Craft beer festivals are old hat. Wine and food festivals, they’re everywhere.
So Sebring, a small town along the lovely Lake Wales Ridge in Central Florida, is staking a claim for something new — Florida’s first (and only) craft soda festival, the Sebring Soda Festival, April 5-6, 2019.
The festival, which is in its second year, takes place in the historic downtown of Sebring. It will give visitors a chance to sample and buy more than 200 sodas.
You’ll find traditional ones — colas, ginger ales, root beers, and cream sodas – as well as novel flavors — prickly pear, espresso, peach cobbler, candied bacon, key lime, cucumber and pepper.
Craft sodas have blossomed besides craft beer, often made by breweries. They also have benefited from the growth of cocktail culture and mixologists
In fact, on the Saturday evening there will be an adults-only cocktail event with mixologists preparing unique drinks using some of these craft sodas.
What makes something a craft soda? Well, all the sodas at the festival are made from sugar (vs corn syrup) and all are made in small batches. And you’ve probably never heard of most of them.
Craft sodas have a story to tell
Craft sodas at the event have some great back stories, dating from the era before Big Soda reigned supreme, and many of the soda makers will be at the festival.
Moxie, the state of Maine’s state soft drink. In the late 1800’s, Dr. Augustin Thompson, a Civil war veteran, playwright, and homeopathic physician, wanted to make a cure-all which did not contain harmful ingredients like cocaine and alcohol. Moxie Nerve Food was invented and patented in 1885 and was the very first bottled carbonated beverage made in America. Today Moxie is still a craft soda produced in Maine. (It’s now owned owned by Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England. )
Avery Soda, still made in a barn in Connecticut. Sherman F. Avery began making soda in the red barn in New Britain, CT in the summer of 1904. Avery’s quickly became known for its variety of flavors, especially the Cream, Birch Beer, Root Beer and Ginger Ale. Avery is a family-owned business that produces its sodas in small batches and packaged in glass bottles, still based in the same barn.
Boots Beverages from Bellville, Texas. When the craft beer business exploded in Texas, Mark Kristen revived his father’s soda brand dating to the 1940s.Flavors available at the festival will include Caramel Apple, Dewberry, Coconut Cream, Sarsaparilla Root Beer, Orange Cream Dromsicle, Lemon Meringue, and Lucky Ginger Brew.
Other craft sodas participating include Sprecher Brewing Company (Glendale, WI), Fest Cola (New Orleans, LA), Boylan Bottling Company (New York, NY), Cheerwine (Salisbury, NC) Durango Soda Company (Durango, CO) and others.
One of the founders of the event is Liz Barber, who co-owns Sebring Soda and Ice Cream Works, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in a historic building in downtown Sebring, 201 Circle Park Drive, Sebring. At Sebring Soda, hundreds of flavors of soda are available every day.
About the Sebring Soda Festival
Admission is free to the festival and the kickoff party Friday night (Rockin’ Fifties Block Party, 5-8 p.m. with entertainment by The MoonRays.)
To try the sodas, you must buy a “punch card” that allows you to sample several. ($5 for eight samples; $10 for 18 samples; $20 for 40 tastings.)
Tickets for the “Get Your Fizz On Cocktail Party,” which includes soda-based craft cocktails, paired hors d’oeuvres and music, are $35 each or two for $60. You can buy the tickets online or at the event.
Places to explore nearby:
Sebring is located in an area of rolling hills and small towns. We’ve visited many times and here are some of our favorite nearby places:
- Henscratch Farm and Vineyard
- Highland Hammocks State Park: Ancient oaks caress the soul from Florida Rambler.
- Paynes Creek Historic State Park
- A terrific river for kayakers is 20 minutes outside Avon Park: Arbuckle Creek
- The Lake Wales Ridge area is hiker heaven. Nearby, there are 10 miles of good trails at the Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve.
- A scenic drive through Florida cattle country along the Cracker Trail
- Lake Kissimmee State Park: Where Old Florida lives on, a Florida Rambler guide.
- Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park