History: Chicago’s famous Goose Island Brewery is arguably the most popular place to get local beer in the city. I know I remember the beginning of many fond nights there. Not so much the end. The Windy City brewers started making their own Goose Island Root Beer in 1988, according to WIT Beverage Sales and Marketing Director, James Akers. The brewery eventually added diet root beer, Orange Cream, and Concord Grape, but they also realized the success of their beer was taking away time from focusing on their soda. This is where WIT Beverage in Redding, California comes into play. Akers tells us Goose Island was “chasing money for soda and getting it easily for beer.” Goose Island needed an outside bottler to produce it and in 2010 WIT Beverage stepped in to do the job. In order to meet the quality of the original Goose Island Root Beer WIT reformulated the recipes of Orange Cream and Concord Grape with “all-natural ingredients,” and introduced two other flavors in Spicy Ginger and Vanilla Cream. The other main difference is the name change from “Goose Island” craft soda to “WBC” craft soda. Akers says Concord Grape was originally introduced in 2006. After its recipe was altered, he says WIT spent considerable time trying to ensure it tasted cleaner and crisper than other grape sodas. “We spent a lot of time making sure it tastes like concord grape, like if you were to have concord grape juice,” says Akers. He adds to consider it a treat, which supports the mentality that craft soda is more of a luxury than mass-produced soda and not an addiction. I suppose you could be addicted to craft soda, but damn, it’d get expensive. “Once you have it, you’ll wanna come back,” Akers boasts. Let’s see if he’s right.
Where to get: WBC Craft Sodas are sold mostly throughout the midwest from Minnesota down to Kentucky. If you want to save time searching, Summit City Soda is a sure-fire way to find it online. You can also buy single bottles online from Soda Emporium. And if you’re a retailer looking to sell soda in your shop or you just feel an overwhelming need to order mass amounts of WBC Concord Grape, Homer Soda Company is the place to call.
Nose: Grape popsicle. Also kind of reminds me of those chewable grape Tylenol tablets you’d take as a kid. Hmm.
Taste: Grape popsicle; grape Kool-Aid. The grape flavor in this is immediate and pops on the tongue. Bang! It’s accompanied by a wave of sweetness and tiny, frothy carbonation that intensifies the grape flavor to its highest point. Then the flavor dramatically drops off. What most interesting is how the flavor comes and goes so rapidly without much a lingering effect. The carbonation also brings out the citric acid in the soda, which gives it a slight tartness. The sugar is crisp, but it’s definitely sweet. Grape push pops and grape Kool-Aid are the two best comparisons to the grape flavor in this. It’s big and bold, despite how brief it is on every sip.
Finish: Leaves a little bit of a strange, sweet medicine aftertaste akin to those grape Tylenol chewables I mentioned on the nose.
Rating: Where WBC Concord Grape succeeds is its combination of bold grape flavor up front, followed by a wave of carbonation and slight tartness. Grape is a such a complimentary flavor for sour or tart notes and WBC does this well here. On the flip side, while the grape flavor in this is nice; it doesn’t stick around long enough. Instead, you’re left with lingering sweetness, stripped of grape flavor, and a strange medicinal aftertaste. That candy grape flavor is so robust that it needs to be spread out more over the course of each sip instead of blasting your taste buds and then divorcing them prematurely. I already have trust issues. Don’t do this to me, Concord Grape! The aftertaste needs a little work too. I’d settle for fixing just one of these issues. If that were to happen, I think this ranking would get bumped up a notch. Concord Grape executes its flavor well, but leaves the drinker wanting just a little more.