I’m always on the lookout for new local products. I also look to the region when sourcing goods, because I like to know that my money is staying somewhere close to where I live. I also recognize that transporting goods shorter distances is better for the environment and maybe even a little bit fresher… even if it’s all in my head.
Earlier today I paid a visit to Tipico Coffee on the lower West Side. As I was cashing out my chai tea, I looked to my left and noticed four bottles on the counter. During a previous visit, they had also caught my attention. At the time I picked one up and noticed that they were made in Rochester. “What can you tell me about this drink?” I asked the owner, Jesse Crouse. “This one right here,” he said [pointing]. “That’s the best birch beer that I’ve ever tasted.”
Growing up in a family that appreciates a good root beer, birch beer or ginger beer, I decided to take Jesse up on his challenge. I purchased the Buffalo Birch Beer and the Jamaican Stone Ginger Beer.
A few moments ago, I peered into the fridge to see what sort of leftovers I was going to scrounge for the evening. It was then that I spotted the two bottles on the top shelf. At first I was going to snag the birch beer, but then something made me opt for the ginger beer. It was super cold, and I was honestly jonesing for something frosty, bubbly, and (hopefully) ‘gingery’ delightful.
I popped the cap off and took a swig. It was everything that I had hoped for, and more. In fact, just as Jesse had mentioned that the root beer was top notch, I felt that this was one of the best ginger beers that I had ever tried. It was spot on in every department. Plus FIZ (the name of the product) is made with 100% cane sugar, which is always a good sign.
College Club Beverages (CCB) is the name of the company that produces this craft soda. After taking a look at their Facebook page, I was amazed at some of their newest creations, including Chocolate Covered Cherry Soda and Cranberry Ginger Ale (hello Jesse?). CCB also manufactures Primo Italian Soda brands. The beverage company has been around since 1922, which means that it knows what the heck it’s doing. But it was only in 2014 that they recrafted their vision to enter into the artisanal soda industry. And in my book, they are doing it right. In fact, today was the first time that I ever heard the term “craft soda”.
According to an article in the Democrat & Chronicle, CCB actually purchased the FIZ brand, before changing the original recipe to include cane sugar (good move). That has led the company to unleash a bevy of naturally flavored bubbly sodas that reflect the directions that the craft beer movement has traveled.
For years, I have been a fan of Johnnie Ryan sodas, which are made in Niagara Falls and distributed to Buffalo cafés and restaurants. The company does a fine job of producing much better versions of your typical cherry, cola, orange, etc. flavors, using pure cane sugar. I’m still a fan of these guys, and have remained loyal for years (even though I only drink the occasional soda). Now I’m excited to see another regional brand surface in Buffalo, and one that looks like it’s going to keep us guessing due to it’s nimble craft nature.
As I finish the last sip of my ginger beer, I find myself thinking about the birch beer that still sits in my fridge. I’ll have to see what I can scavenge for lunch tomorrow, to go along with yet another tasty craft pop (had to say it).