You caught me. The Sprecher Brewery sent me 12 bottles of soda knowing full well that my integrity as a soda journalist could be bought. What they didn’t know is that I only needed 6 bottles to forfeit my independence. Suckers!
I’ve run into soda from Sprecher on and off again over the years. I remembered liking their root beer, especially the fact that it’s a 16 ounce bottle sold for the same price as a 12 from other breweries. Plus, it feels good in your hand.
They’re known in the Midwest for their beer and brewpubs, but they should also be known for their craft sodas. Sprecher provided me with 3 bottles each of their Root Beer, Vanilla Cream, Orange Dream, and Cherry Cola. I purchased the Puma Kola and Cherry-Cran on my own. Turns out there’s a Ginger Ale and a Grape I still need to try. I’ll link them when I find them.
Sprecher Root Beer
All of these Sprecher gourmet sodas have a few common ingredients. There’s raw Wisconsin honey, maltodextrin, and glucose syrup. That last one lost me a bit. It’s a sweetener derived from grains (usually corn) but it doesn’t go through the last process necessary to convert some of the glucose into fructose (which would make it high-fructose corn syrup). In theory it produces a soft texture or smoothness in food. That was definitely true with the root beer. It was great!
Be it the glucose syrup, the maltodextrin, or the honey, this was a beautifully smooth brew. There’s some bite from traditional root beer spices, but the finish is velvet. I shy away from honey in most sodas but this honey was balanced well with vanilla and other aromatic notes. If you’re someone who loves a foamy head on your root beer then this is your brew. I give it an 8 out of 10 on my rating scale.
Sprecher Cherry Cola
Another winner. The bear on the label knows what’s up. As a fan of cherry coke, but a skeptic of cherry flavored things, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this soda. Once again the honey and maltodextrin provide a smooth body. However, the tart bite of the Door County cherry juice and fruity cola are interesting layers in this brew. It’s a bit sweeter than other cherry colas I’ve had, but not overbearing. An 8 out of 10.
Sprecher Puma Kola
This puma has seen things. Terrible things. From the time he was a puma kitten his duty has been to protect the kola nut trees native to the mountains of Milwaukee. His eyes are haunted, his claws permanently tense with the anticipation of another kola poaching attempt. Sprecher Brewery’s kola nut pickers are the only crew on earth in possession of the Kola Amulet needed to pass into the puma’s orchard undetected, which is how they’re able to produce this intriguing cola.
Puma Kola is made with real kola extract, vanilla, honey, and cinnamon. It has the body of a traditional cola, but the kola extract and cinnamon combine to a dark fruitiness with bite that stands out from major brands. There’s a personality in this brew. An 8 out of 10.
Sprecher Cream Soda
Aside from the quadruple-fisting baker/waiter bee on the label there’s a lot to like about this cream soda, even if you’re not a cream soda person. There’s plenty of vanilla, but the honey is so pronounced that I’d be inclined to call it a honey soda rather than a cream. Coming from a guy who complains about too much honey in other drinks I thought that this one worked well. On my first bottle I thought it was a bit ho-hum, but I tried the second bottle paired with some spicy food and it felt more alive on my palate.
While very good, I didn’t think that this was quite to the level of the others. A 7 out of 10.
Sprecher Orange Dream
Look at that cow having a great time! Cows love oranges, and straws. Man, during orange harvest it’s hard to turn around without running into a funky cow drinking an orange through a straw.
Fortunately, the folks at Sprecher Brewery were able to collect enough orange flavor from the orange flavor grove. I found the orange flavor to be considerably more saturated that anything I would call natural, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Have I mentioned the honey in these drinks? Well, there’s honey in this soda. And all these sodas. Unlike your traditional orange cream you get about half honey and half vanilla as the flavor highlight. For me, that’s an improvement. A 7 out of 10.
This was the only miss out of the group of 6 sodas that I tried. It wasn’t horrible, but compared to the others it was remarkably unremarkable. The smooth honey so dominant in the others was barely noticeable. Neither the cherry nor the cranberry made a strong showing. I expected a bold and tart soda, but what I got was a slightly syrupy and muted fruit spritzer. Maybe I got an old bottle, but knowing that there are such better options available from Sprecher I wouldn’t go back for this one. A 5.9 out of 10.
Sprecher Brewery is awesome! I really hope to visit in person someday to take a tour of their operation. Special thanks to Sprecher for providing me with their Root Beer, Orange Dream, Cream Soda, and Cherry Cola.