History: “We’ve been brewing beers for 20 years, but I’ve been brewing soda for 25 years,” says Rick Lovett, beer and soda brewmaster of Indian Wells Brewing Company. Lovett probably makes more soda than any independent bottler in the world. He’s currently trying to get up to 200 flavors spread out over various brands. He even wants to make the Guinness Book of World Records for it. But among all the concoctions, his signature line is the six-flavor deep, Death Valley Soda. Indian Wells Brewery is located in Inyokern, California, a small city tucked away in the hot, dessert climate of rural California, thus the name Death Valley Soda and the cowboy-influenced label. “It wasn’t any master plan. It just made sense,” Lovett jokes. The most unique flavor in the Death Valley Soda line? Sour Green Apple. Over the phone, Lovett recalls a story of his young grandson playing outside and sucking on a Green Apple Jolly Rancher. He reached his little hand up to his mouth, pulled out the candy, looked at his grandpa and said, “Popa, can you make this into soda?” Turns out he could. Death Valley Sour Green Apple is made with pure cane sugar and real Granny Smith Apples, as well as McIntoch and Pink Lady. As with all Indian Wells products, the soda’s most unique element is the water used in making it. The Indian Wells Spring is actually owned by the brewery. Its water is filtered through million of feet of granite; according to Lovett, thousands of gallons spill out to the surface every day. But the soda’s most noticeable feature is undoubtedly its bright green color that is remarkably 100% natural with no food dye used. If you think that’s hard to believe, you aren’t the only one. In order for Whole Foods to carry the soda, the natural goods supermarket made Indian Wells Brewing hire professionals to provide an independent chemical analysis on the product to prove the color was authentic. Wild stuff. “All of America is waking up,” Lovett says of the rise in popularity of soda made with quality ingredients. “I wouldn’t have produced a soda pumped up with additives and then given it to my grandson.” I understand, Rick. Now I’m about to pump this soda into me.
Where to get: Death Valley Soda is available for purchase at Rocketfizz retailers. You can get your fix online at Amazon for 12-packs. There are also online retailers selling individual bottles, but at the time of this review all were sold out. Give it a Google.
Nose: Green apple Jolly Ranchers; fresh-sliced Granny Smith Apples.
Taste: Green Apple Airheads; cane sugar. This is light. It certainly tastes like candy green apple. But the sour flavor that the label advocates is not present. A little bit of bitterness near the end that may come from the spices Death Valley uses, but no sour notes. The carbonation is soft. You can taste the cane sugar, but you can also taste some of the water’s influence in this drink. This is definitely very light, both in flavor and mouth feel.
Finish: Slightly bitter green apple. Definitely more of a bitter than sour sensation on the tongue.
Rating: Your nose and eyes always set the expectation for any soda. It shouldn’t just taste delicious; it should smell good. Whatever’s written on that label will also inevitably sway you. This smelled like Jolly Ranchers, and the word “sour” on the label would indicate there’s going to be some tartness. I anticipated this tasting like liquid sour green apple candy, hopefully with some fresh apple notes. That’s not what you get. The sour, tartness, bite – whatever you want to call it; it’s not there. You get some bitter notes on the finish, but there’s no punch to this. It’s light. A little too light. You definitely get a nice candy green apple taste in the flavor profile, but I was promised sour and did not get it. This is a beautiful green color. One of the prettier sodas in hue I’ve come across. But I feel like I got lied to here. If this was labeled “green apple” as opposed to “sour green apple,” I’d maybe rate this higher. If you enjoy apple-flavored things or are just a big proponent of fruit sodas, this is worth a shot. If you’re looking for something that makes the sour detectors on the back of your tongue flash red, you won’t find it here. Death Valley has made a fine apple soda, but the name on the label needs a little work.