black cherry

Fitz’s: Black Cherry

History: Fitz’s is an institution in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s as Midwest as gooey butter cake and deep dish pizza. Luckily, Fitz’s soda won’t make you feel like dying after ingesting it, like those other stomach busters. Like many craft soda brands, Fitz’s started with root beer. Today it’s still the most popular flavor. According to the company, the root beer first popped up at “Fitz,” a local St. Louis “drive-in restaurant back in 1947.” After years of success, Fitz’s business slowly began to fade as the art of drive-in everything lost its appeal. People lost patience with waiting for food and a result, St. Louis lost one of its original glass-bottled root beer brands. Fitz’s Root Beer didn’t see the light of day again until 1993 when the restaurant re-opened under new ownership in the “Delmar Loop area of University City, a suburb of St. Louis.” It’s no longer a drive-in, but the restaurant offers a full menu with craft sodas and craft beers both on tap (so instead of paying two bucks per bottle like the rest of us schmucks, you can get endless refills of craft soda there… just a tip if you’re in the area). Fitz’s also serves up a variety of other craft soda flavors from key lime to Cardinal (red) Cream. But we settled on black cherry because if you can make black cherry soda well, it’s a good barometer for the rest of your stuff. It’s kind of like when you go over to a girl’s house for the first time before a date and you have to wait. If she takes an hour, your antennas should go up. If it’s 15 minutes or less, it’s looking good. That’s how black cherry is in a line of craft soda. Just trust us on this, we’re experts. We’ve also gone on a lot of bad dates

Where to get: You can purchase Fitz’s sodas online directly from the company or from our friends at Summit City Soda (we don’t get paid to shill for them; they usually just have good prices and we know shipping soda is expensive.). If you’re a little less adventurous, Soda Emporium has you covered with four-packs.

Nose: Smells medicinal, like cherry cough syrup. Kind of like watered down Robitussin. Not exactly the warmest of welcomes.

Taste: Bold and intense cherry; more red than black; artificial; heavy; tangy. There’s a bold cherry flavor that hits you. It’s somewhere in the middle between and black and red cherry flavor, but it’s not the classic black cherry taste you’re used to drinking. It’s solid. What separates it is the hint of red cherry and a definitive tanginess. But there’s also an accompanying aritifical, syrupy flavor that sits heavy in the mouth. Certain sips feel more processed than others. The cherry flavor is powerful throughout the soda, sometimes tasting very palatable and other sips mimicking fruity cough syrup.

Finish: Smooth and balanced with a tangy and tart red cherry flavor and just a hint of black cherry at the end. Very nice and easily the best part of the soda.

Rating: Fitz’s Black Cherry is a soda I’d recommend if you want black cherry, but are looking for very specific characteristics in your soda. It’s not what I’d consider “classic black cherry,” though occasionally you’ll taste that flavor. It’s kind of like its craft soda relatives, but slightly different. So if that’s what you want, Fitz’s may be the brand you should seek out. Where this soda shines is its tangy hybrid red and black cherry flavor. It’s bold. It’s tasty. And it’s different. The tanginess gives it a unique trait other black cherry sodas often don’t have. On the flip side, this soda can taste fake on certain sips. The artificial cherry flavor overwhelms you at certain points of the drink, which is enough to downgrade this to what I’d consider to be an average soda. It’s almost really good. Almost. I wouldn’t turn it down, but I probably wouldn’t seek it out.

Three Stars

Advertisements

Fireman’s Brew: Black Cherry

History: Despite their well-earned status as heroes, firefighters are average dudes and dudettes just like you and I. They want the same things most of us do at the end of a long day, namely, beer. Firefighters Rob and Ed spent a full day in December of 2000 fighting a raging brushfire in the Glendale Mountains of California. The battle took them into the midnight hours. Exhausted, they just wanted an ice cold beer, something that really said, “you earned me, pal,” something a cut above the rest. I often felt the same way after my ex came back from a trip to the mall with her friends. As you might’ve guessed by now, they eventually decided to make their own under the name Fireman’s Brew in Canoga Park of Los Angeles, California. Company COO, David Johnson, remembers starting out in 2007 selling beer out of the back of his car. Over the phone, Johnson is extremely laid back. He and his fireman buddies enjoy the simple things. They just wanted to make a great beer for firemen. To this day, the company makes only three beers that they call “off duty drinks“: blonde, brunette, and redhead. “You stick to something and you do it really well… people enjoy that,” Johnson philosophizes to us. However, the guys at Fireman’s Brew quickly realized something… it’s hard to market beer to on-duty firefighters.

In 2008 they introduced a line of “on duty drinks,” starting with coffee and quickly followed up by soda. Just like their beer, Fireman’s Brew makes three flavors of soda: root beer, cream, and black cherry. “It’s the same thing we do with our beers. We try to keep the flavor profiles simple and straightforward,” says Johnson. He adds that the company’s sodas are all-natural, using pure cane sugar in every bottle, and devoid of preservatives. Johnson doesn’t care to get too specific about his flavors, not because he’s keeping a secret; he’s just a a chill guy. “We weren’t sticking our nose in it and smelling it” he says about the soda flavors. With the black cherry, he does note the company sought out a retro cherry flavor that had a bit of a deeper taste to it. What’s really nice to see about this company though is their commitment to the cause. Johnson tells us there are “over 100 firefighter shareholders in the company.” But more importantly, Fireman’s Brew donates a portion of the profits from every product sold to the “National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg, Maryland” to help out families in need. Whether you enjoy their soda or not, that deserves a tip of the hat and squirt of the hose.

Where to get: Fireman’s Brew sodas can be found at most Rocketfizz retailers. Use the company’s online locator to find the store nearest you. Garvey Nut & Candy is also another option (we assure you we looked – they have it). Online, you can buy Fireman’s Brew Black Cherry from Soda Emporium in single bottles or in 4-packs.

Nose: Mmm. A little maraschino cherry, a little traditional black cherry. Even a mild cherry cola smell in the background.

Taste: Maraschino cherry; Bing cherries; classic black cherry soda; vanilla. This is very lush, very smooth. You’re greeted with a deep, deep, sweet cherry flavor that’s more of a candied maraschino cherry than black. Definitely a little bit of a grenadine thing going on too. The flavor is big and permeates the mouth with mild bubbles that glide to the back of the tongue. As the taste settles in and the initial boldness wears off, the black cherry becomes more apparent, but it’s definitely subtle compared to the maraschino notes. You’ll also taste mild vanilla that floats about on each sip. Sometimes it accompanies the front end of the sip, sometimes it attaches itself to the black cherry notes. This is definitely a sweet beverage, more sweet than most black cherry sodas. But the main takeaway is the maraschino cherry taste with subtle black cherry notes. This tastes luxurious and bright on the palate.

Finish: Definitely a little tartness with a mellow black cherry flavor that slowly fades. A little bit of vanilla on the tongue, too. Mild.

Rating: Fireman’s Brew Black Cherry is 12 ounces of power in a bottle. The flavor rocks your taste buds. In my opinion, this is more of a sweet cherry soda with subtleties of black cherry and vanilla. Still, there’s nothing subtle about this soda. It’s got lots of personality and other sodas know when it walks in a room. Just like my ex. Please come back. The maraschino cherry and grenadine flavors are apparent before anything else. On some sips, there’s additional vanilla notes that accompany these flavors. The black cherry taste is more reserved on the back half of each drink. There’s just enough to make you feel ok with calling this a black cherry soda. Fireman’s Brew Black Cherry has a huge flavor that seems customized to work in a cocktail. Alcohol would dial back the sweetness, while the soda would still have ample flavor to transform the liquor into something fun for your mouth and bad for your liver. This has such a big, sweet flavor that a whole bottle may overwhelm some drinkers. It contains 45 grams of sugar per bottle. I’d probably either cut that down to 35-40 or add more tartness for balance. In the end though, what matters is flavor, and Fireman’s Brew Black Cherry soda has enough flavor to put out a forest fire. That doesn’t make any sense, but you get it. If you like maraschino cherries or Cherry Coke made with grenadine, you’ll love this soda. It’s one your taste buds need to try. Just mentally buckle up before you indulge. As their catch phrase says, extinguish your thirst.

Four Stars

 

Hank’s: Wishniak Black Cherry

History: Hank’s has one of the most recognizable bottles on the craft soda market with its name emblazoned in bold, raised metallic letters. They prefer the language “gourmet” as opposed to “craft,” but we don’t have to tell them they’re the same thing *w;)nk face*. As for its history, despite several attempts, we were unable to reach the folks at Hank’s Gourmet Sodas in time to talk to them for this review, so we relied heavily on their website and an article from Beverage Industry. So we’ll keep it relatively simple this time. Back to that unmistakable bottle. It sticks out, kind of like my old neighbor who leaves the bathroom blinds open. Only this instance is by design. “We just tried to make the bottle as unique, upscale and premium as we could,” co-founder Bill Dunman says. In 2007 the Glass Packaging Institute, an actual thing, awarded Hank’s the Clear Choice Award for best Carbonated Beverage. Hank’s began in 1995 in the Philadelphia area as a distribution business. A year later, they abandoned distribution entirely in favor of manufacturing and began adding flavors starting with root beer. At one point the company reached as many as 10, but today has scaled that number back to six. As with most soda companies, Hank’s profits the most from its root beer, with cream soda, black cherry and orange cream coming in second at about equal market shares. Hank’s is made using pure cane sugar and also produces a line of all natural teas. You can drink a black cherry soda and chase it with their Watermelon Cucumber Black Tea. What a time to be alive.

Where to get: Straight from their website, Hank’s Gourmet Sodas are “sold in over 40 states in every region of the nation.” For the ten unlucky states and the majority of us who prefer conducting our business in our underwear, you can order Hank’s soda in 12-packs directly from their site, 6-packs via Amazon, or single bottles from Soda Emporium.

Nose: Fresh cherry juice; Juicy Juice Cherry.

Taste: Sweet black cherries; mild tartness. This definitely tastes like real cherries. It has a deep, rich taste to it. Imagine blending fresh cherries into juice, adding some sugar and maybe a little vanilla extract and then drinking it. This tastes like that. Simple, yet refreshing and flavorful. Definitely a sweeter soda, clocking in at 40 grams of sugar per bottle. There’s also just the slightest amount of tartness to this on the backend of each drink embedded in the carbonation. This is a rare instance where you can taste the flavor of the citric acid used. It isn’t syrupy, but does leave a filmy feeling on the teeth on some sips. Overall though, the rich black cherry flavor is wonderful.

Finish: Tart black cherry that fades into sweet cherry juice.

Rating: A really nice take on black cherry soda that tastes refreshing and real. Hank’s could probably stand to dial back the sugar in each bottle by a few grams because the sweetness really piles on top of itself with each continuous drink. It’s kind of like speed dating. It’s great at first, but by the end you’re disoriented, need a nap and crying. Sorry, that last part is just a personal problem. Most black cherry sodas are fairly simple. It’s all about nailing that main flavor, and Hank’s does a nice job in that regard. There’s also a faint tartness to this soda. It helps to balance out the sweetness a little bit. I actually really enjoyed that aspect and wouldn’t mind seeing the mild sour notes turned up ever so slightly. Despite the intensity of its sweetness, the black cherry flavor profile shines bright. Definitely in the upper tier of craft black cherry sodas. Sip this one slowly out by the pool.

Olde Brookyln: Brighton Beach Black Cherry

History: “Every good brand has its own personality,” says White Rock Beverages President, Larry Bodkin. And if you’re Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-raised, or hell, ever just been to the borough – you know Brooklyn’s got personality. Olde Brookyln sodas try to capture that personality in every bottle, offering up favorite flavors of the urban coastal areas. In fact, every Olde Brooklyn soda is named after a neighborhood in the borough. There’s eight flavors in total. Coney Island Cream may be the line’s most recognizable flavor, but for our purposes today, we’re sampling Brighton Beach Black Cherry. Brighton Beach is known for its Ukrainian and Russian immigrant influences. Just did a Google search on Ukrainian food and women. In a related story, we’ll be writing to you next week from Brighton Beach. White Rock Beverages is the same company that produces Sioux City sodas. But whereas Sioux City is distributed mainly throughout the heart of America, Olde Brooklyn is popular on the coasts. This is a brand White Rock actually purchased about 10 years ago from some guys, as Bodin puts it, “with a colorful background.” But the recipes are almost all the same. Bodin also notes that the company’s market research indicates about one in every seven people can trace their roots back to Brooklyn. I’m about to let this black cherry soda put its roots in me. Sorry.

Where to get: Olde Brookyln soda is distributed mainly throughout the two coasts and sporadically in the midwest. Here’s a list of common retailers from the company’s website. Hit up Amazon for 12-packs, Soda Emporium for 6-packs , or single bottles from the same source.

Nose: Fresh Bing cherries.

Taste: Sweet black cherry; vanilla. Small frothy cola bubbles permeate the mouth before a flood of classic black cherry coats the taste buds. But you also get a fresh Bing cherry flavor that follows up the traditional black cherry cola taste. Notes of vanilla weave in and out throughout the body of each sip. My only complaint is I’d like to see that vanilla taste more consistently. It’s very refreshing for a black cherry soda. Not overly sweet or syrupy, but crisp and flavorful. This is a two-toned cherry taste bud flavor-fest of classic and farmer’s market freshness. An excellent execution of black cherry is an understatement.

Finish: Cherry juice and mild sugar with a very long and mild vanilla finish.

Rating: This is black cherry soda done extremely well. I want more of this, which should tell you something because I taste a lot of soda. It has a crisp, flavorful classic black cherry taste that isn’t syrupy or too sugary. It’s light and refreshing, a hard trick to pull off for most darker sodas. It’s light ruby red/burgundy color is eye-catching, almost the color of the ring I gave my first wife. Except, unlike that ring, I won’t regret buying this. The taste is similar to IBC black cherry soda, but fresher on the back end. You really do get a natural, Bing cherry taste with some occasional vanilla notes that add a lot of flavor. This is a perfect summer drink you could run through multiple bottles of in one sitting. This ranks right up there with the best black cherry sodas I’ve tried. Olde Booklyn Bighton Beach Black Cherry has the potential to ascend to your regular rotation of sodas. It’s that good. The vanilla notes really make the soda. I only wish they appeared more than occasionally. If the vanilla notes were more anchored to the black cherry taste, this would be a five-star rating. Still, it’s a minor grip for a major success. Olde Brooklyn nails it here. This is a must-try for all soda connoisseurs.