Spruce Soda Co.: Ginger Beer

History: It is almost impossible not to be tempted by Spruce Soda Co. simply based on their appearance. Their marketing is as crisp and clean as the Minneapolis, Minnesota air they inhabit. Just look at the bottle. It exudes a modern coolness. Matthew McConaughey is probably drinking one of these in his Lincoln commercials out of frame. If we haven’t been clear enough, it was the appearance that drew us to Spruce Soda Co. It’s still a young company, the product of Bryant Scannel and Jordan Hubred in the fall of 2014. The two had worked together at the now out of business Parka restaurant in Minneapolis where in 2013 Scannel began brewing up house cocktail syrups and ginger beer to serve. The ginger beer took off and after about a year of perfecting the recipe, it was clear to Hubred that “this could become a broader soda company.” Part of that realization was geographic. “We’re in Minnesota and there’s not a whole lot of local soda companies that are making soda from real ingredients,” dontchaknow. I added the last part because I’m funny and also eight years-old. Using natural ingredients is what Hubred says matters most to Spruce Soda. And while the company has already had up to three flavors and is working on more, the ginger beer will always be its foundation. It’s made with real ginger, real lemons, and surprisingly – salt. Scannel has always been a big believer in sodium when it comes to cooking and he figured why not apply the same concept to soda, adding it’s about “balancing the sweet with a little savory.” Hubred tells us he believes ginger beer is a love-it-or-hate-it sort of drink, so Spruce Soda’s Ginger Beer tries to sit somewhere in the middle of the flavor spectrum. He explains they want it to be “approachable” and adds that it’s a little more citrusy than normal ginger beer because that’s a comfortable flavor to most drinkers. It was also designed to pair well with alcohol. Shocker, I know. Currently the company is working on new flavors with perhaps the most intriguing being a (potentially) barrel-aged root beer. Sign us up for that. Until then, get out your copper mugs.

Where to get: Spruce Soda Co. is still a small operation. They distribute all their sodas themselves and are mostly found in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The company has plans to expand to online sales, but as of this review, has not. Don’t let that discourage all you non-Minnesotans. Hubred says the company is happy to fulfill individual orders. Just contact them at enjoy@sprucesoda.com.

Nose: Authentic ginger root and lemon. Smells fresh and artisanal.

Taste: Ginger; cane sugar; lemon juice; mild pepper. Definitely more of a sweet than spicy ginger beer, but still has a nice little bite to it. Not overly acidic. You’ll taste sweet lemon and peppery ginger the most in the flavor profile. In fact, if you swish this around in your mouth, you get a slight lemonade flavor before the ginger finds its way to the back of your throat. That’s pretty unique for ginger beer. The lemon tastes fresh, as does the ginger. The more you drink this, the more of a unique ingredient you’ll taste: salt. It’s subtle, but you’ll definitely taste it along the back sides of your tongue. A ginger beer that errs on the mild side.

Finish: Tart lemon with subtle ginger notes for a mild bite.

Rating: For the curious soda adventurer unsure about the notion of ginger beer, Spruce Soda Co. offers up a mild version that should appeal to a wide range of drinkers. It would be a good first step for ginger beer beginners. It isn’t overly spicy; rather, it has more of a pepper bite. I’d give this a 3/10 on the spicy scale. It’s the cute girl in class who’s outgoing, but not stuck up. Definitely approachable. The only difference is this soda won’t date you for eight months and make a severe long-term impact on your bank account. Right, Heather?? Spruce Soda Co.’s Ginger Beer is an excellent mixer. It’s got a good amount of sweetness and absorbs the burn of the alcohol, yet has enough a bite to give a Moscow Mule or Dark and Stormy a signature ginger beer taste. This should appeal to fans of more artisanal sodas because of its authentic lemon and ginger flavors. It’s light and crisp. On the flip side, hardcore ginger beer enthusiasts may be looking for something more advanced that’s spicier and has greater acidity. I, too, wouldn’t mind seeing the heat dialed up to about a five. Something to make the lemon notes pop more and zing the tongue. Spruce Soda Co.’s Ginger Beer is a safe bet. It’s not going to let you down. Whether in a cocktail or on its own, any craft beverage connoisseur would be remiss not try this peppery Minneapolis import.

Four Stars