Brood: Sour

History: If you want to change the law of the land in craft soda, a previous career as a lawyer probably isn’t a bad start. Jon Lehman grew tired of being an attorney, so he took the logical next step and launched a craft soda company. Right, guys? But he didn’t want just any soda company. No, he was very specific in his vision. “The goal is to make something very far out there,” he says. Lehman wanted to steer away from the vintage feel many soda companies capitalize on, certainly an interesting strategy considering the affability of nostalgia and the role it plays among craft soda’s audience. Lehman founded Brood in 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. He probably could’ve called is Bold. The company’s tagline is “carbonated greatness.” And it’s definitely unlike any other brand on the market. For starters, each flavor is based on emotion, and as Lehman puts it,”is influenced to a degree by an urban feel.” You won’t find ginger ale or lemon-lime. Instead you’ll be greeted by names like “Devil” or “Sour.” Next, the branding. It’s dark. And that’s how they like it. Look at the soda’s hype man, “Rood Boy.” He looks like something Tim Burton created to be the hipper, edgier cousin of of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. They also try to stay as local as possible when sourcing their soda’s ingredients. A lot of what you taste in the bottle comes right from Durham. Brood lists its ingredients on every bottle, but Lehman admits you might not always taste them. Often what occurs is people will “taste the flavor, and they go in a completely different direction of what it actually is,” he says. Having previously tried to tackle the mysterious flavor Smoky, this time we opted for something slightly more traditional. Sour, Lehman tells us, is the company’s take on a citrus lemon-lime soda. But of course there’s a twist. Two other ingredients you’ll taste are honey and myrciaria dubia, which is actually not a spell from the Harry Potter books, but rather a fruit found in the Amazon rainforest. It’s high in Vitamin C too, so it’s like an added bonus. We’re looking forward to something simpler this time, though it sounds like Sour still might house some secrets of its own.

Where to get: Brood Soda is sold in many locations throughout North Carolina and a couple in Florida. Take a look to see if it’s close to you by checking here. You can allegedly buy Brood Soda online, but at the time of this review it appears you need a login name and password. Your best bet is contacting the company directly.

Nose: Honestly smells like a cola with notes of lemon. The more and more you sniff, the more you smell honey, too.

Taste: Lemon-lime; honey; tartness; mild cherry; intense carbonation. It takes a few swigs to get the flavors of this soda down as it’s very mild. I’d liken this most closely to a lemon-lime soda with the volume turned up. It’s bolder than 7-Up or Spite. But what really separates Brood Sour from its mass-produced cousins is that it’s much more tart. You taste the zing as soon as the liquid hits your lips, something that’s likely attributable to the myrciaria dubia because it’s a highly acidic fruit. So this soda is a little more acidic, but the sour notes fade quickly in favor of lush honey. Honey is the most recognizable flavor here. It really encapsulates all the other flavors. And one of those flavors that is very subtle, fleeting even, is cherry. It’s just barely there. You won’t taste it on many sips, so it’s almost like a hidden easter egg. I honestly can’t explain why we taste it… but we taste it. You’ll notice heavy carbonation in this soda too. Most of it is up front, so it doesn’t compromise the flavors. A zesty, fresher lemon-lime soda with dollops of honey that define the flavor profile.

Finish: Honey (more prominent) and lemon that slowly fade.

Rating: Brood Sour is perhaps the most “normal” flavor the company offers. Its tasting notes don’t reveal themselves immediately, but when they do, you realize they are ones with which you’re quite familiar. Brood Sour in layman’s terms is a slightly different take on lemon-lime soda. The citrus is bold. The carbonation is intense. The acidity is definitely makes this a little sour. And the starring flavor in this soda is… honey? Yup. This is essentially a bolder take on conventional lemon-lime soda with big notes of honey. I stress bolder because those lemon and lime notes are a lot stronger than what you’d taste in Spite. This is like when the cute, nerdy girl in math class runs out of band t-shirts and shows up in a crop top and tight jeans, so you do a double-take. It’s familiar, but it’s better than what you’re used to drinking in this category. It’s a win for all of us. The one issue I have with Brood Sour is the honey. It’s very, very prominent and when combined with the tart lemon and lime flavors, it occasionally overpowers them. If the honey was lower in the flavor profile, this could be one of the best lemon-lime sodas on the market. It needs to be taken down a couple levels. Still, Brood Sour is a solid alternative to Sprite or 7-Up and a nice change of pace. Brood is one the quirkiest craft soda companies out there and their offerings are always sure to spark conversation – Sour is no different.

Three Stars

Death Valley Soda: Sour Green Apple

History: “We’ve been brewing beers for 20 years, but I’ve been brewing soda for 25 years,” says Rick Lovett, beer and soda brewmaster of Indian Wells Brewing Company. Lovett probably makes more soda than any independent bottler in the world. He’s currently trying to get up to 200 flavors spread out over various brands. He even wants to make the Guinness Book of World Records for it. But among all the concoctions, his signature line is the six-flavor deep, Death Valley Soda. Indian Wells Brewery is located in Inyokern, California, a small city tucked away in the hot, dessert climate of rural California, thus the name Death Valley Soda and the cowboy-influenced label. “It wasn’t any master plan. It just made sense,” Lovett jokes. The most unique flavor in the Death Valley Soda line? Sour Green Apple. Over the phone, Lovett recalls a story of his young grandson playing outside and sucking on a Green Apple Jolly Rancher. He reached his little hand up to his mouth, pulled out the candy, looked at his grandpa and said, “Popa, can you make this into soda?” Turns out he could. Death Valley Sour Green Apple is made with pure cane sugar and real Granny Smith Apples, as well as McIntoch and Pink Lady. As with all Indian Wells products, the soda’s most unique element is the water used in making it. The Indian Wells Spring is actually owned by the brewery. Its water is filtered through million of feet of granite; according to Lovett, thousands of gallons spill out to the surface every day. But the soda’s most noticeable feature is undoubtedly its bright green color that is remarkably 100% natural with no food dye used. If you think that’s hard to believe, you aren’t the only one. In order for Whole Foods to carry the soda, the natural goods supermarket made Indian Wells Brewing hire professionals to provide an independent chemical analysis on the product to prove the color was authentic. Wild stuff. “All of America is waking up,” Lovett says of the rise in popularity of soda made with quality ingredients. “I wouldn’t have produced a soda pumped up with additives and then given it to my grandson.” I understand, Rick. Now I’m about to pump this soda into me.

Where to get: Death Valley Soda is available for purchase at Rocketfizz retailers. You can get your fix online at Amazon for 12-packs. There are also online retailers selling individual bottles, but at the time of this review all were sold out. Give it a Google.

Nose: Green apple Jolly Ranchers; fresh-sliced Granny Smith Apples.

Taste: Green Apple Airheads; cane sugar. This is light. It certainly tastes like candy green apple. But the sour flavor that the label advocates is not present. A little bit of bitterness near the end that may come from the spices Death Valley uses, but no sour notes. The carbonation is soft. You can taste the cane sugar, but you can also taste some of the water’s influence in this drink. This is definitely very light, both in flavor and mouth feel.

Finish: Slightly bitter green apple. Definitely more of a bitter than sour sensation on the tongue.

Rating: Your nose and eyes always set the expectation for any soda. It shouldn’t just taste delicious; it should smell good. Whatever’s written on that label will also inevitably sway you. This smelled like Jolly Ranchers, and the word “sour” on the label would indicate there’s going to be some tartness. I anticipated this tasting like liquid sour green apple candy, hopefully with some fresh apple notes. That’s not what you get. The sour, tartness, bite – whatever you want to call it; it’s not there. You get some bitter notes on the finish, but there’s no punch to this. It’s light. A little too light. You definitely get a nice candy green apple taste in the flavor profile, but I was promised sour and did not get it. This is a beautiful green color. One of the prettier sodas in hue I’ve come across. But I feel like I got lied to here. If this was labeled “green apple” as opposed to “sour green apple,” I’d maybe rate this higher. If you enjoy apple-flavored things or are just a big proponent of fruit sodas, this is worth a shot. If you’re looking for something that makes the sour detectors on the back of your tongue flash red, you won’t find it here. Death Valley has made a fine apple soda, but the name on the label needs a little work.