swamp pop

Swamp Pop: Praline Cream Soda

History: Walk around the markets of New Orleans, and it won’t take you long to smell it. Stroll by the little pop-up shops along the streets of the French Quarter, and you’ll feel the heat radiating against your face as you whiz by. And then you hear it echo from the voices of the candy makers, almost like a beer vendor at a baseball game, “They’re hawt. They’re fresh. Who wants pray-leeens?” I’m attempting and doing a horrible job of dictating a Louisiana accent, but what I’m referring to are praline pecans. Basically what happens is someone takes something healthy for you, a nut, then cooks it in a warm concoction of butter, brown sugar and milk until it becomes something that can wrangle your heart into submission and your stomach into ecstasy. You can find praline pecans all over the country, but it’s a staple sugary snack down in The Pelican State. Cajun cousins, John Petersen and Colin Cormier, decided to transform the modern cream soda into something distinctly Louisiana by infusing their take with the taste of pralines. Petersen and Courmier founded Lousiana’s best-known craft soda bottler, Swamp Pop, in 2013. The Lafayette-based company takes its name from the 1950’s music genre of the same name that was popular in the region. Give it a Google. Kind of sounds like soulful Doo-Wop meets bluesy rock. Swamp Pop produces six different flavors. Petersen says they try to create their “flavor profiles in layers.” A quick Internet search reveals the general public finds Swamp Pop Soda especially sugary. Our past reviews of Noble Cane Cola and Ponchatoula Pop Rouge confirm those notions. Speaking of sugar, Swamp Pop uses only 100% pure Louisiana cane sugar in their sodas as well as natural coloring. Out of all their flavors, Praline Cream Soda is Swamp Pop’s rainmaker. In other words, it’s the best seller. My hypothesis: people like something that’s different. Another strong possibility: the flavor. Swamp Pop Public Relations Representative Anna Whitlow tells us the flavor is “supposed to be kind of a brown butter, praline flavor” before adding that it also tastes nutty and creamy. The more she describes it, the more apparent it becomes how rich this is going to taste. Like, maybe-you-should-change-into-sweatpants-before-you-drink-it, rich. Joke’s on you Swamp Pop, I already am. Writing about soda on the Internet, living my life one elastic-waisted pair of pants at a time.

Where to get: Swamp Pop Praline Cream Soda is sold nationally at Cracker Barrel restaurants as well as Cost Plus World Market stores. You can also buy it online directly from the company in four-packs for under $10. Trust us, for buying soda on the Internet, that’s a deal. To find the closest Swamp Pop retailer near you, type your info into the company’s online locator.

Nose: Butterscotch and toffee. Very similar to the smell of Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. Smells like you should grab one of these after a class at Hogwarts.

Taste: Butterscotch; butter pecan ice cream; vanilla; creamy toffee; sugar. This is a very rich, very flavorful, and v e r y sweet cream soda. It’s especially heavy and thick on the palate with strong notes of butterscotch sweetness and the creamy flavor of butter pecan ice cream. The latter tasting notes really give it that signature praline flavor you see written on the label. Definitely different from other creams. This is anchored by an intense sweetness of primarily butterscotch and toffee flavors that swirl together throughout the soda’s body. There’s a lot of sugary sweetness to this soda. Very, very, very sweet. But it’s also very creamy. I’d say maybe even a 9/10 on the creamy scale with a thick head, so it’s very strong on that front. The more you drink it, the more you adjust to the sugar and the more those butter pecan notes come through. Swamp Pop’s Praline Cream Soda is a unique one that lives up to its name and packs a an especially sweet, but flavorful punch.

Finish: Creamy vanilla with lingering butter pecan ice cream. Not as sweet as the body. Excellent. 10/10 on the finish.

Rating: It may be 2016, but it’s really only been within the past couple years that bottlers have decided to get inventive with cream soda. Swamp Pop went beyond left field. They left the ball park to create their Praline Cream Soda. It retains a thick creaminess you might in other cream sodas, but its flavors are completely foreign. Butterscotch. Butter pecan ice cream. Toffee. These are the three main flavors you’ll taste here. Butterscotch and toffee form the base of the soda’s flavor profile and are consistent throughout each sip, but it’s that creamy butter pecan taste that gives the soda its true identity. Unlike the the butterscotch and toffee notes, the butter pecan ice cream works as more an undercurrent in the soda, occasionally rising up and splashing into the main flavor profile before receding away for a few sips. That give and take makes you lust for the flavor more. It really works. Where Swamp Pop’s Praline Cream Soda raises some hesitation from me is its sweetness. This is sweeter than watching a gaggle of Golden Retriever puppies struggling to fall asleep. At times it’s just too much for me and I can generally handle sweet sodas well. So I’d recommend sipping this one. I’d also recommend putting it on ice cream. Would make a great float. Overall that meandering creamy butter pecan flavor combined with the overall thick mouth feel and frothy head on the soda make this too enticing to pass up. If you don’t have a problem with high-intensity sweet sodas, this might leave a serious lasting impression on you. Its flavor profile should do that regardless. If you happen across a bottle of this, you’d be missing a unique experience by passing it up.

Three Stars

 

Swamp Pop: Ponchatoula Rouge

History: Ponchatoula, Louisiana is allegedly the “strawberry capital” of the world. And for the Lousiana boys down at Swamp Pop, c’mon, that’s a lob pass. A quick history lesson: Swamp Pop is a double entendre as both the name of the company and a classic Louisiana style of music. It sort of sounds like the blues meets honky-tonk meets 50’s rock. It was a no-brainer for cousins John Petersen and Colin Cormier to introduce America to a little cajun hospitality, and bottle the state fruit in soda form. They call their strawberry soda Ponchatoula Pop Rouge. But the inspiration is a little more sentimental than the obvious. Petersen explains, “Our grandmother would call all ‘red pops’ pop rouge,” so there’s a nostalgia factor involved too. One of Swamp Pop’s two seasonal sodas, it’s designed to be enjoyed in the heat. It isn’t engineered to be your typical strawberry soda, either. This is supposed to be a lighter, more natural tasting take on strawberry. Petersen goes on to explain Pop Rouge was introduced in 2014 and “features a variety of different natural strawberry flavors. Some lend sweetness, some a slight sourness, some help to create just the right aroma, and they all work together to create a very fresh, true-to-the-fruit flavor.” What he’s trying to say is that this is sophisticated strawberry soda. This is the strawberry soda you hide from your friends and the strawberry soda you cheat on the others with. And for those who can’t stay off the other bottle for too long, Petersen has you covered, adding Pop Rogue “makes an awesome mimosa when you add it to Champagne.”

Where to get: Swamp Pop is mostly sold along the gulf coast region and is national to some extent. Cost Plus World Market carries their sodas. You can also buy it directly from their web site. To find the nearest retail location near you, use the company’s online locator. Remember, this one’s seasonal, so get on it!

Nose: Strawberry sour punch straws; strawberries. Fruity. As Peterson puts it, this is an “olfactory experience.” I’ll be honest, I only included that so I could get the word “olfactory” in. Great vernacular. Some of you will need a dictionary.

Taste: Tart carbonation; sweet strawberries. Pop Rouge is anchored by a refreshing, crisp strawberry flavor. There’s just the right amount of sweetness to tartness, I’d say it’s about 80:20. A flood of tiny little bubbles enter the mouth first. The carbonation is intense but brief and accompanied by a little bit of acidity that peaks and then transitions into a sweet strawberry flavor. The strawberry flavor profile is simple, yet rich. It’s not exactly like biting into a fresh strawberry. As you’d expect with soda, it’s a little sweeter, but the most noticeable tasting elements to the strawberry flavor are the mild undertones of sour citrus. Bite into a real strawberry and you’ll taste the same thing. This is a strawberry soda that leans much more toward a real, sweet strawberry than a strawberry candy of some type. Its flavor lingers on the tongue longer than most sodas in a pleasing way.

Finish: Tart strawberries sprinkled with sugar.

Rating: Ponchatoula Pop Rouge is one of the best strawberry sodas on the craft soda market today. I’m hard-pressed to name a better one. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say Pop Rouge is in the top tier of fruit sodas in general. Why? It’s simple, light, and flavorful. That’s all you can ask of a fruit soda. It’s a strawberry soda with a fancy name and it tastes like a strawberry soda with a fancy flavor. You can taste that real Ponchatoula Strawberry flavor, tartness and all. It has a nice balance of mostly sweet with a little sour and a nice flavor that lingers pleasantly. No syrupy, fake strawberry taste. It just works. It’s true to its roots. This is like your friend’s good-looking dad who has a beard and wears flannel, except he actually plays the part and and cuts down trees down instead of my dad who has a beard and wears flannel who looks like he wants to lure you to his van. According to Swamp Pop’s website, Ponchatoula Strawberries are the official fruit of Louisiana. They even have a festival for them down there. When you drink Swamp Pop’s seasonal strawberry soda, you’ll be celebrating too. Just don’t wait too long. This one’s only around in the Spring and Summer

Swamp Pop: Noble Cane Cola

History: You sit on your front porch. Fog rises off the lake. You see eyes peak above the surface before descending again into the grassy marsh. Sweat drips from your forehead and spills on to your half buttoned-up shirt. The humidity is smoldering. A love-torn voice echoes in the background from your record player as you reach for your mason jar that’s consumed by condensation. This is Louisiana. And Swamp Pop, started in 2013 by cousins John Petersen and Collin Cormier, is all about creating old school glass-bottle sodas with a distinctly cajun identity. Says Petersen, “We wanted to take soda profiles people were more broadly familiar with, and then twist them with a Lousiana flavor.” In fact, Swamp Pop is a double entendre as both the name of the company and a classic Louisiana style of music. It sort of sounds like the blues meets honky-tonk meets 50’s rock. The cousins knew the cajun influence had a wide appeal across the country, but they wanted to stay authentic. All of their sodas contain 100% pure Louisiana cane sugar from Louisiana farmers, natural flavors and natural color. Petersen says they wanted to make their soda flavors “in layers,” in order to create something a little more sophisticated for the drinker. The company produces six different flavors. Today, we try Noble Cane Cola, Swamp Pop’s twist on traditional cola made with Louisiana Brown Turkey Figs. They also wanted it it taste more herbal than the average cola while still maintaining sweetness. Petersen adds confidently, “The cola is a cola for grown-ups.”

Where to get: Swamp Pop is mostly sold in the gulf coast region and is national to some extent. Cost Plus World Market carries their sodas. You can also buy it directly from their web site. To find the nearest retail location near you, use the company’s online locator.

Nose: Sweet sugar; fig blossoms; candied plums.

Taste: Sweetness; cinnamon; candied fig; mild brown sugar. This tastes unique. Swamp Pop boasts about the Brown Turkey Figs they use in their cola and that must be what I’m tasting here. It’s sweet, but not syrupy. It’s crisp, yet not overbearing. Right away you get a flash of sweetness that flows into a creamy candied fig taste which glides across the tongue. Next comes a wave of carbonation that brings with it robust cinnamon sugar to pair with that unique fig flavor. The closest thing I can compare the fig flavor to is a very rich, sweet, fruity cherry. But that’s still not quite right. It’s just so original. You almost get a little bit of brown sugar too. Incredibly drinkable. The flavors all work here. The Louisiana cane sugar really brings out the fruity fig notes in this truly original cola. Notes of cinnamon and brown sugar undercut the main body of the soda. There’s also the slightest hint of an herbal taste to this, but that’s really an afterthought. All around brilliantly executed.

Finish: Creamy cinnamon and ripe fig that linger briefly before your mouth is ready for another sip.

Rating: Immaculate. Swamp Pop has taken an old favorite, infused it with vintage Louisiana flavors, and yet somehow brought it into the 21st century. Wonderfully original. The Brown Turkey Figs form the base of Noble Cane Cola’s flavor. It’s sweet, different, and even a little fruity. The underlying notes of cinnamon reign in some of the sweetness and make this an easy-drinking soda. It’s even got a nice foamy head due to the company’s use of quillaia, an ingredient more often found in root beers and cream sodas. Enjoy a couple bottles in a sitting or just sip on it to savor the flavors. This works both ways. It’s a cola like you’ve never had, and one your mouth just has to experience. Have you ever made out with someone who was like definitely a couple levels above you, and your mouth didn’t even know things like that could happen inside of it? Me neither. But I imagine the level of joy and surprise in that situation would be comparable. Put on your finest Bayou wear, grab a Noble Cane Cola and watch the gators swim into the sunset. Most of us will have to settle for a YouTube substitute *shudders*, but the point is: this is more than worth your time and money. Louisiana is killing the soda game right now. We endorse this with five stars.