History: Saranac Brewery has been around a long, long time. And it’s stayed in the family, now in its fourth generation of brewers. Dating all the way back to 1888, F.X. Matt started the brewery with 4,000 barrels of beer a year under the name West End Brewing Co. How about that name? Seriously. F.X. Matt? How ominous does that sound? Brb while I go pitch ideas for super villains to Marvel and DC. Maybe we should start going by F.S. Soda. God, this review is already spiraling out of control. As with many long-lived breweries, prohibition hit this one hard. According to Saranac Assistant Brand Manager, Martha O’Leary, West End had just begun brewing root beer before prohibition hit and it’s essentially what kept them alive throughout those years. In 1985, the company produced its first craft beer called “Saranac.” The brewery later took this on as its name to honor of the anniversary of the Saranac Railroad’s inaugural trip from to Saranac to Utica, New York. Saranac began making craft sodas in the 1990’s. Currently they boast six different flavors, including today’s review, Shirley Temple. “It’s been with us for such a long time, and we continue to build on that,” says O’Leary. One thing we need to give you soda connoisseurs a heads up on is the fact that Saranac uses high fructose corn syrup in their sodas as a sweetener. When asked why, O’Leary was honest, “I think it’s because we maintain the same recipe” from the 90’s. She also added that there have been discussions to make the switch to cane sugar. But Saranac does have a strong reputation in the world of gourmet soda. Their root beer won gold in the 2014 U.S. Beer Open competition. But Shirley Temple was too fun to resist.
Nose: Grenadine syrup. Smells very sweet.
Taste: Cherry syrup; shirley temple; light bubblegum. So there’s two things that go into making a Shirley Temple. Grenadine/cherry syrup and lemon-lime soda. And I gotta hand it to Saranac… this tastes exactly like a Shirley Temple. Well, almost exactly. There’s a definitive hit of sweet cherry-flavored soda with a light bite. The carbonation in this is much lighter than if you mixed your own cherry syrup with something like Sprite. But the biggest difference is that this tastes much sweeter than a normal Shirley Temple. Much sweeter. And the classic citrus notes have been replaced with sweeter ones, reminiscent of bubble gum candy. The closest thing I can think of is those bubblegum cigars you got as a kid. This has a sweet cherry syrup taste with an added bubblegum flavor and a hint of citrus.
Finish: Just the tiniest bit of citrus. Maybe lime. Followed by a more mellow grenadine flavor.
Rating: If you like sweeter sodas, you’ve hit the jackpot here. If I drank of six-pack of these, I’d be Wilford Brimley before it was all over. That said, if you’re looking for a bottled Shirley Temple soda, you can’t go wrong with Saranac. I’d like to have seen some more citrus or some kind of bite to this to cut back the sweetness a little bit, but this stuff is good. You can really taste that classic Grenadine flavor present in all Shirley Temples and there’s a little bit of a mild bubblegum flavor as well. Kids will love this for its fun color, packaging and candy-like flavor. Adults will enjoy its nostalgia-inducing taste that jettisons you back in time to when all you wanted was mom to put the cherry syrup in your soda to make it taste better. I’d recommend putting this on some ice cubes and sipping it. And if you want to have some real fun, try a spiked Saranac Shirley Temple by adding vodka and a couple squeezes of fresh lime. This accomplishes what it set out to do and, despite the sugar rush, will please a lot of soda enthusiasts. Approved.