STYLE

Premium ingredients and creativity give rise to nostalgic craft sodas

06/06/2013 09:00 EDT | Updated 08/06/2013 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - Quality ingredients paired with innovation and creativity has resulted in some of Phillips Brewing Company's wildest beer flavours. Last year the company went one step further: it began participating in the growing trend of craft sodas.

Every month Matt Phillips, founder of the Victoria company, and his brewmasters work to produce at least one new beer.

"We were working on two beers almost at the same time. We were playing with the processes for making alcoholic ginger beer," said Phillips. "We were working with ginger and root beer, and one day it just clicked. We were dancing around the issue that we could be making ginger sodas and root beers."

Phillips Soda Works was added last November, nearly 11 years after the brewery opened.

Even though they are able to make their sodas with the same equipment they use for their beers, Phillips said there are some key differences in the production.

"With beer the most obvious difference is that it is fermented," he said. "Beer also tastes completely different once you've finished the hot part of the process from when you put it in the bottle.

"But with a soda you are compounding and building the flavours as you go and at the end of the day when you're done putting it together it's going to taste how it's going to taste in the bottle."

While there may be some differences in making craft soda and beer, Phillips said the essence is still the same.

"I think it's all about good, real ingredients that make real flavour differences," he said. "Using real sugar instead of corn sugar and real vanillas and really expensive ingredients make a huge difference in flavour, which is very similar to beer in that regard."

But Phillips acknowledges there are consumers who have been left out of the craft beer experience and Phillips Soda Works helps include them in a bit of what happens at the brewery.

"To be able to have an alternative that's not beer for people who are drivers or kids," he said. "It's nice to be able to be less exclusive in terms of who we're able to help."

But craft soda producers are not only including new customers in their business. They are also providing an all-natural pop, something that Tracy Phillipi, marketing and communications co-ordinator for Halifax's Garrison Brewing Company, said customers want.

"People like to feel like somebody actually made their product, not just a machine," she said. "They like to think that someone's hard work went into creating the recipe, brewing or producing the product and selling it."

Garrison started Cannonball Soda in 2007 and currently makes four kinds of craft soda, including blueberry cream, tangerine, root beer and their most popular flavour, ginger lime.

While the inclusion of craft soda in their line makes sense with the production and equipment, Phillipi said it also connects with a sense of nostalgia.

"When you think about when people like my grandparents were in high school, their social life revolved around the soda shop. That's where they went to meet their friends and I think we idolize that quite a bit," she said.

"I think there is definitely a nostalgic piece, but from a practical perspective it is very easy for us to make soda."

Like Phillips Brewing, Garrison has seen a very positive response from the community. Phillipi said one store in Dartmouth struggles to keep Cannonball Soda on the shelves.

"It's not a big finance investment to buy a soda," she said. "You bring out a toonie and some change and you've got a soda. It is something cold and crisp and refreshing for the hot summer months. It is such an accessible product and people feel like they are able to connect with the brewery when they buy a soda."

MORE:cpStyle