You can walk into any gas station or grocery store and find an array of national-brand sodas. At Village Candy in Sewickely you will find a soda case – but you won’t find Pepsi, Sprite, or Mountain Dew. The small store stocks different sodas from around the world.
“We have bacon soda, we have something called Leninade, we have black lemonade” said owner Doug Alpern.
Craft sodas aren’t quite on the same playing field as craft beers.
“Other than Coke and Pepsi, sodas don’t get the same distributions as artisan beers do – so if you like a particular soda, you may know it from your area and not realize that’s the only area it’s available in. We pick up sodas from around the country, some from outside the country, and people really can tell that there is a difference between them,” said Alpern.
Regional sodas include Cheerwine from South Carolina, Moxie from New Hampshire, Ale-8-One from Kentucky, and Vernor’s out of Michigan. Since many of the sodas aren’t as well-known as national brands, Alpern hosts soda tastings from time to time.
“We put out eight to ten sodas and people get to try different ones, like different genres, like we might have a root beer tasting or a cream soda tasting so you get to compare different brands from all over the country.”
Ginger Drinks Take Center Stage
Wednesday evening, Alpern is hosting an adults-only ginger ale and ginger beer tasting.
“You would get to try eight to ten ginger beers, and then our bartender will be making dark and stormys, which is ginger beer and rum and Moscow Mules, which is ginger beer and vodka.”
Ginger Ale vs. Ginger Beer
Several of the customers in Alpern’s store, and I, had one lingering question though: what’s the difference between ginger ale and ginger beer?
“A common question,” answered Alpern, “ginger ale is usually what you’d consider Canada Dry, that type of thing – slight taste of ginger, more sugar. Ginger beer – some of them have a lot of sugar too, but mostly they either have a much spicier ginger taste, or they have actual ginger sediment in the bottle.”
Alpern says ginger sodas are starting to gain popularity across the U.S.
“Ginger seems to be fairly healthy, it’s also good at settling upset stomachs from what I understand, and it seems to be very much in vogue right now in cocktails, in fact I’ve read about a number of bars that make their own ginger beer for these types of drinks.”
While it’s got the name “beer” attached to it – ginger beer, like root beer, is non-alcoholic.
“However, a long time ago it was alcoholic, and they are just starting to, in Great Britain they’re making alcoholic ginger beer again, and they’re just starting to export it to the U.S. so that will be coming around soon too,” said Alpern.
Village Candy’s ginger tasting will take place this afternoon at 5:30 at its store in Sewickley. But for now, you’ll have to put your own spin on craft sodas – which can offer an alternative to Coke, Pepsi, or traditional cocktails at any holiday party.