History: “I don’t know of another soda that marries up with their brand so closely,” says WIT Beverage Company Sales and Marketing Director, James Akers. So to answer your assumption from the get-go, yes, Jelly Belly Soda is designed to taste like a liquid version of its corresponding jelly bean flavor. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, yet it wasn’t actually the directive given from Jelly Belly to WIT Beverage, the makers of Jelly Belly Soda. Akers recalls being told “Make ’em taste good. We don’t care if they taste like the bean.” This seems astonishing to me, and apparently it did to Akers too. It was his directive to make sure the sodas matched up to their candy companions. As an ex-buyer for Walgreens for 16 years, Akers saw lots of beverages come and go, including the failed Life Savers Soda. He didn’t want Jelly Belly to become another candy-turned-soda disaster. It was 2010 when Jelly Belly Soda hit the market. Today the brand boasts 10 flavors, including its bestseller, blueberry. Interestingly, two of those ten flavors are cherry: one normal, one sour. If you read the giant bold letters in the title above, you know which one we chose. If you didn’t, you might be Floyd Mayweather. “The sour cherry is intended to go after that younger, pucker-y sour candy crowd,” Akers tells us. In addition to the pure cane sugar in all Jelly Belly sodas, there’s a special ingredient in the Sour Cherry that gives it that signature zing: citric acid. And it’s not necessarily the ingredient itself that’s unique, it’s the amount. Akers notes Jelly Belly Sour Cherry contains two-and-a-half times more citric acid than the average soda. If you’ve ever tried pure food grade citric acid, it’s more intense than the sour taste you get in your mouth after waking up next to a bad decision the morning after a night out. It’s clear the company really wants to hammer home that sour bite. Will you be able to handle it, or will it handle you?
Where to get: Jelly Belly Soda is distributed all over America and in the United Kingdom. It’s also available for purchase online at Summit City Soda and in single bottles at Soda Emporium. And if you’re a retailer wanting to sell soda in your store or just someone looking to place a large order, give Homer Soda Company a call; they’ll have you covered.
Nose: Cotton candy. Didn’t see that coming.
Taste: Sour; candy strawberry; mild cherry. The tart bite is evident near the end of each sip. It coats your tongue. But the actual flavor is hard to place. It doesn’t jump out. Artificial candy strawberry is in there. The same could be said to a lesser extent with candy cherry. At times there’s even a strange cotton candy flavor. But there’s no bold complimenting flavor to go along with the sour. As the soda progresses, there’s definitely more of a candy cherry that jumps out once the soda hits your lips, but it’s literally gone in a fraction of a second in favor of a sour candy taste that’s more strawberry than cherry. The sour bite is what defines Jelly Belly Sour Cherry soda, but the main flavor is more of a question mark.
Finish: Candy gummy strawberry lingers just a bit longer than the soda’s signature sour flavor.
Rating: I know what a lot of you are thinking. There’s no way a Jelly Bean company can make a good craft soda. This isn’t necessarily true, but in the case of Jelly Belly Sour Cherry, the jury is still out. And I don’t know if they’re coming back. Sour cherry certainly nails the sour taste. It’s like someone melted down the sour bite from Sour Straws candy and infused it in this liquid. It works. It’s not too strong and would be a nice complimentary flavor. Would be. That’s the problem with this soda. It has no flavor identity. Sometimes it tastes like candy strawberry. Sometimes candy cherry. Other sips, you taste cotton candy. This soda is having an identity crisis, and I already get enough of that on a daily basis with my brother. He just can’t let the 80’s go. What I judged this soda on was a simple criterion: does it taste like the sour cherry jelly bean it’s named after? Answer: I don’t think so. But listen, it has one really solid quality in that signature sour taste. But the sour notes need something to play off of and there’s no consistency in the soda’s complimentary sweet side. If you’re a big fan of sour candy like Sour Straws, War Heads, or Sour Patch Kids, you’ll probably like this and I’d say it’s worth a shot. For the rest of us, there are better (slightly less) tart sodas out there, but I won’t fault you for trying it because the sour taste is unique and nice. Someone needs to send this soda to an adoption center. We can only hope it finds a family that will provide stability.