Growing up, soda was always something that was in the house. It was there for everyday consumption and special events like birthday parties. I didn’t really love it, but I’d occasionally have it. But when I got braces (for the second time…) when I was 12, my orthodontist strongly said that he recommended all his patients stop soda consumption, as it would weaken my teeth and make them more susceptible to cavities especially with orthodontic treatment. I didn’t have any attachment to soda, so I just decided to cut it out completely. So since I was 12, the only rare times I have soda are when it’s mixed into a cocktail or on occasion when I’m traveling, and it’s an interesting brand/flavor that I find intriguing.
When I first came to Australia, Chris kept raving about how much he missed Bundaberg and ginger beer. I didn’t quite understand it until I had Bundaberg ginger beer and other flavors, such as mango (made only with Kensington Pride/Bowen mangoes grown in Queensland), passion fruit (I mean, this speaks for itself, right?), and the deliciousness (and rarity – still never seen it in the U.S.!) of their lemon, lime, and bitters flavor. There’s something special about the Bundaberg brand: they really want the flavors they are brewing to be pure and fully represented in the sodas they produce. So the brews, depending on the flavor, range in melding/processing time from one day (peach) to seven days (lemon, lime, and bitters) to extract just the right amount of flavor to be true to what they think is perfection. And they certainly have quite the range of flavors, which are all delicious: while they change them up (they’ve had apple in the past) and have seasonal specials (spiced ginger brew for the festive season), they have about 12 flavors that remain constant. The ones that are easiest to find in the U.S. are the ginger beer, sarsaparilla (root beer), and oddly, even the guava. The ones I never see in the U.S. are the red grape (Burgundee creaming soda, which I had for the very first time this visit), lemon/lime/bitters (brewed for seven days, made with cinnamon quills, clove buds, and gentian root, then mixed with lemon and lime juice and bitters for a flavor that could honestly pass as an alcoholic drink due to the bitters in it!), peach (the shortest brew at only one day), or pineapple coconut (brewed two days and made with fresh pineapple juice and coconut water).
We visited the Bundaberg Barrel on Monday, which is actually shaped… just like a barrel! The place is well decorated and appointed, with oversized exaggerated Bundaberg bottle caps topping each of their oversized bushes in front. And if that weren’t enough to convince us we were at the right place, as soon as we parked the car and got out, we could smell the heavily wafting scent of spicy ginger invading our noses! There, we had a tasting of about all twelve flavors, and the tasting fee included SIX cans of whatever flavors we’d like – what a good deal! So we optimized for the ones we couldn’t get easily, such as the creaming soda, lemon/lime bitters, and the grapefruit. We couldn’t cart all 12 back to Melbourne given our relative bag space, so we had to drink as much as possible on this trip. So this would most definitely be the most soda I’ve had in a short period of time — likely ever!