Kutztown Ginger Beer

History: Kutztown Bottling Works dates all the way back to 1851. Though it didn’t have the same name then, the Kutztown, Pennsylvania soda business has deep roots and has been passed around several times in its history. An important name to the brand is Percy Keodinger, who purchased a brewery and focused on selling beer and soft drinks. Then prohibition happened. No more beer. Way more soda. Keodinger developed 16 different flavors, his most famous being an original recipe birch beer. According to current Kutztown Bottling Works General Manager, Andy Schlegel, birch beer is still Pennsylvania’s most popular soda flavor. Since then, the business has been sold three times until it eventually wound up with current owners Jeff and Dana Taylor. The company actually didn’t assume the name Kutztown Bottling Works until 2002. The company sells soda in both 12 oz. glass and 24 oz. plastic bottlers. Click here to see which flavors come in which bottles. Like fellow eastern Pennsylvania bottler, Reading Draft, Kutztown is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch style. Again, no one can really seem to explain what that means aside from the fact that there’s a German influence. Shh, don’t worry about it. Yet despite the emphasis on birch beer, we decided to try their ginger beer, if for no other reason than because it’s red. And that’s odd enough to pop the top on this bottle. A fun fact: on the Kutztown bottle label it says “Nix Besser,” which means “Nothing better.” The more you know.

Where to get: Kutztown sodas can be purchased from the company’s online store. Their ginger beer is sold in plastic bottles through the Kutztown Bottling online store. If you’re looking for glass bottles, you can find those at Beverages Direct. Kutztown Bottling Works soda is distributed throughout 30 states and to many small Amish and Mennonite retailers by Dutch Valley Foods.

Nose: Ginger; mild red hot candies.

Taste: Mild ginger; mild spiciness; mild sugar. This is mild for ginger beer… if you didn’t get that by now. There’s a definite ginger taste, but the cane sugar in this almost acts as a bubble that coats the ginger. For some, that could be good. For others, it’s a flavor mask. There’s just the slightest bit of a minty undertone to this hidden beneath the ginger that you don’t find in most ginger beers. It seems like that mint flavor hides some of the bite found in stronger ginger beers. But every few sips that spice will sneak up on you and into your nostrils. It’s more of a heat on the finish than the initial sip. Not much in the way of lasting flavor or fire.

Finish: Light wintergreen mint and sweet candied ginger that swing back and forth until the flavor is gone. No lingering heat or after bite.

Rating: For those who aren’t quite ready for a strong ginger beer with bold spice, this is probably a good starting point. Not too spicy, but there’s just enough of it to let you know this is ginger beer. The sugar in this is a little bit stronger than its relatives and does have a tendency to cover up the richer and deeper flavor profiles ginger root possesses. But again, some will welcome that aspect. Kutztown’s ginger beer is unusually red. It looks beautiful in a glass and would make a fun party drink or mixer. For those desiring a powerful ginger beverage, this probably won’t be strong enough for you. For those looking to just get their feet wet, give it a shot. And for all of us those just looking to get drunk, this works well with a sprig of mint and your favorite liquid courage.

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