Just Craft Soda: Apple and Ginger

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

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

Nose: Earthy ginger; apple juice.

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

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

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


Garwood’s Ginger Beer

History: Ginger beer is one of the most adult craft sodas on the market. But don’t tell that to Salt Lake City’s Thomas Garwood, who used to drink the stuff down as a kid. Still a young adult at 28, Garwood was no longer satisfied with the state of ginger beer. He felt he’d grown up, but his favorite soda hadn’t. It’s not me, babe. It’s you. “As an adult I’ve never been able to find a ginger beer that was quite spicy enough,” he says, his phone cutting in and out as if he was communicating from an AOL dial-up landline. He’d also become disenchanted with studying music in school. So Garwood, already experienced in the food industry, went to work. But he needed some help. Garwood’s Ginger Beer probably wouldn’t exist had it not been for a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $5,000. When it came to the soda, he didn’t just want more spice. He wanted more flavor. Fresh flavor. Garwood’s Ginger Beer is made with 30% real juice, using cold-pressed ginger, lemon and lime juices. Garwood made it a point to ensure his ginger beer was wrapped in a bed of natural citrus as opposed to using syrups or extracts. The only other ingredients are carbonated water and cane sugar. He adds, “The purpose of starting this business was to do unique things that you don’t find around a lot.” For example, down the line, he wants to create a malt soda. In the more immediate future, grapefruit or grapefruit-ginger may be on the table. He says so far, his two-man team (Garwood and his wife) have gotten a great response locally in Salt Lake City. Time to try this out. Better put on my adult pants for this review.

Where to get: Due to the small size and recent launch of the company, Garwood’s Ginger Beer is still only sold locally in Salt Lake City. For those of you stopping through, you can pick up a bottle at Liberty Heights Fresh Market or Caputo’s downtown market. Garwood was confident online sales would eventually happen. If you’re desperate, you can contact the company via their Facebook page.

Nose: Skunky, almost like a citrusy Heineken or Modelo beer. Lime and lemon juice are also prevalent. The ginger smell is relatively mild.

Taste: Ginger; lemon juice; lime juice. This tastes extremely fresh. You can taste all three of the main juices that make this up. Each bottle of Garwood’s Ginger Beer contains 30% juice, yet it tastes higher. You start out with a sweet, but tart lemon-lime flavor. The lime has more of a punch, but the lemon has more staying power in the flavor profile. The ginger comes in last. It’s not particularly hot, but full of flavor. This is light and tart, an extremely refreshing take on ginger beer that relies heavily on lemon and lime flavors to supplement the ginger.

Finish: Slightly skunky lime with just a tinge of citrus-infused ginger that coats the tongue. Some people are into skunky tastes, but others may be turned off.

Rating: Ginger beers are almost always engineered to be enjoyed with alcohol and for that reason, they almost always taste better with alcohol. I think this is the first ginger beer I’ve had that I would say is better on its own. The ginger, lemon and lime juices work perfectly together to form a refreshing citrus elixir. To me, this is like a ginger-infused lemonade with some notes of lime. Now this is a little skunky, something unusual in ginger beers, but that’s really an aside. Some may disagree, but I think it adds to the flavor. All three main juices stand out in a unique way in the flavor profile. The lemon is refreshing and full of citrus that forms the base of each sip. The lime is brief but adds a burst of tart, bold flavor. And the ginger tastes so fresh and zesty that it’s almost impossible not to be impressed. This won’t make your eyes water with heat, but you will cry if you don’t try one. This is like when a hot hipster girl transfers to your college in po-dunk nowhere and you realize you’ll be making a lifestyle change. Other girls can’t match her style, looks and sassiness. In similar fashion, I don’t think I can name a more flavorful or better ginger beer than Garwood’s. That’s a bold statement, but this is a bold ginger beer that ascends to the highest peak in its category. This is that hot hipster girl wearing her plaid shirts and shiny leggings. You need her. You need her like you need air. To be fair, I don’t think you’ll need this like you need air. If you do, contact a hospital and scientist. But you’ll need this more than any other ginger beer you’ve had to date. This is one of the newest players in the game and if Garwood’s continues making other flavors, they’ll be one of its heaviest hitters.

Regatta: Ginger Beer

History: Stan Rottell knows the beverage industry. He’s been involved in every facet, from accounting to product development. He was big in the development of Snapple Teas. He even was behind a flavor re-engineering of Barritt’s Ginger Beer that turned the island favorite brew into one made with natural ingredients. This is where things started. After five years of babysitting the Barritt’s brand, the company decided to go a different direction and handed over their business to Gosling’s and went back to cheaper ingredients. This wasn’t the path Rottell wanted for himself or the products he endorsed. So he then made his own ginger beer. As an avid sailor, he named it Regatta Ginger Beer. Regatta typically refers to sailboat races. To this day, it’s still a one-man operation in Westport, Connecticut. Regatta Ginger Beer actually sponsors a fair share of sailing races across the country. As for the ginger beer itself, Rottell says “It’s got a bite, but it’s certainly going to be easy to drink…. I was looking for something that wouldn’t overwhelm what it was mixed with, but could be enjoyed on its own.” He wanted a ginger beer that was bold, but also a little fruity. In order to achieve that, he imports ginger root from the Caribbean, Africa, and sometimes Australia that possess slightly fruitier notes than other ginger roots that are more spicy or earthy. Like many ginger beers, this one is also designed mostly to be paired with alcohol. Rottell estimates 90% of Regatta Ginger Beer goes into some type of cocktail. The company often partners with well-known spirits like Russian Standard Vodka or Mount Gay Rum. Regatta Ginger Beer is made with pure cane sugar and limited preservatives. “There’s no magic,” Rottell adds. It’s all in the ginger root. For now, Regatta solely produces Ginger Beer, but Rottell is open for flavor expansion. He pauses, collects his thoughts and says with focus, “I’m constantly looking for a better ginger ale.”

Where to get: Regatta Ginger Beer is sold in 26 states and is particularly popular on both coasts. You can buy it in cans directly from the company or in single glass bottles from Keg Works.

Nose: Classic strong ginger beer. Smells like ginger fire is coming.

Taste: Ginger; spiciness; sweet sugar. Regatta’s take on ginger beer won’t make you cough from the spiciness, but it’s still got a kick. Soft little bubbles flood the mouth before you get a tinge of sweetness followed immediately by classic ginger heat. This contains just the right amount of sweetness for a ginger beer. Enough for flavor, but not distracting from the heat or flavor of the ginger roots. The ginger flavor is nice and varied flowing back and forth between the fresh-peeled root and candied ginger. There’s also some fruity notes that are difficult to accurately nail down. Mild apple undertones seem most prominent in a supporting role along with some citrus. The combination of ginger flavor, mild heat, moderate sweetness, and crisp carbonation make this one of the more refreshing takes on ginger beer on the market today.

Finish: Mildly earthy ginger with notes of rock candy sugar. Not overpowering, something for a ginger beer that can be hard to attain. This finish begs for additional sips.

Rating: This is a ginger beer you may not be familiar with, but it’s one you should get to know immediately. Its beautiful sea green bottle, yet simple design may not scream “Buy me!” but sometimes the most unsuspecting things are the best. Take my wife’s Porsche for example. I would’ve never expected with our combined income we’d buy it… until she went back and used my credit card without telling me. She’s the best! Regatta has bottled up a delicious, fruity ginger flavor profile using both Caribbean and African ginger roots and paired them with a level of sweetness that doesn’t distract from that classic ginger heat, yet provides additional flavor and balance. It’s about a six on the ginger beer heat scale. Perhaps the highest compliment we can pay to this ginger beer is that’s it’s refreshing and deserves to be consumed entirely on its own. But we all know most ginger beers are made to be mixers. And I’m not afraid to write this: Regatta Ginger Beer is the best ginger beer I’ve had for Moscow Mules or Dark and Stormy’s. You would be doing yourself a disservice not to try this with alcohol. I’d be surprised if this didn’t immediately make a dent in your top five ginger beers. Pull out your credit card, unless my wife somehow has yours too, and add this Florida-brewed ginger juice to your life.

Reed’s: Spiced Apple Brew

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Teton Brewing: Old Faithful Ginger Ale

History: It started in a log cabin, a little brewery in the mountains of Wilson, Wyoming. Charlie and Ernie Otto not only founded Otto Brothers Brewing in 1988; no joke, they’re also credited for reviving the growler and turning it into a popular container for beer. In 1998, the brewery relocated to Victor, Idaho where it still resides today. In 2000, the company changed its name to Grand Teton Brewing. In 2009, it was purchased by Steve and Ellen Furbacher. They’re known for their beer. These days, the 26-person brewery produces 10,000 barrels of it a year. Could I interest you in a Bitch Creek or Howling Wolf Hefeweizen? Nothing better after a hard day than a Bitch Creek. Sounds like my ex-girlfriend’s favorite beer… right, Tonya? But today, we’re calmer and sampling ginger ale. Grand Teton’s Ginger Ale is part of their “Old Faithful” series, although “series” is probably a stretch considering the only other flavor is root beer. The cool thing about these two sodas is that they were developed to be sold in Yellowstone National Park. There’s a rumor this could happen if you carry too much of it in your car. There’s nothing I love more than bears and soda, so this is a pretty big day for me. Ginger ale was actually the original soda flavor developed by the Otto Brothers. Its recipe has since morphed several times before the current incantation. Grand Teton also has another line of four kettle-brewed sodas that started in 2011. These include traditional flavors like root beer, black cherry, cream soda, and the more adventurous mountain berry. The company brews all of their sodas in small batches in the same kettles used for beer and sweetens them with cane sugar. But the home run ingredient is their water. Soda Program Manager, Freya Boughton, says “Our water for example is special in that it is glacial run-off filtered 300-500 years with Teton Mountain granite and limestone.” This is basically the equivalent of a pizza company saying their crust is made with fairy dust. You can’t necessarily taste it, but you know it’s important and you’re glad it’s there. When it comes to their ginger ale, Boughton mentions “We say it’s a cross between a ginger beer and a ginger ale.”

Where to get: Grand Teton Brewing sells their sodas via their Web site, however it should be noted that you must call the company to place an order. Their sodas are mainly distributed throughout Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Illinois and California.

Nose: Traditional ginger ale with extra ginger. Basically what you’d expect.

Taste: Earthy; ginger; crisp sugar. Grand Teton thinks of their Old Faithful Ginger Ale as a cross between a traditional ginger ale and ginger beer. This is a perfect description of its taste. It’s a little earthier and spicier than a normal ginger ale, but doesn’t quite have the zip of a ginger beer. It’s very light and clean in the mouth. Perhaps that has something to do with the quality of the glacial water. It’s crisp, but doesn’t quite have a bite. A little earthier than most ginger ales. I’d like to have seen a little more tartness from the ginger than these earthy undertones I’m getting. The carbonation and sugar work very well together to highlight the ginger ale’s sweet and spicy notes.

Finish: Earthiness followed by cane sugar tinged with mild ginger. Not much of the way of lingering flavor.

Rating: Ginger ale is often hard to enjoy on its own because it’s either too bland or too carbonated. Grand Teton Brewing has avoided these pitfalls in their take on a classic craft soda. Old Faithful Ginger Ale is highlighted by a crisp, refreshing ginger flavor. In fact, it contains more ginger than your average ginger ale. It isn’t spicy, but more earthy. This is its only downfall. While likely a great remedy for a stomach ache, it’s just a little too musky for me to take down multiple bottles in one setting. That said, this is an incredible mixer. When paired with bourbon, the earthiness really brings out the spirit’s true flavors. On its own, this is an above average ginger ale in a world that needs more of them. It has flaws, but so do you man, so back off! Pick up a bottle for yourself and see what you think. The ginger ale market is prime for a resurgence. And when it happens, we’ll be ready.

Kutztown Ginger Beer

History: Kutztown Bottling Works dates all the way back to 1851. Though it didn’t have the same name then, the Kutztown, Pennsylvania soda business has deep roots and has been passed around several times in its history. An important name to the brand is Percy Keodinger, who purchased a brewery and focused on selling beer and soft drinks. Then prohibition happened. No more beer. Way more soda. Keodinger developed 16 different flavors, his most famous being an original recipe birch beer. According to current Kutztown Bottling Works General Manager, Andy Schlegel, birch beer is still Pennsylvania’s most popular soda flavor. Since then, the business has been sold three times until it eventually wound up with current owners Jeff and Dana Taylor. The company actually didn’t assume the name Kutztown Bottling Works until 2002. The company sells soda in both 12 oz. glass and 24 oz. plastic bottlers. Click here to see which flavors come in which bottles. Like fellow eastern Pennsylvania bottler, Reading Draft, Kutztown is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch style. Again, no one can really seem to explain what that means aside from the fact that there’s a German influence. Shh, don’t worry about it. Yet despite the emphasis on birch beer, we decided to try their ginger beer, if for no other reason than because it’s red. And that’s odd enough to pop the top on this bottle. A fun fact: on the Kutztown bottle label it says “Nix Besser,” which means “Nothing better.” The more you know.

Where to get: Kutztown sodas can be purchased from the company’s online store. Their ginger beer is sold in plastic bottles through the Kutztown Bottling online store. If you’re looking for glass bottles, you can find those at Beverages Direct. Kutztown Bottling Works soda is distributed throughout 30 states and to many small Amish and Mennonite retailers by Dutch Valley Foods.

Nose: Ginger; mild red hot candies.

Taste: Mild ginger; mild spiciness; mild sugar. This is mild for ginger beer… if you didn’t get that by now. There’s a definite ginger taste, but the cane sugar in this almost acts as a bubble that coats the ginger. For some, that could be good. For others, it’s a flavor mask. There’s just the slightest bit of a minty undertone to this hidden beneath the ginger that you don’t find in most ginger beers. It seems like that mint flavor hides some of the bite found in stronger ginger beers. But every few sips that spice will sneak up on you and into your nostrils. It’s more of a heat on the finish than the initial sip. Not much in the way of lasting flavor or fire.

Finish: Light wintergreen mint and sweet candied ginger that swing back and forth until the flavor is gone. No lingering heat or after bite.

Rating: For those who aren’t quite ready for a strong ginger beer with bold spice, this is probably a good starting point. Not too spicy, but there’s just enough of it to let you know this is ginger beer. The sugar in this is a little bit stronger than its relatives and does have a tendency to cover up the richer and deeper flavor profiles ginger root possesses. But again, some will welcome that aspect. Kutztown’s ginger beer is unusually red. It looks beautiful in a glass and would make a fun party drink or mixer. For those desiring a powerful ginger beverage, this probably won’t be strong enough for you. For those looking to just get their feet wet, give it a shot. And for all of us those just looking to get drunk, this works well with a sprig of mint and your favorite liquid courage.

Brooklyn Soda Works: Apple + Ginger

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

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

Nose: Apple juice; faint ginger.

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

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

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

Harvey and Vern’s: Ginger Beer

History: It’s refreshing when a company understands itself and its purpose. “It’s authentic. We know what we want. It’s about the good old days,” says Paul Meeks, owner of Kichesippi Beer Company. Paul and I have a 15-minute conversation about his soda business, Harvey and Vern’s. Paul’s voice is soft, friendly, and always understanding. I too understand myself and my purpose, and I’d now like to get a few words out of my system: Moose. Maple Syrup. Poutine. Hockey. Friendly. Eh. Tim Horton’s. Paul will appreciate this show of authenticity, even if it does reveal I’m secretly nine years-old. Because if you haven’t guessed, Paul and his company are from Canada… Ottawa, to be exact. After the success of their brewery, it was was Meeks’ wife, Kelly, who decided they were versed enough in beer to branch out and try soda. Harvey and Vern’s is all about harkening back to simpler times. Harvey was Meeks’ grandfather, a farmer; Vern is Kelly’s father; a doctor – both traditional, hard-working jobs that suited the nature of what Meeks and his wife wanted in their small business soda brand. As a child Meeks would go from his family farm to the river and back to the farm, but not before stopping in to buy some vintage glass bottle sodas on the way home. The company tries to capture that childhood nostalgia and bottle it in the form of three flavors: root beer, cream soda, and ginger beer. Everything is all-natural: no sodium benzoate, no added colors and only cane sugar as a sweetener. Today, we try our first Canadian soda – Harvey and Vern’s Ginger Beer. Fun fact: Paul was born in Jamaica and chose the ginger beer’s flavor. While he wasn’t trying to enter the cocktail market, he says “The number of Dark and Stormy’s poured in Ottawa has definitely increased.” The company will be introducing a fourth flavor to its soda line in April of 2015.

Where to get: Harvey and Vern’s is distributed throughout Quebec and Ontario, reaching somewhere between 250 grocery stores, cafes, and food trucks. But what about the Americans, eh? The company is currently talking to distributers in the states and hope to have an online store set up by sometime in May of 2015. If you need to get your little paws on it before then, contact the company directly and they’ll work with you on an order. Just be prepared to pay shipping… the only downside of glass bottles.

Nose: Pure, ground ginger. Buckle up.

Taste: Strong ginger; heat in the nostrils; light sugar. Pops bottle cap, tilts bottle at 45 degree angle, down the throat…

Gear up  for this Canadian concoction because ginger and ginseng root are upfront on the palate and they are handsy. We coughed on the first couple sips. The fire shoots up your nose for a sinister initial sizzle. But honestly, after a few sips, you adjust. And then you realize: this is tasty. You get a hot, earthy ginger flavor right up front that mellows into more of a candied ginger. This doesn’t taste like anything artificial has been added. It tastes like pure, unadulterated, natural ginger. There’s definitely heat to this. The cane sugar is noticeable, flavorful and does a nice job cutting the spice on the backend. But make no mistake, this is spicy. On a 1-10 spicy meter, I’d give this a solid 7.5. It’s an upfront heat. There’s no lingering. In fact, it’s a little sweet near the end. The previously mentioned ginseng in this gives Harvey and Vern’s’ Ginger Beer an extra bite.

Finish: Candied ginger with notes of soft spice that fade into crisp sugar accompanied by a final note of sweet ginger. Best part of the soda.

Rating: Our neighbors from the north weren’t messing around when they made their ginger beer. Canadians are often regarded as overtly friendly, but this ginger elixir is your naughty neighbor you crave. There’s something about it. It’s spicy up front, yet sweet and flavorful on the backend to keep you coming back. So it’s like the opposite of my ex-wife. I’ll make this simple. This is ginger beer. It tastes like ginger. Seems like a no-brainer, but so often this category of soda is dressed up to be something it’s not. There’s no games here. This is 12 ounces (355 ml, eh) of sinus-clearing, ginger-infused, taste bud-rocking soda. Novices might not be ready for its initial spiciness. There’s no denying it’s potent. The more you drink it, the easier it gets and the more delectable it becomes. And honestly, ginger beer as a whole isn’t for everyone. It’s more of an acquired taste. But if you like ginger beer, then I assure you that you’ll enjoy this. Paired with rum, the ginger beer becomes much sweeter, more of a candied ginger with airier citrus flavors. Careful, I’ve already had one just writing this review. For most, it’ll be a sipper on its own and when paired with alcohol, it’ll be a nightmare the next morning. That’s a compliment, Harvey and Vern’s. We approve, go get your ginger juice on.