April 20, 2015
PORTLAND, OREGON—After three years in development, Portland Soda Works has just released its line of concentrated beverage syrups to the retail market. Their root beer and ginger beer flavors are now available in five New Seasons Market stores.
Portland Soda Works’ syrups are designed for either home soda making or cocktail flavoring. They join a beverage category whose explosive recent growth has seen well-known Portland restaurants stake claims, from Pok Pok to Hale Pele.
PSW’s syrups are brewed from whole, natural ingredients, never artificial flavors. Their root beer is brewed with real sarsaparilla root and toasted spices, and uses PSW’s house-made whole vanilla bean extract. Their ginger beer is brewed from whole hands of fresh ginger root and a secret dried chili that took years to discover. Only whole sugars, never corn syrups or artificial substitutes, are used as sweeteners.
Co-founder Chris Onstad (former Portland Mercury food and drink editor, and Achewood graphic novelist), began his quest to brew the “Belgian beer of soft drinks” out of frustration at the scant restaurant options given to the non-alcoholic drinker. He soon teamed with friend, neighbor, and golf legend Dan McLaughlin to form the business.
“To brew a convincing root beer from whole, all-natural ingredients,” says Onstad, “has taken hundreds and hundreds of batches. You have to not just meet lifelong palate imprints set by artificial products, but dance circles around them. One sip of our real root beer, and suddenly the other stuff will just taste like a Scratch N’ Sniff sticker.”
Along the way, PSW’s efforts were supported by late teamaker Steven Smith, who loaned them brewing kettles, and gave invaluable guidance not just on the science of brewing, but the business. Nat West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider gave them early brewing space, and numerous chefs from Onstad’s “little black book” of trusted palates helped tune the flavors.
PSW has also developed several successful flavors internally and in collaboration with local brands, such as a toddy cola with Water Avenue Coffee.
New Seasons features each of the bottled syrups at their Concordia, Grant Park, Seven Corners, Cedar Hills, and Progress Ridge locations. Both flavors come in 375ml sizes (12.7 fl oz) and are located with the mixers, bitters, and bar syrups. The syrups are produced in a licensed commissary in inner Southeast Portland.
More details—including cocktail recipes—can be found at PortlandSoda.com. Contact Portland Soda Works through their site, via email at PortlandSoda@gmail.com, or via voice mail at (503) 479-8132.
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