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November 26, 2007

Pops 66

I admit it: I have a penchant for soda. Maybe it's because I was denied soft drinks as a kid. Or, maybe I just like the fizzy sweet taste. Whatever it is, I love soda. My favorite "hand crafted" sodas come from Boylan's (grape and orange are my favorite) and China Cola. I especially like sodas made with cane sugar (instead of high-fructose corn syrup), as they have a cleaner finish without the syrupy texture. A couple of months ago, my wife read about a shop in Oklahoma that carried hundreds of specialty sodas. The name of the shop is Pops 66, and it's located just north of Oklahoma City on an old section of Route 66. Since we were going to be traveling through Oklahoma over Thanksgiving, we made plans to swing by on our return trip.

As I mentioned, Pops 66 is just north of Oklahoma City, just outside the small town of Arcadia (population 279). The shop itself is new with very modern architecture. And when I say new, I mean brand spanking new. Everything inside was very clean and bright -- even the rest rooms. Half of the shop is a diner, with a convenience store comprising the other half. On the wall opposite the diner is a large refrigerated case displaying the full selection of different sodas. Pops 66 claims to carry "nearly 500" different kinds of soda. It didn't seem like there were quite that many, but I didn't stop to count each one. There certainly was no shortage of selections, however. It was fairly overwhelming at first -- I had to pause and decide how best to select a representative mix without going completely overboard. I settled on 18 different sodas total, two of which were selected by my son, and one by my wife (see below for complete list).

All-in-all, the experience was a fun one. If you're ever traveling through Oklahoma on either I-35 or I-44, it's well worth the short drive off the highway (especially if you're a soda fan like I am). If you're an historic Route 66 fan, the Round Barn in Arcadia is a stone's throw away from the shop as well.

Read on for the list of sodas I purchased, as well as a brief description of each (updated as I consume them).

Drizzle Banana Soda
(26-Nov) Once you get past the...ahem...organic color of the soda, you'll find the banana-flavored soda is similar in taste to cream soda, with a hint of banana in the finish. It was a bit too sweet for me. It was interesting, but not something I would make an effort to drink again. The novelty of a banana-flavored soda is its major selling point, in my opinion.

Empire Real Cola
(27-Nov) This cola had a very clean taste, but lacked the "bite" of most colas. I found it to be too sweet as well. It wasn't syrupy (it is made with cane sugar), but it needed more cola taste and less sweetness. It wasn't bad, per se, but it wasn't great.

Route 66 Orange Soda
(5-Dec) This orange soda has a slight tangerine taste. It's not sweet enough for my tastes, and the flavor isn't very robust. If anything, it tastes rather watered-down. Disappointing.

NuGrape Soda
(7-Dec) Not a bad grape soda, but not a great one. The grape taste wasn't very robust, and it wasn't sweet enough for me. I much prefer Boylan's grape to this one.

Sioux City Sarsaparilla
(4-Dec) A delicious, creamy sarsaparilla with a hint of wintergreen to give it a little bite. I really liked this one, and would buy it again if given the opportunity.

Dad's Blue Cream Soda
(29-Nov) It's cream soda, and it's blue. I picked this up for my son, as he's a big fan of cream soda. As cream soda's go, it's not bad. But, I'm not really into cream soda, so I couldn't say how it compares to others.

Nesbitt's Strawberry
(28-Nov) I was disappointed in this one. Although the soda has just about the right sweetness, it only has a very faint strawberry taste. I was expecting a much fuller flavor. The soda has a bit of a strange aftertaste, almost like one gets with an artificial sweetener. It's made with cane sugar, so it shouldn't have such a bad finish. Whatever it is, I don't like it.

Doctor Whatever
(3-Dec) This was delicious! It starts out tasting like a Dr. Pepper, and finishes with a nice black cherry flavor. I woul definitely buy this again. It was really good.

Empire Pineapple Soda
(6-Dec) This soda tasted a lot like a pinapple Life Savers candy, albeit somewhat less sweet. I was expecting a more tart flavor to it. Instead, it had a somewhat creamy taste with a good pinapple flavor. Overall, a pretty good soda.

Red Brain Wash Soda
(1-Dec) This has to be one of the most unusual sodas I've ever drunk. The taste is nearly indescribable. It has a somewhat fruity beginning, but I can't identify what fruit it tastes like. The most distinguishing flavor is the spicy finish. The soda is made with jalapeno oil (as well as a number of other herbs and spices), so it has a lot of zing to it. It's loaded with caffiene as well -- it's made with guarana as well as added caffeine. I liked the way it tasted, overall. However, it wasn't really refreshing or thirst-quenching.

Cool Mountain Green Apple Soda
(2-Dec) This green-colored soda is lightly carbonated and has just the right amount of sweetness. The apple flavoring tastes natural and isn't overpowering like other apple sodas I've tried. I was expecting a more tart flavor (it's green apple, after all), but I was pleased with the taste nonetheless. I would certainly buy this again.

Cricket Cola
(29-Nov) Well, this one tastes like sweetened green tea, with a hint of citrus. I'm not big on sweetened tea, myself, so I can't say I really enjoyed this soda.

Boylan Cane Cola
(30-Nov) Now this is an incredible cola! It's not too sweet, and it's not too fizzy. It has a very distinctive spice taste to it. It tastes like cardamom with a hint of cinnamon. Another winner from Boylan's. I'll need to source a local supply somehow.

Triple XXX Root Beer
(28-Nov) This was an excellent root beer! It was very smooth and creamy with a pronounced vanilla taste. It had only a hint of wintergreen in it. I usually like root beers with more wintergreen (it gives root beer its bite), but this one was really exceptional. I can't comment on the head, as I drank it straight from the bottle (heresy, I know). It wasn't especially fizzy, so I suspect it wouldn't produce much of a head. My only complaint about this root beer is that it's made with HFCS instead of cane sugar. Still, it's one of the best root beers I've had in a while.

Henry Weinhard's Root Beer
(5-Dec) A delicious root beer. It had a satisfying vanilla taste with just the right amount of bite. I would buy this one again.

Capt. Eli's Blueberry Pop
(7-Dec) This was a fantastic soda! It had a rich blueberry taste with a hint of grape. It had just the right amount of sweetness and was very refreshing. I will make an effort to buy this one again.

Jones Blue Bubblegum Soda
(7-Dec) This is essentially a creme soda under a different name. As I've stated before, I'm not much of a creme soda fan. However, this one was actually quite good. It won't make me a creme soda drinker, but it's definitely one of the better ones.

Nesbitt's Orange
(8-Dec) Finally, a Nesbitt's soda I like. This had a nice orange flavor and was very refreshing. It's a "true" orange soda without mandarin or tangerine flavorings like other orange sodas contain. I would drink this again, but I still prefer the mandarin/tangerine flavor in Boylan's Orange.