waynesville soda jerks

Waynesville Soda Jerks: Raspberry Cream Soda

History: If the farmer’s market had an all-star team, these two would be its captains. Chris Allen and Megan Brown are the founders and owners of Waynesville Soda Jerks in Waynesville, North Carolina – and they’re about as farm-to-bottle as you can get. The two launched their full eight-flavor line of handcrafted sodas in May of 2015, and they’re so serious about going local with their ingredients that they literally list where they came from on the bottle. These days “handcrafted” is becoming kind of a cliche in craft soda, but for this duo the word seems appropriate. “We really like to highlight the local agriculture around western North Carolina,” says Allen. The two started by picking local wine berries from outside their home and using a Soda Stream to see if they could create something worth drinking. In April of 2013, they launched a Kickstarter, and two-and-a-half years later, they’re one of the fastest-growing small bottlers in the nation. The highlight ingredient in all Waynesville Soda Jerk Sodas is the fruit, which Brown notes “is always local,” with the exception of citrus and vanilla. Allen and Brown had been focusing solely on going the route of fruit or fruit and herb sodas until the requests for traditional flavors finally struck a chord with the two.

“People were always asking for cream soda,” Allen admits. So the jerks went to work and put their own unconventional twist on the flavor: raspberry. As a soda fan, the marriage of these two flavors is exciting. Imagine taking something that people already love and adore and making it even more stunning. On paper, this is like combining all the best parts of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift… in soda form. Who doesn’t want to look at that? Who wouldn’t want to drink that? Who wouldn’t want to just… let’s get back to the point before this gets weirder. The decision on which fruit to choose for their newest flavor was easy. Brown tells us that the two “had an outstanding source for raspberries this season,” in Wright Way Nursery. The duo fresh presses the juice from the raspberries themselves and it goes right into the soda. We weren’t told exact proportions, but when asked about how much real juice went into each bottle of raspberry cream soda, Allen responded in a serious tone with “a significant amount.” Allen and Brown made it very clear there were two distinct tasting elements to this soda: the raspberry flavor and the cream flavor. For the fruit, Allen says they went for a “very clean and pure raspberry flavor.” As for the creaminess, it was really the first “traditional” non-fruit soda flavor the two decided to bottle. So in order to achieve the taste they wanted, the duo used real vanilla beans and caramelized the cane sugar for a creaminess that balanced out the sharpness of the raspberry. They also added a little lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt for what they called “soda seasonings,” adding that they brought acidity and richness to the flavor profile. We aren’t sure exactly how they put it all together, but I’ll take $200, Alex, for funnel this in my mouth. The pair is also working on another new, more traditional flavor – but we’d hate to spoil it for you.

Where to get: You can purchase raspberry cream soda and the rest of the Waynesville Soda Jerk flavors at the company’s new online store or from Summit City Soda. And if you’re from the Waynesville area, check out these spots to pick up a bottle.

Nose: Fresh raspberries just run through the water. On first smell, you’d swear this was raspberry soda. Not much in the way of vanilla or any sort of creaminess.

Taste: Fresh raspberries; soft vanilla; mild tartness; sugar. You’re greeted with a very authentic, but not overwhelming raspberry flavor. Reminds me of eating raspberries with sugar on top, but in liquid form. Very light and refreshing on the palate. Definitely more crisp than creamy. The initial raspberry flavor is joined by noticeable vanilla notes about half way through the sip. There’s also just a little bit of tartness from the lemon in this that adds contrast to the sweetness of the raspberry and sugar; you feel it on the edges of your jaw. A nice jolt of unexpected flavor. Before the drink begins to fade, the raspberry and vanilla meld to really create that raspberry cream flavor. Reminds me of raspberries with creme fraiche.

Finish: Vanilla sugar with subtle raspberry notes that linger, then slowly fade.

Rating: Waynesville Soda Jerks pride themselves on using fresh fruit in every hand-made batch of soda they produce. They even tell you where the fruit comes from on every bottle. You can taste their dedication. The raspberries in their raspberry cream soda taste real, not like candy. It’s like drinking raspberries with sugar on them with a dash of lemon and a dusting of vanilla bean. Typically when you think of cream soda, you think something that feels heavy on the palate, thick and frothy in texture. This is much lighter than you’ll probably be expecting. It’s more crisp than it is creamy. I’d probably call this raspberry-vanilla soda to my friends as opposed to raspberry cream, but it just doesn’t sound the same. Then again, I don’t call my stepmom Michelle to my friends either, but I don’t even think the Internet is ready for the words I do use. Bottomline, the flavors work. The raspberries taste fresh and delicious. The lemon provides an unexpected burst of tartness that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the raspberries. And the vanilla adds a nice layer of sophistication to the raspberry taste near the end of each sip. It’s easily the unsung hero of the soda. I actually think the vanilla could be emboldened even more in the flavor profile and only good would come from it. This is the most subtle of any fruit cream soda I’ve tried, but also easily the freshest. Waynesville Soda Jerks continue to be one of the best local soda bottlers in the country. You should go out of your way to try their stuff, including the raspberry cream soda.

Four Stars

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Waynesville Soda Jerks: Grape Soda

History: Sometimes you choose the craft soda life and, well, sometimes it chooses you. Wait, are we in a Matthew McConaughey car commercial now? “We fell into it,” says Chris Allen, one of the co-owners of Waynesville Soda Jerks. Chris and his business partner, Megan Brown, always wanted to be self-employed. From Waynesville, North Carolina, they’re surrounded by a great local farmer’s market community. The soda idea slowly grew on them. Literally. Very tart wine berries grew outside their North Carolina home. Chris and Megan wanted to see if they could turn them into something flavorful. So they bought a Soda Stream. Eventually they graduated to more sophisticated flavors and took their stuff to the farmer’s market. That’s all it was intended to be. They just wanted to start an “adult lemonade stand,” said Chris. A few months later in April 2013, they launched a successful Kickstarter campaign. Here’s the crazy thing: they both still work part-time gigs at Frog’s Leap Public House. The two say they’ll be transitioning Waynesville Soda Jerks into a full-time business as 2015 progresses. Every flavor they make is based on local ingredient availability and the seasons. Some of their creations include fruit-based sodas like Strawberry Rhubarb pie and Blackberry Serrano pepper. But one they’re very proud of is a classic that slowly seems to be losing footing in the craft soda community: grape. Chris’s grandmother would make her own grape juice using concord grapes from the family property so the kids around the house would always have something to drink. Chris and Megan worked tirelessly to get the flavor just right. The result is the soda we’re reviewing here.

Where to get: Currently, their sodas are hyper-local around the Waynesville, North Carolina area. The two say they’re working hard to get products approved for distribution. However, they don’t want to spread throughout stores and grocers nation-wide. “We’re not looking to be the next big boy in the soda business,” says Matt. The two feel it wouldn’t be genuine to their local business model. That said, they’re hoping to have their soda available for purchase online by April 2015. Custom orders are available in the short-term by calling (828) 278-8589.

Nose: Welch’s Grape Juice.

Taste: Wow. This tastes exactly like lightly carbonated Welch’s Grape Juice. It’s immaculate. It tastes fresh and authentic. No weird, metallic or artificial aftertaste like most grape sodas. This is a simple soda that doesn’t try to be more than it is, and that’s where it succeeds. It doesn’t have any hidden flavor notes. It tastes like grape, more specifically, real, carbonated grape juice. Don’t think sparkling grape juice. It’s not quite that carbonated. The light carbonation works just right and really lets the grape flavor shine.

Finish: Refreshing; real grape juice; light bubbles that dance on the back of your tongue.

Rating: This is simple, yet brilliant. The flavor is everything grape soda should be. You’ve never had grape soda this fresh. This is the cute girl next door you weren’t sure whether or not had a boyfriend who you asked out and it was everything you imagined. You could drink this in groves. We definitely did. Go out of your way to get this. Bravo, Waynesville Soda Jerks. Literally, no complaints. We look forward to more flavors in the future. We have one bottle of this left. Not for long.