cream

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.

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Tommy Knocker: Orange Creme

History: “We’re into anything craft,” from food to beer to soda. Those are the words of Tommy Knocker Brewery Director of Operation, Steve Indrehus. Steve already sounds like one of us. We can’t wait to hang out, Steve. Hailing from Idaho Spring, Colorado, Tommy Knocker is one of a growing number of bottlers that use only organic ingredients in their sodas. Like many breweries, they started with draft root beer as a non-alcoholic option. And that led to more flavors. Currently, the brewery makes four sodas. The root beer still moves the most, selling over 6,000 cases a year. I move about 6,000 a year too… further into debt. What’s really unique about Tommy Knocker sodas is the water they use. It’s a flow of snow melt and rain water that trickles down from the 14,000 foot peak of Mount Bierstadt. It’s described by Indrehus as a very soft water. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds delightful. Their orange cream soda is made with 100% pure Madagascar vanilla in addition to pure cane sugar. It contains no caffeine and is GMO-free. And if you’re a beer snob, take solace. Tommy Knocker brews their sodas just like they brew their brews. Let’s get to it.

Where to get: Tommy Knocker sodas are sold directly via the company’s website. You can also find it in single bottles at this random Boulder, Colorado liquor store website. You can also buy them at most Rocketfizz retailers. It’s available throughout Colorado, and with the exception of Rocketfizz stores, sporadically throughout the U.S. in 18 states.

Nose: Fresh, organic oranges.

Taste: Fresh citrus; tart vanilla; lightly burned sugar. Tommy Knocker’s take on orange cream soda tastes distinctly more orange than cream. Sugar and citrus are up front. This is a brand that uses completely organic ingredients and that’s very evident on the taste buds. This is probably just a little bit less sweet than you’d expect for an orange cream soda. Not much of the traditional orange creamsicle flavor. There’s much more of a botanical citrus taste. This is made with organic orange zest and that’s probably the most identifiable flavor in this bottle. It’s zesty. It’s citrusy. But as far as tasting like sweet orange, it’s not quite as obvious as I’d like to see in an orange cream. There’s noticeable vanilla in this, but it isn’t creamy. The vanilla notes flutter around on the backend of each drink, almost in a tart way. The organic ingredients in this soda work with the cane sugar to form a light, burned sugar or caramel taste. But overall, earthy citrus is the predominant flavor.

Finish: Mild oranges that progressively taste fresher throughout the finish. Citrus and sugar round out each sip.

Rating: This is what I’d consider a nontraditional take on orange cream soda. Perhaps it’s the organic ingredients. Perhaps it’s just the way this was designed. But it’s missing that flagship creaminess we all desire in this particular flavor. When you think orange cream soda, you think dreamsicle or creamsicle. This is more like biting into an orange rind. You taste a very pure, zesty orange oil flavor. It’s not bitter and it’s not bad. It’s just not what we were expecting. The orange flavor in this isn’t exactly crisp like juice or smooth like other cream sodas. The vanilla notes are nice and work, but probably need to be more prominent to see this soda live up to the label on the bottle. If you’re a fan of citrus sodas, I’d suggest a bottle. If you prefer sweeter, creamier orange creams, this may be a let down for you. It does get better as you continue drinking it, but then again, my neighbor says that all the time and I just passed him on the way to his AA meeting. This is a game time decision. Worth a try, but it’s replay value is in question.

 

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.

Blumers: Blueberry Cream

History: Minhas (pronounced Men-hahz) Craft Brewery has a history dating all the way back to 1845. It’s changed ownership and names numerous times before being completely purchased by the Minhas family in 2006. They’re from Wisconsin (Monroe), so you know they either make beer or cheese and I’ve already spoiled the surprise for you. According to Minhas Brewery Operations President, Gary Olson, the brewery introduced a root beer in the mid-90’s to offer a non-alcoholic selection in its taproom. They called it Blumers Root Beer, a throwback to one of the brewery’s former owners in the early 1900’s. Today, Minhas still serves their root beer on draft and in kegs, in addition to bottles. The rest of their soda flavors were introduced in 2003. The brewery uses the same equipment to produce its sodas as it does for its beer. Blumers sodas use only pure cane sugar as a sweetener and all ingredients are sourced from either Wisconsin or Illinois. Monroe is only about 20 miles north of the Illinois border. We decided we’d start with their blueberry cream, certainly a rare flavor. “Blueberry’s hard,” Olson says with a laugh over the phone. If you look through the Blumers soda line, you’ll see gorgeous bright blues and oranges to deep, rustic reds. “We wanted to be colorful and fun,” Olson adds. Let’s see if this soda is as beautiful in your mouth as it is on your eyes.

Where to get: Blumers Soda is sold throughout Wisconsin and also at a sister brewery in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. If you think you want a sampler pack of Blumers, you can order 16 bottles from Wisconsinmade.com. If you’re only looking for a few bottles, Olson encourages everyone to contact the brewery where they can put together a custom order for you. (I know contact forms suck, but they’re good about responding.)

Nose: Old school Lifesavers blueberry vanilla swirl lollipops from childhood, also the kind with the weird loop grip; soft blueberry; creamy vanilla ice cream.

Taste: Blueberry; cane sugar; vanilla; tartness. There’s an upfront kiss of mellow blueberry that isn’t overly artificial or overpowering. Just right for a blueberry-flavored soda. Blueberry is one of those flavors that tends to get blasted at your tongue, so a less intense version of that to begin with is welcome. Next you taste the cane sugar. Definitely a sweeter soda, but again, not overpowering if ingested in moderation. Once you’re introduced to the blueberry and sugar, there a wave of crisp, tartness, due in part to the carbonation that cascades across the sides of your tongue to cut through the initial sweetness. The wave of flavors and sensations is stimulating and very nice on the palate. The creaminess comes in last, but you really get most of that in lingering flavor. The undertones of vanilla in this bottle need some time to breath, so the longer you take in between sips, the more you’ll see that develop. The sugar can be a bit intense if you drink this fast, so be advised.

Finish: Mellow blueberry that fades into rich vanilla with supreme creaminess. Divine.

Rating: Gary Olson is right. Blueberry is a tough flavor to do. It tends to almost always taste too artificial, but Minhas Brewery has managed to take the essence of blueberry and let it dance around a symphony of cane sugar and creamy vanilla in a way that delights the drinker. The blueberry notes in this are mild, but present enough to still hold throughout the body of the soda. The sugar in Blumers Blueberry Cream can be potent, particularly if you don’t take time in between sips to let it settle. Otherwise, the sweetness builds up on top of itself with every sip and can be a bit harsh to digest. Another reason to take your time with this bottle is to let the creamy vanilla finish really permeate your taste buds. We found this to be the best part of the soda. This isn’t quite a sipper, but also isn’t a beverage I’d recommend buzzsawing through. It has a beautiful color that will catch your eye and a flavor that may surprise you for the better. I don’t think a lot of people typically expect something good out of blue sodas, but this one does the trick. It’s pretty, won’t let you down, and gets better as you get to know it more. If you know of any single women with the same qualities, please contact me. You won’t find a lot of blueberry cream sodas out there. Unless you don’t like the fruit itself, I have a hard time seeing why you shouldn’t pop the top on one of these little Wisconsin blueberry bombers. Fizz on.

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.