orca beverage

Hippo Size: Prodigious Peach

History: I was watching No Country for Old Men the other night. Great movie, one that really gives you a chilling glimpse into the Texas-Mexico marriage to outlaw life. But even Anton Chigurh couldn’t have gotten his evil, clever hands on a bottle of San Antonio’s favorite past time soda brand. Hippo Soda was gone by 1980. Sorry Anton; you lost the coin toss on that one too. You see, the Hippo Soda we’re reviewing today isn’t how the beverage started. That distinction belonged to The Alamo Bottling Company, which founded Hippo in 1926. The company used the name “Hippo” because their bottles (13 oz., 15 oz., 16 oz.) were all bigger than the competition’s. Hippo used to come in numerous flavors, but all of them vanished for 30 years after the company closed its doors. Enter Orca Beverage, the Mukilteo, Washington-based craft soda bottler and distributor that has made its name on reviving previously extinct soda brands. Orca is known for buying up sodas no longer in production, reintroducing their vintage labels, but remodeling their recipes. You’ll see the same roaring Hippo on Orca’s short, stubby bottles that were used on Alamo Bottling Company’s former longnecks. But there are also differences: the recipes, the names, the flavors. The new Hippo flavors are all named with a masculine feel, from Burly Birch Beer to Prodigious Peach. We’ve had the latter requested to be reviewed too many times now to ignore. So here we are. We’re not sure what movie analogy to use for today’s new-look Hippo Peach Soda; we just hope it’s worth the price of admission.

Where to get: You can buy Hippo Prodigious Peach and other Hippo flavors online via both Amazon and Orca Beverage. Single bottles are available for purchase from Soda Emporium.

Nose: This definitely doesn’t smell like peach, but the scent is really hard to place. I don’t think anyone on our staff can quite place it. It smells kind of like dull fruit. Rustic. Maybe the best descriptor would be that it smells like walking into an orchard and getting a whiff of all those pre-ripe fruits. Prodigious Peach confuses your nose.

Taste: Authentic peach; candy peach; artificial flavor. This is interesting. I think there’s really three main components to the flavor: Real peach, fake peach, and an odd accompanying artificial taste. Unfortunately, those tastes comes in reverse order. You’re hit with an overbearing chemical flavor at first that masks the tastier peach elements. It takes several seconds for this to fade before the more redeeming flavors come in. The peach flavor itself is kind of a hybrid between natural peach juice and like a candy peach gummy flavor. It’s really nice, but you only taste it for probably 1/3 of each sip. It’d be much easier to drink if that peach flavor was more pronounced and the artificial taste was less intense.

Finish: Sliced peaches with sugar that permeate several seconds before fading. The second half of each sip is what you’ll be looking forward to with Prodigious Peach.

Rating: Hippo Size Prodigious Peach reminds me of a lot of Hollywood movies: great script, but a miscast lead actor. Peach is such a wonderful flavor in soda. Luscious, refreshing, and flavorful. Prodigous Peach misses the mark on all three because the main tasting notes in this soda are noticeably artificial in nature. The lead actor in this movie is wrong for it. That artificial flavor mars the drinking experience. What’s most frustrating about this soda is that there are really good peach flavors within this bottle, but they’re masked by an initial chemical taste that is so strong it dilutes the peach notes. But when the peach is there, it’s great. Fruity, sweet, and juicy in nature. A mix of natural and candy peach tastes. But again, they’re fleeting and pushed to the back half of each sip. Luckily they remain in tact for the soda’s finish, undoubtedly the best part of the drink. However, the overwhelming take away from Prodigious Peach is that it tastes fake without having a noticeable peach punch. We’d heard good things about this soda, so it definitely has its supporters, but we can’t recommend it. This is a movie I wouldn’t see again.

Two Stars

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Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla

History: It seems appropriate to name a sarsaparilla after a wild west saloon keeper, gambler, and gunslinger. Wyatt Earp was famous for his involvement in the 1891 shootout at the O.K. Corral. But did you know he has a living, breathing relative in Mukilteo, Washington? Mike Earp is the owner of Earp’s Western Foods, known for its steak sauce. He’s also a descendant of the legendary Wyatt Earp himself. Here’s an even bigger coincidence – Mukilteo, Washington is also the home to Orca Beverage, one of the biggest craft soda producers and distributors in the nation. Orca Beverage owner, Mike Bourgeois, and his team were actually developing a new sarsaparilla and they wanted a western name for it. He kept thinking of the imagery on the label of Earp’s Western Steak Sauce, which is a photo of Mike Earp resembling his famous relative. Because what goes better together than craft soda and steak sauce? Not literally. Although, that probably is some terrible variation of a Lester’s Fixins soda. “What better name for a great Western sarsaparilla than Earp’s Sarsaparilla?” asks Bourgeois. Earp agreed, humorously conceding, “Well, jeez, why didn’t I think of that?” The two companies formed a partnership and released the first batch of Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla in May of 2011. Aside from using pure cane sugar, Bourgeois notes that there’s a “slight smoky component” to the sarsaparilla flavor. We’ve got our boots on and ready to sample.

Where to get: Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is a nationally distributed soda. You can purchase it online from Summit City Soda.

Nose: Kind of a funky smell. A little bit of mint and a lot of licorice.

Taste: Sarsaparilla; mint; mild bite. You’ll taste the mint first. The mint flavor seems to be different in Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla than it tastes in say, birch beer or root beer. It’s kind of has a mint tea flavor to it. Odd. The sarsaparilla taste here is pretty mild actually. It’s right up front with the mint as well. You’ll taste a noticeably sweet wintergreen bite near the end of the sip. These are your mint flavors. Herbal mint, traditional, yet mild sarsaparilla root, and sweet wintergreen with a bit of zip.

Finish: Wintergreen breath mints that linger along the sides of the tongue.

Rating: Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is something someone could hand you if you requested a sarsaparilla and you wouldn’t blink an eye. It’s not bad, but it’s not elite. It has enough flavor to satisfy most casual soda drinkers, but the craft soda audience may long for a deeper gustation experience. The mint steals the show in this sarsaparilla, while the sarsaparilla root flavor itself is pretty light. There’s a little bit of a bite to this, like a root beer, but not quite to the level of most sarsaparillas. If you’re a big root beer or sarsaparilla fan, then this is probably one you’ll want to try if for no other reason than to check it off your list. Personally, this is probably my last endeavor with this particular brand. I think the signature sarsaparilla taste needs to be much bolder. The sweet wintergreen bite on the finish is nice, but it’s the second mint flavor you taste in the course of a few seconds. I’d just like to see more flavor variance. Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla is the nice, nerdy girl in the back of physics class without a homecoming date. You’ll ask her if you can’t find anyone else, but you’re probably trying to play in a different league before you go there.

Three Stars