lemon

Brood: Sour

History: If you want to change the law of the land in craft soda, a previous career as a lawyer probably isn’t a bad start. Jon Lehman grew tired of being an attorney, so he took the logical next step and launched a craft soda company. Right, guys? But he didn’t want just any soda company. No, he was very specific in his vision. “The goal is to make something very far out there,” he says. Lehman wanted to steer away from the vintage feel many soda companies capitalize on, certainly an interesting strategy considering the affability of nostalgia and the role it plays among craft soda’s audience. Lehman founded Brood in 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. He probably could’ve called is Bold. The company’s tagline is “carbonated greatness.” And it’s definitely unlike any other brand on the market. For starters, each flavor is based on emotion, and as Lehman puts it,”is influenced to a degree by an urban feel.” You won’t find ginger ale or lemon-lime. Instead you’ll be greeted by names like “Devil” or “Sour.” Next, the branding. It’s dark. And that’s how they like it. Look at the soda’s hype man, “Rood Boy.” He looks like something Tim Burton created to be the hipper, edgier cousin of of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. They also try to stay as local as possible when sourcing their soda’s ingredients. A lot of what you taste in the bottle comes right from Durham. Brood lists its ingredients on every bottle, but Lehman admits you might not always taste them. Often what occurs is people will “taste the flavor, and they go in a completely different direction of what it actually is,” he says. Having previously tried to tackle the mysterious flavor Smoky, this time we opted for something slightly more traditional. Sour, Lehman tells us, is the company’s take on a citrus lemon-lime soda. But of course there’s a twist. Two other ingredients you’ll taste are honey and myrciaria dubia, which is actually not a spell from the Harry Potter books, but rather a fruit found in the Amazon rainforest. It’s high in Vitamin C too, so it’s like an added bonus. We’re looking forward to something simpler this time, though it sounds like Sour still might house some secrets of its own.

Where to get: Brood Soda is sold in many locations throughout North Carolina and a couple in Florida. Take a look to see if it’s close to you by checking here. You can allegedly buy Brood Soda online, but at the time of this review it appears you need a login name and password. Your best bet is contacting the company directly.

Nose: Honestly smells like a cola with notes of lemon. The more and more you sniff, the more you smell honey, too.

Taste: Lemon-lime; honey; tartness; mild cherry; intense carbonation. It takes a few swigs to get the flavors of this soda down as it’s very mild. I’d liken this most closely to a lemon-lime soda with the volume turned up. It’s bolder than 7-Up or Spite. But what really separates Brood Sour from its mass-produced cousins is that it’s much more tart. You taste the zing as soon as the liquid hits your lips, something that’s likely attributable to the myrciaria dubia because it’s a highly acidic fruit. So this soda is a little more acidic, but the sour notes fade quickly in favor of lush honey. Honey is the most recognizable flavor here. It really encapsulates all the other flavors. And one of those flavors that is very subtle, fleeting even, is cherry. It’s just barely there. You won’t taste it on many sips, so it’s almost like a hidden easter egg. I honestly can’t explain why we taste it… but we taste it. You’ll notice heavy carbonation in this soda too. Most of it is up front, so it doesn’t compromise the flavors. A zesty, fresher lemon-lime soda with dollops of honey that define the flavor profile.

Finish: Honey (more prominent) and lemon that slowly fade.

Rating: Brood Sour is perhaps the most “normal” flavor the company offers. Its tasting notes don’t reveal themselves immediately, but when they do, you realize they are ones with which you’re quite familiar. Brood Sour in layman’s terms is a slightly different take on lemon-lime soda. The citrus is bold. The carbonation is intense. The acidity is definitely makes this a little sour. And the starring flavor in this soda is… honey? Yup. This is essentially a bolder take on conventional lemon-lime soda with big notes of honey. I stress bolder because those lemon and lime notes are a lot stronger than what you’d taste in Spite. This is like when the cute, nerdy girl in math class runs out of band t-shirts and shows up in a crop top and tight jeans, so you do a double-take. It’s familiar, but it’s better than what you’re used to drinking in this category. It’s a win for all of us. The one issue I have with Brood Sour is the honey. It’s very, very prominent and when combined with the tart lemon and lime flavors, it occasionally overpowers them. If the honey was lower in the flavor profile, this could be one of the best lemon-lime sodas on the market. It needs to be taken down a couple levels. Still, Brood Sour is a solid alternative to Sprite or 7-Up and a nice change of pace. Brood is one the quirkiest craft soda companies out there and their offerings are always sure to spark conversation – Sour is no different.

Three Stars

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Six Barrel Soda Co.: Raspberry & Lemon

History: Six Barrel Soda Co. is the coolest modern American soda not found in America. You’ll actually have to travel quite far if you’re American… all the way to the town of Wellington on the island nation of New Zealand. Founded in 2012, Six Barrel Soda specializes in modern takes on old soda flavors and old takes on new ones. It’s got kind of retro-new age thing going on. “Soda has such a great history and there is so much to work with flavour wise,” says Six Barrel Soda Co-founder Joseph Slater. The company also serves up take-home soda syrups as well for those who have separation anxiety. Like many American soda businesses, Six Barrel’s owners started in the bar industry. Slater and his business partner, Mike Stewart, found their knack for serving soda and homemade teas at their bar in Wellington. The two doubled down and quickly went in to soda full time. Last time I doubled down, I was in Vegas and woke up in a stranger’s room. And it was a dude. Six Barrel Soda Co. is at the forefront of cutting edge craft soda in New Zealand, which allows them to take some risks when it comes to flavor. Slater says they “try to do flavours that people might not have tried before or are unique to us.” One of those flavors is raspberry and lemon. “At our bar, I was making a raspberry syrup for a Florodora cocktail and a lemon syrup for lemonades, so I started doing a mixed pink lemonade too. There aren’t really any other pink lemonades in New Zealand and we thought that needed to be remedied,” Slater tells us. In America, when you think pink lemonade, you don’t necessarily think of raspberry in the flavor profile. The gentlemen at Six Barrel are trying to put a different spin on the flavor without over doing it. Slater adds, “It’s meant to be pretty subtle, we didn’t want that intense, fake raspberry taste so the idea is it just has a hint of raspberry to balance the citrus. It should be quite soft and crisp.” Initially, raspberry and lemon was the company’s most popular flavor, though they admit the others have caught up to it. The recipe uses only real raspberries and fresh-squeezed lemons in addition to fair-trade organic pure cane sugar. There are no concentrates or preservatives in the soda. Currently, Six Barrel is working on a couple new flavors they hope to have out in 2016. We’d love to tell you what they are, buuuuut we gotta drink this instead.

Where to get: According to Slater, Six Barrel Soda supplies “bars, restaurants, cafes, grocery and gift store across NZ, Australia, Singapore” and soon, Korea. Americans, your best bet is to email the company and see if something can be worked out. Six Barrel Soda sells their soda online and ships throughout New Zealand.

Nose: Raspberry; honey; tea with lemon. Definitely prominent raspberry with some floral, tea-like elements.

Taste: Mild raspberry; lemon with honey; cane sugar juice. We always list out the initial taste elements without looking at the bottle. You can taste the raspberry in this, but there’s a distinctive fruity, lemon-honey flavor present. Imagine squeezing fresh lemon juice and honey into a raspberry tea. That’s what this is like. Yet, there is no honey in Six Barrel Soda Co.’s Raspberry and Lemon Soda. So what you’re tasting here is likely how the sugar interacts with the lemon. You get a mild raspberry note to begin the sip before that floral, sweet lemon takes over. It’s really nice and unlike how soda companies in America use lemon. Lemon flavor in American soda is typically tart and acidic, while this is mellow and fruity. It really does taste like honey. I stand by that. You do get some bitterness that lingers on the back of the tongue from the lemon, so the acidity is still there in some form. The two flavors are fairly balanced overall, but that sweet lemon stands out a little bit more.

Finish: Honey; lemon, cane sugar. The raspberry is definitely more prominent near the beginning of each sip than the end.

Rating: This is a truly unique soda in the sense that it won’t be exactly what you’re expecting. Sure, there’s a raspberry flavor. Sure there’s some traditional acidic lemon. But it isn’t like your typical American fruit soda or even the newer, more natural incantations that are popping up from smaller bottlers. This has a subdued, tea-like taste to it, which isn’t that surprising considering the previous history of Six Barrel’s owners. It’s more floral than fruity, almost like there’s a flowery taste in addition to the raspberry and lemon. And the honey-lemon flavor – I can’t get over it. It’s the starring flavor in this soda. Let me say, it’s nice, but there’s no honey in the ingredients. So that flavor has to come from some sort of interaction. My best guess is between the sugar and lemon elements. I personally would like to see the raspberry flavor come through more. It’s there at the beginning, but quickly exits and doesn’t influence any other portion of the sip. As previously mentioned, the raspberry is supposed to be light. I just think it’s such a wonderful flavor and could be elevated more in this soda. As a whole, this is light and smooth, but not what I’d call crisp and refreshing. And for some people, that’ll be a detractor. This, of course, is coming from an American perspective. You have to remember that the U.S. typically prefers things bolder and sweeter than their international counterparts. It’s why your hot prom date is probably fat now. Based on the name, you’d think this would be ideal for outdoor weather, but due to its floral flavors, I think this is prime fall soda-drinking material. Six Barrel Soda Co.is one of the trendiest players in the international craft soda community. There flavors may be different, but their name is here to stay.

Three Stars

Soda Jerk Soda: Lemon Lavender

History: Seattle, Washington is continually churning out some of the most inventive and artisanal craft sodas on the market. But some of these effervescent elixirs are hidden gems that not everyone knows about. We believe they deserve their day in the sun. Enter Soda Jerk Soda, some of the most creative craft soda on the west coast. Owner Cory Clark had been a cosmetic chemist with a couple stores in Texas, but he was looking for his next project. Something different, he thought. Something cool. “I’m kind of a person that has to be creating something to be happy,” he says. He told us initially he wanted to start an ice cream and soda fountain, but after seeing the success of the Soda Stream, Clark changed his mind and started exploring soda syrups. He quickly changed course again after he realized he preferred fresh ingredients to syrup. It’s hard to disagree there. But before we tell you about the liquid, here’s an example of Clark’s creativeness. Dude sells his soda out of what is essentially a cute-ass baby truck on wheels. He bought it online and customized it himself after being inspired by a Cushman Truckster… aka the next thing I’m drunk buying online. Back to the soda. You won’t find anything traditional on the Soda Jerk Soda truck. It features three taps with two rotating flavors. Strawberry Rhubarb. Lime Cilantro Jalapeno. Lemon Lavender. These are some of the flavors you’ll find in place of classics like root beer or cola. “I try to pair an herb or spice with the ingredient,” Clark notes. Soda Jerk Soda also always uses organic cane sugar and fresh ingredients with as many sourced locally from Washington as possible. Clark adds he uses organic ingredients whenever he can. There are also no preservatives in Soda Jerk Soda. Hipsters everywhere should be lining up for this stuff.

Lemon Lavender is one of the first flavors Clark created and to this day it’s the company’s best seller. It’s also the only flavor consistently available on tap. Fresh lavender flowers from Washington are used in the soda instead of lavender extracts in order to make the soda taste as authentic as possible. What’s really interesting about Clark’s process is that he doesn’t cook down his ingredients. He just uses hot water for steeping the herbs and melting down the sugar. He says he does this to ensure “the flavors are very bright and strong.” The Lemon Lavender soda contains 12.5 % juice. Time to ingest the freshness.

Where to get: Soda Jerk Soda is one of those local-only craft sodas, so you’ve gotta be in the Seattle area or going to the city to get a taste. Clark told us he’s looking into shipping methods, but as of fall 2015, it was still quite a ways off due to high costs for both parties. Here’s a list of where to find Soda Jerk Soda in Seattle.

Nose: Strong lavender. Mild lemon-lime tucked behind the lavender. The scent wavers between sweet, floral, and savory. A big nose on this soda.

Taste: Tart; sweet lavender; lemon. Definitely a floral/botanical soda, but uncharacteristically sweet for a soda in that flavor zone. The flavors here are big and bold. This looks like pink lemonade, but is defined by the lavender taste that permeates each sip. There’s a quick rush of light carbonation at the beginning of the drink, quickly followed up by tart lemon and sweet lavender. This is initially more tart than sweet, which makes it very crisp. The lavender does give the soda a bit of an herbal taste, but it’s a sweet one. While lavender really shines in the first half of the drink, lemon takes over the second half of each sip. It’s interesting; the lemon becomes sweeter, while the lavender begins packing a bit of zing and tasting more savory, along the lines of a tart lavender tea. The lemon and lavender taste fresh and don’t make your taste buds over think. Overall, it’s a pretty even mix of sweet to sour, though I’d give the nod to the former. There’s a lot going on for just two main flavors, but luckily, this artisanal soda isn’t overly complicated.

Finish: Herbal lavender, almost like a tea with subtle tart lemon in the background.

Rating: What makes this soda interesting is the Jekyll and Hyde personalities of its two flavors, lavender and lemon. Initially the lavender is sweet and the lemon is tart, but on the back half of each sip, the roles are reversed. I’ve never tasted that before in a soda that relies so heavily on just two ingredients. Really takes your taste buds for a ride. Reminds me of that one night last year in Vegas… never mind. The standout flavor of the two is lavender. It’s very bold and very floral. Again, at times it’s very sweet, almost a little fruity. Near the finish, it becomes more tart and savory, imparting a botanical flavor. What I want to stress is this: the lavender taste in this soda is not a candied flavor. You can really taste the lavender flowers. Super, super authentic and flavorful. Lemon was a great companion flavor to pair with the boldness of the lavender. It helps reign in the soda’s overall flavor profile and adds a nice zing. For some, this won’t work because they simply can’t adjust to lavender in liquid form. For others, this might be a little too tart or herbal. Personally, I enjoy how the tartness lingers throughout each sip. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the sweet lemon flavor enhanced in addition to that tartness. Soda Jerk Lemon Lavender is also really wonderful with dark rum for a simple, balanced, and flavorful night cap. Lavender is, of course, known for its sleep properties. The bottom line about Soda Jerk Lemon Lavender soda is that it tastes remarkably fresh and crisp. The two flavors work well in tandem and are bold on the palate. You’d be missing out if you didn’t indulge your taste buds in this unique, split personality of an artisan soda.

Four Stars

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

Gazosa La Fiorenzana: Pompelmo

History: Hailing from the Alps of Switzlerand comes a soda that’s been brewed the same way since 1921, a hidden gem tucked away in the little village of Grono located in the Grisons canton. It’s been traveling over 4,900 miles and longer than 14.5 hours to reach America, and now it’s here… for the first time ever. That’s right, Five Star Soda is the first American media outlet to get its hands on Gazosa La Fiorenzana. Francesco Tonna started Gazosa with four original flavors: Pompelmo (grapegruit), Limone (lemon), Mandarino (mandarin orange), and  Lampone (raspberry). Today there are a total of eight. It was in 2002 when ex-footballer (soccer) and Polpenzisch founder Stephan Keller descended from the Netherlands to a bar in Zurich during his time playing for FC Zurich. It was there he sampled Gazosa for the first time. He and his immaculate beard realized immediately he couldn’t let this tasting be his last and decided to begin importing the Swiss soda to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Meanwhile, I didn’t put pants on until noon today. His description of Gazosa paints the company as the epitome of little mom and pop productions. He jokes, “Swiss small is different to U.S. small.” First of all, the business has stayed in the Ponzio-Tonna family and is currently in its fourth generation. According to the Keller, the soda’s label remains unchanged. The company still uses refillable swing-top bottles, a reason, Keller adds, that Gazosa will probably never be available in America. People in America definitely probably don’t have the patience for refillable bottles. The company also has no marketing budget and relies soley on word-of-mouth. But what we all care about is taste. To that, Keller added, “Our flavors are pure and old fashioned, please don’t expect any mixes or addition of vanilla or anything.” Like many soda bottlers outside of America, a majority (six) of Gazosa’s flavors are citrus, including all four original flavors. There’s a simple reason for this. You ready? Keller explains the secret, saying, “Francesco Tonna just used what he had available, experimented and tested the flavors amongst his loyal drinkers.” Mind blowing, right? What we’re getting at is this little, independent Swiss family business has been making soda the old fashioned way with real ingredients for a long time. They might just be one of the soda universe’s best kept secrets.

We wanted our first Gazosa review to remain true to the original four flavors, but also to be a little adventurous. We went with Pompelmo. We figured if you can make a divisive flavor like grapefruit taste good in soda form, then you probably know what you’re doing. Turns out Pompelmo was the second flavor Tonna cooked up and Keller notes it’s actually the original Limone with real grapefruit added to the recipe for some added bitterness. You can actually see bits of pulp in the bottle. If you’re curious (even if you’re not), Pompelmo means “grapefruit” in Italian. As with all Gazosa citrus flavors, the fruit comes “from Italian traders to the south of Switzerland,” says Keller. The flavor is the company’s international best-seller.

Where to get: Gazosa La Fiorenzana is available at many fine Swiss restaurants and cafes. It’s currently distributed only in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Nose: Grapefruit. Real grapefruit. It’s like cutting open a grapefruit and holding the peel up to your nose. It’s actually pretty remarkable. There’s also some lemon on the nose as well.

Taste: Sweet lemon; tartness; grapefruit; bitter carbonation. There’s a bittersweet element to this soda that authentically ties the whole drink together. The lemon is more prominent in the flavor profile than the nose, but the bitterness of real lemon shines through in combination with the tart sweetness of a grapefruit. The carbonation is a rush of intensity at the beginning of each sip that amplifies the bitter lemon notes. This gradually fades into a sweeter lemon-grapefruit hybrid. The lemon at this point becomes more candied akin to a traditional lemon-lime soda, but the grapefruit really does taste like real grapefruit juice. It’s bitter, then it’s sweet and ends with a mild tartness. An authentic citrus soda.

Finish: Tart grapefruit with a light dusting of sugar that gradually fades. The linger on this is perfect.

Rating: The best grapefruit soda in the world may very well hail from Switzerland. Gazosa has taken one of America’s most divisive fruits and presented it in a soda with juice to taste fresh, enough tartness to remain true to the lemon and grapefruit, and enough sweetness to keep soda purists happy. It’s very rich in citrus. The juices are very prominent. The grapefruit juice really holds its flavor. If you don’t like grapefruit, you wouldn’t like this. But why would you be drinking grapefruit soda to begin with, you weirdo? The lemon goes through more of a transformation, at one point bitter, and at another much sweeter. Americans aren’t used to sodas that garner a large portion of their sweetness from the natural sugars in the juices. Compared to American soda, even some of the artisinal fruit ones, this probably tastes more like a carbonated juice than soda if I had to choose. But then there’s that distinctive soda fizz and sugar rush on some sips. It’s a nice mixture. The Swiss have beautiful women and make beautiful soda. That’s already two reasons for me to find a new girlfriend in Switzerland. This is a rare treat for us at Five Star to review something from so far away. The only sad thing is that unless you’re heading to Switzerland, this will be out of your reach. The one that got away. Maybe you should go chase after it. Just maybe. Fünf sterne.

lemon

Glam Cola

History: Nermin Çelik wanted to invent a soda that existed, in her own words, “in this realm between weirdness and brilliance.” Çelik and her family live in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, a flashy area that inspired the name “Glam Cola.” It’s a clear cola that might remind a few readers of Crystal Pepsi. But Glam Cola is designed to taste “fresh and more elegant than common cola,” says Çelik. You can’t have a soda called “Glam Cola” and not explain the name first. But the inspiration behind the soda’s creation came from Çelik’s children. She notes “I saw them drinking it in alarming quantities and the huge amount of sugar worried me.” Newsflash: it isn’t just America where soda has a bad reputation. Unable to find a replacement that satisfied her motherly standards, Çelik decided to make one herself and by March 2013, Glam Cola hit the market. Looking at the label, Glam Cola is an interesting mish-mash of flavors: cola, lemonade and ginger. It’s also devoid of phosphoric acid and contains a large amount of caffeine at around 53 mg in a 12 oz. bottle. This is very similar to Mountain Dew. So, low sugar and lots of caffeine. Yeah, definitely sounds like a soda for kids. Glam Cola is not made with cane sugar and instead uses fructose (not high-fructose corn syrup… there is a difference). Another big marketing point for the soda is that it’s vegan-friendly. Çelik adds “Glam Cola is not only vegan but also halal and kosher.” I think this also makes it the most politically correct soda on earth. Çelik is currently at work on new flavors, including rose and lavender. No word on how glamorous those flavors will be, but we’re about to get pretty with the original.

Where to get: For a list of where to purchase Glam Cola, check out the store’s online locator. The brand is in the midst of expanding sales to Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. At the time of this review, Glam Cola is not sold online. If you are outside of Germany, your best bet is to contact the company.

Nose: Traditional cola; mild lemon; light cinnamon.

Taste: Bitterness; cinnamon; lemon. This is quite bitter for a cola. It has a very nontraditional taste. Surprising considering it smelled quite a bit like cola with notes of lemon. And there is definitely some lemon in this that you can taste, but there’s also ginger and I don’t quite taste that element considering how powerful ginger typically is in soda. Some of that bitterness may come from the ginger and lemon, but I think what you’re primarily tasting here is actually the caffeine. We all know caffeine can make you hyper, but most of us don’t know what it tastes like. Raw caffeine is very bitter. It really comes through in the flavor profile here. There’s no cinnamon in this, but the combination of the cola and bitterness create a flavor that’s very similar. Overall, this is nothing like an American cola. It isn’t particularly sweet and is noticeably bitter.

Finish: Bitter cinnamon with mild, traditional cola notes.

Rating: Glam Cola is a clear cola that tastes way outside the normal realm of what’s expected from this particular category of soda. The label of “cola” evokes a certain expectation of flavor and this is nothing like anything to which you’re accustomed. Sodas outside of America are often less sweet and more bitter. This certainly fits that bill. We were told the primary elements in this are cola, lemon and ginger. You definitely taste traditional lemon and cola influences, though they’re both subtle. What isn’t as subtle is the bitterness. It’s harsh. The combination of ingredients creates a cinnamon flavor that when mixed with the lemon and cola notes, just enhances the soda’s overall bitterness. Americans are likely to be turned off by the lack of sugar. I mean, look at how many of us have diabetes. The flavors just didn’t work for us. It’s as simple as that. Glam Cola has a fancy name and a foreign flavor that doesn’t beg for a second date. She’s the beautiful German vixen you found at the club in stilettos and a sequin dress, but just doesn’t have much personality. Now, any fans of bitter sodas out there should give this a shot the next time your travels take you to Deutschland. As for the rest of you, looking will tide you over. Glam Cola is beautiful to gaze at, but its flavor isn’t so glamorous.

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.

Ski Cherry

History: Ski is one of the most well-known names in the retro soda business. It’s been the flagship citrus beverage of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Double Cola Company since 1956. But unlike most citrus sodas, this one is lemon and orange instead of lime. The company actually uses real lemon and orange juice in each soda, something fairly uncommon for larger brands. It was 1996 when Ski Cherry made its debut. Unlike most craft sodas, this one does contain caffeine. Now here’s an important distinction to make: Double Cola markets a majority of Ski in cans and plastic bottles with more modern labels. That version of Ski is made with high fructose corn syrup. However, their “nostalgic packages” in glass bottles are made with pure cane sugar. Ski Cherry (the bottle we’re reviewing) is made with pure cane sugar. The high fructose version of Ski Cherry is actually called Ski InfraRed. Confused yet? Think of it this way: Ski Cherry is your cute neighbor who is au naturale. Ski InfraRed is your new, cute neighbor who’s nice to look at because she’s full of silicone… err, corn syrup. Get it? If you don’t, you could just get drunk because according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Ski has a reputation has a hangover cure.

Where to get: Ski Cherry can be found at many Rocketfizz retailers across the nation. You can also purchase it online at Soda Emporium.

Nose: Like when you were a kid and poured every soda in your fridge into a cup. In my day we called them suicides. This is like that: swampy smelling. There’s definitely a cleaning fluid smell to this. Hopefully it’s deceiving.

Taste: It wasn’t deceiving. Bitter; pungent; old citrus. Ski soda is known for its mixture of lemon and orange, but this really tastes more like lime than anything else with some cherry flavoring added. Tastes very artificial. Usually cane sugar sodas are sweeter. This could use some sweetness. It could use anything, really. This is supposed to be an alternative to Mountain Dew. The two don’t taste all that similar. Whereas Mountain Dew has a crisp citrus taste, this is more of a dull citrus flavor with a pinch of cherry at the end. The cherry isn’t too bad, but isn’t prominent enough to stand out on its own. Ski Cherry shocks the taste buds not with a tangy burst, but with a lack of refreshing flavor so often found in citrus drinks. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be warned, this is a soda that contains a caffeine punch. Most craft sodas do not contain caffeine. This one gave us a headache.

Finish: Lingering lime with a hint of orange. Not as harsh as the body of the soda. Probably this bottle’s only redeeming quality.

Rating: Ski’s tagline is “Real lemon. Real Orange. Real Good.” Coulda’ fooled me. Nothing about this tastes authentic in the slightest, nor do I taste any lemon in this soda. It’s more like a dull lime taste with faint artificial cherry and orange. It smells like chemicals and tastes only slightly better. Listen, I’m not trying to blatantly trash this. There are people out there who like it. Thirsty Dudes gave this four bottles out of five. They must’ve been really thirsty. It does have a decent finish and the cherry flavor near the end of each sip is fine. Citrus soda drinkers, yeah, go ahead and give it a shot if you wish. Maybe you’ll find its redeeming qualities. Maybe we got a bad bottle. But more likely, this just isn’t our thing. If you don’t like citrus, you can skip Ski Cherry and it’s fake brother Ski InfraRed. The name doesn’t exactly have me volunteering to put it inside my body. “Sir, would you like to drink this infrared liquid?” “Why yes! I’ve been wanting to go to the hospital!” I think this would be a wonderfully-scented toilet cleaner, but it comes up short as a soda.