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Soda, craft style.

Byline: Ian Campbell The Register-Guard

For someone who may be hesitant to knock back a pint of beer during a weekday or on a work night, Rogue Ales & Spirits says it has another brewed option - craft soda.

Rogue Ales Public House in Eugene will be cutting the ribbon this Saturday for the grand opening of the company's first sodaery.

Rogue first began brewing root beer on a limited basis about 10 years ago, but it is getting serious about soda now, with Eugene as the epicenter.

On Saturday, curious customers will be able to taste Rogue's original flavor, root beer, as well as two others that have since joined it - citrus cucumber and honey orange. They'll also be able to sample two new flavors - hop lemonade and ginger rose.

"We're just planning to experiment (with flavors) and have fun," Rogue President Brett Joyce said.

While Rogue's brewery and distillery take up the majority of the company's time, Joyce said adding soda production isn't very expensive.

"Typically the biggest thing you need is the equipment and we have it," Joyce said. "It's more a matter of the time rather than the hard capital costs."

Plus, when one of your head brewers has a secret family recipe for root beer, it's hard to ignore the possibilities.

Arlen Harris, former head brewer at the Eugene pub, said his grandfather shared the root beer formula "on a random afternoon" when Harris was 18. After joining Rogue, Harris was asked by founder Jack Joyce whether he knew how to make soda.

"I told him I knew how to make root beer," Harris said. "But when he asked for the recipe I told him, 'I'm not going to send you that.' So then he asked if I could make it. That's when it started."

Later the two struck a deal: Harris would give up the recipe because "Jack Joyce is my family" but it couldn't be shared.

Harris said that he enjoyed being able to serve his children soda from the tap when Rogue began brewing root beer from his family recipe.

"They would drink root beer while I'd have a beer and the kids would be able to go on a taste expedition of their own," Harris said. "That's really the theme to who (Rogue is) and why they're beautiful."

Today Steve Distasio's mind is on brewing soda, not beer, as he races around the hallways of Rogue's basement brewery in Eugene, where the bulk of Rogue's soda is produced.

Distasio, who got his start brewing beer at home in Illinois, is in charge of brewing soda and creating new flavors. Soda, he said, is more of a puzzle.

"You can't make a cucumber cola or a cucumber root beer, so you have to appreciate the flavors and do your best to make them come out," Distasio said.

Distasio has the luxury of selecting ingredients from the Rogue farm in Independence, which produces cucumbers, pumpkins, plums, honey and other products.

The difficult part, Distasio said, is keeping up with Rogue's creative palate, which has produced a VooDoo Doughnut Maple Bacon beer, a Marionberry Braggot and a "beard beer" that had yeast harvested from Rogue brewmaster John Maier's beard.

"Everyone would expect a raspberry (soda)," he said. "So you really have to try and take it to the next level."

Follow Ian on Twitter @MrCampbell17. Email

'Sodaery' grand opening

When: Saturday, Aug. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Rogue Ales Public House at 844 Olive Street, Eugene

Phone: 541-345-4155
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 21, 2014
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