Our beer is great, but our sodas have been taking off like gangbusters. We realize that not everyone who comes to a brewery will want — nor should they have — a beer. We do try to be as family-friendly as possible.
We’ve been brewing them for a while, since Mop Mop had the idea back in 2014. “I noticed the designated drivers in our tasting room asking for diet Coke or Pepsi,” he says. “So I thought to myself: ‘Why not offer them craft soda?’”
We’ve been killing it in the soda department this year, so we sat down with Head Chef and soda guru JP Thomas to talk about all things soda.
The inspiration for sodas comes from JP listening to people at CMBC. “I try to match my soda to my Wednesday One-Off. Those ideas come from people around the brewery, from people I meet in the Tasting Room — just pulling ideas out of people’s minds, hearing what people would like to have.”
The one-offs come first, because they’re released on Wednesday, while the sodas come out on Thursday. “I try to line up my beer and then I try to make a soda that’s similar to the beer. But, it doesn’t always work out.” For example, next week, JP has a cream soda on tap and a Chai Tea Sexy Bock as the One-Off. A tea soda doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Regardless, we’re really going through the sodas. When we started in December, JP was brewing one 5.2-gallon sixtel a week — now he’s brewing three. “We’d blow through one before the next day.”
You really can’t argue with success.
The success is mainly due to JP’s use of all-natural ingredients. “Cane sugar, and I also use dark and light brown sugars, but the sodas are all-natural — there’s no artificial flavors. Most of my ingredients are natural fruits.”
Some of those ingredients are a little non-conventional. For example, this week’s creme soda not only has vanilla, but raisins, as well. “It kinda gives you that deep, dark undertone, like there’s something else in there, but you’re not really sure what it is. It adds that little bit of character to it, so it’s not just a vanilla soda.” JP does that frequently with his sodas: “Citrus sodas, you want to keep clean and crisp and really light and effervescent, but some of the other sodas you want to have that depth. You want to have some sort of background character to it.”
Great root beer. I’m the DD. — David Calvert, during his first visit to the Tasting Room, July 4th weekend
Brewing soda — as you might imagine — is a lot different from brewing beer. The big difference? “Time,” says JP. “There’s no waiting. I add flavors, my sugar, I strain it out, and it’s ready to go.” The entire process takes only a few hours, as opposed to the few weeks of fermentation that a beer requires. “The next day, I can sell it.”
He likes the Mango Habanero soda he brewed — he’s brewed it three times thus far. “People really like that one.” He counts that and the Pineapple Jalapeño as among his favorites. Everyone really seemed to enjoy the Carrot Cake soda, too. “People were saying, ‘You know, I tried it, and it was really interesting. It caught me off-guard. It tastes just like a carrot cake.'”
The sodas have been doing so well that bottling them is in CMBC’s long-term plans — Mop Man’s gonna be heading up this project. No specifics at the moment, but we have seen some bottle designs. And they’re awesome. And we’re not telling you what they are. You’ll just have to check back.
But, so far, JP’s loving it. He’d never brewed soda before CMBC, “I enjoy it a lot. The Ginger Ale’s awesome, it’s chopping thirty pounds of ginger — one pound of ginger per gallon. I really enjoy making that one.”
“The other ones, I literally go to the store, walk around, see what’s good, see what’s fresh: I’ll do that. This time of year, it’s just seeing what people like.” Orange soda? “Oh, I already did that.” Watermelon? “Yeah, I can do that.”
Well, it’s working, JP.
The next time you get stuck as the Designated Driver — someone has to be — make sure you check out one of JP’s creations. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.