Popular Craft Sodas, Ranked From Worst To Best

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It used to be that wine snobs were the ones most likely to bore the pants off the rest of us by ranting on and on about "palate" and "finish" and "an amusing little vintage" — blah, blah, boring blah. Then the craft beer revolution happened, and all it did was compound the problem once beer drinkers started droning on and on about "sessionable ales" and "mouthfeel" and trying to convince everyone that the more IBUs in your ale, the more beer-drinking cred you had.

Meanwhile, all was — and is — quiet on the craft soda front. Yes, small-batch sodas have been a thing for a number of years now, but they've yet to develop obscure technical jargon, nor are craft soda fans usually given to publicly shaming macro soda drinkers. In the soda world, it seems there is room for peaceful co-existence between Team Coke, Team Pepsi, and Team Some Small Soda That You've Probably Never Heard Of. If you're a soda fan, we'd never urge you to give up your favorite big brand, but you might want to check out a few of the other options available, should you get the chance. While everyone's got their own favorites, these are a few of the ones we're partial to, along with some of the ones we're not really wild about.

15. Stubborn Soda

Remember all the flap about fake craft brews? In 2016, there was even a lawsuit against Walmart for promoting a so-called craft line, aptly named Trouble Brewing. While this beer came complete with a phony microbrewery backstory, it was actually produced by Genesee, a brewery that FIFCO USA says is one of the nation's largest. Well, Stubborn Soda is kind of the soda version of a phony craft product, since if you scroll down to the bottom of their web page, you will see that they're produced by PepsiCo.

We'd forgive Stubborn Soda their little subterfuge if the stuff was any good, but the flavor combos aren't really to our liking, either. They've got the standard cola and diet cola, as well as a root beer and cream soda, but we'd have preferred to see pineapple as a standalone flavor rather than in a cream soda. Putting tarragon in the black cherry seems like an attempt to establish trendy cred, and we also feel orange is too overwhelming a flavor partner for delicate hibiscus. As for lemon berry açaí, thanks, but we'll pass. Lemon and any other berry in the world, great, we're all for it, but açaí ruins everything it touches, superfood or no. What makes Stubborn Soda a big NOPE for us, though, is the fact that, as per FoodBev, it's made with stevia, worst-tasting of all sugar substitutes.

14. Appalachian Craft Soda

Appalachian Craft Soda is a product of the Pennsylvania-based Appalachian Craft Brewing. They only offer a very limited range of bottled sodas, which are available in the mid-Atlantic region as well as Connecticut, Vermont, and South Carolina, although they say to email them if you'd like to buy a case of the stuff (apparently they haven't built the online ordering section of their website). The flavor line is a fairly limited flavor one: root beer, diet root beer, white birch beer, ginger beer, and orange cream soda. They've also got cola and a lemon/lime flavor, but these are only available at soda fountains in their distribution area.

What we like least about Appalachian Craft Soda is the fact that they, too, use the dreaded stevia. It appears that they only use it in the diet root beer, where its bitterness is (hopefully) offset by "a touch of honey," but still, in our opinion, stevia is just about the nastiest sweetener out there, artificial or otherwise.

13. Jones Soda

Jones Soda is pretty mainstream, as far as craft sodas go, but they paved the way for other small batch sodas to follow. Their LinkedIn bills the brand as being "Original Craft Soda," although without a definite article, it's unclear whether they're claiming to be the original craft soda, or simply an original craft soda. 

So how unique is Jones Soda? Fair to middling. The flavor lineup is extensive and has a few intriguing entries like green apple and the popular pink "fufu berry" (whatever that is), as well as items like the bubblegum soda that we suspect is produced primarily for the novelty value. (Upon occasion, they also go in for truly odd flavors, like the turkey-flavored soda that was likely intended just to get press coverage.) The main problem with Jones Soda, though, is that their flavors frequently fail to live up to their potential, and the sodas are just colorful, bubbly sugar water. Decent enough, but overall, somewhat of a disappointment.

12. Rocket Fizz

While Jones Soda dabbles in novelty from time to time, Rocket Fizz has gone all-in on this territory. Their savory line of Lester's Fixin's soda flavors is nothing but bizarro stuff: buffalo wing, peanut butter, mustard, pickle, ranch dressing, etc. (None of these, as expected, is all that enjoyable.) Melba's Fixin's relies on the more soda-able sweet stuff, with flavors like carrot cake, butterscotch candy, and key lime pie, though, oddly, no peach melba. Even the signature Rocket Fizz label is full of goofy stuff like black licorice and green apple jalapeño. Rocket Fizz does offer a few more mainstream soda flavors, however, including a decent craft line with pirate-themed root beer, sarsaparilla, and black cherry.

Where Rocket Fizz really makes its mark, however, is with gross flavors, like barf, dirt, and Martian poop. While we haven't had the, er, privilege, of trying any of these (tbh, we're just too chicken), we defer to the intrepid Amazon reviewers who described Rocket Fizz' Dirt Soda as having a flavor "like potting soil and mushrooms combined" and the Martian Poop as "tast[ing] like warm melted skittles." As for the barf soda, these YouTubers said "it actually tastes like throw-up." So, yeah, full points for originality, Rocket Fizz, but the fact that we don't really want to drink most of your sodas is what keeps you so low on our list.

11. Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

Bruce Cost puts out a darn good product, and in fact, if we were ranking craft ginger ales alone, it would be right up at the top of the list. As it is, we're not ginger ale superfans, though — we don't hate it, but neither is it a particular favorite, and it still carries a few unpleasant memories of the stuff Mom gave us when we were sick as kids. As it happens, ginger ale is all Bruce Cost offers. They do, however, offer a nice range of different ginger ale flavors, so there's that.

As for the flavors, pomegranate/hibiscus is our top pick — either that, or jasmine tea. Slightly unusual and definitely delicious, and we love the tiny floating ginger flecks. The blood orange/Meyer lemon is okay, though we'd have preferred a standalone lemon one. The passionfruit/turmeric was not a favorite — passionfruit is a bit too sweet for a soda flavor, and turmeric may be good for you, but it's not great in a soda. As for the original ginger ale, it's great — as far as ginger ales go. There's a low(er) calorie plain ginger ale, as well, though it's not a true diet soda, as it still has 66 calories. We're wondering why they bother adding artificial sweetener at all, instead of simply cutting back on sugar. To their partial credit, though, at least they use monk fruit, which is slightly less heinous than stevia.

10. WBC Craft Sodas

WBC, in our opinion, is the best darn craft soda you can buy at Dollar Tree. But wait, doesn't that destroy their craft cred? Nah. It seems the Wit Beverage Company's craft sodas may have originally come out under the Goose Island label, and Goose Island is still considered a craft beer, despite the fact that they are now owned by Anheuser-Busch.

WBC sodas get a big boost from us for their availability. Such a bummer when you hear about a great new soda, only to find you can't get hold of it without having to pay big bucks for shipping and handling or, worse, shell out for a plane ticket! What we're not wild about is the relatively limited flavor line: just root beer, vanilla cream, orange cream, spicy ginger, and grape. What they do, they do quite well, though, and we love the fact that all their sodas are made with pure cane sugar with no "natural" sweeteners sneaking in to ruin things. While the cream sodas are a tad too sweet for us, the root beer is a fairly classic rendition. Our real favorites, though, are the nicely spicy lime-spiked ginger and the much-better-than-Welch's grape soda. They're a must-buy every time we visit Dollar Tree.

9. GuS Soda

GuS is a soda that we thought we'd like a lot more than we did. In theory, it's right up our alley — a low-sugar soft drink that just cuts down on the sugar without replacing it with any dubious substitute ingredients. The problem with these sodas is that they seem a bit light on flavor, as if they'd just been cut with half club soda (something the founder says his dad used to do) without doubling down on the flavorings. What's more, they seem a bit light on the fizz, too. Yet one other minor issue is the fact that we're not so crazy about the name. GuS stands for Grown-up Soda, a moniker with implications about age on both sides. Not all kids are sugar addicts, for one thing, and there's nothing inherently immature about preferring a sweeter soda as an adult, either.

While GuS offers a cola and a ginger ale (no root beer, unusual for a craft soda), their real forte appears to be fruit flavors. They have half a dozen of these: blackberry, cranberry/lime, Meyer lemon, pomegranate, ruby grapefruit, and Valencia orange. GuS may (or may not) be widely distributed in brick and mortar retailers — when it comes to finding their products, they say you'll have to do your own detective work. You can, however, order their soda online.

8. Dang! That's Good

Dang! That's Good! is a soda brand that offers very few options, but the sodas they do have live up to their name. Their lineup is a bit root beer-centric, as four out of their six sodas are some variation on this flavor: root beer, diet root beer, butterscotch root beer, and diet butterscotch root beer. The reason they rate so highly with us, however, can be found in those magic words, "butterscotch root beer" — and yes, this soda really does taste just like a butterscotch candy dissolved in a really good root beer, only without being sickly sweet. As to the non-root beer flavors, the red cream soda is perfectly fine if you like your cream soda on the colorful side. Our pick, however, is the Italian cherry, a flavor they say was created to taste like maraschinos in syrup.

Dang! is made in Milwaukee, but distributed far and wide. Their sodas are currently sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants in 37 states. This product can also be purchased from online retailers, including Beverages Direct.

7. Rocky Mountain Soda

Rocky Mountain Soda is based in Denver, Colorado, and all of its sodas are named for locations within the state: Boulder Birch Beer, Rocky Mountain Root Beer, Breckenridge Blackberry, Buena Vista Blackcherry, Evergreen Elderberry, Loveland Lemon Limeade, Grand Mesa Grape, Old Centennial Orange Cream, Palisade Peaches & Cream, Pikes Peak Prickly Pear, and Colorado Cola. Even Golden Ginger Beer refers to the city of Golden (home of Coors and birthplace of Jolly Rancher!) rather than the color. These sodas are available at numerous locations throughout the Centennial State, but non-Coloradans can purchase them online by the 12-pack or case.

We really like Rocky Mountain Soda's flavors, especially some of the more unusual fruit ones, like elderberry and prickly pear. It's also nice to see fruit-flavored sodas where the fruits are allowed to stand on their own rather than being forced into unnatural mashups or spiked with superfluous trendy, ingredients. The labels featuring Colorado wildlife are cool, too. In fact, Rocky Mountain Soda may well have earned a slighter higher spot on the list, but we're taking points off for its incredibly annoying website. Note to developers: that side-scrolling thing isn't exactly intuitive on a computer screen, the jumpy auto-advance is kind of nausea-inducing, and we're definitely not fans of the endless loop that makes it difficult to count the flavors in your lineup.

6. Point

Stevens Point Brewery is, well, a brewery, meaning that they are primarily known for their beer. They've got quite a few intriguing brews, too, including a Fruity Pebbles-flavored IPA, a peanut butter cup porter, and a pistachio nut brown ale. They also supplement their booze sales with a line of sodas, though, which is how they earned their place on this list.

As it turns out, these beer brewers do a darn good job when they turn their hand to sodas! Point's flavor lineup isn't too extensive, but it covers a few basics — root beer, diet root beer, vanilla cream — before branching out into fruit flavors: orange cream, black cherry cream, and concord grape. Our favorite flavor of all, though, is a pretty pink mocktail in a bottle, called the Kitty Cocktail. The flavor profile is ginger ale spiked with maraschino cherry juice, plus a little bit of lemon/lime. If this sounds somewhat familiar, that's because this soda was modeled on the Shirley Temple, the original "kiddy drink" that's still a favorite with a number of grownups (us included). All this soda needs is a paper umbrella!

If you'd like to try the Kitty Cocktail, or any of Point's other sodas, their distributor map shows that Point's soda sales are concentrated in the Midwest (Stevens Point is in Wisconsin). Unfortunately, these sodas don't seem to be readily available for online ordering, although Beverages Direct does carry the root beer.

5. Dry Soda

Although Dry is based in Seattle, their "botanical bubblies," as they call them, are carried by supermarkets across the U.S. Should you not be able to locate a particular flavor, however, you can easily order the stuff online either through Dry's own website or retailers like Amazon, so major points for accessibility. This soda was originally intended by the brand's founder as a non-alcoholic option for upscale restaurants, kind of like Perrier, only with a lot more flavor. Like GuS, Dry could be considered an adult soda, although they don't come right out and hit you over the head with this designation.

As the name implies, Dry sodas are not too sweet, but they don't make use of artificial sweeteners, either. They contain just enough sugar to complement the flavorings, and are also nicely carbonated. Speaking of flavors, Dry has a decent range of these, from standard stuff like vanilla (basically a cream soda), ginger, and orange, to slightly more unusual offerings like cherry, apple, watermelon, and pineapple. A few of their sodas, however, are definitely not the stuff you see everyday: cucumber and lavender. Of these, we're not on board with the cucumber soda (or cucumber seltzers, for that matter), but Dry's lavender soda is one of our all-time favorites. Although we've yet to try it, Dry also sells a high-end reserve version of the lavender, as well as another reserve bottle in spiced pear.

4. River City

River City is really into nostalgia — their first-ever product was a root beer that they say was created to "bring back the taste of bygone years." Another one of their sodas, orange cream, was meant to evoke those famous Creamsicles that seem to be the kind of thing everyone last ate while they were in elementary school. Their ginger beer also has a nice old-timey flavor to it. River City only has one more soda in their lineup besides these three, and frankly we don't care whether this one triggers any nostalgia or not, because it's blueberry lemonade! It's blueberries, it's lemonade, it's synergistic soda magic.

The name River City, as it turns out, is a sobriquet for Elk Grove, California, and much of the soda's distribution seems to be local to that area. While the website does list some nationwide vendors such as Total Wine, a check of that particular retailer's website shows the stores that are carrying it are all located in California. Luckily, it's also available online from specialty soda retailers like Soda Pop Shop, so those of us outside the Golden State can get our blueberry lemonade fix without a cross-country road trip.

3. Sprecher

Sprecher, as anyone in Wisconsin can tell you, is the root beer that made Milwaukee famous. When Sprecher started out in 1985 as a craft beer brewery, they promoted their business by offering brewery tours, which are practically the state sport, after all. As many of the tour-goers brought their kids, the brewers decided to offer a house-made root beer for their younger guests, but the root beer itself was such a hit that Sprecher's blog admits it now far outsells their original beer.

While the Sprecher's soda story may have begun with root beer, they've since branched out into 11 year-round sodas. The root beer, cream soda, and orange soda are all available in regular and diet versions, and there's also a caffeinated root beer, caffeinated lemon-lime soda, and caffeinated "Dr. Sprecher." They also do ginger ale and grape and cherry sodas, a cherry cola, and "Puma Kola," a spicy, creamy, variant on the standard type of cola. Oh, and one more root beer: a maple-flavored one! In summertime, Sprecher's expands their fruit soda lineup with apple, strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry –- this last one's another top pick for best soda ever, and we'd most likely overindulge were it available year-round.

Sprecher's is widely available throughout much of the upper Midwest, and can also be ordered from the company's website. Some of the sodas are even available in syrup form, so you can DIY your own Sprecher's with a SodaStream!

2. Cannonborough Craft Soda

Cannonborough Craft Soda was created in the early 2010s by a few friends who retained their childhood fondness for soda but wanted to give it a foodie makeover. They'd cut their teeth in the Charleston, South Carolina restaurant scene, so they basically set out to make a farm-to-bottle soda. This is a true small-batch soda, and of all the sodas on the list, they've got the most creative, wide-ranging flavor line of anything you'd actually want to drink (as opposed to the mostly-undrinkable novelty soda genre).

Cannonborough's year-round flavors include honey basil, grapefruit elderflower, and raspberry mint as well as ginger beer – while this last one is their sole "standard," they still spice it up with cloves, vanilla, and habanero peppers. The seasonal lineup is even more intriguing, offering such unusual pairings as strawberry jalapeno and lemon laurel along with apple ginger honey, spiced cranberry, and blueberry vanilla. Perhaps their most out-of-the-ordinary offering is the Citrumelo + Hops flavor — if you're wondering what a citrumelo is (we were, too), they explain that it's a grapefruit/orange hybrid. The hops, of course, give this drink a beer-like taste, and yet the drink is alcohol-free.

While Cannonborough may have started small, their soda is now distributed throughout the south and up the east coast as far as Boston, and even to outposts as far-flung as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Evanston, Illinois. It's theoretically possible to buy their sodas online, as well, but as of this writing, each kind appears to be sold out.

1. Devil's Foot

Devil's Foot Beverage Company, based in Asheville, North Carolina, has a similar origin story to that of Cannonborough — just a couple of Carolina bros who thought, "Whoa, farm-to-can soda! Genius!" Okay, so the words are ours, except "farm-to-can" — they came up with that phrase. While their flavor lineup isn't quite as foodie-creative as their competition in the state directly to the south, they're on top of our list because the sodas they do make include all of our favorites: ginger beer (regular and "fuego"), lemonade, limeade, cherry limeade, peach lemonade, strawberry lemonade, and (yes!!) blueberry lemonade. Also, one more soda that's giving blueberry lemonade a serious run for our money as best soda flavor ever: lemonade/black tea. A fizzy Arnold Palmer, how great is that?

One area where Devil's Foot has yet to catch up with larger craft soda makers is that of distribution. As their product finder admits, although they're hoping to expand, their distribution to date is pretty much limited to the Carolinas. This would make us very sad, but, yay, you can order cases of Devil's Foot soda online! (Hey, 24 cans may last a week and a half if we exercise great restraint.) They even let you mix and match your flavors if you, too, are unable to make up your mind as to which one you like best.