History: According to Michigan State University, “It has often been said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.” Chris and Lori Kinkcade thought they should be responsible for four flavors of soda as well. Chris Kinkade is a beekeeper in Brunswick, Maine and the founder of Green Bee Craft Beverages. He remembers looking at a jar of honey and thinking, “I could make something out of this.” Local honey might be the source of Green Bee soda’s flavor, but Kinkade’s kids are really the reason it exists. “They were always bugging me for soda, and I never wanted to give them what’s on the market,” he conceded. This led to the company’s first flavor of soda: Lemon Sting. As you might expect, with the health of children as the inspiration, Green Bee approaches soda in more of an organic, lower calorie way than what’s typical to the marketplace. “To us, it’s about fresh soda,” he says. As described in the company’s motto, “The Green Bee Way,” they say they “always use whole ingredients,” including “fresh pressed juices, natural herbs and spices.” They also do not use preservatives or extracts. When it comes to Lemon Sting, our review today, Lori Kinkade notes it’s made “from freshly squeezed lemon juice, rosemary and wildflower honey.” Sounds like a drink that would make Julia Child proud. The Green Bee website describes Lemon Sting’s taste as “fresh, clean flavor with crisp finish.” We like to call beverages like these “farmer’s market sodas” because they’ve just got that mom n’ pop feel to them and are made with minimal sugar (in this case solely honey) and use real, fresh ingredients. Buzz, buzz.
Nose: Honey. Earthy honey.
Taste: Lemon; herbs; honey. The three main components of Lemon Sting are lemon juice, honey, and rosemary, and that’s spot-on in terms of what you taste. The lemon and honey are immediate and hit flush in the center of your tongue. There’s initially just a touch of sweetness from the honey that comes out, but soon the lemon juice becomes the dominant of the two flavors, though it does retain the honey’s earthy notes. This is not a sweet soda, but also not bitter – pretty typical for “natural sodas” in that regard. After a couple sips, the lemon and honey form a light, sweet lemon flavor like one might find in a tea. Then there’s the rosemary. I always taste this separately from the lemon and honey. It definitely imparts and herbal flavor to the soda near the back half of each sip, but doesn’t really add anything to the initial flavors. The lemon-honey combo is the star of this soda. The honey isn’t overly strong and the lemon isn’t too sour. The flavors compliment each other well.
Finish: Strange aftertaste. It’s like what a corn tamale tastes like. Not sure how this happened, but it needs improvement.
Rating: Natural sodas are a polarizing category, often looked down upon by old school soda drinkers and lauded by the new farmer’s market wave of diet-conscious hipsters. If you’re a rootin’ tootin’, sugar lovin’ root beer or cola fanatic, this probably won’t be your thing. For the rest of you, read on. I don’t know many people who’d drink a soda where lemon is the primary flavor, so it’s good Green Bee has recognized that and used local honey from Brunswick, Maine to cut into this powerful ingredient. When paired with with honey, the lemon flavor in Lemon Sting is present enough to make an impact, but transformed in a way that should appeal to fans of both natural beverages and citrus soft drinks. The honey has a very natural, earthy flavor. It is not sweet. The lemon tastes authentic, like something you’d find in lemon-lime soda with the volume turned up. My biggest disappointment is the soda’s third ingredient: rosemary. It’s such a fantastic herb with great flavor, and if you didn’t look at the ingredient list, you’d probably never know it was in Lemon Sting. You can occasionally taste it as kind of a general herbal flavor on the back half of some sips here and there, but it’s not prominent enough to affect the overall flavor profile. It’s exciting to read about, but ultimately never happens… reminds me of my sister’s wedding. If the rosemary was brought up higher in the flavor profile, I think if could play off the honey’s sweetness and give Lemon Sting’s earthy flavor more character. If you enjoy tea with honey and lemon, this is tailor-made for you. Lemon Sting is a solid offering for a natural soda with notes of earthy sweetness. I think you’d be best-suited drinking this on a hot day in the sun, perhaps paired with a sweet treat in hand.