reed’s

Reed’s Raspberry Ginger Brew

History: Chris Reed, founder and CEO of Reed’s Inc. is not a shy man. He’s upfront and original with every thought. And he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks about the competition. How could a raspberry ginger ale not catch your eye? Because c’mon, you know that sounds appealing. Well, the reason Reed created his is because the others… didn’t. He says over the phone, “Probably about 20 years ago, Canada Dry came out with a raspberry ginger ale…. They were so appallingly bad that I wanted the world to taste what real raspberry ginger ale tasted like.” Man, sounds like my ex-wife talking about me. Point is, probably not gonna be a combination soda between Canada Dry and Reed’s anytime soon. Reed adds that most of the competition has fallen by the wayside. If you google “raspberry ginger ale,” Schweppes is the only other brand on the radar. Apparently its a cutthroat flavor. While labeled a ginger ale, Reed prefers to call his line of Reed’s soda “ginger brews” because they contain spices and other fruits not found in traditional ginger beers or ales. Reed’s was making ginger-based sodas before the category became all the rage in 2015. They’ve been doing it since 1989. Raspberry ginger ale was the third flavor Chris Reed created after his traditional ginger brew and spiced apple brew. Upon founding his company, Reed admits “I wanted to dose the world with ginger.” Like all of the company’s sodas, the raspberry ginger ale does not contain preservatives, caffeine, gluten, or GMO’s. It does, however, use real raspberry juice. It’s “a very full-flavored raspberry [soda] with a background of ginger,” Reed says. He also adds that lime is probably the second most noticeable flavor. Speaking of noticeable, you’ve probably heard of Reed’s. It’s headquartered in Los Angeles, but it’s available all over America. If you ever stroll down the organic section of your grocery store, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find something available from either Reed’s or its sister company, Virgil’s. The company also sells kombucha, ginger chews, and several other beverages. But ginger brews are and always will be the company’s marquee product.

Where to get: Reed’s is one of the most popular craft soda brands in the nation. Start by checking your local health food or all-natural stores, or even the organic section of your favorite grocer. Or you could just use the company’s online store locator. You can buy Reed’s Raspberry Ginger Ale online directly from the company or in single bottles from Soda Emporium.

Nose: Getting a lot of apple and pear notes with a little bit of ginger. This is made with apple and pear juices, so it makes sense, but I’m not smelling raspberry so much.

Taste: Ginger; fruity; floral notes; apple; raspberry; blackberry; mild lemon. First of all, this is extremely refreshing for a ginger ale. Tastes more like a punch with a little oomph instead of a fruit-flavored ginger ale. Reed’s Raspberry Ginger Ale is made with a cornucopia of ingredients and many of them come through. Fruity and floral notes shine the most with raspberry, blackberry, apple, and elderflower being most prominent. For those of you not familiar with the flavor of elderflower, it’s a mild floral taste that usually varies depending on what ingredients with which it is paired. Here it tastes more like rose petal because of the sweetness from the raspberries and apples. The ginger is definitely present, but this is not a spicy beverage at all – more of a fruity summer drink with just a tinge of ginger spice. It hangs out in the background, mostly. The blackberry and raspberry flavors seem to switch out prominence with each sip, while the apple taste always stays on your tongue. You’ll also taste just a litttttttle bit of lemon to give this some light acidity and flavor contrast to the sweeter fruits. Another point I’d like to make: this is a very natural-tasting soda. The fruits taste real. But it also still has enough sweetness to make soda fans happy. All and all, very approachable and refreshing.

Finish: Light carbonation with mild raspberry and lemon notes. The apple is still present too, just not as much as in the body. The finish strips back some of the flavors in the body for a less complex, cleaner end to your sip.

Rating: Reed’s Raspberry Ginger Ale is an excellent fruity infusion to the category, but its flavors may surprise you. If you come into this thinking you’re going to taste a straight ginger ale with some raspberry juice, you’re in for a surprise. There’s lots of fruity and floral notes in this that give it a more complex flavor than you’ll probably expect. But it’s also very light and refreshing, so it’s easy to drink. Besides ginger root, spices, and elderflower, there are five other fruit juices in this recipe. As a result, Reed’s Raspberry Ginger Ale ends up tasting more like a fruit punch with mild spice notes from the ginger. In all honesty, the ginger is not the star of this drink. The apple, raspberry, blackberry, and elderflower flavors are much more prominent on each sip. Ginger plays more of a supporting role in the background with lemon to give the soda’s sweeter side some contrast and tartness. The fruity notes of apple, blackberry, and raspberry work well together to make this soda one that begs for warm weather drinking. I could drink this by the pool with a bunch of babes around. Or I could at least pretend to from my living room. What I’m trying to say is this: the fruit punchiness (yeah, I made it up) of this is excellent. If this was called Raspberry Punch instead of Raspberry Ginger Ale, you’d get no complaints from me. And this leads me to my only complaint – sometimes the fruit overpowers the spice so much that I can’t taste the ginger in this at all. Regardless, the flavor should turn a lot of heads in a positive way. If you like fruiter sodas that taste authentic, this is definitely going to be your thing. It’s also Vegan-friendly if you’re into that sort of thing. I was surprised by Raspberry Ginger Beer’s flavor. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a nice surprise.

Four Stars

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Flying Cauldron Buterscotch Beer

History: Throw on your cloaks, grab your magic wands, and gather around the cauldron because we’ve got a soda so magical that even the greatest of spells could not stop its forthcoming. Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer is the creation of Chris Reed of Reed’s natural sodas. You’re probably most familiar with their Ginger Brews. Despite the name “Butterscotch Beer,” Flying Cauldron is nonalcoholic, and it mimics a certain drink from a certain series of books based on a certain young wizard. In fact, upon its introduction in 2012, the soda actually used to be called “Butterbeer” because Warner Bros hadn’t trademarked the name. So Reed trademarked it. Guess how that went over? Quickly the wizards (lawyers) at Warner threatened to use their excessive magic (money) in an act of the dark arts (court) against Reed’s, so they promptly changed the soda’s name to “Butterscotch Beer.” You’ll notice Butterbeer is now ™ by Warner. So why make Butterbeer™? Reed tells us he was as captivated by the drink as we all were. It “sounded amazing,” he explains. So he began to research. He sent a sales manager to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida to try the Butterbeer™ they serve at the theme park. The sales manager sent some back to give Reed a basis for creating his own version. He told us he could taste the chemicals in it. He wanted his version to be a natural soda, like all of the others in the Reed’s/Virgil’s line. Flying Cauldron started with a base of Virgil’s Cream Soda and then had butterscotch flavor added in. Reed was inspired by a German butterscotch candy with a silky smooth flavor. He tried diligently to replicate that specific flavor and says triumphantly, “I think the butterscotch we ended up with is just phenomenal.” Flying Cauldron contains no artificial ingredients, no GMO’s, and no caffeine. It’s also made with a blend of pure cane sugar and Stevia; this reduces the number of calories in every bottle down to 120. Like the books and movies, Reed concedes the “product has had a life of its own and continues to show up in stores around the country.” He adds that Flying Cauldron is consistently in the company’s top seven sellers. You can find the soda year-round, but it’s most popular in October and November. We’re right on time. Let’s see what kind of sorcery is inside the bottle.

Where to get: Flying Cauldron is distributed nationally. Call your local health food or grocery store to see if they carry it. You can also find it at Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s also available online from Summit City Soda, as well as the Reed’s online store. You can also get it on Amazon, but it’s a worse deal. And if you’re a retailer looking to sell soda in your shop, or maybe just a deprived wizard, Homer Soda Company is who you should call for those types of inquiries.

Nose: Buttery; bold butterscotch; vanilla cream.

Taste: Sweet butterscotch; mild creaminess; soft vanilla; sugar. There’s big, big butterscotch flavor in this. The initial taste is a mixture of vanilla cream soda with sweet butterscotch, so it really lives up to the butterscotch cream soda label in terms of flavor. Spot on. Definitely sweet. Sugary, even. As it settles into your mouth, the creaminess of the vanilla comes out more, while the butterscotch dominates the flavor profile. Those two elements: creamy vanilla and sweet butterscotch candies combine to create a bold butterscotch cream taste.

Finish: Creamy vanilla and butterscotch swirl together and linger on the back of the tongue. Certainly the creamiest part of the soda.

Rating: Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer is one of those sodas that excites drinkers on so many levels. The inspiration, the flavor, the color, the label – it’s all there. It resonates. It’s fun. It’s got an air of mystery around it that you want to literally drink in. Butterbeer™, Butterscotch Beer – whatever you want to call it is fine. The bottom line is you want it in your mouth. Now, this won’t be for everyone simply because butterscotch tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it flavor. And this has enough butterscotch flavor to hold you over for a month. It’s a sweet, buttery candied flavor. There’s a nice infusion of creamy vanilla slightly at the beginning of each sip that becomes much stronger on the finish. I’d like to see that creaminess come out even more. I think it’s the soda’s best element. When I think Butterbeer™, I think of something that’s very creamy with lots of butterscotch tasting notes. This is maybe a 6/10 on the creaminess scale. The vanilla in Flying Cauldron works really well with the butterscotch. It adds that extra something that all good sodas possess. It’s also the biggest reason Flying Cauldron smells so wonderful. I enjoy my women just like I like a fine soda – smelling like vanilla kisses. This is big on butterscotch flavor and sweetness, and even bigger on eye-catching flashiness. The marketing team for Flying Cauldron deserves as much of the praise as the creators of its flavors. This is too much fun and way too interesting not to try at least once in your life. Also makes a tremendous mixer for your favorite fall cocktail. In the mean time, let us know if you develop any powers or the ability to summon dragons.

Four Stars

Virgil’s: Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer

History: The Berlin Wall had to come down to make this root beer happen. Well, sort of. Virgil’s is one of the most popular soda brands in the world and Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer has quickly become revered in the craft soda community, both for its unique look and flavor. But this new cult classic has origins all the way back in East Germany, home of some of the world’s greatest beer. According to Reeds, Inc. (the company that owns Virgil’s) CEO Chris Reed, after the Berlin Wall came down, the former owner of Virgil’s, Ed Crowley, was able to work with a man in Germany who had very special water. According to Reed, this water “had some kind of strange properties and secret health abilities; it was extraordinary if not weird, like some kind of reverse magnetism.” Sounds familiar. Crowley decided to use this water to create a micro-brewed Bavarian style root beer complete with a swing-top cap. What really differentiates this root beer from others is the all-natural ingredients sourced from around the world, most notably nutmeg from Indonesia. “It’s subtle but, makes a big difference in flavor,” says Reed. Other ingredients include bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, licorice from France, anise from Spain and cinnamon from Ceylon. Like its parent company Reed’s Inc., famous for their ginger brews, Virgil’s sodas are known for their all-natural ingredients and also for not using preservatives, caffeine, gluten, or GMO’s. The company strives to create sodas the way they used to be made 200 years ago with the freshest herbs, spices, fruits, and sometimes even mystical German water. Reed muses, “this root beer came out almost magical.” Let’s taste the magic.

Where to get: Virgil’s is commonly found in health or natural food stores. You can use the company’s store locator to find the closest retailer near you. That said, this particular special edition root beer is a little bit harder to find. Rocketfizz often carries it. Online is another good resource – check out the company’s website, as well as Soda Emporium.

Nose: Strong nutmeg; cinnamon; vanilla.

Taste: Spices; cloves; nutmeg; vanilla; cinnamon. This is extremely smooth and filled with flavors. Spices permeate the mouth every sip. Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer contains a pantheon of various spices. I first get mild cloves and nutmeg, spun in a cocoon of cane sugar. Definitely herbal, but still sweet enough to enjoy even for those who aren’t fans of earthier sodas. It takes a couple sips, but there are rich notes of vanilla throughout the drink, as well as cinnamon, anise and mint. It’s creamy, but not too much to prevent it from being smooth. All the cogs work together to make this machine work. Immaculate.

Finish: Sweet birch that gives this its root beer flavor, followed by light molasses and vanilla. Smooth and doesn’t linger long.

Rating: Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer is quickly building a reputation as one of the most coveted root beers on the market. And for good reason. This is flavor town, USA. The flavors are unique, blend well together and would get a smirk even from the most culinary-inclined audiences. I had some hesitation because of the long list of spices in this, but they really work well together and offer a change of pace in root beer with a full-bodied flavor and just the right amount of smoothness. The vanilla is sweet and creamy. The nutmeg provides a mild earthiness. The cinnamon and cloves pack additional dosages of deliciousness. Everything works here. Kind of like the opposite of the married couple in the apartment next door. Sometimes I tell myself they’re screaming they love each other. But I doubt it. I’ll tell you what I love though; I love this soda. This is root beer of the highest quality and an achievement in craft soda brewing. This is root beer with the flavor profile of a fine-dining experience and the drinkability of a soft cola. Do yourself a favor and shell out the money to try this. Root beer is the king pin of craft soda and Virgil’s Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer wears a crown.

Reed’s: Spiced Apple Brew

History: “I wanted to dose the world with ginger.” That was the mission of Chris Reed when he founded Reed’s, Inc. Surely you’ve heard of Reed’s for their famous ginger beer in green glass bottles, or as they call it “ginger brew,” due to several juices and spices not often found in traditional ginger beers. Reed himself is all about ginger. He’s also all about promoting wellness through food and beverage. That’s actually the real reason Reed’s beverages exist. He notes he spent hours upon hours researching the healing properties of ginger deep within the UCLA library. In doing so, he “came across old-world recipes for brewing tonics and soft drinks.” With so much ginger knowledge bottled up inside him, in 1989, Reed decided putting that knowledge in a different bottle, one he could sell to the public. Today Reed’s Inc. sells a variety of ginger brews, including the Spiced Apple Brew we’re reviewing today. They also have since purchased the top-selling natural root beer and cola lines in Virgil’s and China Cola. According to Reed, his company owns the top four best-selling natural sodas. Every single soda the company brews is free of preservatives, caffeine, gluten and GMOs. You can likely pick one up in your local health food store. I once dated a girl who worked in a health food store. There was definitely nothing natural about her. Today we sample one of Reed’s more atypical offerings in Spiced Apple Brew. The company’s fifth creation, the Spiced Apple Brew is a mulled cider with 8 grams of ginger and 50% (!!!) juice. Cinnamon, honey and apple pie spices are also major player ingredients as well. “In the Caribbean, ginger beers are a Christmas celebration drink,” Reed adds. I’m ready to celebrate this in my mouth.

Where to get: Reed’s sodas are nationally distributed throughout the U.S. To find the nearest location where you can buy a bottle, check out their store locator. If you prefer sitting in your underwear at home, Amazon has you covered.

Nose: Apple cider. It’s unmistakable. The kind you drink at the old time fairs in late November right as it becomes jacket season. God, am I getting sentimental? Am I going to cry?

Taste: Apple pie; cinnamon; spices; ginger. There’s a lot going on for the taste buds to process here, but once you do, it’s really nice. The carbonation in this is tart due to all the spices. You get that briefly before anything else. It quickly fades into this soda’s trademark blend of spices. We taste nutmeg, cloves, maybe a little allspice, and definitely cinnamon. This tastes like apple pie. Some of those spices you also find in pumpkin pie, and your taste buds may trick you into thinking this is a little pumpkin-y too. But it’s just the spices. The ginger in this soda gives it a nice tinge of tartness near the backend, but the main flavors that come through are those spices. There’s also a nice balance of lemon and apple juices that play really well together, and with the cinnamon. Finally, the sweetness from the honey in this is really great for a spiced beverage. Not too sweet, but enough to keep the bold spice flavors in check.

Finish: Apple pie crust with a smooth, but lightly tart honey-apple juice taste. Excellent replay value.

Rating: This is the quintessential fall beverage you drink with your friends out around the fire pit with some blankets. Then when you get really cozy, have another with spiced rum. Repeat until night night time. It’s absolutely killer. But on it’s own, Reed’s Spiced Apple Brew is just as spectacular. Some of the best use of spices I’ve ever tasted in a soda. The honey in this really gives it a natural taste. It’s the most underrated ingredient in the bottle and it provides a really smooth drink and finish. The spices are bold, but mesh well with the juices and sweetening agents. I’d recommend enjoying this with a nice meal. Its big flavors would pair well with sustenance. Its rich spices might also cause you to spontaneously grow a bushy mustache. This is the bottled apple pie grandma never gave you. Reed’s is one of the biggest players in the craft soda game today. Their Spiced Apple Brew provides a glimpse at the company’s commitment to flavor and why they’ll likely continue to be a craft soda power for decades to come.