Cream soda

Flying Cauldron Buterscotch Beer

History: Throw on your cloaks, grab your magic wands, and gather around the cauldron because we’ve got a soda so magical that even the greatest of spells could not stop its forthcoming. Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer is the creation of Chris Reed of Reed’s natural sodas. You’re probably most familiar with their Ginger Brews. Despite the name “Butterscotch Beer,” Flying Cauldron is nonalcoholic, and it mimics a certain drink from a certain series of books based on a certain young wizard. In fact, upon its introduction in 2012, the soda actually used to be called “Butterbeer” because Warner Bros hadn’t trademarked the name. So Reed trademarked it. Guess how that went over? Quickly the wizards (lawyers) at Warner threatened to use their excessive magic (money) in an act of the dark arts (court) against Reed’s, so they promptly changed the soda’s name to “Butterscotch Beer.” You’ll notice Butterbeer is now ™ by Warner. So why make Butterbeer™? Reed tells us he was as captivated by the drink as we all were. It “sounded amazing,” he explains. So he began to research. He sent a sales manager to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida to try the Butterbeer™ they serve at the theme park. The sales manager sent some back to give Reed a basis for creating his own version. He told us he could taste the chemicals in it. He wanted his version to be a natural soda, like all of the others in the Reed’s/Virgil’s line. Flying Cauldron started with a base of Virgil’s Cream Soda and then had butterscotch flavor added in. Reed was inspired by a German butterscotch candy with a silky smooth flavor. He tried diligently to replicate that specific flavor and says triumphantly, “I think the butterscotch we ended up with is just phenomenal.” Flying Cauldron contains no artificial ingredients, no GMO’s, and no caffeine. It’s also made with a blend of pure cane sugar and Stevia; this reduces the number of calories in every bottle down to 120. Like the books and movies, Reed concedes the “product has had a life of its own and continues to show up in stores around the country.” He adds that Flying Cauldron is consistently in the company’s top seven sellers. You can find the soda year-round, but it’s most popular in October and November. We’re right on time. Let’s see what kind of sorcery is inside the bottle.

Where to get: Flying Cauldron is distributed nationally. Call your local health food or grocery store to see if they carry it. You can also find it at Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s also available online from Summit City Soda, as well as the Reed’s online store. You can also get it on Amazon, but it’s a worse deal. And if you’re a retailer looking to sell soda in your shop, or maybe just a deprived wizard, Homer Soda Company is who you should call for those types of inquiries.

Nose: Buttery; bold butterscotch; vanilla cream.

Taste: Sweet butterscotch; mild creaminess; soft vanilla; sugar. There’s big, big butterscotch flavor in this. The initial taste is a mixture of vanilla cream soda with sweet butterscotch, so it really lives up to the butterscotch cream soda label in terms of flavor. Spot on. Definitely sweet. Sugary, even. As it settles into your mouth, the creaminess of the vanilla comes out more, while the butterscotch dominates the flavor profile. Those two elements: creamy vanilla and sweet butterscotch candies combine to create a bold butterscotch cream taste.

Finish: Creamy vanilla and butterscotch swirl together and linger on the back of the tongue. Certainly the creamiest part of the soda.

Rating: Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer is one of those sodas that excites drinkers on so many levels. The inspiration, the flavor, the color, the label – it’s all there. It resonates. It’s fun. It’s got an air of mystery around it that you want to literally drink in. Butterbeer™, Butterscotch Beer – whatever you want to call it is fine. The bottom line is you want it in your mouth. Now, this won’t be for everyone simply because butterscotch tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it flavor. And this has enough butterscotch flavor to hold you over for a month. It’s a sweet, buttery candied flavor. There’s a nice infusion of creamy vanilla slightly at the beginning of each sip that becomes much stronger on the finish. I’d like to see that creaminess come out even more. I think it’s the soda’s best element. When I think Butterbeer™, I think of something that’s very creamy with lots of butterscotch tasting notes. This is maybe a 6/10 on the creaminess scale. The vanilla in Flying Cauldron works really well with the butterscotch. It adds that extra something that all good sodas possess. It’s also the biggest reason Flying Cauldron smells so wonderful. I enjoy my women just like I like a fine soda – smelling like vanilla kisses. This is big on butterscotch flavor and sweetness, and even bigger on eye-catching flashiness. The marketing team for Flying Cauldron deserves as much of the praise as the creators of its flavors. This is too much fun and way too interesting not to try at least once in your life. Also makes a tremendous mixer for your favorite fall cocktail. In the mean time, let us know if you develop any powers or the ability to summon dragons.

Four Stars

Sprecher: Cream Soda

History: Sprecher sodas are known for their bold, deep flavors. Turns out you can thank Germany for this. I’ll explain in a minute. In talking to Randy Sprecher on the phone, I get the sense he’s a gentle, intelligent soul with an almost intimidating knowledge on the intricacies of beer and soda-making. Originally from California, he reminisces how he spent 18 months in Augsburg, Germany in the late 60’s. Deustchland is arguably the beer capital of the world, so naturally, Sprecher says he lost his taste for American beer there. This became a problem when he moved back to California because he couldn’t afford to import his favorite beers. Solution? He started making his own in 1971. Despite having a degree in oceanography, Sprecher wanted to pursue beer, and so he packed up his van and drove up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he began working for Pabst. He made about $40,000 before he said the company started deteriorating. Wanting to start his own business for the modest amount he made at Pabst, Sprecher began buying various pieces of brewery equipment via auction. Through his craftiness, he successfully started up Sprecher Brewery in Glendale, Wisconsin and began selling beer in 1985. Really puts bargain shopping into perspective. Hope my girlfriend is reading this. He’d also researched soda recipes to a great degree on the side, and thought, “What does it take to make a soda that is of much higher quality?” Three years later, he figured it out, creating and selling his own root beer and cream soda.

To a craft soda connoisseur, Sprecher soda might raise an eyebrow or two. What you’ll likely notice is that the brewery uses high fructose corn syrup in its soda as opposed to pure cane sugar. To many, cane sugar is to craft soda what great actors are to movies; you can make it without them, but it’s not the same. Sprecher believes his recipes shouldn’t cause drinkers any hesitation. Let me at least try to explain to you why. Be forewarned, Randy Sprecher is a scientist and I am not. Sprecher Brewery brews their sodas in gas-fired kettles. Everyone knows that water boils at 212 degrees. Well, Sprecher tells us that the skin of the kettles the brewery uses reach up to 1,100 degrees. This causes a chemical reaction in the high fructose corn syrup (which is also bonded to glucose) by splitting the sucrose and forming inverted sugar. As Sprecher explained this process to me, jumping from chemical reaction anecdotes to overviews of molecules, all I could think in my head was, “I know some of these words!” He adds, “Whether you’re talking about cane sugar or fructose, you’re talking about the exact same molecule,” and “I can show you letters from Harvard Medical School” that don’t support the idea that cane sugar is better than corn syrup. I understand this won’t satisfy some people, but just know that Sprecher sodas are also brewed in small batches using Wisconsin-sourced ingredients, including the crown jewel of the cream soda – clover honey from Indian Summer Honey Farms. “We use more honey than they can produce,” says Sprecher. He’s not joking. Indian Summer Honey’s beekeeper literally has to pack up his bees from Wisconsin in the winter and take them down to Florida just to fulfill the massive orders Sprecher Brewery places. When it comes to the cream soda, Sprecher adds that vanilla plays a critical role in addition to the honey, and that he believes the flavor is akin to a toasted marshmallow. “We just strive for big, pure flavor so it really comes at you,” he says. Then come at me, Sprecher. Come at me.

Where to get: Sprecher soda is distributed nation-wide, though it may be sporadic in some areas. If you live in Midwest America, you should be golden… just check one of your local grocery stores. You can also use the company’s online locator (ignore the fact it only lists 10 states. Just enter your zip code) to find the retailer nearest you. For the rest of us, there’s always the Internet. You can buy anywhere from a single bottle up to 36 of them directly from Sprecher’s online store. Amazon can also hook you up.

Nose: Rich, dark vanilla; honey; mild french vanilla ice cream.

Taste: Vanilla cream, brown sugar; semisweet honey; creaminess. This is such a deeply rich, vanilla cream soda. The vanilla comes through more than any flavor and it’s bold, yet not overly sweet like some vanilla cream sodas. The sugar keeps the flavor nice and crisp. Undertones of honey carry the soda throughout each sip and contrast nicely with the vanilla, keeping the sugar levels in check and providing a slightly bittersweet bite on some sips. This is very, very creamy with big honey-vanilla flavor. There are even some brown sugar and caramel notes that float about throughout each sip. On some sips, there’s even a sweet earthiness to it, kind of like a toasted marshmallow. Very satisfying on the palate. When paired with ice, the cream soda becomes even creamier.

Finish: Creamy vanilla caramel with a semisweet bite at the tail end of each sip. Fantastic.

Rating: Sprecher’s Cream Soda is a standard-bearer in its category. It’s incredibly flavorful without being overly complex. Creamy vanilla and bittersweet honey highlight this delectable liquid treat from Wisconsin. Notes of brown sugar and burned caramel dance about in the background of each sip. The vanilla is velvety in the mouth and is sweet with a subtle tartness. It definitely communicates the essence of real vanilla. If I had to use one word to describe this cream soda it would be this: scrumptious. If I had another, it would be rich. When you’re tasting the flavors in this bottle, you know you’re drinking a craft soda. Even the look is mesmerizing. Sprecher’s Cream Soda mirrors a cream ale sitting in a glass with its thick, foamy head that takes considerable time to subside. It’s a nice visual touch. The last time I had something that tasted this good and looked this sexy, I was in Mexico on my post-divorce celebration. The details are kind of hazy. You’ll feel hazy in all the right ways after this cream soda too. It’s heavenly. You’d never taste the corn syrup in it. We can’t even tell and we taste hundreds of sodas a year. I wouldn’t change anything about this. Cream soda is a flavor that evokes stars in the eyes of soda connoisseurs, yet often leaves them in tears because of diabetes-inducing sugar overload. There’s nothing to cry about here. Celebrate the magnificence of this creamy, rich mouth magic and order a four-pack. This is one that just needs to be experienced.

Five Stars

Boots Beverages: Coconut Cream Soda

History: Get your beach towel, your sunglasses and sunscreen, and throw on that swim suit. Now put it all back because we’re just drinking soda here, you freak. But hey, we’re not only sampling one of the most unique flavors on the market today, we’re also going to bring the island vibe to you as we do it. See, we’re nice. Coconut Cream Soda: it’s one of those flavors that makes your ears perk up when you hear it. Kind of like when my wife yells out my name, only this doesn’t give me nightmares. Coconut is a very divisive flavor among foodies, but those who love it are die-hards. Mark Kristen, owner of Boots Beverages realized this and decided to to take a chance. He says, “I guess it’s the same insanity that’s inspired all our flavors.” The company, started by his father Elwood “Boots” Glenn, began with seasonal flavors like strawberry, peach and lemon. Boots Beverages’ first run as a business ended in 1962 in large part due to a decline in popularity of deposit bottles. Kristen, already a third generation businessman and operator of Kristen Distributing in Bryan, Texas, decided to reintroduce the company in September of 2013 with an emphasis on 1950’s flavors infused with modern gourmet appeal.

The company’s top-seller is its Sarsaparilla, with Coconut Cream not far behind it. The tropical paradise you thought you were in for at the beginning of this review may yet reveal itself in the form of this soda. And according to Kristen, it’s by design. “We envisioned someone going to the trouble of splitting the coconut and getting the juice out.” He also notes they are going for additional tasting notes of coconut cream pie and its crust. You’ll see the tropical inspiration on the bottle. You’ll also notice a picture of a woman. That’s Kristen’s late aunt Katy. “That tugs at my heart strings,” he says after a pause. Never married, Katy worked for Kristen’s father during Boots Beverages’ initial run. Often he couldn’t even afford to pay her, so she ran a small ice cream parlor. Kristen frequented it. “I ate so many of her dreamsicles that there’s no way she could’ve made any money,” he jokes. Her photo on the label is a small tribute. As for the future, Boots Beverages has been in the lab cooking up five new flavors. Two of them could be here as early as September. If early reports are any indication, they may be on to something. Kristen notes his buddy’s six year-old daughter offered up a serious barter. “I’d like to trade you a pony for those new flavors,” she said. We can’t legally offer a pony, but we’ll assemble the team, test the black market and see what offers we at Five Star came come up with. Nothing to see here, government.

Where to get: You can currently buy Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda in Texas and St. Louis, Missouri. The company is currently working on expanding distribution, but hasn’t announced future channels yet. In the meantime, the Internet has you covered. Hit up the company’s website for 12-packs, Crown Valley for 6-packs, and Soda Emporium for single bottles.

Nose: You ever had coconut cake? No? You’re weird then, but that’s what this smells like to a tee. It’s got a sweet coconut frosting olfactory thing going on.

Taste: Coconut cream; sugar; mild piña colada. Whoa, coconut. Hey girl. The coconut cream flavor is immediate, bold, and sweet. This is intensely sweet coming in at 43 grams of sugar per bottle. The coconut has a very tropical taste to it, reminiscent of the coconut portion of a piña colada. This does not taste like coconut pie to us, for those wondering. Think more along the lines of clear cream sodas infused with tropical coconut flavor.

Finish: Coconut piña colada. The finish on Boots Coconut Cream Soda is long-lasting and thick. The drink ends with a little bit more of a tropical note than the main body and coats the tongue for 10-20 seconds. While the body of the soda doesn’t taste like pie, there is a little bit of a pie crust taste at the very end.

Rating: Coconut is one of those flavors that gets people excited when it’s in a supporting role, but as the centerpiece of a soda, bottlers shy away. Perhaps they’re worried it’ll come off too much like carbonated suntan lotion. Whatever the case may be, there isn’t a lot with which to compare Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda. Its flavor doesn’t hold anything back and knows itself. It’s coconut cream soda, and dammitt it wants you to know that. This is a sugar storm of creamy, candy coconut that is bold and has flavor staying power. There are also some really nice tropical notes that float about in the background of each drink. Cream soda connoisseurs: put this on your list because there’s nothing like it out there. For the rest of you, there are some factors to consider. First, this is sweet. Very sweet. But it does really capture that tropical island coconut flavor and manifest it in soda form. I’d suggest treating this like a first date and taking it slow. Unless you’re my ex, in which case, chug as fast as you can and use a lot of tongue. Sorry, PTSD. As a sipper, this is a wonderfully unique cream soda to be enjoyed. Second, the flavor. Not everyone likes coconut and this is not only strong in sweetness, but also flavor. It might even benefit from some ancillary tasting notes, like key lime. If you don’t like coconut, do not pop the top. In our opinion, this is too original not to try. If you like coconut or tropical sodas, keep your pants on and buy like 24 of these. The flavors are simple, but work well. Paired with a little rum, you’ll be in paradise in no time.

Bedford’s: Creme Beer

History: Creme Beer. The name alone sends a chill of nostalgia and intrigue down your spine. That was part of the plan Ed Bedford had when he concocted his first vanilla cream soda to sell on the open  market. Bedford is a down-to-earth northwest native with a friendly, grizzled voice. He says over the phone, “I’m almost 70 years-old and soda was a big thing in our life.” He wanted it to stay that way for the current generation, but also wanted to make sure they were drinking old time classics made with higher quality ingredients than something you might get at a fast food joint. So after a long stint as general manager for a beer, wine and soft drink distributor, Bedford founded Bedford’s Sodas in 1984. Today the company sells five different flavors. Based out of Port Angeles, Washington, he says good soda had faded away in the Pacific Northwest. He sought to bring it back by first starting with cream soda, a flavor no company was really emphasizing in the mid-80’s. The idea actually came from Steve Sourapas, an owner of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company in Seattle. Bedford explained that during prohibition, many bars and saloons referred to cream soda as creme beer so they didn’t totally lose the boozy influence. The name stuck with his father, who passed it on to Bedford who threw it on a label to give cream soda a unique name. Bedford worked hard to get the flavor exactly where he wanted it. “I wanted a true vanilla cream,” he said. He put together a tasting panel with over 100 years of experience in the beverage industry to help pick the right recipe. He’s been working with the same flavor chemist for the entirety of his craft soda-making career. Before we hung up the phone, he paused and added, “I think that my sodas are as genuine as I can possibly be to what I can remember as a child. Always serve them ice cold, never with ice.”

Where to get: Bedford’s Sodas are sold all over the place online, including Summit City Soda, Orca Beverages (who bottle Bedford’s soda), and Amazon. You can also find them in Rocketfizz retailers.

Nose: Dunkin’ Donuts Bavarian Kreme Custard Donut. Hey man, it smells like that. Also vanilla, but you knew that.

Taste: Sugar; vanilla; creaminess. This is definitely an intense vanilla cream soda. No bubblegum here. The vanilla is creamy and sweet. It smells like my favorite donut, but the vanilla, at times, tastes a little bit more like vanilla buttercream or custard. This is a sweet soda, but smooth and drinkable. It tastes like classic cream soda with the volume turned up. You can really tell this uses higher quality ingredients. Everything is a little bolder and better. Nicely done.

Finish: Vanilla custard with just the sliiiiiightest hint of caramel. An excellent finish that begs for more sips.

Rating: This is an excellent cream soda, but before I tell you why, let’s talk about the first thing you see: the bottle. There’s something about it that draws you in. Maybe it’s the regal, old royal feel of the Bedford’s crest in the middle. Maybe it’s the medieval lettering of the font. Or maybe it’s the fact that this is called creme beer and not cream soda. Bedford’s does an excellent job selling the customer before the liquid even enters the equation. The same could be said about the dude at Lowe’s who sold me my overpriced toilet. But this is soda you’ll never throw down the drain. It’s fairly simple, but cream soda is a simple drink. It’s smooth and creamy with rich vanilla and slight notes of caramel on the finish. The vanilla almost has a hint of custard flavor to it that separates it from other vanilla creams. It could probably hold off on a gram or two of sugar, but there’s no question this is must-try cream soda. It also works well with an oaky bourbon to balance out the sweetness. Buy this. Tell your friends you had a creme beer today. Say nothing else and walk away. You’re a soda jerk. And we like it.

Squamscot: Maple Cream Soda

History: At Conner Bottling Works in Newfields, New Hampshire, Squamscot Beverages has been making old-fashioned, glass-bottled sodas or “tonics,” as they used to call them, for 152 years. The business opened in 1863. They’ve been using the same bottling machine named “Dixie” since 1938. It hasn’t even moved spots in the building since then. The business has never been sold by the founding family and today is run by Dan Conner, the fifth generation of his family to operate the business. It is the last independent bottler in the state of New Hampshire. Think about all that. Whether or not you enjoy their products, Squamscot has a remarkable history. It started as a beer bottling plant. This company is so old that the beer they were bottling back in 1863 had to be brought there by horse and carriage! These days, if you see a horse and carriage, you’re either lost in Amish country or you got drunk enough downtown to think paying $20 for a pre-blackout stroll was a good idea. Despite starting with beer, soda slowly made its way into Squamscot’s repertoire. Orange soda and ginger ale started being made in the late 1800’s. The beer business was going well. Then prohibition happened. Beer business wasn’t so hot after that. So soda became the company’s main source of income with its golden ginger ale ascending to flagship beverage status. In 1926 Pepsi, then being bottled by Conner Bottling Works, pulled out of its contract. This is when soda really took off for the company with lots of flavor expansion. Today, Dan Conner says Squamscot produces 27 flavors, its golden ginger ale still being one of the most popular. “We make a quality product. We offer it how it was always made,” with recipes dating back generations, he adds. Today’s review, Maple Cream Soda, is designed to be sweeter and is made with pure cane sugar and maple extract. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Squamscot Beverages are sold widely throughout New Hampshire and sporadically across the country. The easiest way to find the Maple Cream Soda is to purchase it online via Galco’s Soda Pop Shop or from Holiday Wine Center. Don’t worry, you can trust both websites.

Nose: Maple syrup. I would say more, but this smells exactly like the flavor on the bottle. I’d take this in candle form.

Taste: Maple syrup; sugar; tartness. Tiny little bubbles flood the mouth before the tide returns to sea and you’re left with a delicious, pure maple flavor. Just the right amount of sweetness and maple syrup. But there’s also accompanying undertones of tart cane sugar throughout the body that somehow enhance the maple flavor. This is actually a soda that benefits from having a couple ice cubes. Almost like a fine bourbon, the water slowly releases more flavor, in this case, a creamier, more intense maple taste as well as some very light notes of vanilla caramel. On ice, that tartness becomes almost non-existent. So if you’re a fan of something that wrestles the tongue a little, drink this chilled in the bottle. If you prefer a creamier maple taste, a couple ice cubes will do the trick.

Finish: Mild maple syrup and caramelized sugar. Definitely some bite to the sugar here. On ice, the finish is basically the same, only less intense.

Rating: Maple is a flavor craft soda bottlers decided to elevate on a silver platter. It’s a flavor that just sounds like you can’t go wrong with in soda form. But take if from us – we’ve tried a lot of maple soda… it rarely lives up to the flavor utopia you’re expecting. But when you’ve got 152 years of soda manufacturing on your side, it’s a little easier to take on a popular flavor like maple. Squamscot has taken a flavor that often misses the mark and created a maple soda that is a standard-bearer in its realm. The flavor profile succeeds wildly. Tart cane sugar and authentic maple flavors blend to form a crisp, delicious soda that you as a maple fan have been waiting for. This is like when you ask out the hot girl who makes barbie look inadequate and she has everything in common with you, is smart and gives great massages. Expectations: met and exceeded. Well done, Squamscot. The underlying tartness might turn off a few drinkers. To those I say, try this on ice. It becomes less intense and creamier. This is the maple soda for which you’ve been waiting. Wait no more. Go live the dream.

Indian Wells Brewing: Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda

History: Welcome to the upper echelon of soda, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like a beer, pours like a cream ale, and smells like a confectionary kitchen. Indian Wells is certainly swinging for the fences with their Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda. As you might imagine, with a name this fancy, the brewers have gone to great lengths to ensure quality ingredients inside the bottle. Let’s start with the most interesting part: vanilla barrels. Indian Wells actually purchases chestnut barrels of vanilla bean extract from a tropical island and then adds their soda to the barrels and the one or two inches of leftover vanilla extract. This provides color. The soda isn’t actually its dark caramel hue before entering the barrel. And most importantly, it imparts the soda’s signature rich vanilla flavor profile. Next, the soda’s main ingredient: water. The company uses natural spring water from, well, Indian Wells Spring. Indian Wells is a California historical landmark and the water they use in their sodas and beer is filtered through millions of feet of granite. As with all their sodas, this one is sweetened with pure cane sugar. Finally, Indian Wells is also proud of what’s not in their line of Special Reserve sodas. No sodium benzoate or sorbate preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. The brewery keeps these sodas shelf-stable by flash pasteurizing them. A couple fun facts: the intended flavor of this cream soda isn’t actually vanilla… it’s roasted campfire marshmallow. The last time I had a roasted marshmallow, I was on a camping date. She ran away in the middle of the night. Another? According Indian Wells Master Brewer, Rick Lovett, the brewery actually sells more soda than beer these days, thus prompting Lovett to test the market’s reaction to a super premium soft drink. It projects regality with its golden wax-coated bottle top staring at you like you need a password to open it. But spoiler alert, you don’t. And we did. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Part of this soda’s appeal is its rarity. Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is exclusively sold at Indian Wells Brewery and Rocketfizz retailers. It is not sold online.

Nose: Vanilla frosting; sugar; angel food cake. This smells like a trip to the bakery.

Taste: Marshmallow; sweet vanilla; sugar. This is a cream soda made with vanilla aged in chestnut barrels. As you might expect, its taste is different from the norm. There’s a deeply rich, sweet vanilla that enters the palate first. It’s very sweet, almost akin to vanilla buttercream frosting. But as the liquid sits in your mouth, the flavor slightly changes and there’s some woody notes that lift off the tongue. This is, of course, due to the chestnut barrels. It’s very interesting and something you’re unlikely to taste in any other cream soda. Then comes a very unique flavor to cream soda: marshmallow. This is by design. Indian Wells sought to recreate a campfire marshmallow taste and they’ve accomplished the task. Again, it’s a very sweet taste. It’s definitely a foamy cream soda with a thick head. The soda is anchored by a rich vanilla flavor that subtlety transforms into marshmallow with some slightly bitter notes from the chestnut barrels. Truly unique.

Finish: Slightly bitter vanilla; charred marshmallow. This is what I find to be the most interesting part of the soda. It’s not like the initial sip or the main flavor profile. As the vanilla and marshmallow flavors fade, you’re left with the chestnut barrel influence. It lingers slightly bitter on the back of the tongue and it turns that sweet, sugary marshmallow taste into more of a charred or roasted flavor. It’s like the marshmallow taste truly undergoes the campfire process with each sip. The longer you take in between drinks, the more prominent the effect. Exquisite.

Rating: This is the most unique cream soda I’ve ever had that I’ve actually enjoyed. Its wax-coated bottle and “Special Reserve” label put this into the top tier of premium sodas. Looking at it, you’d think it was craft beer. Its flavors are rich and change as you drink it, almost like a bourbon. Its frothy pour is distinctly cream soda, but its flavors of rich vanilla with notes of chestnut and campfire marshmallow set it apart. Indian Wells Brewing’s Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is a spectacle of awe in an ever-changing craft soda world where originality is becoming a requirement to play the game. The sweetness can be intense at times, particularly on the first few sips. The taste buds acclimate over time as the chestnut notes become more prevalent, but this frosting-like sweetness might cut the bottle short early for some drinkers. For those who stick with it, your taste buds shall be rewarded with rich vanilla and roasted campfire marshmallow. Paired with a nice bourbon, this is one of the best things to ever happen to your mouth. I’d divorce my first wife several more times if I could have both of those items stocked around the clock. Go out of your way to try this. It’s a 22 oz. bottle, meaning you can do this once the sober way and the rest the fun way. It’s a touch pricey at $5 a bottle outside the brewery ($3 at Indian Wells), but Abe Lincoln doesn’t want to live in your pocket all day anyway. You’ll thank me later.

Faygo: Rock N’ Rye

History: Remember that girl from middle school whose hair was a different color seemingly every week? The one who was cool with being weird? The one you work for now? We’re all a little different. The ones who truly stand out are the people that embrace it. And in the world of soda, being different is so hot right now. Faygo has always been a little weird. And they’re not afraid of it. Marketing Specialist Dawn Burch says enthusiastically, “We offer flavors that other companies are scared to try…. We’ve become this cult classic somehow.” Indeed, Faygo is known for their variety. Currently, they boast over 60 different flavors, from the Rock and Rye we’ll be reviewing today to their newest creation, cotton candy. How do they do it? “We have a really talented team of scientists,” Burch says. I get the flavor giggles just thinking about it. But you might know the Detroit-based company for a slightly more insane *looks around for approval* reason. Insane Clown Posse. Juggalos. The dudes who paint their faces and rap… I guess that’s what you call it. A quick Google Image search on Faygo doesn’t disappoint. Juggalos often spray each other and get drenched with Faygo soda at concerts. Why? Who knows. Maybe that face paint has some strong chemicals in it. Burch mentions how Juggalos will often call the company for wedding orders so they can ensure a proper soda shower. I’ll save this idea for my first wedding. It should free up that weekend for me.

Back to the soda. Ben and Perry Feigenson founded Faygo in 1907 and began basing their flavors on desserts. They’re been in the same manufacturing facility since the 1930’s. Today, Faygo is famous for its Red Pop and Rock and Rye. Both of these are part of the retro glass-bottle soda line Faygo produces that also includes four other flavors: cream soda, grape, orange, and root beer. These six sodas are all made with cane sugar. The rest of Faygo’s sodas do not contain cane sugar. The company is good for about one new flavor a year. We can’t tell you what their next one is… but it’s something you wouldn’t traditionally think of as a beverage flavor. Today, we sample Rock and Rye. Introduced in the 1920’s, it was named after the vintage rock candy and rye whiskey cocktail. We’re told this one doesn’t contain whiskey. We can’t guarantee it won’t by the time we’re done.

Where to get: Faygo has one of the oldest online soda stores in the world. It opened in 1998, right about when Al Gore invented the Internet! Not really. But maybe. If you’re beholden to Amazon, they’ve also got your back. Faygo is nationally distributed. If you can’t find it, I’d be surprised. If not, call the company. They’re nice people who want their soda to go in your body.

 

Nose: Classic pink bubble gum strips; cream soda.

Taste: Vanilla; cherry cream; tartness; frothy carbonation. The carbonation in this soda really accentuates its flavors. It’s also the first noticeable element you taste. Tiny, frothy bubbles flood the mouth before a distinct creamy vanilla-cherry flavor enters the picture. That said, carbonation this noticeable may be a turn off for some. For a deep burgundy craft soda, Faygo’s Rock and Rye is rich with creamy vanilla as opposed to intense bubblegum as is often found in red creams. The bubblegum flavor in this soda is discreet, like a mirage in a desert of tiny, creamy vanilla bubbles. It’s there, but only as a complimentary flavor component. We were told that Detroit natives think of this as a strawberry cream soda, and the strawberry is there, but it’s really old-school cherry notes that we taste. This has the richness of a cream soda with the carbonation and mild fruitiness of a cherry cola. Not overly complex, but highly drinkable and a delight on the taste buds.

Finish: Cherries and cream; deep and rich. The longer the drinker lets the flavors linger, they’re joined by creamy, mild vanilla undertones.

Rating: We’ve written before that cream sodas can basically boil down to two flavor profiles: vanilla and/or bubblegum. Faygo’s Rock and Rye straddles the line between cola and cream soda and has the best execution of bubblegum I’ve ever tasted in a soda. It’s light, creamy, and rolled in a bed of sweet vanilla and mild cherry. Not too overpowering, but has enough flavor to delight the taste buds, while being undercut by a semi-tart cherry cola taste. It’s truly an achievement in soda flavor engineering. Easily one of the most drinkable sodas I’ve had in years. I’m delighted to say this truly exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, I don’t think my date last night said the same to her friends about me. If you’re reading this, please return my texts. This probably leans more toward the cream soda side of things, though its carbonation is distinctly that of a cola. While the frothy little bubbles in this bottle serve to highlight its excellent flavors, they may also be its only downside. The bubbles can be intense and always greet the tongue before the flavors develop. It is a necessary buffer. But this is a minor complaint, and one I’m not personally making here. After all these years, what could be called Faygo’s most original flavor is arguably its greatest. Its staying power is undeniable and its deliciousness is unquestionable. It’s cream cola. If you love craft soda, just the thought that this combination is even possible to bottle should give you the tingles. We all need some soda tingles every now and then, right? Put this in your regular rotation.

Jared’s ProPops: Cream Soda

History: Jared Toay was in the money management business. He was a suit and tie man. Now he earns his living making popsicles and craft sodas. Business may be a little more casual these days, but it’s still just as serious, because instead of dollar signs, Jared’s Pro Pops is about your health. Healthy soda? Seriously? Stay with me here. The Pro in “ProPops” stands for probiotic. Think of probiotics as good bacteria. “They actually help break down the sugars and break down the food so your body absorbs the nutrients,” says Toay. In other words, they help your digestion and immune system. Toay started his business making popsicles simply because his kids liked them. Through trial and error, he eventually got it down to a science, concocting traditional flavors like Strawberry and Watermelon to wild ones like Spicy Pineapple and Picklesicle. After wanting a little more variety, he ventured into soda. Everything in Jared’s ProPops Soda is organic. They’re made with water kefir, which is just a fancy way of saying probiotic water. Kefir can actually help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. The whole point of Toay’s venture into this is giving people healthy, delicious alternatives to what’s already out there. He’s trying to make products that improve overall wellness, a novel concept in the world of soda.

Where to get: Jared’s ProPops is based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can order his popsicles directly from his site. As for soda, you can order that too, it just isn’t on the site yet. Contact Toay directly through his site, and he’ll hook you up.

Nose: Fresh vanilla bean; mild maple syrup; raisin; molasses. A lot going on for the senses to process here. Raisin and vanilla bean dominate, but quite varied on the nose for a soda.

Taste: Vanilla bean; molasses; raisin glaze; earthy, light sugar. This is not what you’ll be expecting with “cream soda” on the label. Because this is an all-organic product, remember that everything is going to taste more earthy and less sugary. Vanilla is very up front, but it’s more of a natural vanilla bean taste than vanilla syrup. This isn’t as sweet as a prototypical cream soda because the good bacteria in the soda’s kefir water actually eat sugar. The goal, after all, is to ingest probiotics and not unnecessary sugar. That said, there is a mild cane sugar taste to this that washes over the tongue after the vanilla. Once that fades, you’re left with notes of raisin and molasses, both of which are ingredients. Lots of flavors going on in this bottle.

Finish: Faint vanilla and cane sugar that transition into sweet raisins. Perhaps most interesting is the tartness that comes in right at the very end. This is due to the use of apple cider vinegar. It’s surprising, but nice and not overwhelming.

Rating: This is a hard one to rate because its taste won’t be for everyone. Some will be turned off by its less intense, earthier flavor profile, while organic purists may drink this down like water in the desert. We’re trying to look at this as somewhere in between those two groups. Jared’s ProPops Cream Soda has a complicated flavor profile, even for a craft soda. Typically vanilla-flavored beverages are overly sweet and dominated by that one flavor. The vanilla here tastes very natural and is complimented by prominent raisin and molasses flavors. Like most, we’re used to those flavors being more intense than they are here. We’ll be honest, it’s a little weird, and that’s why we think you should try it. Also, it’s full of good bacteria for your digestive and immune systems. It’s soda that’s good for you. It’s soda that’s healthy. And it’s not every day you get to say something like that.