone who’s tried hundreds and hundreds of sodas, I struggle to accurately place the flavors here. Certainly you get lemon and orange, but they aren’t presented in a way you’ve ever had lemon or orange in a soda. Instead of bold, crisp citrus, it’s more of a fermented flavor like in sangria. There’s also an herbal flavor profile going on that when fused with the citrus produces a tea-like flavor. At times this tastes like carbonated tea. Don’t be misled by the ingredients. Though this has Kola nut in it, it definitely isn’t a cola. In fact, there’s nothing traditional about this, which is why you should give it a go. I probably wouldn’t call this “Smoky.” I think “Mood” or even “Calm” would be more approriate, even in spite of the fact that it has natural caffeine in it. It just puts you in a perplexed, tranquil state as your mouth tries to decode the mystery. If you figure out the flavors, you find the treasure. Nicolas Cage, we have a movie idea for you.