Two years ago, Paul Meek, co-owner of Kichesippi Beer Company, had a hunch that the locavore craft-beer craze could extend into the world of non-alcoholic beverages. He saw the rising popularity of small-batch sodas made without artificial flavours and colours and discovered that his U.S. counterparts were making and bottling craft beer and sodas on the same equipment.
He followed their lead and launched Harvey & Vern's Olde Fashioned Soda within his brewery. With no claims to be a healthful beverage, the soda benefits from a whiff of wholesomeness due to its use of more natural ingredients and the shunning of artificial colours and high fructose corn syrup. Craft sodas capture a market that may have abandoned traditional pop but is still open to something new to quench the thirst for fizzy sweetness.
For the launch of Harvey & Vern's fourth flavour in May (its original trio of flavours are cream soda, root beer and ginger beer), the company teamed up with Jose Cuervo tequila, creating a recipe called the 3 Amigos. It features Harvey & Vern's new lime soda, a cloudy, carbonated treat featuring pure cane sugar and real lime zest.
Meek is hoping to do for the margarita-style cocktail what his ginger beer did for the dark and stormy cocktail. After its launch two years ago, it began popping up on cocktail lists across Ottawa, where the use of its locally bottled brew is popular. So much for the non-alcoholic alternative.
The distribution of these sodas has grown organically, starting with its loyal hometown market of bars, shops and food trucks and stretched across the province (with plans to move soon into Quebec) where its signature old-fashioned bottles and six-packs are sold in some Farm Boy, Whole Foods and Loblaws supermarket locations. Prices range from $1.75 to $2.50 per bottle (depending on retailer), www.harveyandverns.com.