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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Sprecher root beer is the brewery's most popular soda flavor.

Sprecher soda remains most "pop"-ular product


Last week, the Sprecher Brewing Company introduced its latest seasonal soda, blueberry. The mildly carbonated beverage offers a taste that's both tart and sweet, similar to fresh, late summer blueberries.

The soda, made with Wisconsin honey, is currently available in the Sprecher gift shop, 701 W. Glendale Ave., and will be widely available in stores by Labor Day weekend.

Randy Sprecher, who opened the brewery in 1985, started making soda in 1988 because so many adults brought their kids on the brewery tour. Today, soda makes up about 70 percent of Sprecher's beverage business.

Anne Sprecher, director of PR and marketing, says she's on a mission to make the beer as popular as the soda, but for now, it makes sense.

"There's no legal drinking age for soda – not yet, at any rate – so everyone from toddlers to grandmas can imbibe. Also, our soda distribution is much more extensive. You don't have the regulations with soda distribution that you do with beer," she says.

The same brewmasters who brew the beer also make the soda. Because of the high volume of retail sales, the brewmasters brew a lot more soda than beer.

Sprecher root beer is by far the most popular soda in the collection. It's brewed to have a rich and creamy "old fashioned" root beer taste and is also made with Wisconsin honey "direct from the combs," along with pure vanilla and a variety of botanicals.

Other Sprecher soda flavors include low-cal root beer, cream soda, Orange Dream, Ravin' Red, ginger ale, grape, cherry cola and seasonals such as strawberry, red raspberry, red apple and the new blueberry.

Like beer, the soda is brewed in kettles. This, along with the use of natural, local ingredients, is what makes Sprecher a cut above the average gas station or super market sodas. Sprecher cherry cola is made with Door County cherry juice and the cream soda also includes fresh Wisconsin honey.

Although there is not a separate Sprecher soda tour, the soda-making process is a part of the regular brewery tour and the end of the tour allows guests to sample a few of the 15 beers and / or nine sodas inside Sprecher's indoor beer garden.

Tours are available most Wednesdays through Sundays. During the week, tours are usually offered later in the day, and on the weekends, they run throughout the day. Reservations must be made ahead of time. Check the website for exact dates and times.

Sprecher sodas can be enjoyed straight up from the bottle or in a glass – a frosted mug is ideal – but are also made to be mixed with ice cream and even alcohol.

"But (if drinking them alone) you always want to drink them straight up, without ice," says Sprecher.

For anyone interested in sampling Sprecher soda-and-booze concoctions, Sprecher recommends Sprecher cream soda with Malibu rum, Orange Dream with Malibu Passion, Sprecher root beer with Jack Daniels and Puma Cola with Sailor Jerry Rum.

Many of Sprecher's other products are made with their soda, including the root beer popcorn, root beer mustard, root beer bread and Orange Dream brownie mix, all of which are available in the gift shop.

Sprecher moved to its current location in 1994, after the company outgrew its Walker's Point-based brewing facility at 720 W. Oregon St.

When asked what she thought of the word "pop" – often used in place of the word "soda" by people in other parts of the state / country – Sprecher wasn't sure.

"Let me get back to you on that," she said. "But in the mean time, remember we make damn good beer, too."


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