Month: May 2015

Gale’s Root Beer

History: Gale Gand is an acclaimed pastry chef. From writing books, teaching classes, developing products, filming television and running restaurants, Gale Gand has done it all in the world of food and beverage. But Gand has a liquid passion. “I can’t live without root beer,” she says cheerfully over the phone. Her love for the king of craft soda was tested years ago cooking in England where root beer was scarce. In her three years across the pond, the only place to find her favorite soda was in McDonald’s. But she and her chefs weren’t allowed to be seen in a McDonald’s, so they’d have to sneak people a pound to go buy them root beer as if it was some sort of black market treasure. A couple neighborhoods over from me, I often see people doing the same thing. They don’t sneak out with root beer though. As if to supplement her craving, while in England, Gand bought a Terrier and named it Rootie. After returning to America, Gand set out to make her own root beer, containing cold-pressed Nielsen-Massey Vanilla. The vanilla may be the most premium ingredient in the root beer, but its most defining element is likely the cinnamon. Gand makes a cinnamon-ginger infusion and then her bottler finishes it off with vanilla and cane sugar. About 50,000 bottles of Gale’s Root Beer are produced every year. Rootie appears on the bottle’s label.

Where to get: Gale’s Root Beer is available from a number of online retailers and the chef’s website has aggregated them all into a nice, single page. It’s also sold at Gand’s Chicago restaurant Spritzburger, home to fine burgers and homemade sodas.

Nose: Mild root beer; mint; light vanilla.

Taste: Vanilla; mild mint; cinnamon. This is a little harder to place than most root beers. Everything in this is relatively mild. There’s some mild spice to this that I’m identifying as ginger, but it doesn’t have a spicy bite. This isn’t creamy like a root beer rich in vanilla, but it also doesn’t have a crisp bite, like earthier root beers. Vanilla and cinnamon are probably the strongest flavors you’ll taste, but the two tastes really meld together to not overpower the other. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing either the vanilla or cinnamon be more pronounced in the flavor profile. It’s very easy drinking, but the individual flavors are not bold on their own.

Finish: Light carbonation with some ginger earthiness. The ginger is most evident on the finish, probably the most prominent of any flavor at any point of the sip.

History: This is a root beer that should appeal to a wide audience for its drinkability and lack of bite. This does very well with a few ice cubes and you’d have no problem drinking it quickly. But for so many craft soda enthusiasts, strong flavors are desired in every bottle. This is a root beer marketed as “cinnamon, ginger, vanilla flavored,” yet none of these flavors really jump out at you individually. Yet, you can certainly taste all three flavors. The ginger provides a mild earthiness and is strongest at the end of each sip. The cinnamon and vanilla work together in supporting roles, but both could stand to have the volume turned up. I can certainly see how fans of root beer would like this for variety’s sake. Gale’s Root Beer is something kids would also likely enjoy for how mild it is compared to some spicier root beers. I personally need a little more complexity when it comes to the granddaddy of craft sodas, but this is a root beer with a wide reach and for Chef Gand, that’s an accomplishment.

 

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Wurst Soda: Grape

History: If the mid-south U.S.A. and German Oktoberfest has a child, Mike Sloan would be their spawn. Look at that guy. You wanna be friends with that guy. In his spare time, he enjoys “collecting antique sausage-making equipment.” In fact, Sloan has been in the meat business since he was nine years-old and worked for his parents’ Swiss Meat Sausage Company for 42 years in Swiss, Missouri. In 2011, he decided it was time to create his own legacy in the industry, so Sloan began Hermann Wurst Haus in 2011, cooking up homemade sausages, brats, and bacon. Dude makes 45 flavors of bratwurst and 12 flavors of bacon, among other things. All located in Hermann, Missouri, about an hour west of St. Louis. It’s an area rich in German heritage and culture, and also home to lots of wine makers. And with all that salty meat, you gotta wash it down with something. So in 2014, Sloan introduced Wurst Craft Sodas, “The Wurst Sodas You’ve Ever Had.” Hell of a tag line. Hopefully not literal. Hermann Wurst Haus produces five traditional soda flavors: root beer, cream soda, orange, grape, and black cherry. “These are the sodas you grew up on,” Sloan adds. All sodas are made with pure cane sugar and strive for an “old-time rich, soda fountain flavor.” Today’s review, grape soda, is modeled after old-fashioned grape Kool-Aid.

Where to get: Currently, all Hermann Wurst Haus sodas are only sold in-store, located at 234 E 1st St, Hermann, MO 65041. You might want to pop in. They just received a Tripadvisor 2015 Award of Excellence.

Nose: Grape Dimetapp. Yes, I know this is a medicine, but don’t tell me as a child you didn’t love both the smell and taste of Dimetapp. I would’ve partaken even if I wasn’t sick.

Taste: Grape Nehi; sugar; grape popsicle. Pretty traditional grape soda flavor. Definitely can see the grape Kool-Aid influence. Sugary, but doesn’t leave a syrupy taste in the mouth. Tastes like a grape popsicle from which you’ve sucked out all the juice. The carbonation is soft and nice. Nothing complicated about this.

Finish: Sweet old-fashioned grape soda taste. No difference between the body, finish, or aftertaste.

Rating: This is as straightforward as it gets with fruit soda. Everyone knows what classic grape soda tastes like, and this is it. It’s definitely nothing like the more natural version made by Waynesville Soda Jerks. This is sweet, sugary, classic grape soda. This is your country neighbor in the log cabin next door. He’s not the smartest. He’s not the cutest. But damn, he can chop that wood in a reliable and timely fashion. You can count on him and you can count on Wurst Grape Soda. It’s not the best grape soda we’ve tried, but you probably won’t regret having one every now and then. Maybe drink it with a sausage. For once in my life, I can say that seems fitting in this instance.

Squamscot: Maple Cream Soda

History: At Conner Bottling Works in Newfields, New Hampshire, Squamscot Beverages has been making old-fashioned, glass-bottled sodas or “tonics,” as they used to call them, for 152 years. The business opened in 1863. They’ve been using the same bottling machine named “Dixie” since 1938. It hasn’t even moved spots in the building since then. The business has never been sold by the founding family and today is run by Dan Conner, the fifth generation of his family to operate the business. It is the last independent bottler in the state of New Hampshire. Think about all that. Whether or not you enjoy their products, Squamscot has a remarkable history. It started as a beer bottling plant. This company is so old that the beer they were bottling back in 1863 had to be brought there by horse and carriage! These days, if you see a horse and carriage, you’re either lost in Amish country or you got drunk enough downtown to think paying $20 for a pre-blackout stroll was a good idea. Despite starting with beer, soda slowly made its way into Squamscot’s repertoire. Orange soda and ginger ale started being made in the late 1800’s. The beer business was going well. Then prohibition happened. Beer business wasn’t so hot after that. So soda became the company’s main source of income with its golden ginger ale ascending to flagship beverage status. In 1926 Pepsi, then being bottled by Conner Bottling Works, pulled out of its contract. This is when soda really took off for the company with lots of flavor expansion. Today, Dan Conner says Squamscot produces 27 flavors, its golden ginger ale still being one of the most popular. “We make a quality product. We offer it how it was always made,” with recipes dating back generations, he adds. Today’s review, Maple Cream Soda, is designed to be sweeter and is made with pure cane sugar and maple extract. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Squamscot Beverages are sold widely throughout New Hampshire and sporadically across the country. The easiest way to find the Maple Cream Soda is to purchase it online via Galco’s Soda Pop Shop or from Holiday Wine Center. Don’t worry, you can trust both websites.

Nose: Maple syrup. I would say more, but this smells exactly like the flavor on the bottle. I’d take this in candle form.

Taste: Maple syrup; sugar; tartness. Tiny little bubbles flood the mouth before the tide returns to sea and you’re left with a delicious, pure maple flavor. Just the right amount of sweetness and maple syrup. But there’s also accompanying undertones of tart cane sugar throughout the body that somehow enhance the maple flavor. This is actually a soda that benefits from having a couple ice cubes. Almost like a fine bourbon, the water slowly releases more flavor, in this case, a creamier, more intense maple taste as well as some very light notes of vanilla caramel. On ice, that tartness becomes almost non-existent. So if you’re a fan of something that wrestles the tongue a little, drink this chilled in the bottle. If you prefer a creamier maple taste, a couple ice cubes will do the trick.

Finish: Mild maple syrup and caramelized sugar. Definitely some bite to the sugar here. On ice, the finish is basically the same, only less intense.

Rating: Maple is a flavor craft soda bottlers decided to elevate on a silver platter. It’s a flavor that just sounds like you can’t go wrong with in soda form. But take if from us – we’ve tried a lot of maple soda… it rarely lives up to the flavor utopia you’re expecting. But when you’ve got 152 years of soda manufacturing on your side, it’s a little easier to take on a popular flavor like maple. Squamscot has taken a flavor that often misses the mark and created a maple soda that is a standard-bearer in its realm. The flavor profile succeeds wildly. Tart cane sugar and authentic maple flavors blend to form a crisp, delicious soda that you as a maple fan have been waiting for. This is like when you ask out the hot girl who makes barbie look inadequate and she has everything in common with you, is smart and gives great massages. Expectations: met and exceeded. Well done, Squamscot. The underlying tartness might turn off a few drinkers. To those I say, try this on ice. It becomes less intense and creamier. This is the maple soda for which you’ve been waiting. Wait no more. Go live the dream.

Regatta: Ginger Beer

History: Stan Rottell knows the beverage industry. He’s been involved in every facet, from accounting to product development. He was big in the development of Snapple Teas. He even was behind a flavor re-engineering of Barritt’s Ginger Beer that turned the island favorite brew into one made with natural ingredients. This is where things started. After five years of babysitting the Barritt’s brand, the company decided to go a different direction and handed over their business to Gosling’s and went back to cheaper ingredients. This wasn’t the path Rottell wanted for himself or the products he endorsed. So he then made his own ginger beer. As an avid sailor, he named it Regatta Ginger Beer. Regatta typically refers to sailboat races. To this day, it’s still a one-man operation in Westport, Connecticut. Regatta Ginger Beer actually sponsors a fair share of sailing races across the country. As for the ginger beer itself, Rottell says “It’s got a bite, but it’s certainly going to be easy to drink…. I was looking for something that wouldn’t overwhelm what it was mixed with, but could be enjoyed on its own.” He wanted a ginger beer that was bold, but also a little fruity. In order to achieve that, he imports ginger root from the Caribbean, Africa, and sometimes Australia that possess slightly fruitier notes than other ginger roots that are more spicy or earthy. Like many ginger beers, this one is also designed mostly to be paired with alcohol. Rottell estimates 90% of Regatta Ginger Beer goes into some type of cocktail. The company often partners with well-known spirits like Russian Standard Vodka or Mount Gay Rum. Regatta Ginger Beer is made with pure cane sugar and limited preservatives. “There’s no magic,” Rottell adds. It’s all in the ginger root. For now, Regatta solely produces Ginger Beer, but Rottell is open for flavor expansion. He pauses, collects his thoughts and says with focus, “I’m constantly looking for a better ginger ale.”

Where to get: Regatta Ginger Beer is sold in 26 states and is particularly popular on both coasts. You can buy it in cans directly from the company or in single glass bottles from Keg Works.

Nose: Classic strong ginger beer. Smells like ginger fire is coming.

Taste: Ginger; spiciness; sweet sugar. Regatta’s take on ginger beer won’t make you cough from the spiciness, but it’s still got a kick. Soft little bubbles flood the mouth before you get a tinge of sweetness followed immediately by classic ginger heat. This contains just the right amount of sweetness for a ginger beer. Enough for flavor, but not distracting from the heat or flavor of the ginger roots. The ginger flavor is nice and varied flowing back and forth between the fresh-peeled root and candied ginger. There’s also some fruity notes that are difficult to accurately nail down. Mild apple undertones seem most prominent in a supporting role along with some citrus. The combination of ginger flavor, mild heat, moderate sweetness, and crisp carbonation make this one of the more refreshing takes on ginger beer on the market today.

Finish: Mildly earthy ginger with notes of rock candy sugar. Not overpowering, something for a ginger beer that can be hard to attain. This finish begs for additional sips.

Rating: This is a ginger beer you may not be familiar with, but it’s one you should get to know immediately. Its beautiful sea green bottle, yet simple design may not scream “Buy me!” but sometimes the most unsuspecting things are the best. Take my wife’s Porsche for example. I would’ve never expected with our combined income we’d buy it… until she went back and used my credit card without telling me. She’s the best! Regatta has bottled up a delicious, fruity ginger flavor profile using both Caribbean and African ginger roots and paired them with a level of sweetness that doesn’t distract from that classic ginger heat, yet provides additional flavor and balance. It’s about a six on the ginger beer heat scale. Perhaps the highest compliment we can pay to this ginger beer is that’s it’s refreshing and deserves to be consumed entirely on its own. But we all know most ginger beers are made to be mixers. And I’m not afraid to write this: Regatta Ginger Beer is the best ginger beer I’ve had for Moscow Mules or Dark and Stormy’s. You would be doing yourself a disservice not to try this with alcohol. I’d be surprised if this didn’t immediately make a dent in your top five ginger beers. Pull out your credit card, unless my wife somehow has yours too, and add this Florida-brewed ginger juice to your life.

Hank’s: Wishniak Black Cherry

History: Hank’s has one of the most recognizable bottles on the craft soda market with its name emblazoned in bold, raised metallic letters. They prefer the language “gourmet” as opposed to “craft,” but we don’t have to tell them they’re the same thing *w;)nk face*. As for its history, despite several attempts, we were unable to reach the folks at Hank’s Gourmet Sodas in time to talk to them for this review, so we relied heavily on their website and an article from Beverage Industry. So we’ll keep it relatively simple this time. Back to that unmistakable bottle. It sticks out, kind of like my old neighbor who leaves the bathroom blinds open. Only this instance is by design. “We just tried to make the bottle as unique, upscale and premium as we could,” co-founder Bill Dunman says. In 2007 the Glass Packaging Institute, an actual thing, awarded Hank’s the Clear Choice Award for best Carbonated Beverage. Hank’s began in 1995 in the Philadelphia area as a distribution business. A year later, they abandoned distribution entirely in favor of manufacturing and began adding flavors starting with root beer. At one point the company reached as many as 10, but today has scaled that number back to six. As with most soda companies, Hank’s profits the most from its root beer, with cream soda, black cherry and orange cream coming in second at about equal market shares. Hank’s is made using pure cane sugar and also produces a line of all natural teas. You can drink a black cherry soda and chase it with their Watermelon Cucumber Black Tea. What a time to be alive.

Where to get: Straight from their website, Hank’s Gourmet Sodas are “sold in over 40 states in every region of the nation.” For the ten unlucky states and the majority of us who prefer conducting our business in our underwear, you can order Hank’s soda in 12-packs directly from their site, 6-packs via Amazon, or single bottles from Soda Emporium.

Nose: Fresh cherry juice; Juicy Juice Cherry.

Taste: Sweet black cherries; mild tartness. This definitely tastes like real cherries. It has a deep, rich taste to it. Imagine blending fresh cherries into juice, adding some sugar and maybe a little vanilla extract and then drinking it. This tastes like that. Simple, yet refreshing and flavorful. Definitely a sweeter soda, clocking in at 40 grams of sugar per bottle. There’s also just the slightest amount of tartness to this on the backend of each drink embedded in the carbonation. This is a rare instance where you can taste the flavor of the citric acid used. It isn’t syrupy, but does leave a filmy feeling on the teeth on some sips. Overall though, the rich black cherry flavor is wonderful.

Finish: Tart black cherry that fades into sweet cherry juice.

Rating: A really nice take on black cherry soda that tastes refreshing and real. Hank’s could probably stand to dial back the sugar in each bottle by a few grams because the sweetness really piles on top of itself with each continuous drink. It’s kind of like speed dating. It’s great at first, but by the end you’re disoriented, need a nap and crying. Sorry, that last part is just a personal problem. Most black cherry sodas are fairly simple. It’s all about nailing that main flavor, and Hank’s does a nice job in that regard. There’s also a faint tartness to this soda. It helps to balance out the sweetness a little bit. I actually really enjoyed that aspect and wouldn’t mind seeing the mild sour notes turned up ever so slightly. Despite the intensity of its sweetness, the black cherry flavor profile shines bright. Definitely in the upper tier of craft black cherry sodas. Sip this one slowly out by the pool.

Chuck Wagon Soda: Sarsaparilla

History: It all started with chicken wings. Years and years ago, Chuck Wagon Soda owner Terry Schaeffer sold chicken wings off a concession trailer. It was 21 feet long. The problem? You had to buy 30 feet of space. I wasn’t a math major, but that leaves nine feet of nothing. So Schaeffer thought about it. He figured he’s from Pennsylvania, where a lot of vintage sodas are already produced… why not try his hand at at too? It’d give consumers something cold to wash down those spicy wings. But he wanted to keep it old school. “They used to feed cowboys off a chuck wagon,” he says matter-of-factly. Schaeffer himself looks a bit cowboy-ish with mustache so thick you could comfortably sleep on it. And thus, Chuck Wagon Soda was born. It’s literally a wagon stand of barrels with soda on tap in each, commonly sold at festivals or events. Shaeffer actually sells these custom-built wagons to interested vendors. The production started in 2000 and in the first seven years they sold eight wagons. Since then, Schaeffer says, they’ve sold 93. The wagon sales are actually the main portion of the company’s business. Bottled soda sales account for a fraction of Chuck Wagon Soda’s income, but Schaeffer wanted customers without access to the wagons to have a chance to try the soda. Chuck Wagon Soda sells seven of its flavors in bottles and 11 on the wagons. Among some of the wagon exclusives include exotic flavors like lemon cream and raspberry cream. Today’s review, sarsaparilla, is made with old sassafras that is native to Pennsylvania. The company worked with a chemist to ensure all their flavors were up to their tasting standards. And like many craft sodas, these are made with pure cane sugar, top-quality ingredients, and use limited preservatives.

Where to get: Because soda is such a small part of the business, outside of finding a Chuck Wagon Soda vender randomly, your best bet is to go online to Chuck Wagon’s website to order these puppies.

Nose: Birch bark; sassafras; caramel; old-fashioned root beer. This smells like the root beer you get at the fair. It’s a very olde tyme scent.

Taste: Sassafras root; molasses; vanilla; light mint; throwback root beer. This is branded as “Old Fashioned Soda” and it tastes like it. It’s got a very classic fairgrounds, crisp root beer flavor with strong notes of sassafras, sarsaparilla root, and what I believe to be molasses. There could also be a little bit of caramel flavoring in here. I’m reminded of when I used to get root beer at the fair served in a silver mug, a notion I find humorous because that’s exactly what Chuck Wagon Soda does when they sell their soda on site. They literally make their own tin mugs. This sarsaparilla is not creamy. In fact, it has a little bit of a minty bite to it, but one that isn’t harsh on the palate and doesn’t distract from the overall flavor profile. There’s definitely some vanilla in this, but it gets overpowered by the sassafras and sarsaparilla root flavors. Those are your main two flavor profiles in this drink and they tend to blanket the complimenting flavors. You can taste them, I’d just like to see the vanilla and molasses shine a bit more.

Finish: Vanilla and caramel with a minty, classic sassafras root taste. This is the creamiest part of the soda, but one that quickly fades.

Rating: This is most definitely old-fashioned flavor personified in the modern beverage industry. Bold sassafras and sarsaparilla root stand out in this take on sarsaparilla that places you back in the early 1900’s at Grandpappy’s Saloon. Notes of vanilla and molasses linger about but never seem to find their place. Kind of like me in high school. But you can really taste that rich Pennsylvania sassafras. Chuck Wagon Soda executes the main flavors in this sarsaparilla in a palate-pleasing manner, but falls just short on incorporating a supporting cast to form a well-rounded flavor profile. I’d recommend this soda on a hot day out by the pool. Definitely worth a shot, but probably not something that will blow away the avid soda connoisseur.

Indian Wells Brewing: Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda

History: Welcome to the upper echelon of soda, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like a beer, pours like a cream ale, and smells like a confectionary kitchen. Indian Wells is certainly swinging for the fences with their Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda. As you might imagine, with a name this fancy, the brewers have gone to great lengths to ensure quality ingredients inside the bottle. Let’s start with the most interesting part: vanilla barrels. Indian Wells actually purchases chestnut barrels of vanilla bean extract from a tropical island and then adds their soda to the barrels and the one or two inches of leftover vanilla extract. This provides color. The soda isn’t actually its dark caramel hue before entering the barrel. And most importantly, it imparts the soda’s signature rich vanilla flavor profile. Next, the soda’s main ingredient: water. The company uses natural spring water from, well, Indian Wells Spring. Indian Wells is a California historical landmark and the water they use in their sodas and beer is filtered through millions of feet of granite. As with all their sodas, this one is sweetened with pure cane sugar. Finally, Indian Wells is also proud of what’s not in their line of Special Reserve sodas. No sodium benzoate or sorbate preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. The brewery keeps these sodas shelf-stable by flash pasteurizing them. A couple fun facts: the intended flavor of this cream soda isn’t actually vanilla… it’s roasted campfire marshmallow. The last time I had a roasted marshmallow, I was on a camping date. She ran away in the middle of the night. Another? According Indian Wells Master Brewer, Rick Lovett, the brewery actually sells more soda than beer these days, thus prompting Lovett to test the market’s reaction to a super premium soft drink. It projects regality with its golden wax-coated bottle top staring at you like you need a password to open it. But spoiler alert, you don’t. And we did. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Part of this soda’s appeal is its rarity. Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is exclusively sold at Indian Wells Brewery and Rocketfizz retailers. It is not sold online.

Nose: Vanilla frosting; sugar; angel food cake. This smells like a trip to the bakery.

Taste: Marshmallow; sweet vanilla; sugar. This is a cream soda made with vanilla aged in chestnut barrels. As you might expect, its taste is different from the norm. There’s a deeply rich, sweet vanilla that enters the palate first. It’s very sweet, almost akin to vanilla buttercream frosting. But as the liquid sits in your mouth, the flavor slightly changes and there’s some woody notes that lift off the tongue. This is, of course, due to the chestnut barrels. It’s very interesting and something you’re unlikely to taste in any other cream soda. Then comes a very unique flavor to cream soda: marshmallow. This is by design. Indian Wells sought to recreate a campfire marshmallow taste and they’ve accomplished the task. Again, it’s a very sweet taste. It’s definitely a foamy cream soda with a thick head. The soda is anchored by a rich vanilla flavor that subtlety transforms into marshmallow with some slightly bitter notes from the chestnut barrels. Truly unique.

Finish: Slightly bitter vanilla; charred marshmallow. This is what I find to be the most interesting part of the soda. It’s not like the initial sip or the main flavor profile. As the vanilla and marshmallow flavors fade, you’re left with the chestnut barrel influence. It lingers slightly bitter on the back of the tongue and it turns that sweet, sugary marshmallow taste into more of a charred or roasted flavor. It’s like the marshmallow taste truly undergoes the campfire process with each sip. The longer you take in between drinks, the more prominent the effect. Exquisite.

Rating: This is the most unique cream soda I’ve ever had that I’ve actually enjoyed. Its wax-coated bottle and “Special Reserve” label put this into the top tier of premium sodas. Looking at it, you’d think it was craft beer. Its flavors are rich and change as you drink it, almost like a bourbon. Its frothy pour is distinctly cream soda, but its flavors of rich vanilla with notes of chestnut and campfire marshmallow set it apart. Indian Wells Brewing’s Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is a spectacle of awe in an ever-changing craft soda world where originality is becoming a requirement to play the game. The sweetness can be intense at times, particularly on the first few sips. The taste buds acclimate over time as the chestnut notes become more prevalent, but this frosting-like sweetness might cut the bottle short early for some drinkers. For those who stick with it, your taste buds shall be rewarded with rich vanilla and roasted campfire marshmallow. Paired with a nice bourbon, this is one of the best things to ever happen to your mouth. I’d divorce my first wife several more times if I could have both of those items stocked around the clock. Go out of your way to try this. It’s a 22 oz. bottle, meaning you can do this once the sober way and the rest the fun way. It’s a touch pricey at $5 a bottle outside the brewery ($3 at Indian Wells), but Abe Lincoln doesn’t want to live in your pocket all day anyway. You’ll thank me later.

Olde Brookyln: Brighton Beach Black Cherry

History: “Every good brand has its own personality,” says White Rock Beverages President, Larry Bodkin. And if you’re Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-raised, or hell, ever just been to the borough – you know Brooklyn’s got personality. Olde Brookyln sodas try to capture that personality in every bottle, offering up favorite flavors of the urban coastal areas. In fact, every Olde Brooklyn soda is named after a neighborhood in the borough. There’s eight flavors in total. Coney Island Cream may be the line’s most recognizable flavor, but for our purposes today, we’re sampling Brighton Beach Black Cherry. Brighton Beach is known for its Ukrainian and Russian immigrant influences. Just did a Google search on Ukrainian food and women. In a related story, we’ll be writing to you next week from Brighton Beach. White Rock Beverages is the same company that produces Sioux City sodas. But whereas Sioux City is distributed mainly throughout the heart of America, Olde Brooklyn is popular on the coasts. This is a brand White Rock actually purchased about 10 years ago from some guys, as Bodin puts it, “with a colorful background.” But the recipes are almost all the same. Bodin also notes that the company’s market research indicates about one in every seven people can trace their roots back to Brooklyn. I’m about to let this black cherry soda put its roots in me. Sorry.

Where to get: Olde Brookyln soda is distributed mainly throughout the two coasts and sporadically in the midwest. Here’s a list of common retailers from the company’s website. Hit up Amazon for 12-packs, Soda Emporium for 6-packs , or single bottles from the same source.

Nose: Fresh Bing cherries.

Taste: Sweet black cherry; vanilla. Small frothy cola bubbles permeate the mouth before a flood of classic black cherry coats the taste buds. But you also get a fresh Bing cherry flavor that follows up the traditional black cherry cola taste. Notes of vanilla weave in and out throughout the body of each sip. My only complaint is I’d like to see that vanilla taste more consistently. It’s very refreshing for a black cherry soda. Not overly sweet or syrupy, but crisp and flavorful. This is a two-toned cherry taste bud flavor-fest of classic and farmer’s market freshness. An excellent execution of black cherry is an understatement.

Finish: Cherry juice and mild sugar with a very long and mild vanilla finish.

Rating: This is black cherry soda done extremely well. I want more of this, which should tell you something because I taste a lot of soda. It has a crisp, flavorful classic black cherry taste that isn’t syrupy or too sugary. It’s light and refreshing, a hard trick to pull off for most darker sodas. It’s light ruby red/burgundy color is eye-catching, almost the color of the ring I gave my first wife. Except, unlike that ring, I won’t regret buying this. The taste is similar to IBC black cherry soda, but fresher on the back end. You really do get a natural, Bing cherry taste with some occasional vanilla notes that add a lot of flavor. This is a perfect summer drink you could run through multiple bottles of in one sitting. This ranks right up there with the best black cherry sodas I’ve tried. Olde Booklyn Bighton Beach Black Cherry has the potential to ascend to your regular rotation of sodas. It’s that good. The vanilla notes really make the soda. I only wish they appeared more than occasionally. If the vanilla notes were more anchored to the black cherry taste, this would be a five-star rating. Still, it’s a minor grip for a major success. Olde Brooklyn nails it here. This is a must-try for all soda connoisseurs.