When life gives you empty kegs and you want to make a family-friendly beverage, make soda. Jesse Friedman (of Beer and Nosh and Almanac Beer Co.) knew he was onto something while attending a friend's wedding. Despite offering a unique homebrew for the nuptials, Friedman noticed that the revelers blew through his keg of homemade ginger ale first. Visions of soda pop danced in his head.
For his first run at S.F.'s New Taste Marketplace, Friedman sold 10 gallons of his spicy ginger ale in a matter of hours. Since then, he's been preaching the pop gospel ― soda, says Friedman, isn't inherently a four-letter word. The craft sodas Friedman's been making aren't the sugary, chemical-laden beverages on grocery-store shelves. The taplist at last Saturday's New Taste Marketplace included Good 'Ol Southern Boy Sweet Tea Soda, infused with mint and lemon; Meyer Lemon and Fennel Fizz, from juiced fennel and backyard lemons; and his signature Ginger Ale, made with Eureka lemons and eight pounds of hand-juiced ginger.
Not a soda drinker by habit, Friedman creates his beverages with a similar demographic in mind. All are made with fresh, local ingredients, lightly sweetened with cane sugar, and balanced. Through his homebrewing and commercial brewing ventures, he's become a yeast whisperer of sorts. While CO2-carbonated sodas have an aggressive, slightly painful punch, the baking yeast Friedman employs provides a softer effervescence that releases aroma without steamrolling complex flavors.
Quality ingredients, yeast cultivation, and careful technique: the same elements that go into craft beer, minus the alcohol. Of course, there's nothing wrong with fortifying your soda ― ginger and bourbon make great bedfellows.
And while you wait for the sodas to hit your local haunts, give Friedman a pat on the back for the effort. Juicing ginger is like squeezing blood from a stone.