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Craft beer fan? Meet craft soda at the Soda Pop Festival

Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

If you go to Klassic Arcade in Gobles, the bartender can pour you a homebrewed, ice cold glass right from the tap...a glass of soda that is. Like craft beer, artisan sodas have gained popularity in the past few years.

On Saturday the 22nd, you can sample craft sodas from around the Midwest at the Midwest Soda Pop Festival from noon to 6 p.m. at Klassic Arcade. Kevin Ketchum and AnetraGrice of Klassic Arcade started the festival two years ago. Ketchum says he was surprised that no one in the U.S. had ever held this kind of event before.

“It kind of caught us off guard because we thought we could go on Google and see what everybody else had done and kind of modify what we were doing," he says. "So we had to kind of come up with our own ideas.”

The soda tasting will feature more than 100 different sodas and about 35 flavors. Each table will be set up by flavor category like fruity sodas and root beers. Grice says even with a simple flavor like ginger ale, no two ginger ales are the same.

“Some are spicier than others, some are sweeter," she says. "It’s very interesting the differences. I would guess it’s just like root beer. You know there can be a lot of differences in root beers. You know some have that real strong sarsaparilla taste and then others are more sweet. So you can get a lot of fluctuation with the different flavors of that as well.”

Ketchum says there are also unique flavors like butterscotch root beer and ‘Moxie’:

“Moxie is like Coca Cola with black licorice in it," he says. "People either love it or hate it. I like it myself, but others don’t.”

Kevin Ketchum drinking some of his homebrewed Klassic Rootbeer at Klassic Arcade.
Kevin Ketchum drinking some of his homebrewed Klassic Rootbeer at Klassic Arcade.

And of course, there’s Klassic Arcade’s sodas on tap. With the exception of the root beer, all of Klassic’s sodas have arcade names like Q*Bert’s Honey Orange and Frogger’s Revenge—a kiwi cream soda. Ketchum brews all of Klassic’s sodas himself.

“We make new every couple weeks so it isn’t around a whole long…you know, it’s not like sitting on a shelf for six months or anything," he says. "It’s normally pretty fresh tasting.”

Grice says some sodas at the festival are so rare that people go to great lengths to bring home a six pack.

“One that jumps out at me is Green River. That comes out of Chicago and I know that’s a really old brand. I think it’s been around for a really long time. And when we first started carrying that at the arcade, people would drive from Chicago to come and get that in the bottles. So even in Chicago I don’t know that they sell it very readily. I think it gets shipped all over, but it’s so strange that how many people would drive from there even though it’s made there—which I thought was really interesting. So a lot of the flavors we’ll get people who really come that aren’t interested in the arcade. They’ve seen the flavors online and they want to come and try them because they haven’t been able to get them in glass bottles maybe since they were a kid.”

In addition to live music, the soda festival will have a lot of things for kids like face-painting and arcade games. Grice says craft soda has a way of bringing generations together.

“Because a lot of kids, you know, that are younger now. They’ve maybe never had a soda in a glass bottle," she says. "So it’s just kind of interesting and a fun way for parents and grandparents to kind of share that experience with the younger crowd.”

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.
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