Wyndridge Farm: Crafty Citrus Apple

History: It’s not often a horrific injury leads to a delicious new idea, but that’s exactly what happened to Steve Groff. From his beginnings as a small-town farm boy, Groff transitioned away from that life into the medical world, becoming an orthopedic surgeon. It was a profession he excelled in… until the accident. While riding his bicycle, Groff was struck by a vehicle, leaving him with a bad neck injury. Luckily, his injuries didn’t keep him from walking, but his passion for surgery, his eye-hand coordination; it never felt the same. Plan B? Back to the farm boy roots. Groff and his family renovated a 120 year-old farm in York County, Pennsylvania. Groff calls it “the Napa Valley of apples” with vibrant orchards. So spoiler here: Wyndridge Farm is known for their apple cider. They also brew beer. Those two things led to craft soda. As Groff says, the “soda was born out of having the equipment.” The company already placed an emphasis on the quality of ingredients they used in cider and beer, so it was only natural that craft soda came next. Wyndridge Farm makes a cream soda, but their signature craft soda is “Crafty Citrus Apple.” It contains fresh-squeezed apple juice with just a pinch of lemon. The farm hosts weddings and corporate events, but for our purposes, they’re barnyard brewers. “It’s a combination of great packaging and great liquid, says Groff.”

Where to get: Crafty Citrus Apple and Crafty Cream Soda are both available mostly in the eastern seaboard to mid-Atlantic regions. The company is open to direct orders and are more than happy to work with people on getting their products where you’re located.

Nose: Apple juice; light V8 juice. Not sure where the V8 comes from. Odd.

Taste: Hey that’s apple juic…..zing! You’re greeted with a refreshing carbonated apple juice taste that’s like “‘sup?” and then peaces out in favor of a mild tartness. Really an interesting sensation that the mouth never quite adjusts to completely. The apple flavor is crisp and refreshing. The citrus aftertaste is comprised of lemon, lime and orange, but the lemon is what really does the majority of the flavor work. It actually plays off the apple in a way that contorts the sweet apple flavor into a sour one. So you actually get lemon-sour apple as the soda progresses. That tartness intensifies as you continue drinking, though the cane sugar also becomes more noticeable, just not as much as the citrus.

Finish: Sharp citrus that rises off the back of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth. While lemon is the most noticeable citrus element throughout the beverage, lime really stands out in the finish.

Rating: This is certainly original. The mouth does not expect a zing when drinking apple juice or cider, but Wyndridge Farm decided your traditional flavor profiles have no meaning here. The citrus kick combined with the natural acidity of the apples makes this drink like a hard cider at times. I’d consider this more of a sipping soda with the exception of hot summer days. Its refreshing aspect would be intensified during the hot and humid mid-year months. The apple flavor here is really well done. The soda actually contains fresh-pressed juices from the farm’s neighbors down the road. You can see why Wyndridge Farm has done so well with their ciders. The citrus punch on the backend is just a little too harsh for me to drink more than a couple in one outing. I think if this was paired with a sweeter bourbon or rum, you’d have something really dynamite for your cocktail book. Just a little something extra to cut down that acidity. Fans of more tart sodas are almost guaranteed to love this. If you’re looking for a nontraditional fruit soda, give this a shot. If your taste buds aren’t quite as adventurous, I’d stick to what you know. Groff went through a hell of a lot on his own, so why shouldn’t he make something totally different? When summer rolls around, you should be pulling this one out again.

Old City Soda: Lemon Soda

History: Old City Soda is one of the new kids on the block in craft soda. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Old City Soda’s owner, Mike Gulley, sought to harken back to the way soda used to be made in the old days with craft and care. He wanted to blend the old methods with new ideas, flavors and fresh ingredients. Gulley started making ginger beer back in 2011 at a Cleveland restaurant called Paragon. That led to a soda-making series at The Cleveland Flea. If that site doesn’t tickle your inner-hipster, then you aren’t drinking enough green smoothies or wearing enough accessories. In 2013, he launched his own soda line. Like several newer faces in the craft soda industry, Gulley targeted his beverages to pair with alcohol. What really stands out are the flavors. Lemon soda? Cinnamon soda? Hibiscus? Who does that? And most Old City Sodas clock in at under 100 calories. The company name even has a cool little backstory. “Altstadt” was a common name in Gulley’s family ancestry. It stands for “the old city.” In fact, his grandparents still maintain a newsletter called the “Old City Beacon.” The bear you see on the company’s soda bottles even comes from the family crest. It’s all cyclical… revolutions, my friend. Here’s a note for all you health-conscious folk; to ensure freshness, the company does not pasteurize or use preservatives in its products. You actually have to keep the bottles refrigerated or the ingredients go bad much faster. The time from bottling to your mouth is only a matter of days. Flavor potency and authenticity are what this new kid on the block prides itself upon.

Where to get: Gulley and his business partners are still a small operation. They’re working on distribution at the moment. Until then, they’re open to larger orders directly through their website. You can also subscribe there to get the latest updates.

Nose: Lemon meringue pie; lemon juice; light key lime.

Taste: Lemon juice, light sugar. This is lemon soda, not lemon-lime soda. It’s simple and light. That said, the lemon flavor is strong on the first couple sips. Could overwhelm some people. The flavor is very natural. This tastes like someone squeezed a bunch of real lemons in here, which is nice and refreshing. (The soda does contain 20% juice. You’d swear it was more). The more you drink this, the more the sugar comes through. A majority of Old City Sodas contain under 100 calories, so the sugar is never going to be a critical part of the flavor, but it does a nice job mellowing out the strong lemon you get in the beginning. This soda was geared toward being a mixer and when mixed with alcohol, the lemon is nearly perfect, light and full of citrus-infused flavor.

Finish: Pure lemon juice that tails off into a faint key lime flavor. If you drink this quickly, the carbonation brings out more of a bold sugar flavor in the finish.

Rating: This is a soda that lives two lives. On its own, it’s the ultimate sipping soda. A beverage that amplifies in flavor and drinkability on every sip. However, this is also its potential downfall with consumers. The lemon zip is abrupt and up front on the first couple drinks. It’s a little, “Hey, I just met you and you can’t put your hands there yet.” But give it time, baby. It’ll woo you as you get to know it better. The lemon really mellows over time. It’s highly suggested you take your time with this beverage as opposed to downing it in 10 minutes. The lemon has a nice, natural flavor and a palatable amount of zing. It probably isn’t something you’d consistently drink on its own unless you’re a citrus buff, but it’s nice for a hot summer day. This soda has another side though, the one for which it was intended. On its own, its a summertime sipper, but pair it with vodka or gin and this becomes a liquid party. In fact, Gulley noted this is basically an instant Tom Collins in a bottle, minus alcohol. He was right. For those who think the natural lemon flavor might be too strong to drink as a soda, it really lightens out in a cocktail. Its lemon punch cuts the alcohol, yet provides considerable refreshing citrus flavor. Careful, drinking too many happened to us happens. For those who enjoy citrus or those who enjoy sipping beverages, give this a try on its own. For those who’re looking to have a good time and like their nights in a highball glass, try this with booze. And if you don’t like either of those, then we probably shouldn’t hang out.