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


Spindrift: Cranberry Raspberry

History: Remember when you were young and you’d make mom really mad? Remember that motherly rage? The kind of anger you wouldn’t even unleash on prison inmates? Well, Bill Creelman didn’t have a monster mom. But he did have one who did not care for soda. He hardly ever drank it. Bummer, I know. She was more of a farm-to-table gal. Creelman couldn’t enjoy all the little treasures you and I did. That might be why later in life, for six years, he became addicted to Diet Coke. Then with kids of his own, they took notice. Not so healthy, dad. So in 2010, the dude made his own soda… with a twist. It all started in a little studio-sized office in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Creelman felt the market was stagnant. He wanted to make a soda that was healthy enough to impress his mom and delicious enough to satisfy his kids. That’s why Spindrift soda is all about the ingredients, specifically the fresh-pressed juices in every bottle. The company isn’t afraid to spend more as long as what they put inside the bottle is of a higher quality. “That’s what sets Spindrift apart,” says company brand manager, Caitlin Burke. For example, in each bottle of Cranberry Raspberry, there’s 16 raspberries. Even for people who don’t wear plaid or shop exclusively at Whole Foods, that’s eye-raising. According to Burke, Spindrift tries “to remain faithful to the fruit.” They claim to be the first widely distributed soda to use fresh juice as the second main ingredient behind carbonated water. And listen, if you aren’t a soda manufacturer, you’re probably not aware how difficult it is to bottle soda with fresh juice. It’s essentially a chemistry nightmare. In Creelman’s own words, “It turned out to be a disaster…. I ended up spending 5x what I budgeted.” Sounds like every girl I’ve ever dated. Eventually, they got it right. Today the Boston, Massachusetts-based (they moved) company produces seven flavors of soda, if you include their new ginger beer. Even their name was chosen to evoke thoughts of freshness. Creelman used to work down on the docks and sailboats. That fine, refreshing mist you feel when out on the ocean; it’s called Spindrift. That’s a pretty solid pitch, so we decided to put it in our mouths.

Where to get: Spindrift is most popular around the Boston metro and surrounding area. But it’s also distributed nationally. To find the nearest retail location, use the Spindrift store locator. If you’re out of luck there, you can buy it online via Famous Foods.

Nose: Smells exactly like someone put a bowl of blue raspberry jolly ranchers down in front of your nose and then drizzled some raspberry jam on top. Definitely brings back childhood memories. I’ve got the tingles – we’re off to a good start.

Taste: Raspberry; tart carbonation; mellow cranberry; light sugar. Very light and refreshing. As expected with these two fruits, this is more tart than an average fruit soda, but it’s a mild tartness that doesn’t hinder the flavor profile. It actually adds to the taste. The two fruits really do shine through in the soda. Raspberry is upfront, initially sweet and then quickly retracting into a more reserved form. If you’ve ever blended raspberries for a smoothie and tried them before mixing with the other ingredients, that’s what the raspberry flavor in this is like. In short: fresh. As a whole, this is soda with noticeably less sugar. Looking at the label confirms this at only 16 grams a bottle. Normally, most sodas contain somewhere between 30-45 grams. The cranberry lingers on the back of the tongue after the initial raspberry blast. It’s much more subtle, yet noticeable. Raspberry is the flavor you’ll remember from this soda.

Finish: Ground raspberries with no sugar and a lingering tartness that comes from the cranberries.

Rating: As people become more self-aware of what they put in their bodies, the beverage industry continues to shift… or spin. Ahem, sorry. People want fresh ingredients. They want real ingredients. They want less sugar. But they don’t want to compromise flavor. This is a continuous challenge for bottlers to evolve with the times. Spindrift is at the forefront of this new natural movement when it comes to soda. While many new bottlers are popping up with these same aspirations, Spindrift is already doing it on a national level. I don’t often shop at Whole Foods and I’m not sure if they carry Spindrift, but you gotta think these sodas would be like porn to those people. You can taste the fruit in Spindrift’s Cranberry Raspberry soda. Hell, you can see it if you just shake up the bottle. Cranberry Raspberry is highlighted by a fresh, crushed raspberry base with mild tartness and followed up by cranberry with its own variety of tongue tingles. Some may long for more cranberry flavor and others may not love the amount of acidity in this, but we’re talking about two fairly tart fruits. What’d you expect, ya weirdo? I thought this would be more like a spritzer or a fresh fruit-infused sparkling water, but I was wrong. I’ll break it down. It’s tart, but not sour. Light, but has enough sugar to keep you comfortable with calling it a soda. And natural, but not too pompous. This is perfect for the hot summer months out by the pool and crisp enough to compliment a hefty meal. If you’re into good fruit sodas, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re not into fruit, you won’t, and I also wouldn’t recommend vacationing in the tropics. Raspberry is often used as a secondary flavor in soda. It’s nice to see someone pull it off in a staring role.

Bickford’s Creamy Soda

History: G’day mate! Bickford’s is an Australian company famous for producing cordials and craft sodas, among several other beverage-related products. After migrating from England in 1839, William Bickford and his wife Anne Margaret opened a pharmacy. Pharmacies, for those of you who don’t know, were the beginnings of soda. Pharmacists would use carbonated flavorings to disguise the horrid taste of medicine. After William Bickford’s sudden death just 11 years later, Anne Margaret took over the pharmacy business and in 1863, formed A.M. Bickford and Sons with her two boys. And so it began. In 1874, the company began producing cordials, the product it’s most famous for to this day. Craft soda came along later for Bickford’s with Lemon and Lime Bitters being its most famous flavor, followed by their cream soda and their version of sarsaparilla.

Where to get: Available widely in Australia throughout grocers and online, this means nothing to Americans. As a stone cold USA review site, wtf mate? Where can we get it? Lemme be real with you… it isn’t readily available here. BUT… but that doesn’t mean you can’t get it. Bickford’s is a large company that employs very nice people. They’ll be more than willing to be accommodating for orders. Contact them directly and they’ll work with you in getting an order out to you. And starting in June/July of 2015, the company will be doing a slow roll out in America, starting in California.

Nose: Intense bubblegum; fruity and floral notes

Taste: Definitely bubblegum up front, though not as strong as it smells. Then there’s a very hard-to-place flavor that follows. It makes you think. If you didn’t notice it from the photo… it’s raspberry. And it’s damn good. The carbonation is intense very briefly when you take a swig and then fades into a creamy bubblegum-raspberry twist. The raspberry comes in first and hits the back of your mouth with a nice tartness that compliments the soda’s overall smoothness. Raspberry, while not a common flavor in cream sodas, is much more common outside the U.S. So if you get your hands on this in America, you’re likely in for something new. Bubble gum, raspberry and light vanilla highlight this elixir from down unda’.

Finish: Slightly acidic raspberry that quickly fades into a vanilla-bubblegum creamy flavor and lingers on the tongue.

Rating: With its cute-as-hell 9.3 ounce bottle and its unique take on an old classic, Bickford’s Creamy Soda is a must-try. Red cream sodas are often packed with intense bubblegum flavor and loaded with enough sugar to make a diabetic pass out after just reading the label, but Bickford’s does a really nice job using their cane sugar to accentuate and not overload the flavors they want to get across. Bubblegum is a very love-hate flavor in the cream soda world and Bickford’s navigates around that by adding touches of raspberry and vanilla cream to balance it out. The result is something you don’t see often, one you’ll want to put in your mouth. Throw this on some ice and kick back. Cheers, mates.