Derr’s: Orange Pineapple

History: Tucked away in the small city of Boonville, Indiana sits Derr’s Soda. This business is old. It’s old enough by comparison to make Mick Jagger seem like he isn’t disintegrating just a little bit every time he performs on stage. It’s so old that when Derr’s started making “pop,” they had to pump the water they used from a well. It’s so old, their original means of transportation were horses and wagons. Get it? Derr’s Soda was founded by John Derr under the name “John Derr & Sons” in 1889 in Boonville, Indiana and has remained in the family ever since. It’s currently in its fourth generation of ownership. Over the phone, John Derr Sr.’s great grandson, Joe Derr, Jr., begins to recount some of the company history. He pauses for a long time before revealing that Derr’s started out making flavorings, colorings, and syrups to be used on treats like snow cones. He said this naturally transitioned into soda. The company was famous for its Derr’s Dry (lemon-lime) and strawberry sodas, with orange pineapple, orange, and grape also being very popular. As with most family businesses, there’s lots of consistency at Derr’s. One thing that hasn’t remained steadfast since 1889: the business itself. Derr’s closed its doors for a number of years in 1992. Essentially what happened was that no one in the Derr family had time for the business anymore. The final owner upon closure was Charles Derr. Within the family, the question was always, “when, not if” Derr’s would re-open. Charles Derr’s nephew, Joe Derr, Jr. and Charles’s son, John Derr finally restarted Derr’s in early 2010. They are also assisted by John’s sister, Barb Byers. Finally, someone with a name that isn’t Derr.

“It’s made the old fashioned way,” says Derr Jr. He’s not kidding. Before re-opening, the Derr boys went on a multi-year search to find the original suppliers of certain oils and flavors that went to the soda’s recipes. They were also “gifted the formulas” by Charles’s widow, Pauline Hull Derr. Currently, the company only sells three of its original flavors in bottles: strawberry, cream soda, and orange pineapple. The latter is certainly the most unique in the world of craft soda. “It’s a little more pineapple than it is orange,” says Derr Jr. He adds that the company produces its own secret extract that it uses in the recipe for orange pineapple soda. Derr Jr. notes orange pineapple is designed to taste smooth, and for that reason is also a good mixer. The company is proud of the flavor in its bottles, so much so that it scaled back on one signature soda trait. Derr Jr. tells us, “It’s got less carbonation in it than some of the newer drinks because of the full flavor that you get.” In addition to the three flavors Derr’s bottles, they also produce fountain sodas, and those do include older sodas like Derr’s Dry, orange, and grape. You can tell they really care about their liquid. Also, I’m pretty sure this a record for the number of times I’ve typed one last name in a review. Don’t Derr me wrong, guys.

Where to get: Derr’s is sold in physical locations regionally in southern Indiana, parts of southern Illinois, and western Kentucky. It’s also sold online throughout the U.S. You can purchase Derr’s Soda from Summit City Soda or from the company directly via its online store.

Nose: If you’ve ever had orange-pineapple juice, this smells almost exactly like that. Pretty spot on. The pineapple scent smells a little more candied than it does in pure juice form, but that’s to be expected with soda.

Taste: Pineapple; mild coconut; sugar; citrus. There’s a very, very sweet, candied pineapple flavor to this. It’s also got juuuuuuust a touch of coconut that accompanies that pineapple flavor. It’s almost an afterthought, but it’s there. The orange is also there, but it’s pretty subtle because the pineapple is so loud and sugary. The orange notes do provide a little bit of a zing, but again, very subtle. The flavor you’ll taste most besides pineapple is general citrus, and that’s something you’ll taste near the beginning and ending of each sip. The carbonation is actually what provides greatest contrast to the sweetness of the pineapple. The bubbles are little, but bountiful and make you think this tastes zestier than it really is. But bold, sweet pineapple is the dominant flavor and the unquestioned identity of this one.

Finish: Sweet, citrusy pineapple that quickly fades.

Rating: If you’d rather skip the hassle of carving up a pineapple and wasting a majority of the fruit, Derr’s Orange Pineapple has you covered. The flavor is really bright and does a very admirable job impersonating the fruit. The pineapple taste is bold, strong, and sweet. Very sweet. It’s actually surprisingly sweet when you look at the label because the bottle contains 34 grams of sugar. It tastes more like 50. For some, that’s a welcome sugar rush. For others, it’s a diabetic episode waiting to happen. In fact, the pineapple in this is so strong that it makes you love the citrus element. It provides a nice buffer near the beginning and ending to reign in the pineapple sugar storm you get for the majority of each sip. The subtle coconut flavor seems to fade as you drink it, but when it’s there, it adds a nice variance to the soda’s overall flavor profile. The finish on Derr’s Orange Pineapple is unremarkable. It really just dies near the end of the sip. I’d love to taste that tropical pineapple flavor slowly fade into the sunset, so that would be my biggest qualm with this soda. I think a slow fade out as opposed to a stark drop would help drinkers ease back in to the blast of sweet pineapple at the beginning of each drink. Now we’ve mentioned how sweet this is probably five times, and it is – but don’t get us wrong, the pineapple flavor here is really nice. This is a wonderful pineapple soda, though I do think I’d cut back on the sugar. I also wish I tasted the orange more. It would add some needed tartness. Still, this is fun. Pineapple is a fruit that is rarely attempted in soda. Kudos to Derr’s for being original. This would be a wonderful summer drink. Adding some vodka or rum to cut the sugar might not be a bad idea either. You could do a lot of things with Derr’s Orange Pineapple. And if you end up drinking a whole six-pack of it at once, let us know. We’d be happy to come visit you in the hospital.

Three Stars


Joia: Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg

History: There is an undeniable link between the craft beer and craft soda movements. No one would debate you if you argued micro-brewed IPA’s, stouts, and lagers led to the renaissance of soda and sparked the craft and gourmet trend in soft drinks. But what about cocktails? One could argue there’s more creative wiggle room in that atmosphere and more flavors for mixologists to morph. Former Kraft and General Mills marketing executive Bob Safford certainly thought so. Now Bob Safford doesn’t drink. Still, he saw all these herbs and spices and flavors going in to unique, artisan-based cocktails and thought, “why not soda?” Well, if you want something done right… you know the rest. Not an expert an soda, Safford connected with Joe Heron, who did have a background in carbonated beverages. And in 2010, Safford founded Boundary Water Brands as a starting point to refine his ideas for a sophisticated craft soda with, in his words, “complex, adult-oriented flavors.” “For Mark, it was highly personal,” said Joia co-founder and mixologist Carleton Johnson. A year later, Joia All Natural Soda was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The name, pronounced “Joy-a,” was created with the intent of expressing the company’s passion and joy for their products inside each bottle. Joia launched with four flavors that were whittled down from over 100(!) recipes. Today there are six and all of them incorporate combinations of fruits and spices and are void of “preservatives or stabilizers. Nor are there any artificial ingredients or flavors.” According to Safford, the sodas are complicated to keep stable during production because they contain so many different elements. Sounds a lot my wife at the end of every month. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, in 2011, BevNet named Joia the soda of the year. We chose to review their Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg because who doesn’t like to get a little tropical when it’s hot out? One thing we like about Joia is their commitment to quality. “I believe that the majority of beverages that are consumed will always be about taste and refreshment… and that’s where Joia excels,” says Safford. It’s a good start; now let’s see what our mouths think.

Where to get: To find the nearest physical outlet to you where Joia is sold, use the store’s online locator. For the rest of us, Amazon and Soda Emporium have the hook up online.

Nose: Pina Colada; pineapple juice; coconut oil.

Taste: Pineapple; coconut; citric acid. This tastes like a liquid piña colada. The pineapple-coconut combo that forms the basis of most piña coladas is definitely prominent. Pineapple is up front. There’s a little bit of a bitter bite to it that I’m guessing is the nutmeg’s influence. Coconut comes next, infusing itself into the pineapple and creating that signature tropical flavor. The coconut stays long after the tart pineapple colada flavor fades and has some creamy notes attached to it. The carbonation is full of petite, little bubbles that help intensify the soda’s citric acid. The nutmeg is subtle, but you’ll take away the pineapple-coconut flavor most from Joia’s tropical elixir.

Finish: Tart pineapple-coconut that fades into a creamy, sweet piña colada flavor.

Rating: I often find myself fantasizing of lounging on the beach, staring at models, sipping on piña coladas, not worrying about my diet and letting the beads of sweat drip off me, forming a puddle of satisfaction in the sand. Then I remember it’s Monday and my 350 pound boss waddles in and pushes my deadlines up because that’s life when you aren’t on the beach. Joia must know these things. They’ve created a soda that transports you to a tropical paradise from any average setting. Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg exhibits a bold, tart pineapple flavor before transitioning into traditional piña colada and finally fading out with creamy coconut. The nutmeg is a minor player, but it adds a tartness to the pineapple and some nuttiness to the coconut. Fans of pineapple, coconut or piña colada flavors will love this little slice of bottled paradise. One area we think there could be improvement in is that tartness I mentioned. The citric acid in this is strong at some points. I think if that was toned down, the tropical flavors would shine more and the subtle flavors would be more apparent in the profile. Not everyone will be a fan of its tropical fruit flavors, but those who like fruity soda aren’t likely to be disappointed. Coconut and pineapple are both underutilized flavors in the world of craft soda, and as more and more natural sodas continue to pop up, companies will be looking to Joia as a blueprint. Drink this over ice with a straw or chilled straight out of the bottle. Hot weather is also an ideal pairing. And if you’ve had a Monday like me, throw some rum in there. Enough of those and you’ll be daydreaming of beaches and models again in no time.