Cream Soda

Virgil’s: Cream Soda

History: If you’ve ever taken a stroll through your local health food store or maybe Whole Foods, you’ve probably seen a bunch of sodas with names you’ve never heard of. Except one: Virgil’s. The company is owned by ginger beer giant Reeds, Inc. It’s about as close to an all-natural soda as you can buy. All Virgil’s sodas are made with real sugar, natural extracts, and herbs and spices. The brand spans from the eccentric Flying Cauldron Butterbeer to the revered Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer. Founder and CEO Chris Reed says the company is “about fun and creating an endearing product to both the company and the customers.” Outside of ginger beer, root beer is king at Virgil’s, but they also feature all of the standard craft soda flavors, including the cream soda we’re reviewing here. The company goes as far as saying “We decided to make a cream soda that would rival the super premium quality of our root beer.” The cream soda has been around since 2004 and according to Reeds, Inc. Sales Operations and Marketing Manager Todd Engstrum, it was designed “to taste like a true craft soda.” The company’s website also says the soda’s recipe contains “the finest vanilla beans and unrefined cane sugar.” We know it took a year to fine tune the recipe and beyond that, Virgil’s is keeping the rest of the soda’s secrets tight-lipped. Good thing we aren’t. Let’s investigate.

Buy: Virgil’s StoreAmazon

Nose: Classic cream soda nose: deep vanilla and soft, creamy caramel. Reminiscent of an older cream soda like Shasta.

Taste: Vanilla, tangy, creamy, sugar. The first striking feature of Virgil’s Cream Soda is the sweetness. It’s upfront and bold. The cane sugar hits you first before the main flavors come in. This is a sugary-tasting soda. Once you get past that, you’ll taste big notes of vanilla extract. It’s a creamy, old fashioned vanilla taste that takes us millennials back to childhood. I think what stands out most about the flavor of this soda, more than the vanilla or the sugar, is the tanginess. I can’t quite place why it’s present. It’s a combination of tangy vanilla and sugar. When the two intersect, they seem to collide dramatically in a way you aren’t used to in cream soda. It leaves an odd taste in the mouth. This is rich, sugary, and tangy. And perhaps more than anything… puzzling.

Finish: Deep, sugary caramel notes that linger and then fade. This is the only part of the soda where the caramel from the nose reveals itself.

Rating: When your nostrils are blessed by the smells of Virgil’s Cream Soda, you’re certain that you’re in for a masterpiece, but the execution isn’t quite flawless. To be fair, this is a perfectly good cream soda. It has nice vanilla flavors and a sweet, cream caramel finish. But the development of this soda is hindered by a funky, sugary tang that’s hard to get past. This is already an excessively sweet cream soda, but when you combine the sugar levels with the strange vanilla tanginess, it raises a questionable eyebrow. Not like a Dwayne Johnson I’m-about-to-make-a-$240 million-sequel-eyebrow, but a hey-I-think-the-weird-neighbor-is-taking-a-bath-in-our-pool-again sort of eyebrow. The bottom line is that the flavor here is at first familiar, then jarring. Creamy vanilla shouldn’t be tangy. It should just be velvety smooth. Again, the vanilla flavor is great before the tang comes in, and the finish is very solid. I just wish those two elements were more present in the soda’s body. Look, there’s potential here and a lot of people are going to like this, especially young kids. It’s worth a try, I’m just not sure I’d put it in the upper echelon of cream sodas.

Zuberfizz: Chocolate Cream

History: In Colorado, a deep breath will net you lots of scents. Smell that mountain air? The fresh clay under your boots? Maybe, just mayyyyybe a little pot? Colorado is an olfactory orgasm. But it’s also a mouthful, literally. The state is full of tons of great craft beer and craft soda. But the one with the weirdest name is undoubtedly Zuberfizz, founded by former Colorado State roommates Banden Zuber and Dan Aggeler. And the brand actually has ties to both craft beer and soda because before going completely nonalcoholic with their business, the two had planned on opening a brewery. In fact, if they hadn’t purchased the equipment to make beer, they wouldn’t have been able to make soda. The duo opened the business in 2002. By then Colorado had become flooded with breweries, but craft soda was still ripe for the taking. Zuberfizz produces eight flavors. Perhaps the most inventive is their newly renamed Chocolate Cream Soda. Originally, it was called “Coco Fizz.” The soda’s recipe was created by Zuber as a sales pitch to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in order to gain the business of a big client. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a gigantic company. According to Zuber, they have over 300 stores. And in his own words, “they loved it;” a partnership was born. Now, back to the name change thing. It’s a relatively new occurrence, so new that as of July 2016 Zuberfizz has yet to actually change the name on their website. To be clear, Coco Fizz and Chocolate Cream Soda are the same soda; the recipe has not changed. The only difference is the label. Previously, Coco Fizz used the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory logo on the front of the bottle and didn’t look like the rest of the Zuberfizz’s soda labels. The company simply changed the name and label for consistency. As for the flavor? Zuber deadpans, “Tootsie Roll. Two words.” It’s hard to get much dialogue out of Zuber, but after a brief pause he adds, “People either love it or they hate it.” Sounds about right for chocolate soda.

Where to get: Zuberfizz sodas are most prevalent in the Colorado and four corners region, but you can always buy it online directly from the company. Don’t be alarmed if it’s still called Coco Fizz on some websites that haven’t updated the name – again, it’s the exact same recipe. You can also buy the soda online from Summit City Soda in 12-packs and Soda Emporium in single bottles.

Nose: Rich cocoa. Like smelling hot cocoa powder.

Taste: Bold chocolate; mild creaminess; chocolate hard candy; Tootsie Rolls. It’s almost jolting to taste chocolate in a soda because it’s so rare, but this is full of chocolate flavor. Imagine a chocolate breath mint stripped of the mint. That’s the best way to describe the flavor. I’d also say there are some additional undertones of cocoa. Slightly creamy, ala eating a Tootsie Roll. The bigger the sip, the more creamy the soda seems to be, particularly near the end. But overall, it’s overwhelmingly more chocolate than chocolate cream.

Finish: Lingering creamy cocoa notes with a hint of milk chocolate. Still strong chocolate flavor.

Rating: This is chocolate soda. And damn, it tastes like it. In a category where membership is limited, Zuberfizz tried to plant their flag deep in the ground with a soda full of rich, chocolatey flavor. You taste a milky, hard candy chocolate flavor mixed with sweet cocoa notes. When it comes to the creaminess, don’t think along the lines of traditional cream soda. It’s more like the creaminess of chewing a Tootsie Roll along with the flavor too. And that part of the soda is where it excels most. I have to give Zuberfizz credit: this is definitely chocolate cream soda. There’s no denying the authenticity of the flavor. That said, it’s a little harsh for me. All that concentrated flavor is a lot to handle in soda form. It’s a sipper for sure. Imagine the hip hop Gods somehow managed to concentrate the power, boldness, and sassiness of Nikki Minaj in a 12 oz. bottle. Now imagine what would happen if she got out. That’s what I feel like when drinking this. It’s powerful. Note: this is not a sexual reference toward Nikki Minaj, but Nikki if you’re reading, I’m single. Where I think Zuberfizz’s Chocolate Cream Soda could really improve is its carbonation. It’s a cream soda, so to convey that more, I’d make the carbonation frothier than it is in its current form. Fans of chocolate simply can’t pass up trying this. For everyone else, it’s a wild ride if you’re up for the challenge.

Three Stars

Reading Draft: Strawberry Cream Soda

History: Reading Draft is one of the older soda bottlers in America, concocting their own flavors using pure cane sugar since 1921. But there’s a new sheriff in town, baby. Er… sort of. The company had been under the ownership of Martin Radvani and his wife since 2004, but was purchased by the Hiester family in November of 2015. But don’t worry, they aren’t making any sweeping changes just yet and seem to retain the old school mentality the brand has had since its creation. Reading Draft Marketing Director Jared Hiester says “Drinking a great soda is something that’s both nostalgic and tradition, no matter what age you are…. Being born and raised in this area, this brand of soda had a great reputation, and we all loved the idea of continuing a tradition of handcrafted soda.” Hiester says the family plans to retain the “Pennsylvania Dutch” style of the company as well as all of Reading Draft’s current 13 flavors and is planning to add peach cream in the near future. They also gave the company web page a much-needed update. He added that previously, the company was successful with minimal advertising, so the new website of one of the first steps the Hiester family is taking to revamp the scope of the brand. Reading Draft is known for its variety of birch beers, but arguably, their most unique flavor is strawberry cream. There’s a bit of mystery to every Reading Draft flavor because of the amber bottles and tan labels. You can’t see the liquid inside. Strawberry cream is bright red, almost pinkish. It’s primed to give your tongue a nice painting. Hiester says his family describes the flavor as “liquid strawberry sundae” and that his nieces enjoy it on top of vanilla ice cream. He goes to say that he believes it’s a balanced soda with “just enough creaminess to give it a bit of extra sweet.” I wish when my girlfriend was um, “out of balance” around the middle of the month, I could just give her a bit of sweet and make her go back to normal. Don’t worry, she doesn’t know this website exists. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a girlfriend. Speaking of balance, there’s one other element about Reading Draft Soda that contributes to it. Hiester explains “What makes the soda unique is that it is one of the select few on the market that is made with a pinpoint carbonation technique. Carbonation is introduced and absorbed slowly into the soda, which leads to smaller bubbles that have a smooth taste and longer persistence.” Another company famous for this method that’s worth checking out is Natrona Bottling. But we’re here for Reading Draft and its strawberry cream, and review it we shall.

Where to get: Reading Draft Soda is mostly sold locally throughout Pennsylvania. For those of us not living the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle, Amazon has the hook up online in 12-packs.

Nose: Has a very artificial strawberry scent. Think like Strawberry Sour Punch Straws mixed with mild bubble gum. Definitely reminds me of going to the candy store and opening the bin to some strawberry-flavored sugary treat.

Taste: Tangy strawberry candy; sugar; flush carbonation. This is more straightforward than we expected. The strawberry flavor is rooted in old fashioned strawberry soda flavor, but Reading Draft has added a mild tanginess to their version. It’s definitely a strawberry flavor you’d taste in candy as opposed to eating the real fruit. A little bit of an artificial taste, to be honest. It’s a sweet soda, but the tangy notes help balance it in the mouth. One thing we aren’t tasting here – creaminess. No vanilla. No frothy or velvety texture in the mouth. It might have something to do with the fact that this soda’s carbonation definitely plays a part in the flavor. The bubbles amplify the tanginess, and perhaps take away from the intended strawberry cream flavor. Despite what’s on the label, I’d call this more of a regular strawberry soda.

Finish: I’m not getting much of a cream sensation unless I wait for a long time after the sip. It’s mostly a lighter, more floral version of the strawberry from the soda’s body. Pleasant, but again, reminds me more of regular strawberry soda than strawberry cream.

Rating: Reading Draft Strawberry Cream Soda has the classic liquid strawberry candy flavor many of us in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s used to drink as children. A good comparison soda would be Fanta Strawberry, though Reading Draft’s flavor is way less syrupy. The soda is mildly tart, sweet and slightly artificial with nice levels of carbonation. A really nice strawberry soda. Thing is… this isn’t supposed to be a regular strawberry soda. It’s supposed to be strawberry cream soda. The only part of this soda that’s creamy is the finish, and you have to really wait before that sensation comes through. There’s no vanilla or strawberry-vanilla hybrid flavor. Just strawberry. In a few words, this isn’t bad; it’s just not what I expected. Kind of like my sister’s baby. Don’t tell her I said that. I didn’t know babies could have heads that big. Back to this. I think a lot of the people who will wish to try this soda will want to on the basis that strawberry cream is an unusual flavor. I’m afraid a lot of those people may be let down because this just tastes like normal strawberry soda. On the other hand, for strawberry soda, this is good. So are you a glass half empty or half full kind of person? If I’m making changes to the recipe, I’d throw in vanilla or more(?) vanilla to make the flavor match the label. Until this happens, Reading Draft Strawberry Cream is a fine soda for a hot day in the sun.

Three Stars

Fireman’s Brew: Cream Soda

History: It seems apropos that a cream soda designed by firefighters has “definitely a hint of [campfire] marshmallow.” Those aren’t my words. They belong to Fireman’s Brew COO, David Johnson. Fireman’s Brew is a brewery that was actually founded by firefighters. Ever seen the Glendale Mountains of California? Firefighters Rob and Ed have. They saw it all day, only the surrounding forest was set ablaze throughout the treetops and smoldered into the night. After extinguishing their foe, Rob and Ed gazed into the sky, wishing for nothing more than an ice cold beer. But after you’ve gone toe to toe with Dante’s Inferno all day, your appetite extends beyond thirst. These cats needed flavor. They decided try to something new, something their own, and the rest is history. Based in Canoga Park, California, the company began in 2007 with only beer. They quickly realized active duty firefighters would only be enjoying their products off the job, so they created a line of on duty drinks including coffee and soda. To this day, the company keeps things simple: three types of beer, three types of soda. When it comes to the latter, they employ the classics: root beer, black cherry, and cream soda. “You stick to something and you do it really well. People enjoy that,” says Johnson. He adds similarly that the motto of their sodas is “simple and straightforward” when it comes to flavor. Don’t overdo it. Just make it taste good. In a competitive craft soda market, you’d be surprised how many bottlers try to reinvent the wheel as opposed to just making something familiar that’s better. The company uses all-natural flavorings in all their sodas as well as pure cane sugar, and doesn’t include preservatives in the recipe. Cream soda is as archaic a flavor as they come in soda. Fireman’s Brew wanted theirs to be creamy. No offense, but that kind of seems like a given, boys. That’s like an old man saying I’m going to sleep in until 6:00 a.m. But that’s where they started. They also wanted a strong vanilla influence, as well as a little bit of that aforementioned toasted marshmallow taste. But none of these are what the company wants to talk about when it comes to the recipe. David Johnson tells us the “One special ingredient is that we use a historical water source in the mojave desert that emits pure artesian spring water. The rest is top secret!” Annnnnnd the review comes to a screeching halt. But seriously, not only is Fireman’s Brew a brand worth trying out; when you do buy their stuff, the company “donates a portion of its profits to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg, Maryland,” according to its website. And whether or not you think their beer or soda is worthwhile, that’s pretty dope.

Where to get: Fireman’s Brew Sodas are sold online via Garvey Nuts & Candy. You can also purchase it online from Soda Emporium.

Nose: Spun sugar, which smells like sugar with a little bit of burned caramel. And I know this is uncommon for cream soda, but I’m telling you this kind of smells like cotton candy too. Just sayin’.

Taste: Toasted marshmallow; burned sugar; slight creaminess; vanilla. You’ll taste a lot of familiar cream soda flavor profiles in Fireman’s Brew Cream Soda. Most of them blend together as opposed to coming in waves or standing out in layers. Toasted marshmallow, vanilla, and burned sugar are highest in the flavor profile. The toasted marshmallow gives this soda a little bit of an earthier flavor. Cream soda often has a reputation for being a very sweet soda, but this one is about a 6/10 on the sugar scale despite having 45 grams of sugar. Burned sugar notes are also apparent throughout the body of each drink. Vanilla is the most consistent flavor in the soda. No surprise. That’s another reason it doesn’t taste overly sweet. Real vanilla, despite what candy bars and milkshakes have led you to believe, doesn’t have a particularly sweet taste. This isn’t overly creamy like a root beer, but it’s got a decent-sized foamy head. It looks creamier than it tastes, but there’s definitely a little bit of creaminess going on. Earthy vanilla and toasted marshmallow with notes of burned sugar define the flavor profile here.

Finish: No creaminess whatsoever in the finish, but definitely a heavy dose of campfire marshmallow. Almost smoky. Sweet, but smoky with a hint of vanilla.

Rating: There are a lot of good flavors going on in Fireman’s Brew Cream Soda. I think the colder you can get this, the better. Flavors like earthy vanilla and toasted marshmallow need open air and icy temperatures to maximize their flavor potential. I’d pour this in a wide mouth glass straight out of the fridge and enjoy. Don’t let the head get too big. Drizzle it down the side of the glass. Maybe even try half the bottle with ice and let the water open up the flavors more. It sounds strange, but this soda reminds me a lot of bourbon. I’m not saying it tastes like whiskey, but it has a lot of the same tasting subtleties a nice bourbon contains. And bourbon sometimes needs coaxing with some water to release its flavors for maximum tasting potential. The vanilla is the shining star in this cream soda, followed closely by the toasted marshmallow. These two flavors combine to make Fireman’s Brew Cream Soda an earthier cream soda than most of its relatives on the market. Fans of sweeter cream sodas may be slightly disappointed in this, while fans of more subdued sodas will probably enjoy. I really like the idea of the flavors I tasted here, but like I said, I think they need some help to bring out their full potential. I’d probably dial back the toasted marshmallow notes. I think this is just one of those sodas that I feel is missing that special something, but others will probably enjoy. I’d definitely recommend it and we’d love to hear feedback on this one. I’ll say this: it’s probably the best three-star cream soda I’ve ever sampled. Try this one several ways and find the right fit for you.

Three Stars

Swamp Pop: Praline Cream Soda

History: Walk around the markets of New Orleans, and it won’t take you long to smell it. Stroll by the little pop-up shops along the streets of the French Quarter, and you’ll feel the heat radiating against your face as you whiz by. And then you hear it echo from the voices of the candy makers, almost like a beer vendor at a baseball game, “They’re hawt. They’re fresh. Who wants pray-leeens?” I’m attempting and doing a horrible job of dictating a Louisiana accent, but what I’m referring to are praline pecans. Basically what happens is someone takes something healthy for you, a nut, then cooks it in a warm concoction of butter, brown sugar and milk until it becomes something that can wrangle your heart into submission and your stomach into ecstasy. You can find praline pecans all over the country, but it’s a staple sugary snack down in The Pelican State. Cajun cousins, John Petersen and Colin Cormier, decided to transform the modern cream soda into something distinctly Louisiana by infusing their take with the taste of pralines. Petersen and Courmier founded Lousiana’s best-known craft soda bottler, Swamp Pop, in 2013. The Lafayette-based company takes its name from the 1950’s music genre of the same name that was popular in the region. Give it a Google. Kind of sounds like soulful Doo-Wop meets bluesy rock. Swamp Pop produces six different flavors. Petersen says they try to create their “flavor profiles in layers.” A quick Internet search reveals the general public finds Swamp Pop Soda especially sugary. Our past reviews of Noble Cane Cola and Ponchatoula Pop Rouge confirm those notions. Speaking of sugar, Swamp Pop uses only 100% pure Louisiana cane sugar in their sodas as well as natural coloring. Out of all their flavors, Praline Cream Soda is Swamp Pop’s rainmaker. In other words, it’s the best seller. My hypothesis: people like something that’s different. Another strong possibility: the flavor. Swamp Pop Public Relations Representative Anna Whitlow tells us the flavor is “supposed to be kind of a brown butter, praline flavor” before adding that it also tastes nutty and creamy. The more she describes it, the more apparent it becomes how rich this is going to taste. Like, maybe-you-should-change-into-sweatpants-before-you-drink-it, rich. Joke’s on you Swamp Pop, I already am. Writing about soda on the Internet, living my life one elastic-waisted pair of pants at a time.

Where to get: Swamp Pop Praline Cream Soda is sold nationally at Cracker Barrel restaurants as well as Cost Plus World Market stores. You can also buy it online directly from the company in four-packs for under $10. Trust us, for buying soda on the Internet, that’s a deal. To find the closest Swamp Pop retailer near you, type your info into the company’s online locator.

Nose: Butterscotch and toffee. Very similar to the smell of Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. Smells like you should grab one of these after a class at Hogwarts.

Taste: Butterscotch; butter pecan ice cream; vanilla; creamy toffee; sugar. This is a very rich, very flavorful, and v e r y sweet cream soda. It’s especially heavy and thick on the palate with strong notes of butterscotch sweetness and the creamy flavor of butter pecan ice cream. The latter tasting notes really give it that signature praline flavor you see written on the label. Definitely different from other creams. This is anchored by an intense sweetness of primarily butterscotch and toffee flavors that swirl together throughout the soda’s body. There’s a lot of sugary sweetness to this soda. Very, very, very sweet. But it’s also very creamy. I’d say maybe even a 9/10 on the creamy scale with a thick head, so it’s very strong on that front. The more you drink it, the more you adjust to the sugar and the more those butter pecan notes come through. Swamp Pop’s Praline Cream Soda is a unique one that lives up to its name and packs a an especially sweet, but flavorful punch.

Finish: Creamy vanilla with lingering butter pecan ice cream. Not as sweet as the body. Excellent. 10/10 on the finish.

Rating: It may be 2016, but it’s really only been within the past couple years that bottlers have decided to get inventive with cream soda. Swamp Pop went beyond left field. They left the ball park to create their Praline Cream Soda. It retains a thick creaminess you might in other cream sodas, but its flavors are completely foreign. Butterscotch. Butter pecan ice cream. Toffee. These are the three main flavors you’ll taste here. Butterscotch and toffee form the base of the soda’s flavor profile and are consistent throughout each sip, but it’s that creamy butter pecan taste that gives the soda its true identity. Unlike the the butterscotch and toffee notes, the butter pecan ice cream works as more an undercurrent in the soda, occasionally rising up and splashing into the main flavor profile before receding away for a few sips. That give and take makes you lust for the flavor more. It really works. Where Swamp Pop’s Praline Cream Soda raises some hesitation from me is its sweetness. This is sweeter than watching a gaggle of Golden Retriever puppies struggling to fall asleep. At times it’s just too much for me and I can generally handle sweet sodas well. So I’d recommend sipping this one. I’d also recommend putting it on ice cream. Would make a great float. Overall that meandering creamy butter pecan flavor combined with the overall thick mouth feel and frothy head on the soda make this too enticing to pass up. If you don’t have a problem with high-intensity sweet sodas, this might leave a serious lasting impression on you. Its flavor profile should do that regardless. If you happen across a bottle of this, you’d be missing a unique experience by passing it up.

Three Stars

 

Stevens Point Brewery: Point Premium Black Cherry Cream

History: Some of the best craft soda in the world comes from the state of Wisconsin, so there was no hesitation when we learned about Stevens Point Brewery. Branded after the Wisconsin city of the same name and founded in 1857 by German immigrants, Frank Wahle and George Ruder, this brewery pumps out six different flavors of craft soda from its signature Point Premium Root Beer to the more mysterious Kitty Cocktail. If you’re a little iffy on your dates, this is a brewery that lasted through the Civil War, prohibition, The Great Depression, WWI, and WWII. We haven’t tried it, but we’re guessing the beer isn’t too bad. They’ve got some hardware to back it up too. Stevens Point Brewery’s Point Special Lager won the Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2004. But according to Stevens Point Brewery’s Director of Marketing, Julie Birrenkott, it was two years earlier in 2002 when the brewery introduced root beer. Like their beer, it too, was a hit. Says Birrenkott, “Our wholesalers and customers continued to ask us to make Root Beer. The rest of the soft drinks were a natural progression.” In 2005, three more flavors were introduced: diet root beer, vanilla cream, and black cherry cream. The latter of which is too intriguing not to review. It’s made with “all-natural vanilla and savory black cherry sweetness” in addition to pure cane sugar. Several flavors of Stevens Point Brewery Soda also use real Wisconsin honey. Alas, Black Cherry Cream does not. Beyond those facts, Stevens Point didn’t provide us with much more information about the flavor. Time to do a little first-hand research.

Where to get: Stevens Point Brewery Soda is not sold online. It’s mostly distributed throughout Wisconsin and is available in select areas in the states of: Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Jersey. If you can’t find their soda near you, the company suggests calling them at 1-800-369-4911 or shooting them an email to place an order.

Nose: Rich black cherry. Kind of reminds me of old-timey black cherry rock candy.

Taste: Black cherry; soft vanilla. Rich black cherry flavor without tasting medicinal. Trust me, that’s an accomplishment. The vanilla notes come in near the end of each sip and as you continue to drink the soda, open up more and more. The carbonation is soft and works well not to amplify the black cherry flavor too much. This is a softer soda in terms of mouth feel with deep black cherry flavor and smooth notes of vanilla. Not necessarily creamy, but the vanilla is present enough to make a lasting impact.

Finish: Candy Bing Cherries with long-lasting notes of vanilla. A very long finish. Completely pleasant.

Rating: This is comfort soda. The tastes are familiar. The black cherry flavor is kind of a hybrid between a fresh Bing cherries and classic black cherry hard candies. The vanilla is soft and soothing, entering during the second half of the sip and lasting throughout the finish. The flavors work well together. It’s just a really nice take on traditional black cherry soda with an infusion of vanilla. I wouldn’t consider the flavor particularly creamy, but the vanilla is soothing on the palate and makes the soda that much easier to take down. It’s a great partner flavor considering how rich the black cherry body tastes. Point Premium Black Cherry Cream’s best feature is undoubtedly its finish with long, drawn out notes of vanilla. I just wish those vanilla notes came in a little bit earlier to leave no doubt this was a black cherry cream soda as opposed to a black cherry soda with some added vanilla. That’s my only criticism. I’d go out with this soda. And I’d call it back. I suggest you do the same and track down a bottle of Point Premium Black Cherry Cream.

Four Stars

Hosmer Mountain: Cream Soda

History: Tucked away in the small city of Willimantic, Connecticut is one of the oldest, most retro soda companies in the nation. Hosmer Mountain Soda began over 100 years ago in 1912 bottling their signature high-quality spring water. It’s hardly a surprise when you find out Willimantic was called “the land of swift moving waters” by the Native Americans that hunted in the rivers there. After the success of their spring water, the company decided years later to capitalize on their greatest local resource by using it to make a cleaner-tasting soda. Today the water comes “from a deep well.” Despite going through four different owners (the current owners purchased the business in 1958), Hosmer Mountain is still going strong, producing over 30 flavors of soda a year. The company says “all of our flavors are ‘retro,'” in the sense that they strive for a sweet, but authentic flavor as opposed to something that tastes artificial. Hosmer Mountain also makes a flavor-of-the-month that rotates out, something that indeed feels like a very vintage thing to do. Reminds me of how local pie companies rotate out a monthly flavor. Mmm, pie. Another retro thing Hosmer Mountain does for its local customers? Delivery. Now if we could just come up with a fiscally manageable way to do this with craft soda nationally, our staff would quickly become very poor. But very happy. However, one very non-vintage aspect of Hosmer Mountain Soda is that they say “High fructose corn sweetener is our primary sweetener.” This will hurt a lot of craft soda fans’ feelings. Luckily, they also produce an “antique line” of four flavors: root beer, cream soda, white birch beer, and sarsaparilla. All four of these flavors are made with pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. The company believes these are the four flavors most representative of New England. Fun fact: the labels on the antique line flavors are a throw back to the company’s original soft drink logos from 1916. They add “You’re looking at the work of a pre-WWI graphic artist.” Neat, let’s put this “antique” cream soda in my mouth now.

Where to get: Outside of Connecticut, Hosmer Mountain Cream Soda is available to purchase online from Summit City Soda. If you’re a business owner looking to sell Hosmer Mountain’s Cream Soda in your store or just someone looking for a large order, get in touch with Homer Soda Company and they’ll take care of you.

Nose: Pretty standard cream soda with a little bit of toasted marshmallow.

Taste: Sweet brown sugar; caramel; marshmallow. This is definitely sweet, but it’s a different type of sweetness because of the brown sugar. It imparts more of a caramel taste, which is usually more common in root beer or cola than cream soda. Not a creamy texture on the palate, but still has a thick mouth feel because of the brown sugar and carmel flavors. A little bit syrupy. You also get sort of like an earthy bittersweetness, ala roasted campfire marshmallow. But the biggest flavor you’ll take away from this is caramel, for sure.

Finish: Sweet caramel and burned sugar. Gone almost as soon as it appears. No linger.

Rating: Hosmer Mountain Cream Soda is a unique one in that it’s not rich and creamy, nor does it taste like bubblegum. It splits between those two common cream soda flavor profiles. It’s also unusual in that it uses brown sugar. The brown sugar really gives it a different flavor, full of big waves of sweetness and mouthfuls of caramel. On certain sips it’s even a little bittersweet like a campfire marshmallow. The caramel flavor is nice. The problem is that it’s very sweet and when paired with the the brown sugar notes, it becomes overpowering at times. The slightly sweet marshmallow bite helps soften the blow, but not quite enough for us. I’d either up the bittersweet notes in the recipe or lessen the overall sugar content. Fans of caramel will instantly fall in love with this soda. Give it to Hosmer Mountain for doing something unique. I’d definitely recommend it because it is different from other cream sodas out there, but I probably wouldn’t buy a six-pack myself if I’m being honest. But hey, I’m just a dude that writes about soda on the Internet. What do I know? This definitely has good qualities too. The marshmallow undertones are really pleasant and do a great job contrasting against the soda’s powerful sweetness. The caramel flavor is a nice nuance in cream soda, a genre with lots of room for experimentation. Hosmer Mountain Cream Soda is a nice change of pace. The question is who will be able to keep up with it.

Three Stars

Hank’s: Orange Cream

History: Innnnnn West Philadelphia, born and raised, Hank’s Gourmet Soda is callin’ your name. Hank’s is one of those interesting sodas that came well after the old-school vintage stuff, but well before the craft soda renaissance of the mid-2010’s. The company was founded in (do we really have to tell you?) Philadelphia in 1995 by Bill Dunman and his business partners. The group came from a background in beer distribution, handling popular east coast brands like Yuengling and Sam Adams. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing in the beer industry. Dunman calls Pennsylvania’s beer distribution laws as “archaic,” and after years of fighting the system, the friends decided to try their hands at something a little less regulated: soda. “We all kind of knew the potential of brown-bottled root beer,” Dunman says. It was also a little bit about local pride. He notes that “We really felt like we needed a gourmet soda, specifically root beer, for Philadelphia.” As you can imagine, Hank’s started with root beer in ’95 before adding diet root beer, vanilla cream and Wishniak black cherry a year later. And can we just talk about how damn beautiful the bottle is? Look at that thing. It’s more attractive than my sister’s kid. Cheryl, if you’re reading this… he still has time to grow out of it. Dunman says whether it comes to flavors, packaging, or marketing, “we always try to make the highest quality product we can.” Today’s review, orange cream, was released around 1998. Predictably, the company designed it to taste like an old fashioned orange creamsicle. Just a side note: basically every bottler names that as the goal, but not everyone achieves it. The struggle is real in the craft soda game too, dawg. Dunman wouldn’t reveal many secrets about the ingredients, but did say they strive for big vanilla and orange flavors, before adding that Hank’s doesn’t carbonate its soda as much as other bottlers in order to achieve a more “full-bodied flavor.” And when you buy the soda via the Hank’s website, a portion of the proceeds go toward Spark Philadelphia, an organization that lists as part of its mission statement, “Helping underserved youth become motivated learners and connected community members, and by encouraging adults to nurture the next generation through mentoring and volunteerism.” Tip of the cap, Hank’s. Now for a pop of the cap.

Where to get: You can buy Hank’s Orange Cream Soda directly from the company’s website in 12-packs. It’s also available to purchase online in single bottles from Soda Emporium. Amazon has the hook up for 6-packs.

Nose: Vanilla; orange; creamy. Smells exactly how an orange cream soda should.

Taste: Bold orange; mild zest; frothy carbonation; vanilla cream. This is full of flavor. You’re initially hit with a wave of crisp carbonation that abruptly transforms into small, frothy bubbles. The body of Hank’s Orange Cream is an even mixture of slightly zesty orange and creamy candy vanilla. The two go hand-in-hand. It retains strong orange flavor while having enough vanilla cream flavor to make an impression on the taste buds. It’s not overly complicated in terms of a flavor profile – just two main tastes – but the two have great balance to make for an extremely smooth soda with great flavor.

Finish: Swirling orange and vanilla cream flavors. The zesty notes from the orange aren’t as prevalent in the finish, but the vanilla is slightly creamier.

Rating: The most important thing about Hank’s Orange Cream Soda is that it doesn’t make any mistakes when it comes to taste and gets better as you drink it. It’s hard to ask more from a soda. I think the same thing could be said about me, but that doesn’t stop my soon-to-be ex girlfriend from critiquing every single thing I do. You also have to commend this soda for what it’s not. It’s not funky-tasting. It’s not too creamy or heavy. It’s not too orange-y. Hank’s Orange Cream Soda is a perfect example of the Goldilocks Principle: it’s just right. Simply put, if I had to give a recommendation for an orange cream soda, Hank’s would be the one. It has great classic orange soda flavor with added zesty notes that provide some nice acidity in contrast with the creamy vanilla flavors. There’s great balance between the orange and vanilla, perhaps the soda’s greatest quality. This creates an enjoyable mouth feel along with the soda’s frothy carbonation. I wouldn’t mind if the orange was even more zesty to create more contrast, but that’s being pretty nitpicky at this point. The only way I could see someone not liking this is if they just don’t like orange. Here at Five Star Soda, we try so many sodas that we rarely finish the bottle when doing tastings. Hank’s sent us two bottles of this flavor and they were both gone within 20 minutes after taking the photos. If we haven’t convinced you this is in an elite tier yet, then I don’t know if we’re friends anymore.

Five Stars