australia

Bundaberg: Pink Grapefruit

History: Perched along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia sits the city of Bundaberg. The name itself is hard not to say in an Aussie accent. It’s ok, we’ll pause so you can do it. You good now? Right, then. But you might know the name from arguably its greatest export, Bunderberg Brewed Drinks. The company, founded in 1960 and named after the city, is most famous for its ginger beer. Today, the company brews around 12 different flavors at a time with new ideas for sodas always being kicked around. Bundaberg ships its sodas across 46 different counties. Most of their flavors can be found around the world, though Australia and New Zealand are probably the only places you can be guaranteed to find the entire collection. For example, you won’t find Creaming Soda or Pineapple and Coconut in America. And let me tell you, we were given some of the latter just to sample and not review… and it is delightful. I may not have a girlfriend, but I do get sent rare sodas from time to time. I digress. I also mentioned that Bundaberg “brews” its sodas. This word is very important because it really is the best way to describe how their beverages are produced. Ashleigh Gray, Bundaberg’s Brand Manager, says “We pour our heart and soul into every brewed drink.” And I know that warms your heart, but the most important ingredients are actually yeast and fruit. Using yeast to ferment the fruit allows Bundaberg “to extract real flavor,” giving the sodas their signature, authentic fruity taste. According to Gray, the process can take “up to seven days.” Trust me, for a soda, that is intense. The company branched out from ginger beer in 2010, introducing its sparkling line that included pink grapefruit, guava, and blood orange. Even though it can be a divisive fruit, we’ve always felt like grapefruit could really translate to soda if the bottler could actually pull out the real essence of the fruit. Bundaberg’s Peach Soda does exactly that, so it was time to see how they tackled something a little more challenging to a wider audience’s palate. When we asked how the company designed the soda’s flavor profile, we were given an encouraging answer. Gray told us that “the grapefruit juice and the locally sourced sugarcane used in our beverages means that we don’t need to design the taste of our beverages, the taste comes through the use of real, quality ingredients.” We’re more than convinced our audience deserves to know more about Bundaberg’s Pink Grapefruit soda. Yet, as with any grapefruit soda or new relationship, we’re guarded.

Where to get: Bundaberg is the largest nonalcoholic craft beverage distributor in Australia and their sodas can be found all over the world. To find your nearest retailer, enter your info in their online product locator. You can also buy it online from Soda Emporium in single bottles or on Amazon in 12-packs.

Nose: Smells exactly like a fresh-sliced pink grapefruit. You can’t get a more authentic grapefruit scent.

Taste: Grapefruit; mild sweetness; mild acidity. For as lush as this smells, the grapefruit taste is more pulled back than I’d expect. Pink grapefruit is definitely the dominating flavor here; it’s just not as bold as your nose leads you to believes. It’s a mild, but authentic grapefruit taste with reasonable sweetness and a slight, slight tartness. Solid grapefruit flavor, but doesn’t have the same punch or acidity that a real grapefruit slice contains. Refreshing and easy to drink. A summer soda, no doubt.

Finish: Medium tartness that flows outward on the tongue with the same grapefruit flavor from the body of the soda. The only difference on the finish is that the acidity is a little more noticeable.

Rating: Bundaberg is one of the best mass-produced craft soda brands at taking a fruit and transforming it into a sugary carbonated beverage while maintaining its authentic flavor. Their take on pink grapefruit is no different. It actually does taste like real grapefruit, just more mild in every way. Bundaberg Pink Grapefruit Soda takes everything about the fruit – namely the flavor and the acidity – and dials it back. Even the sugar levels aren’t as high as in other craft sodas. All of this, I assume, is intentional since grapefruit’s flavor is pretty divisive to the general population. Unlike drinking fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, this is much more approachable. This is a grapefruit soda that’s light and refreshing while still tasting like the real thing. It’s like the opposite of when my sister makes meatloaf – I’m not really sure what’s in there, and God knows it’s better if I don’t ask. Bundaberg seems to have made a grapefruit soda for both fans and non-fans of grapefruit. Even if the fruit itself makes you a little hesitant, I’d still suggest trying the soda. My only qualm is the fact that it’s so approachable. For me, I’d enjoy a little more punch from the flavor. Bolder grapefruit and more of a bite. Admittedly, I’m probably in the minority, but I just need a little more oomph. I think Bundaberg’s Pink Grapefruit Soda would be best enjoyed on a hot day, perhaps by the pool or on a boat, maybe with some rum or vodka. Just make sure you’re not the driver. Grapefruit sodas are quietly becoming more popular in craft soda and many of today’s bottlers could learn a lesson from Bundaberg’s take on the category.

Four Stars

Bickford’s: Sarsaparilla

History: Bickford’s is a brand rooted in tradition. Since 1874, the South Australian company has been producing its famous cordials. The company makes a whole host of other products too, including its Bickford’s Old Style Soda line of seven different flavors. One of the most popular is sarsaparilla. Says Bickford’s Brand Manager Beverley Reeves, “Sarsaparilla is the fastest growing in some of our overseas markets perhaps because the flavors are different from those that consumers there would normally be familiar with.” According to Reeves, the soda’s recipe is still the same as it was decades ago. Like America, the Australian soda scene continues to evolve. Reeves adds that there is a “shift from mainstream to more differentiated flavours and brands with a story.” In the end, it’ll always come down to taste and Bickford’s Sarsaparilla was designed with a bold licorice flavor in mind. Knowing that, I wouldn’t expect this to be particularly fluffy on the palate. Previously, we reviewed their creamy soda that has a touch of raspberry. So Bickford’s definitely seems to be a company that makes traditional flavors with nontraditional tastes. A fan favorite in its native country, Reeves gave us the inside scoop that Bickford’s is soon coming to America and will debut in October. We’ll keep you posted when and where as soon as details become available. In the mean time, there’s ice cold sarsaparilla waiting for you.

Where to get: In Australia, you can find Bickford’s Sarsaparilla at “most major supermarkets and convenience stores,” according to its website. Now you might pay some hefty shipping outside of Australia, but you can also buy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla online via Sippify.

Nose: Strong black licorice; anise. There’s a mild hint of root beer on the nose, but this smells very, very rich in licorice. Pucker up.

Taste: Licorice; anise; sarsaparilla root. This is definitely more of a botanical sarsaparilla as opposed to a creamy one with lots of vanilla. You’ll really notice the sarsaparilla root flavor in this drink. It’s bold and very herbal. There’s a semisweet sensation encapsulated by frothy bubbles that coats the tongue as the sarsaparilla flavor fades. At brief points in the soda, there’s even a little bit of a cola flavor, but this is a sarsaparilla anchored by strong sarsaparilla root, sassafras, and licorice flavors. The licorice isn’t as pronounced in the flavor profile as it is on the nose, but really shows up in the aftertaste. Definitely black licorice flavor, but not overly strong.

Finish: Tart sarsaparilla root with lingering notes of licorice.

Rating: Bickford’s sarsaparilla is a stark departure from American takes on the flavor, utilizing a strong herbal flavor profile instead of a smooth, creamy one. The tasting notes that stand out most are unmistakably sarsaparilla root and licorice. The sarsaparilla flavor is stronger, but the licorice is particularly noteworthy. Coming in near the end of each sip along with a wave of champagne-like bubbles; it’s a commendable use of a flavor that often overpowers the soda experience. Another aspect that stands out is the tartness on the finish. It’s a crisp herbal reminder that reinforces you’re definitely drinking sarsaparilla and not root beer. I could’ve used a sign like that during my second engagement If you’re not a fan of botanical sodas, you’re not going to enjoy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla. This is a soft drink for the slightly more adventurous soda connoisseur. It isn’t particularly sweet and relies more on its herbals flavors to impress its drinkers. The sugar, while lower in the flavor profile, is noticeably crisp. Bickford’s Sarsaparilla should be a hit with lovers of botanical sodas and die-hard sarsaparilla drinkers. It won’t be for everyone, but this soda knows its niche and leaves an Australian footprint in the sarsaparilla marketplace.

Bundaberg Peachee Soda

History: Bundaberg is one of the biggest craft soda companies in the world. It is quite possibly the most widely distributed international craft soda brand on earth. We can’t confirm that, but let’s be honest; we know you don’t really care. The point is, they’re big. But if you know anything about the care they put into their products, then you’re aware there’s no cutting corners for this Australian craft soda powerhouse. Every brand has a “thing” that makes them unique. Bundaberg’s thing? They brew their soft drinks. They literally use yeast and ferment their sodas in tanks, like you’d brew a beer. You might be thinking, “Wait, fermenting? Doesn’t that mean there’s alcohol involved??” Yes, yes there is. Or at least, there was at one point. Bundaberg removes the booziness from their beverages before moving on to other parts of production, like carbonating the soda with water. There’s still trace amounts leftover that contribute to the soda’s flavor profile. If you can actually taste the residual amount of alcohol in it, then I’d contact your local medical laboratory because you may have special powers. You probably know Bundaberg for its ginger beer, but this process goes for all of their sodas, including Peachee, the one we’re reviewing today. Peach juice and Queensland cane sugar supplement the brewing process in this fruity elixir from down under.

Where to get: Bundaberg is one of the largest international craft soda distributors in the world. Their products are sold throughout the United States and the world. To find the neatest location near you, use the company’s online locator. You can also buy it online from Galco’s or Soda Emporium. We’d be shocked if it wasn’t located somewhere near you. And if it isn’t, contact your country’s international distributor. They’re all nice people and willing to help out.

Nose: Peach skin, scratch and sniff peach; Peach-O’s .

Taste: Ground sugar; earthy peach flavor, sharp carbonation. For a soda with such a vibrant peach-esque color, you’d expect a signature sweet peach flavor, but on the first few sips, the sugar is what’s most evident. It’s a little jarring at first, but mellows with time. The peach flavor comes in next, but it isn’t exactly like biting into a fresh peach with sugar on it. The sugar and the peach flavors really act separately here. The peach taste has a little more of an earthy bite to it as opposed to a crisp, fresh punch. It’s different, but easy drinking on the palate. Part of that comes from the soda’s carbonation, which really bounces off the taste buds, but does little in the way of distracting from flavor. This is pleasant, even for a noticeably sweet fruit soda.

Finish: Faint candy peach flavor that lasts just seconds. Very little in the way of lingering flavor, that for some, could lead to multiple bottles in one setting.

Rating: With fresh fruit sodas being all the rage right now, the current soda enthusiast may be a little spoiled. Upon looking at the bright peach color in this bottle, most will expect a very fresh peach taste. Instead, this is a little more of a candy peach flavor with some distinctive, natural earthy tones. It does maintain a little bit of that fresh taste you’re seeking. The sugar is pretty potent at first, but over time you wouldn’t want less of it. The sweetness actually aids the earthy peach flavor here, but pushes the limits for us in terms of what’s palatable for repeat bottle-popping. What we’re saying is you probably wouldn’t do more than two or three of these at a time. Newer companies like Brooklyn Soda Works and Cannonborough Beverage are simply changing the game on what “real fruit sodas” mean, using intense amounts of real fruit juices and produce. That said, this is totally drinkable and has good qualities. I want to be friends with benefits with this soda. I just don’t want to date it, at least yet. But that could change. I’m still newly single. On a hot day by the pool, yeah, drink this until your insides turn orange. I might even suggest a little booze to cut the sugar. As it is, Peachee is kind of like a fuzzy navel without alcohol. It’s definitely worth a shot and we could see it being a very divisive soda in terms of audience reception. Bundaberg Peachee, I’ll call you back, girl.

Bickford’s Creamy Soda

History: G’day mate! Bickford’s is an Australian company famous for producing cordials and craft sodas, among several other beverage-related products. After migrating from England in 1839, William Bickford and his wife Anne Margaret opened a pharmacy. Pharmacies, for those of you who don’t know, were the beginnings of soda. Pharmacists would use carbonated flavorings to disguise the horrid taste of medicine. After William Bickford’s sudden death just 11 years later, Anne Margaret took over the pharmacy business and in 1863, formed A.M. Bickford and Sons with her two boys. And so it began. In 1874, the company began producing cordials, the product it’s most famous for to this day. Craft soda came along later for Bickford’s with Lemon and Lime Bitters being its most famous flavor, followed by their cream soda and their version of sarsaparilla.

Where to get: Available widely in Australia throughout grocers and online, this means nothing to Americans. As a stone cold USA review site, wtf mate? Where can we get it? Lemme be real with you… it isn’t readily available here. BUT… but that doesn’t mean you can’t get it. Bickford’s is a large company that employs very nice people. They’ll be more than willing to be accommodating for orders. Contact them directly and they’ll work with you in getting an order out to you. And starting in June/July of 2015, the company will be doing a slow roll out in America, starting in California.

Nose: Intense bubblegum; fruity and floral notes

Taste: Definitely bubblegum up front, though not as strong as it smells. Then there’s a very hard-to-place flavor that follows. It makes you think. If you didn’t notice it from the photo… it’s raspberry. And it’s damn good. The carbonation is intense very briefly when you take a swig and then fades into a creamy bubblegum-raspberry twist. The raspberry comes in first and hits the back of your mouth with a nice tartness that compliments the soda’s overall smoothness. Raspberry, while not a common flavor in cream sodas, is much more common outside the U.S. So if you get your hands on this in America, you’re likely in for something new. Bubble gum, raspberry and light vanilla highlight this elixir from down unda’.

Finish: Slightly acidic raspberry that quickly fades into a vanilla-bubblegum creamy flavor and lingers on the tongue.

Rating: With its cute-as-hell 9.3 ounce bottle and its unique take on an old classic, Bickford’s Creamy Soda is a must-try. Red cream sodas are often packed with intense bubblegum flavor and loaded with enough sugar to make a diabetic pass out after just reading the label, but Bickford’s does a really nice job using their cane sugar to accentuate and not overload the flavors they want to get across. Bubblegum is a very love-hate flavor in the cream soda world and Bickford’s navigates around that by adding touches of raspberry and vanilla cream to balance it out. The result is something you don’t see often, one you’ll want to put in your mouth. Throw this on some ice and kick back. Cheers, mates.