History: Root Beer Larry, they call him. Nestled all the way up in Mount Angel, Oregon, Larry Oien’s family has roots in the root beer business. Back in the day, his dad’s cousin was on the board for A&W. Oien has been running Mount Angel Brewing Company since 2005 from “a German agricultural city” of just over 3,000 people, as he puts it. Oddly enough, there’s a barbecue connection here. So if you love soda, Germany, and smoked meats, keep your pants on, buddy. Oien and his brother Hal purchased Mount Angel Brewing Company from the Treager family so they could focus more on their barbecue grill business. The Treager’s used to brew beer and serve food at Mount Angel. Oien and his brother dropped the beer and food, but kept the name. So even though it’s called a “brewing company,” they do not brew beer. They do, however, make four different flavors, including their award-winning root beer. Ironically enough, the award was won at a beer competition. One of those flavors: marionberry. If you aren’t from Oregon, you probably don’t know what it is. We had to make sure it was a real thing. It is, and it’s very similar to a blackberry, though not quiiiiite the same. Oien notes, “They’re quite similar. Blackberry has a more definitive berry flavor, and marionberry is milder.” Along with two other soon-to-be-revealed flavors, Oien calls marionberry one of the “flavors of the Willamette Valley.” All of Mount Angel’s sodas are made with pure cane sugar, and natural extracts concocted in Wisconsin by a food scientist. Oien says it took about a year to get the marionberry flavor right in this soda. One thing Root Beer Larry is not a fan of in many sodas today? Too many bubbles. He adds “Everything is so dang carbonated. Drink it with some air. Savor the flavor.”
Where to get: “I’ve touched every bottle twice. I’ve bottled them, cased them up and delivered them to you personally,” Oien chuckles over the phone. As you can imagine, Mount Angel is a small operation. The company sells its sodas through the greater Oregon area. They’re also available online via the company’s website.
Nose: Blue raspberry Dum Dums; blackberries.
Taste: Blackberry; mild blue raspberry; grape. There’s a very distinctive sweet candy blackberry flavor that begins on the tongue and then transitions to a mild grape taste. The carbonation is nice and soft throughout the body of each sip. There are hints of blue raspberry throughout the drink, though definitely more blackberry. The blue raspberry flavor, though, does provide the slightest bit of tartness for a balanced mouth feel.
Finish: I’m definitely tasting a grape influence at the end of each sip. I don’t necessarily think there’s any grape flavor added, so it’s an interesting flavor to appear here.
Rating: Upon smelling this, it reminds me of the same blue raspberry smell present in High Mountain Huckleberry from Jackson Hole. Mount Angel Brewing Company’s Marionberry Soda is definitely more heavy on the berry side of things than the former. There is a distinctive blackberry taste in this soda that’s accompanied by notes of old-time grape and a tinge of blue raspberry tartness. Blackberry dominates the flavor profile and delights on the tongue. The levels of sugar and carbonation in this are just right. Enough to encourage repeat sipping without overpowering the soda’s main flavors. With so many soda flavors on the market today, we often find ourselves trying them and then moving on, never to return. Reminds me of my date last week. I’m still free
any this weekend… if you’re reading this. Mount Angel Brewing Company has created a beverage you could enjoy sitting in your room on your laptop or with a meal after a long day at work. That grape flavor at the end of each drink is a little bit of a mystery. I wouldn’t mind seeing it curtailed a bit and letting the blackberry ride all the way through each sip. But this is a soda most should enjoy, particularly fans of fruit and/or berry-flavored sodas. Besides, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a marionberry soda anywhere else.