Maine-Made Sodas Fizz with Flavor
Who remembers those joyful moments as a kid when your dad handed you a frosty glass of bronze-colored soda? You took a big chug because you were thirsty, the cold liquid running along your tongue and the thrill of the resulting fizz went up your nose.
No matter what you call it: soda, tonic, “Coke” or pop, that delightful tickle of carbonation never ceases to spark the senses. And bronze-colored no more, the carbonated beverage craft movement in Maine now offers hues of blue, yellow and green, along with the infused flavors of blueberry, ginger, lemon and green tea among others. Never fear though, the bronze of a great root beer still exists, but it’s not A&W.
Maine’s official state drink: The iconic gentian root-infused Moxie comes to mind first and its “roots” are deeply set in Maine’s imagination. Created by Union, Maine native Augustin Thompson, a doctor living in Lowell, Massachusetts interested in naturopathic medicine, Moxie Nerve Food was patented in 1885 and claimed to be the first bottled carbonated beverage in America.
It never took off in the U.S. except in the northeast and in 2005, officially became Maine’s official state drink. Subject of its own movie, It’s a Maine Thing, and honored at the annual Lisbon Falls Moxie Festival (July 12-14, 2019), the drink will always be dear to the hearts of Mainers and fans everywhere. In 2018, the brand was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company.
The introduction of Capt’n Eli’s sodas would never have happened if in the 1920s a young Eli Forsley didn’t pilfer homemade root beer from his father’s cellar and sell it to his friends. Fred Forsley, co-founder and President of Shipyard Brewing Company wanted to memorialize his dad, who went on to become a medic in the Navy during World War II, earned a master’s degree and PhD and opened and ran a home for disabled veterans in Gray, Maine. And all the while, he still brewed his own root beer.
In 1996, Fred Forsley began serving a version of the root beer out of kegs at Federal Jack’s Brewpub in Kennebunkport, where Shipyard’s first iteration, Kennebunkport Brewing Company, still brews. Capt’n Eli’s root beer became so popular that Forsley decided to begin bottling it. The rest is history, as they say, as the brand has grown to nine flavors.
Old Soaker, a line of sodas named after an island off the shore of Acadia National, has been made by Atlantic Brewing Company since 1998. The root beer, made with natural quillaja extract from the bark of the yucca plant, “ yields a full flavor and creamy head.” Atlantic Brewing Co. also produces a blueberry soda, tasting like foraged Maine blueberries on a summer day.
Buzz in Brunswick
When a Maine dad was concerned by the ingredients in commercial sodas, he decided to do something about it. Enter Green Bee, a natural soda business located at the old Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick. Chris Kinkade was a beekeeper among other things and while harvesting honey, he was stung by the Muse: why not tinker with juices mixed with his honey and create drinks he would be happy to serve his three kids? The kiddos loved it and Lemon Sting became their flagship soda. Infused with lemon, honey and a touch of rosemary, it’s not just for kids. Five other flavors round out the sodas and they recently added a line of flavored sparkling waters.
Maine in the world
Now available in over 7,500 locations all over the world, Maine Root, the creation of former Flatbread pizza maker Matt Seiler began when he wanted to make an organic drink to round out the restaurant’s already-organic food menu. Maine Root now makes 11 flavors of sodas with all organic ingredients and with fair trade certified cane sugar. Try the Maine Syrup Lemonade with Maine harvested maple syrup.
— Text: Kate Cone. Kate is the author of What’s Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Craft Breweries (Down East Books, 2016).