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164 Soda Co.: Tree Climber

History: Josh Carnell and Frank Schiffner are soda vloggers… because that is a thing.

In talking with Carnell, he told us the two of them literally just bought some Frostie’s and Bundaberg soda, filmed themselves drinking it with commentary, and a month later became Rocket Pop Stop reviews. “We had no idea what we were doing,” he says. You’re probably not surprised these are the guys behind 164 Soda Co… because why the hell else would we be talking about two strange dudes on the Internet? It’s cool though. We like to get weird too. Carnell is a dreamer. He’s always wanted his own soda shop. Lately though, the dream has been about creating rather than just selling. “I wanted to try my hand at making my own soda,” he says. Turns out filming yourself drinking soda makes you thirsty for what your own version could be like. “Honestly, I think a lot of it had to do with the videos we had done. We really wanted to go deeper about what is special about these sodas.” But first, the St. Charles, Illinois boys needed a name for their potential new company. Carnell reminisced how the two met each other in St. Charles East High School in 2010. It was room 164. Carnell recalls his buddy “looked a little chubby.” Ouch. Regardless, room 164 became the impetus for the two’s label as a soda company. Carnell started experimenting with strawberry soda in January 2014. Fast forward to March 2015 and the two dudes began the soda creating process. Their goal is to break the mold of people who are turned off by stereotypical soda. They’ve visited several craft soda bottlers, like Canonborough Beverage Co. and Gents Ginger Ale to try to gain insight on what the cool, new bottlers are doing. After a few tries in July of 2015, they concocted what just might become their signature soda: Tree Climber. It’s a take on a German beverage called “Fassbrause,” which is essentially a nonalcoholic apple cider drink. Apple Beer was also inspired by Fassbrause. 164 Soda Co.’s version is tweaked a little from the original. Its main two flavors are apple and ginger. When asked about which one is stronger, Carnell says “we’ve found that you seek out the flavor you taste.” He adds that the duo is trying to take soda and make it sophisticated. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

Where to get: Currently 164 Soda Co. is just sold at markets around the St. Charles, Illinois area. The hope is for the company to expand into local bars and restaurants. For now, if you’re interested in what the company is brewing up, shoot them an email at 164sodaco@gmail.com.

Nose: A bit of a sour cider smell reminiscent of alcoholic ciders. The more you waft the bottle under your nose, the more the sweet apple juice smell opens up. Definitely smells like it could be tart.

Taste: Earthy; apple; acidic; mild grape. This has a very earthy taste to it. The sweetness is minimal, almost nil. It really does kind of taste like an alcoholic cider with the ethanol stripped away. It’s strange in that it doesn’t taste alcoholic, yet definitely isn’t sweet enough to meet the definition of a traditional apple cider. It’s a dry soda. Kind of a beer flavor to this too, but it’s sweeter than beer. First thing’s first: it’s tart. The tartness comes from both the apple and ginger. You taste both flavors off the bat, apple more so, and they’re both gift-wrapped in a bow of acidity. An interesting tasting note is malt, like in beer. It’s interesting because there’s none in here, yet the flavor remains. Almost a hop taste too, but not quite. If you go searching for it, there’s a grape flavor in here as well. But what you’re going to taste strongly is an acidic, almost beer-like, earthy apple juice, devoid of sugar, with a pinch of ginger.

Finish: Savory apple with subtle notes of licorice.

Rating: Tree Climber is definitely not from a soda universe that feels familiar. No, this feels like it was imported from a far away land. You’ll taste essentially no sugar and a lot of tartness, two elements that usually don’t pair in soda in that order. The defining flavor here is raw apple juice with a zing, accompanied by mild ginger. I am wondering if the ginger absorbed all of the apple’s natural sweetness because it’s odd to taste this much authentic apple without any sort of sweet relief. Very subtle grape notes dance about near the end of each sip, as does a light licorice taste that most probably won’t even notice. This would really benefit from some added sugar. I wish I had the power to add it to the recipe because I think it would take Tree Climber to the next level. As currently constructed, Tree Climber is like all my past relationships: too bitter and not my fault. It tastes more like a carbonated juice blend to me than a soda, yet it really tastes like something else entirely. I have to hand it to 164 Soda Co. in that Tree Climber is based off of what is essentially a German apple beer, and this definitely tastes like a beer with authentic apple flavor and some added mild ginger. So I think they accomplished the basic framework of what they intended to create. I’m just not sure it’ll fly off shelves with soda enthusiasts without more cane sugar in the recipe. Tree Climber is worth a shot because you’re simply not going to find an American soda with a more foreign taste than this one. We just wonder if we’ve actually seen its final form.

Three Stars

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Pure Sodaworks: Apple Pie

History: You hear the crickets chirping as you gaze through the forest out into the sunset, the clouds looking like fluffy biscuits charred with intense purples and reds. The evening dew is beginning to collect on each blade of grass. You hear the buzzer on the oven and know warm apple pie is minutes away. Life is simple in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The soda jerks at Pure Sodaworks want to maintain that simplicity in each soda they produce. And that warm apple pie? They wanted you to be able to drink it. But if it weren’t for a series of events, Tennessee’s most notable craft soda brewers might never have come into existence. First, there was Everyday Eclectic, Matt and Tiffany Rogers’ artisan soap and candle shop that opened in 2007. It’s still going strong today. They sell all kinds of southern goodies there, like maple bacon candles. I know what you’re thinking, but my girlfriend is already clearing our closet out to buy all of them, so don’t even bother. Well, in 2011 Everyday Eclectic moved into Chattanooga’s small business incubator. Also in the same building? Lots of food companies. “Food always win,” Matt Rogers quips. Next, there was the day at the coffee shop. Dating back even before Everyday Eclectic, Rogers stopped into a local coffee shop and ordered a standard cup. While preparing his coffee, he overheard a customer order a lavender Italian soda. “That sounds amazing,” he recalled thinking. The idea stayed with Matt and Tiffany, and with the influence of all the food-centered small businesses around them, they started brainstorming ideas within that industry. “We wanted to figure out something new that was already in line with what we were doing” in terms of using all-natural ingredients, says Rogers. To put it simply, they really just stumbled into soda. Matt started researching how it was made back in the days when soda was served at pharmacies in order to make the medicine palatable using natural herbs and spices. The couple wanted to pull from that era, but modernize it for today’s audience.

Next, Matt and Tiffany started to experiment with flavors. After positive feedback from friends, they decided to make the leap into the soda business, and in 2011 Pure Sodaworks was born. Tiffany picked the name, Matt designed the branding. They started with serving fountain soda at their local market and due to high demand, realized bottles needed to happen next. That led to a successful Kickstarter that raised over $23,000 and from that point there was no going back. Today, Pure Sodaworks is a three-person operation still trying to meet that demand. Initially, over 40 different flavors were brewed and tested, and then narrowed to six. Without a doubt, the most American of the bunch is apple pie, the soda we review today. “We wanted to come up with a more clever name, but it tastes like apple pie,” Rogers adds. The ingredients are simple and real: carbonated water, cinnamon, vanilla and apple cider sourced from a local orchard in Cleveland, Tennessee. The soda took home second place in the people’s choice category at the 2015 Homer Soda Fest. It’s a nonconventional flavor with actual ingredients you can buy at the grocery store. And that’s what Pure Sodaworks prides itself on, making unique flavors that are rooted in trying to be delicious instead of relying on novelty or gimmicks.

Where to get: Pure Sodaworks sodas are sold primarily in Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville, Tennessee. You can buy Apple Pie Soda online at Summit City Soda.

Nose: Apple juice; soft vanilla; light cinnamon. Smells like the best apple juice you could ask for with maybe a hint of creaminess to it.

Taste: Cinnamon; sugar; apple pie. Oh man, this is pretty spot on in terms of tasting like apple pie. The apple flavor is distinctive. There’s a creaminess to it that tastes identical to that traditional apple gooeyness found inside a pie. The first thing you’ll notice is the carbonation. It’s rapid and full of fine bubbles that taste like they’ve been individually coated in cinnamon sugar, yet there’s also a tartness to them. The bubbles quickly peel back to reveal a layer of apple pie flavoring with notes of mild apple juice, sweet cinnamon and slightly creamy vanilla. The sugar in Pure Sodaworks’ Apple Pie Soda is sweet, but the carbonation and cinnamon work in tandem to not let it get out of hand. Bottomline: if someone asks what this tastes like, you won’t have a problem saying apple pie.

Finish: Like eating a piece of apple pie. You get that flakey vanilla crust and cinnamon sugar-apple combination. Spot on.

Rating: Believe it or not, there are a lot of sodas out there that try to replicate the flavor of pies. Few do it with the sophisticated flavor profile Pure Sodaworks has brewed up in their Apple Pie Soda. This is a soda that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to be, does it with only a handful of real ingredients, and doesn’t hide what’s in the bottle. That’s admirable no matter what the quality of the liquid is inside. Luckily, for all soda drinkers, this is a jackpot. It’s tart, sweet, authentic, flavorful, and slightly creamy on every sip. It’s a whirlwind of flavor. The mild creaminess of the vanilla works perfectly with the apple juice to give off that classic gooey apple pie filling flavor. The cinnamon and sugar compliment each other and interact with the tartness of the apple and the soda’s carbonation to give a balanced mouth feel. It’s hard to critique this. If I had to amend anything, maybe cut back on the initial wave of tart bubbles and dial up the vanilla profile ever so slightly. You’d be hard-pressed to find a soda that imitates a pie flavor as well as this one. This is the soda you ask out on a second date and the one you bring home to the family. Soda connoisseurs of all ages should put it on their list. Welcome to the five-star club.

Just Craft Soda: Apple and Ginger

History: I’m about to introduce you to some adult soda. But hey now. Keep your pants on, buddy. Not only is this soda designed for a more mature audience; it’s also soda with a bit of an attitude. In the words of Just Craft Soda founder John McEachern, a lot of sodas today “feel like they were designed for a 13 year-old boy.” Just Craft Soda is the first offering from Peak Drive Beverages. It debuted only months ago, earlier in 2015. Every bottle is made with 60% fruit juice. Oh, and guess what else? It’s from Toronto in Ontario, CANANDA, dontchaknow! We’ve been waiting to use that photo. Thanks, guys. The idea of Just Craft Soda had been brewing in McEachern’s head for two or three years. With past job experience at PepsiCo. and General Mills, McEachern wasn’t satisfied with the state of the soft drink industry. He wanted to provide flavor variety for the adult soda drinker. “Something that could pair with a meal or alcohol,” he adds. All Just Craft Sodas begin with a familiar, real fruit juice that is then paired with a spice designed to enhance it. Apple and Ginger is probably the most common of the five flavors the company produces as opposed to the more exotic Peach and Habanero. The 60% juice is a major sticking point for these sodas. “We wanted an amount of juice in there that didn’t just feel like a marketing pitch, ala ‘look, 5% juice!’” said McEachern. Aside from fresh juice, the only other ingredients in each bottle of Just Craft Soda are carbonated water, natural flavors and pure cane sugar. At the moment the business is small, but if they have their way, it won’t stay little for long. The company hopes to expand into a Canadian national brand and eventually make inroads into some of the U.S. market. They’re hoping originality is what helps the company ascend. McEachern confidently concludes, “‘Wow, I haven’t tried that before,’ is what you’ll say.” We’re about to find out.

Where to get: Just Craft Soda is currently sold in about 50 stores and several restaurants in the Toronto area. There’s a handy link on their website to help you sort it all out. At the moment, Just Craft Soda is not sold online, though that possibility remains open down the line.

Nose: Earthy ginger; apple juice.

Taste: Tart ginger; light spice; apple; pepper. The flavors here are very balanced between mildly spicy ginger and tart apple juice. The tart elements are what stand out most. They accompany not just the apple, but the ginger as well. It helps mellow out the ginger, while allowing the apple to remain relevant in the flavor profile. The apple juice tastes authentic, though slightly acidic. The ginger sends some heat up the nostrils on the initial sip, but you’ll adjust quickly. This isn’t overly spicy like some ginger sodas, but the ginger does have a grittier flavor than what you’re probably used to drinking. Think peppery. But overall, this is easy drinking. Light and crisp.

Finish: Tart apples that quickly fade into a mild, peppered ginger.

Rating: Ginger is often an overpowering element any time it’s used in soda, but Just Craft Soda does a nice job of balancing it out with tart apple in their Apple and Ginger Soda. It really contributes to the soda’s drinkability. The tartness of the apple also often permeates its way into the ginger elements in each sip. That might sound like a bad thing, but it actually adds to the soda’s complexity, giving it a unique flavor profile. I’d argue it’s the best element of the drink. You get more of an earthy zing than a heat with this ginger. It’s refreshing, both literally and figuratively. But there will be a sector that comes into this expecting a spicy apple soda, and that’s not what’s inside this bottle. The sugar is done well, but I think the apple notes might benefit from being just a little bit sweeter and bolder to give that tartness a little more variance across each drink. I wouldn’t change the citrusy bite too much though. Some things you just can’t compromise on, like my first marriage. Canada’s newest player in the world of craft soda has concocted a fresh juice-based soft drink without losing the mouth feel and flavor of soda. That alone is an accomplishment. They also make a really solid Apple and Ginger. If you’re looking for refreshment, this answers the call.

Apple Beer

History: Throw your knickers on and bang your mugs together, ‘cuz it’s Apple Beer season in America. First of all, Apple Beer is not literally apple-flavored beer and contains no alcohol. In fact, it was designed long ago by northeast German “biermeisters” for those who didn’t fancy themselves a fine ale. So what is it, exactly? According to Apple Beer’s marketing director, Ashley Simmons, “Apple Beer’s flavor comes from an all-natural blend of fruit and herb extracts” with a flavor profile designed to be “light, crisp, and dry.” It has a foamy head, like a beer, and gets its crisp flavor from the peel of the apple. Don’t expect much beyond that. We tried and were greeted with the response “We can’t offer too many details.” That’s cool. I have secrets too. But legally, I’m not allowed to share them with you. With humble beginnings in Germany, today the beverage is exported around the world, from Australia to Curaçao. Apple Beer’s American debut came in 1964 in the “Intermountain West.” In this case, that means Salt Lake City, Utah. Apple Beer still maintains its peak popularity throughout western America. For you nostalgia enthusiasts, Simmons might tickle your warm and fuzzies by letting you know that “We have always been a family-owned business.” The family business is currently in its fourth generation. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to try Apple Beer, consider this: it has won the Best of State beverage award for Utah every year since 2010, including this year. It’s designed to be an all-natural antithesis to syrupy soda and is made with cane sugar and without gluten… so you can keep your fedoras on, hipsters. “With a half-century of experience, we have become a tradition in the lives of our many loyal customers,” says Simmons. Let’s see if they’re about to score some more loyalty.

Where to get: Apple Beer is distributed internationally and, obviously, across the U.S. To find the nearest retail location near you, use Apple Beer’s locator. It’s also sold online. For singles, try Soda Emporium. For 12-packs, hit up Apple Beer’s online store.

Nose: Acidic apple juice.

Taste: Apple; tartness; fig; raisin. First of all, no this doesn’t taste like beer or apple-flavored beer. That said, it does taste like apple, though the flavor isn’t what I’d call robust. Somewhere in the middle. Much closer to a carbonated cider than anything else, but not enough fizz to call it a sparkling cider. The apple flavor comes through in a burst at the beginning of each sip and is quickly followed by a cutting tartness that rides the back of your tongue likes surfer bros catching a wave. This is a dry beverage. The flavor profile is rounded out with notes of fig and raisin. Not totally sure where those come from. The ingredient label doesn’t list any spices, just “natural flavors,” but the fruitiness provides a nice balance to go along with the apple cider taste.

Finish: Tart apple cider that lingers for a few seconds, then fades.

Rating: Apple Beer is solid. It’s that friend you know you can count on at the end of the night to be your DD after you’ve stopped caring about how much your tab is going to be at the bar. Its flavor is unmistakably fall; it’s a crisply carbonated apple cider-esque soda you should be drinking as the leaves change color. So, of course, we reviewed it in July. Just a note: Apple Beer’s biggest season is actually summer, so I obviously know nothing. Apple Beer’s flavor also comes along with an acidic bite. Probably a little bit too much for me. I’d prefer to have seen the apple flavor increased and the tartness decreased. I also got some additional tasting notes of fig and raisin, and though I can’t place why, they were the best parts of the soda. This is definitely worth a try because it has a nice, familiar flavor that takes you straight to autumn. I’d estimate its likability will always be highest in summer and fall. In our opinion, this is cold weather soda. Revisit this in October.

Reed’s: Spiced Apple Brew

History: “I wanted to dose the world with ginger.” That was the mission of Chris Reed when he founded Reed’s, Inc. Surely you’ve heard of Reed’s for their famous ginger beer in green glass bottles, or as they call it “ginger brew,” due to several juices and spices not often found in traditional ginger beers. Reed himself is all about ginger. He’s also all about promoting wellness through food and beverage. That’s actually the real reason Reed’s beverages exist. He notes he spent hours upon hours researching the healing properties of ginger deep within the UCLA library. In doing so, he “came across old-world recipes for brewing tonics and soft drinks.” With so much ginger knowledge bottled up inside him, in 1989, Reed decided putting that knowledge in a different bottle, one he could sell to the public. Today Reed’s Inc. sells a variety of ginger brews, including the Spiced Apple Brew we’re reviewing today. They also have since purchased the top-selling natural root beer and cola lines in Virgil’s and China Cola. According to Reed, his company owns the top four best-selling natural sodas. Every single soda the company brews is free of preservatives, caffeine, gluten and GMOs. You can likely pick one up in your local health food store. I once dated a girl who worked in a health food store. There was definitely nothing natural about her. Today we sample one of Reed’s more atypical offerings in Spiced Apple Brew. The company’s fifth creation, the Spiced Apple Brew is a mulled cider with 8 grams of ginger and 50% (!!!) juice. Cinnamon, honey and apple pie spices are also major player ingredients as well. “In the Caribbean, ginger beers are a Christmas celebration drink,” Reed adds. I’m ready to celebrate this in my mouth.

Where to get: Reed’s sodas are nationally distributed throughout the U.S. To find the nearest location where you can buy a bottle, check out their store locator. If you prefer sitting in your underwear at home, Amazon has you covered.

Nose: Apple cider. It’s unmistakable. The kind you drink at the old time fairs in late November right as it becomes jacket season. God, am I getting sentimental? Am I going to cry?

Taste: Apple pie; cinnamon; spices; ginger. There’s a lot going on for the taste buds to process here, but once you do, it’s really nice. The carbonation in this is tart due to all the spices. You get that briefly before anything else. It quickly fades into this soda’s trademark blend of spices. We taste nutmeg, cloves, maybe a little allspice, and definitely cinnamon. This tastes like apple pie. Some of those spices you also find in pumpkin pie, and your taste buds may trick you into thinking this is a little pumpkin-y too. But it’s just the spices. The ginger in this soda gives it a nice tinge of tartness near the backend, but the main flavors that come through are those spices. There’s also a nice balance of lemon and apple juices that play really well together, and with the cinnamon. Finally, the sweetness from the honey in this is really great for a spiced beverage. Not too sweet, but enough to keep the bold spice flavors in check.

Finish: Apple pie crust with a smooth, but lightly tart honey-apple juice taste. Excellent replay value.

Rating: This is the quintessential fall beverage you drink with your friends out around the fire pit with some blankets. Then when you get really cozy, have another with spiced rum. Repeat until night night time. It’s absolutely killer. But on it’s own, Reed’s Spiced Apple Brew is just as spectacular. Some of the best use of spices I’ve ever tasted in a soda. The honey in this really gives it a natural taste. It’s the most underrated ingredient in the bottle and it provides a really smooth drink and finish. The spices are bold, but mesh well with the juices and sweetening agents. I’d recommend enjoying this with a nice meal. Its big flavors would pair well with sustenance. Its rich spices might also cause you to spontaneously grow a bushy mustache. This is the bottled apple pie grandma never gave you. Reed’s is one of the biggest players in the craft soda game today. Their Spiced Apple Brew provides a glimpse at the company’s commitment to flavor and why they’ll likely continue to be a craft soda power for decades to come.

Brooklyn Soda Works: Apple + Ginger

History: This whole thing was an accident. Booklyn Soda Works wasn’t supposed to become one of the only craft soda companies in the world to use strictly juices, herbs and water. “We were just looking for the perfect mixer for our Dark n’ Stormy,” says co-founder Caroline Mak. But Mak is an artist and her partner and co-founder Antonio is a chemist. So it’s not hard to figure out how we got here. The company is renowned for its large quantities of fruit juice in their sodas. What makes Brooklyn Soda Works truly unique is that they force carbonate the juice in your soda directly, meaning they don’t use any syrups or preservatives. This also means their soda has a limited lifespan for ideal flavor and must be kept refrigerated. This is similar to the fellas at Cannonborough Beverage Company. Simply put, Caroline and Antonio are artisan soda experimenters. Since their inception in 2010, the company has churned out over 30 flavors, including hits like honey grapefruit jalapeno, fresh cucumber with a dash of sea salt and lime, and apple and ginger. I haven’t seen that many varieties of deliciousness since I lived in the dorms! Because of the emphasis on fresh produce and fruit, many of their flavors are seasonal. For Spring and Summer 2015, the company is placing an emphasis on watermelon flavors. “We cold-press the watermelons ourselves and use fresh herbs to pair the juice with (no sugar is added). The result is a super refreshing and healthy sparkling drink.” Not only does Brooklyn Soda Works use fresh juice in their sodas; they use a lot of it. And they’re proud of it: one of the business’s catchphrases is “Damn Good Soda.” We’re about to find out.

Where to get: Currently Brooklyn Soda Works’ sodas are only distributed throughout New York City. The company is working to get its online store up and running. Because of the soda’s perishable nature, everything will need to be shipped via two or three-day shipping in an insulated container. Until then, if you’re interested in the stuff, contact the company directly.

Nose: Apple juice; faint ginger.

Taste: Apple juice; mild ginger; lemon zest. On the first sip, the apple juice is immediate. Many sodas contain trace amounts of fruit juice. Apple + Ginger is rare in that it contains 71% juice, a mixture of apples, ginger, and lemons. The rest is water. Just four ingredients. There isn’t even any added sugar. For that reason, it only has a month-long shelf life. It shows in the flavor. The apples taste fresh-pressed and authentic. This is light for a soda with ginger. You can definitely tell there’s no syrup used. The ginger here is very mild and does not have spiciness to it. Some of that is probably due to the lemon juice, which gives the soda a nice citrus zing on the back end. Mixed together, the three fruits in this bottle can give off a bit of an herbal flavor at points, almost like a tea, before morphing back into mainly apple and ginger. I’m not sure if that’s intended or an indication of the flavors working together. I don’t mind it, but it may not be for some. It’s very interesting and not as spicy as expected. The ginger is the only flavor I’d like to see more pronounced. The apple and lemon work well together for a nice balance of sweet and sour. Despite not adding any sugar, the sweetness from the fruit really stands out as a high point. Overall, very refreshing and balanced.

Finish: Light ginger with a lemon twang that lingers on the back of the tongue.

Rating: This is a pure fruit soda. With only four ingredients and void of added sugar, the soda maintains a nice sweetness from the apples that balances well with the citrus of ginger and lemon. Apple is the standout flavor in this bottle, but the lemon here is really well done. Though the ginger could have been more pronounced, you never know how that might affect the overall flavor profile. This is definitely a summer soda to be enjoyed with minimal clothing and warm weather. It also mixes really well with booze. The apple, ginger and lemon flavors at times meld to form some herbal tea-like notes on the palate, so be warned if that isn’t your thing. What Brooklyn Soda Works did best here is create a soda that tastes authentic and refreshing. It’s fresh. So fresh, it lasts only for a month at its peak flavor offerings. Overall, this is definitely well-done and worth a shot. Wait until the weather warms up just a smidge more, bust out your crop tops and weird shorts… or whatever the hell you hipsters wear these days, and brag about how you’re only drinking organic craft soda today. You won’t make any friends, but your taste buds will thank you later.

Wyndridge Farm: Crafty Citrus Apple

History: It’s not often a horrific injury leads to a delicious new idea, but that’s exactly what happened to Steve Groff. From his beginnings as a small-town farm boy, Groff transitioned away from that life into the medical world, becoming an orthopedic surgeon. It was a profession he excelled in… until the accident. While riding his bicycle, Groff was struck by a vehicle, leaving him with a bad neck injury. Luckily, his injuries didn’t keep him from walking, but his passion for surgery, his eye-hand coordination; it never felt the same. Plan B? Back to the farm boy roots. Groff and his family renovated a 120 year-old farm in York County, Pennsylvania. Groff calls it “the Napa Valley of apples” with vibrant orchards. So spoiler here: Wyndridge Farm is known for their apple cider. They also brew beer. Those two things led to craft soda. As Groff says, the “soda was born out of having the equipment.” The company already placed an emphasis on the quality of ingredients they used in cider and beer, so it was only natural that craft soda came next. Wyndridge Farm makes a cream soda, but their signature craft soda is “Crafty Citrus Apple.” It contains fresh-squeezed apple juice with just a pinch of lemon. The farm hosts weddings and corporate events, but for our purposes, they’re barnyard brewers. “It’s a combination of great packaging and great liquid, says Groff.”

Where to get: Crafty Citrus Apple and Crafty Cream Soda are both available mostly in the eastern seaboard to mid-Atlantic regions. The company is open to direct orders and are more than happy to work with people on getting their products where you’re located.

Nose: Apple juice; light V8 juice. Not sure where the V8 comes from. Odd.

Taste: Hey that’s apple juic…..zing! You’re greeted with a refreshing carbonated apple juice taste that’s like “‘sup?” and then peaces out in favor of a mild tartness. Really an interesting sensation that the mouth never quite adjusts to completely. The apple flavor is crisp and refreshing. The citrus aftertaste is comprised of lemon, lime and orange, but the lemon is what really does the majority of the flavor work. It actually plays off the apple in a way that contorts the sweet apple flavor into a sour one. So you actually get lemon-sour apple as the soda progresses. That tartness intensifies as you continue drinking, though the cane sugar also becomes more noticeable, just not as much as the citrus.

Finish: Sharp citrus that rises off the back of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth. While lemon is the most noticeable citrus element throughout the beverage, lime really stands out in the finish.

Rating: This is certainly original. The mouth does not expect a zing when drinking apple juice or cider, but Wyndridge Farm decided your traditional flavor profiles have no meaning here. The citrus kick combined with the natural acidity of the apples makes this drink like a hard cider at times. I’d consider this more of a sipping soda with the exception of hot summer days. Its refreshing aspect would be intensified during the hot and humid mid-year months. The apple flavor here is really well done. The soda actually contains fresh-pressed juices from the farm’s neighbors down the road. You can see why Wyndridge Farm has done so well with their ciders. The citrus punch on the backend is just a little too harsh for me to drink more than a couple in one outing. I think if this was paired with a sweeter bourbon or rum, you’d have something really dynamite for your cocktail book. Just a little something extra to cut down that acidity. Fans of more tart sodas are almost guaranteed to love this. If you’re looking for a nontraditional fruit soda, give this a shot. If your taste buds aren’t quite as adventurous, I’d stick to what you know. Groff went through a hell of a lot on his own, so why shouldn’t he make something totally different? When summer rolls around, you should be pulling this one out again.