Minnesota's Blue Sun Soda is riding a craft-beer-like craze for pop drinkers of all ages
SPRING LAKE PARK, Minn. -- John Swanson was trying to please his grandson and failing miserably.
“How about some cookie-dough soda?” said Swanson, who lives in Coon Rapids. “Oooh, here is some pumpkin-pie soda.”
“Eww!” said 9-year-old Logan as he wandered among the 1,200 varieties in Minnesota’s largest soda shop, Blue Sun Soda in Spring Lake Park.
How about Wizard-of-Oz soda? No.
Bug Barf? No.
Finally, the boy found something he liked — Martian Soda, with a little green alien on the can.
They joined Blue Sun’s customers Saturday, gawking at the labels and marveling at the inventiveness of an exploding market for exotic sodas.
Owner Mark Lazarchic manned the cash register as customers wandered through his library of fizz.
“The No. 1 word from people walking in the door is ‘overwhelming,’ ” said Lazarchic, who opened the store in November. He plans to open a second store in Bloomington this year.
“This is going great! I sell sugar for a living!” he crowed.
Blue Sun is riding a wave of popularity of niche-market sodas, similar to the craft-beer movement that is energizing beer sales.
Today, dozens of countries make and market sodas around the world, along with several Minnesota companies. For shoppers, it means the dawn of the era of strange flavors and head-scratching labels.
What’s impressive is not that the store has rhubarb soda. What’s impressive is its entire section of rhubarb sodas.
“If there is a flavor out there, someone is putting it into soda,” Lazarchic said. “We have cucumber soda, ranch-dressing soda, buffalo-wing soda.”
Lazarchic has been accused of being politically and nutritionally incorrect. Overconsumption of sodas has been linked with obesity, heart disease and tooth decay.
“I tell people: Don’t be stupid,” he said. “Some people take two liters of Coke to work and drink the whole damn thing.”
That is because mainstream brands are made to be consumed in volume, he said. “They are watered-down and flavorless, so you are supposed to keep drinking them.”
But not his sodas, he said. They are supposed to be sipped and savored.
“This is a dessert. You do not drink a 12-pack a day,” Lazarchic said, holding a can of dandelion-and-burdock root soda.
That herbal concoction is from England, and a few of Blue Sun’s other international highlights include:
- Irn Bru from Scotland. “It tastes like the white powder that they used to put on the Bazooka bubble gum,” Lazarchic said.
- Ramune from Japan. The bottles are opened by pushing a marble in the cap through a seal.
- Kazouza Tamarind-flavored soda from Lebanon.
It’s unclear whom, exactly, some of the sodas were made for.
Some of the cans look like winners of a second-grade gross-out contest, such as “Gross Gus Bloody Nose,” which has a suitably disgusting illustration.
If that doesn’t sound yummy, you could try Pirate Piss, Dog Drool, Zombie Brain Juice, Kitty Piddle, Alien Snot or Brainalyzer.
For your undead friends, you could serve the zombie-themed Grisly Swill or Rot-berry.
For anyone who enjoys licking car engines, try the sodas inspired by automotive fluids: “Green Cooler” resembling radiator fluid and “10-30” motor-oil soda.
For your Communist friends, try Leninade. Named after the father of Soviet communism Vladimir Lenin, the soda cans sport a hammer-and-sickle symbol.
Or they might enjoy seeing Fidel Castro on a can of “Havana Banana,” or Muammar Gaddafi, former prime minister of Libya, hawking the cryptically named “Cream My People.”
People who don’t have TV sets might enjoy watching sodas instead — such as “Judge Wapner,” inspired by the 1980s star of the show “People’s Court.”
For your fair-haired friends who drink two liters of soda at a time, there is the blonde-joke in a can, “So Duh!” illustrated by a confused-looking blonde.
Swanson, the grandfather shopping with his grandson, kept on looking past all these. Alternately grossed-out, amused or puzzled, he was looking for the ultimate believe-it-or-not flavor.
In the back of the store, his quest finally ended. “Now,” he said, “I have seen it all.”
The can? Bacon-flavored soda.
Minnesota companies making sodas available at Blue Sun Soda:
- Whistler Soda and North Star Soda, Forest Lake
- Buddy’s, Sleepy Eye
- Spring Grove Soda, Spring Grove
-Tree Fort Soda, Minneapolis
- Dorothy’s Root Beer, Ely