Process and Ethos
It seems to us that Corporate America has skewed, overused and killed so many terms over the past two decades that it has become hard to describe an authentic process without sounding like every other food or beverage company. Words like "small-batch," "natural," "artisanal" or "craft" have become synonymous with processes that crank out hundreds of thousands of units a day. There's no rules regulating these terms so they have become played out.
One example of this is how the Brewers Association cut off the use of "craft" for breweries that produce over six million barrels per year. So, technically, you can be a "craft" brewery if you make less than 1,984,000,000 12oz beers a year. That's a hair less than 5 beers per every American currently alive.
So instead of using catch-words to describe what we do, we at Portland Syrups (AKA Portland Soda Works) would rather just describe our process and let our world of friends decide for themselves which terms apply. It's important for us to be authentic, even if "authentic" isn't what it used to be.
We brew, bottle, label, shrink-wrap, box and ship all in and from our facility in NE Portland, OR. Raw ingredients come in and finished goods go out.
Our brewing process begins with sifting, sorting and weighing whole herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. We source these ingredients as close to home as possible and whenever available we buy locally. The ingredients are processed (in our case this simply means that they are chopped, crushed, juiced or toasted), weighed and placed in large brewing bags. Once weighed out, we add the requisite amount of filtered water and then steeped like a giant tea for a minimum of one hour and in some cases much much longer.
When we say "giant" we mean anywhere between 10 to 100 gallons. I guess you could say our giant is someone else's micro. It's all relative, but compared to where we started in 2012 brewing in quart-sized pots in our kitchens a 40-gallon steam-jacketed kettle is pretty giant.
Once the ingredients have finished steeping they are removed and the remaining brew is sweetened with pure cane sugar. We compost the ingredients that are removed and the sweetened "tea" is brought up to a specific temperature and then hot-filled into our bottles one at a time. Each bottle is filled and capped and then placed on a cooling rack.
After a few hours the bottles are cool enough to label so we bring them over to the labeling table and run each through our labelling machine. After labels are applied, the shrink bands are slipped around the neck and the heat gun seals each one making them tamper-evident. Using a lot-code gun we apply the lot code and expiration date to the bottom of the bottles and then they are boxed into cases and placed on the shelves ready for sale.
A case lives on the shelf for a few days before it is either sent out on delivery or split up and used for online orders.
It's a very involved process that could be streamlined and mechanized. We could use extracts instead of whole ingredients. We could produce in 10,000 gallon vats and use 8-head fillers and automated labelers and get our cost of goods as low as possible by purchasing cheaper ingredients and cutting corners, but that doesn't interest us. We don't want to be the next Coca-Cola because we don't want to make Coca-Cola. None of us have any issues with any specific corporations and their manufacturing practices, but it's just not what we want to do with our products. We make because we love making and each step is precious to us.
Our flavors come not just from the ingredients we use, but how we use them. We purchase from the companies we feel good about purchasing from both at home and at work. We want to feed our own families good food and also purchase from good people making good things so they can support their families. It might cost us a hair more at the register, but it all comes full circle in the long run. We believe that good comes from good and that's how we run our business. (That's a lot of uses of "good" in one paragraph. Perhaps overused, but we think the point gets across.)
So, long story short, we're not sure which buzz-terms sum us up, but if our customers can create a delicious beverage with our flavors and we feel like we did our best job sourcing, brewing, bottling and labeling then it's safe to say we are a "happy" beverage company. When it comes to business, I can't imagine anything better than being both proud and happy with one's product.
We promise to always do our best to find ways to improve and continue to create. We also promise to source ethically, responsibly, truthfully and honestly.
That's the general process and ethos of Portland Soda Works. We might not know which artisanal terms apply to us, but we do know we're proud of what we make and hope our flavors brighten your day.
Oh yeah! One last thing. Using one of our bottles along side your SodaStream machine (or any home sparkling setup) saves up to 24 plastic bottles from finding their way into landfills. We choose glass packaging and concentrates over ready-to-drink single serve packages in order to reduce the overall footprint of the beverage industry. When possible, we highly encourage reusing our bottles and always encourage recycling. We'd like to keep the oceans for fish and keep the plastics out. Every piece and every day counts.
Let's do this!