lemon-lime

Howdy: Lemon Lime

History: Before Spite and 7-Up, there was Howdy. Orca Beverage President and Owner, Mike Bourgeois, calls Howdy the “original creators of the lemon-lime category.” In fact, Howdy Lemon-Lime was the primordial soda recipe from which 7-Up eventually evolved. The company originally began in 1929, and according to Bourgeois, back then Howdy was made with seven ingredients. I don’t think I need to explain the connection further. Here’s the weird part: one of those seven ingredients was lithium. Bourgeois tells us the soda was originally marketed as a “Bib-Lable Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.” He goes on to tell us that lithium was used at the turn of the century as a mood-altering stimulant, thought to “give you a lift.” He offered up cocaine as a comparison. Good. Because there’s nothing I like with my lunch more than an ice cold lemon-lime soda chocked full of angel dust. Really makes the rest of the day go faster when I do my afternoon accounting work with a heart rate of 200 BPM. As you might imagine, lithium has since been regulated out of the drink. Bourgeois did not specify when Howdy went out of business, but notes the company had been dormant for many years until around 2010 when Orca Beverage reactivated the trademark due to its rich history. Orca has done this several times since the Mukilteo, Washington-based soda distributor began in 1987 because it wants to preserve the nostalgia of retro soda as much as possible. It is now the sole producer of Howdy. Currently, the company boasts around 120 different brands. Bourgeois says in the case of Howdy, “It was a natural niche for us to cultivate.” He adds that the recipe has been reformulated to be more modern and clean and uses pure cane sugar and real lemon and lime oils. Even the logo is the same as the original. “It’s more flavorful. It has a little more of everything in it,” Bourgeois says at the end of our conversation. Time to taste the history.

Where to get: Howdy Lemon Lime soda is distributed nationwide at retro soda retailers. We suggest checking your nearest Rocketfizz retailer. You can also purchase it online at Amazon (via Orca Beverage) and Soda Emporium. And if you’re a retailer looking to sell soda yourself, or you’re just a dude wanting a bunch of soda at one time, Homer Soda is your go-to.

Nose: Classic lemon-lime smell, leaning more towards the lime side of things. Fragrant pine scents as well.

Taste: Lemon-lime with an emphasis on lime. Howdy tastes like 7-Up with bolder flavors. The lime is much more dominant than the lemon. Still refreshing and light, but heavier and sweeter than your day-to-day lemon lime soda. Definitely more acidic as well, but not anything that’s going to overpower you. The lime becomes bolder as you drink it. Fairly straightforward in terms of lemon-lime flavor, again, with more lime than lemon.

Finish: A wave of tart lime followed by a smooth, sweet lemon flavor. That tartness outlasts both flavors and lingers until the next sip.

Rating: Howdy is classic, old-school soda. Not complicated, not sophisticated, but reliable. Howdy Lemon Lime is the Toyota Corolla of craft soda. Always dependable when called on and will get you where you want to go. This in-review ad brought to you by Toyota *cash register noise*. Howdy definitely tipped the scales toward lime in this soda. You still get the lemon, but the lime is bold and continually increases in flavor as the drink goes on. The carbonation is nice and works really well to compliment the soda’s flavors. It’s refreshing. The sugar is probably a gram or two high, but nothing you can’t get past. The only complaint we have is the lime. At times when it reaches its strongest points, it takes on a bit of a pine flavor, something that makes me feel like a lumberjack lost in the woods. I’m just trying to drink a soda, not chop down trees. So maybe juuuust tone down the lime a little. Or perhaps up the lemon. But Howdy Lemon Lime is a classic and it has staying power for a reason. It won’t blow you away, but it’s flavors are crisp and refreshing. I’d recommend it for a hot day out in the sun.

Three Stars

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Rogue: Citrus Cucumber

History: This is a story that ends with soda, but one that took clam chowder, nudity, and charity to get there. Now I’ve aroused your interest. Rogue is a company with gusto. “Our soda is a revolution,” they proclaim to us via email (For clerical purposes, all quotes in this article were relayed by marketing manager, Anna Abatzoglou, who made it clear these are not direct quotes from herself, but rather the company. The specific employee(s) were not specified.). Rogue began in October of 1988 in Ashland, Orgeon, but soon needed to expand. A few months later, founder Jack Joyce became stranded at a bar in Newport, Oregon due to a raging snowstorm. There he met the creator of Mo’s Clam Chowder, Mo Niemi, who told Joyce it was always her dream to live above a bar. Needing a bigger space, Joyce listened to Niemi’s conditions. There were two: 1. Give back to the community and 2. Make sure this picture of a naked Niemi in a bathtub hang inside the bar. How lucky. Dude meets a girl and instantly gets a nude photo. I can’t even get one from girls on Tinder. The company tells us to this day that photo hangs in all 10 of their pubs. Rogue also doesn’t have a marketing budget, instead putting that money toward local charities and infrastructure. Rogue has resided in Newport, Oregon since 1992.

If you’ve heard of Rogue before, you’re probably aware of their wide array of beers, from normal to straight funky. The company tells us they not only also make beer and soda, but farm a bunch of different fruits, vegetables, and grains. Today’s review, Rogue Citrus Cucumber, contains both Rogue Honey and Rogue Cucumbers from Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon; this ad brought to you by Rogue. Says Abatzoglou of the soda’s signature fruit, “When they’re ripe, we pick them off the vine, slice them up, and add them fresh into every hand-crafted batch of Citrus Cucumber Soda. We grow cukes for our small batch spruce gin so why not go cuke to cocktail with a refreshing cucumber citrus soda?” Any excuse to get the term “cuke” into this review will do. It sounds like a combo of cute and puke. Some company specializing in cat products reading this just got a great idea, I’m sure. All Rogue sodas are brewed in small batches, using pure cane sugar and Rogue Farms Honey. “We get honey from 7,140,289 Rogue Farms honeybees that is used to sweeten all of our sodas,” the company tells us. I love that they maintain a current count on their over seven million bees. Most days I can’t even keep track of where I put my keys last. They also note the bees are “carefully kept and fed.” I conjured up an image of what I hoped this meant, and the Internet did not disappoint. But seriously, it’s apparent Rogue is a company about fun and one that takes pride and puts serious effort into its products. They’re basically internally going farm-to-table with their soda, a very interesting concept in the craft soda world. Rogue’s motto is “Dare, Risk, Dream.” I’m about to add a fourth: drink.

Where to get: Rogue sodas are available in about 30 states, according to the company. You can always purchase it online via the Rogue store.

Nose: Definitely smells like candy melon with a hint of cucumber. That sweet fruit is evident on the nose, almost like a candy kiwi. Starburst tropical fruit chews are the closest comparison I can come up with. It’s definitely a familiar childhood smell. An intriguing beginning.

Taste: Fruity melon; cucumber; mild lemon and lime; cane sugar. The flavors here hit you quickly and are unchained from harsh carbonation like most lemon-lime sodas. This is very fruity for a lemon-lime soda, but I wouldn’t call it tropical. You’ll taste these fruity flavors before the lemon-lime. Cucumber is definitely in here, but not as bold as I expected it to be for a soda that bears its name. I also taste some kiwi in here, but I think that’s more of a result of how the honey contrasts with the cucumber. There’s a variety of melon tastes here too, though subtle. Most prominent among those tastes is honeydew. There’s two types of honey in this (wildflower and Rogue Farms), so that’s probably a big reason for the melon flavor. All those melon flavors in addition to the kiwi and cucumber swirl around in your mouth and coat the back of your tongue before mild traditional lemon-lime finishes out the body of the sip. The sugar is crisp, and with the citrus elements, makes the soda even more refreshing than expected. The way the honey and cucumbers work together makes for some really interesting tasting notes.

Finish: Cucumber and lemon-lime that alternate back and forth. Lime is the most prominent of the three flavors.

Review: Rogue is perhaps best known for its unconventional beers. It’s a company with attitude and feistiness, and one not afraid to take risks. Rogue’s Citrus Cucumber is probably the wackiest offering they have on their soda side, and it’s one that displays a surprisingly wide range of flavors. Cucumber certainly has a leading role in the flavor profile, but I wouldn’t say it hogs the spotlight. There are very nice candy melon flavors that accompany the cucumber, like bold honeydew and even undertones of watermelon. Both the wildflower and Rogue Farms Honeys play a big role in the taste as well. They interact with the cucumber to form a kiwi taste that’s up front along with the honeydew. It’s so fruity for a cucumber-flavored drink. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I just won’t. Traditional lemon-lime comes in near the end, but it’s subtle. I wouldn’t mind seeing the lemon-lime higher in the flavor profile, personally. The fruitiness is unexpected, but it takes the edge off the cucumber and that’s a nice little deal for you. Trust me, you don’t want cucumber to be exceedingly strong in a soda. I gotta admit, this is a little weird, but it’s definitely something your taste buds need to experience to fully understand. Rogue seems to be one of the best beverage companies at understanding this concept. Their creativeness is much-needed. Just remember… the quirky, creative kids from high school are the ones writing your checks now. Don’t be afraid to get a little weird.

Four Stars

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.