November 19, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

So, how did it get to be that time of year again?  Where has 2013 gone?  Didn't we just play this game?  Not that I'm complaining.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Holidays just as much as the next guy, but I was really looking forward to this summer.  Did it come yet?

Personally, I think this should be on everyone's holiday list:
Barnes & Noble

That's right ladies and gents.  My book has a release date and it's already up for preorder!  Available June 1st!  Which I must admit, it's rough putting something on your Christmas list that you won't see for six months, but it's so totally worth it!

Anyway, I've reined in my holiday guide this year and broken it down to a few different categories.  This past year I've looked at soda making through some different lenses and here are five soda-maker personality types that I've chosen a few gifts for this year.

For The Nostalgic
This is the one that yearns for a bygone era.  The golden age of soda shops, soda jerks, and buying a bottle for a nickel.  The Nostalgic collects bottles and caps and anything soda related that looks old.  If she's on your Christmas list, you've come to the right place.

Vintage Soda Tin Signs
Tin advertising signs span generations.  You can pick up originals from antique or specialty stores, or you can find some great reproductions on places like Ebay and Amazon.  For anyone that has a space in the house dedicated to soda, The Nostalgic is sure to love some decor to spruce it up.

Nostalgia Electrics Dispenser Fridge icon
I saw this come out sometime this year, but I have heard little about how it works.  I've kept my eye out for mini fridges to build kegerators, and I can't help but think that this could be modified to dispense a keg with the built in dispenser.  If not, it still looks neat nonetheless.

Soda Siphons
Basically the original soda stream.  I picked up one of these glass soda siphons for their retro look, and am pleased that it is basically a self contained alternative to the SodaStream.  Plus I can carbonate anything I want in it, I can take it apart to clean it, and I'm working on a solution to be able to hook it up to a larger CO2 source.  For now it runs on 8g CO2 cartridges, but that's fine for the time being.
Classic Glass and Metal Mesh Seltzer Bottle also available in Green or Blue

You can also browse Ebay for a soda siphon that's truly Vintage.  Though some I would trust only as decor.

For The Copycat
The Copycat is a true DIYer.  Like a reformed con-artist, he is proud to offer his version of your favorite beverage.  Homemade cola? He's got you covered, do you want the red can recipe or the blue can recipe?  Like a connesieur of fine wines, he can name all 23 of the Dr's mystery flavors and whip up a batch for your next party.  Not sure what to put under the tree for him?  We do.

Sprecher Root Beer Extract icon
Sprecher has got to be one of the best root beers out there.  Rumor has it that Sprecher Brewery's root beer out sells all of their regular beers combined.  While it may be hard to get a hold of in bottles other than ordering online, it's much better to just order a jug of extract to make 5 gallons yourself.  Not exactly like cracking the secret recipe, but it's the next best thing.

Soda Keg O-Ring Kits
For carbonating in a keg, it's always good to have extra o-rings on hand.  There are numerous sets available on ebay and it's always good to have a few extras on hand.

The Twist N Sparkle by iSi was sold as an alternative to the soda stream, and while it was recalled last year due to safety concerns, the Soda Sparkle emerges as its replacement.  It still runs on CO2 cartridges, but it makes for a very compact setup that stores easily.

White Collar Season 4 on DVD icon
This one is just a bonus and would inspire any copycat.  I particularly liked the episode where Neal has to counterfeit a bottle of whiskey; bottle, beverage, and label.  It really struck a chord with the food scientist in me, even though I don't drink alcohol.

For The Syrup-er
As a rather casual sodamaker, the Syrup-er may have gotten into the craft by wanting just a little more variety out of her SodaStream than their off-the-shelf syrups, yet she's not interested in investing in a keg right now.  Or she could be a fan of mixed drinks or flavored coffees, and she just really enjoys the versatility of having various flavor syrups on hand.  Beyond syrups, what does this gal want?  Read on.

Make Your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pop, Floats, Cocktails, and More by Anton Nocito
As founder of P&H Soda Co. Anton Nocito seeks to share his recipes with all.  Syrups are the foundation of this book, and while they can be adapted to other soda making methods, it's always easier to have the whole recipe and process right in front of you without having to calculate to your own adaptation.  With a gourmet flair, Nocito shows how to make some tasty, tasty syrups.

Cuisinart Carbonator and Syrups
Cuisinart usually makes some quality stuff.  I have one of their Ice Cream makers, and it's pretty good for the price.  While it seems there are few places to get your hands on their elusive carbonator (which looks a lot like the Soda Sparkle), they do have some promising artisan syrups.

For The Fermenter
The Fermenter is patient and not afraid to get his hands dirty with a complicated recipe.  For him, that satisfactory hiss of a heavily carbonated bottle outweighs any yeasty off-note or trace of alcohol.  Old-school and natural is his style.  He may not be as picky as other soda makers, but here are some selections that are sure to please.

Mr. Root Beer Kit
This is a complete kit sure to get anyone hooked on making soda.  There are refills for the items in this kit, but the same items can be purchased elsewhere and the bottles reused.  But to gather all of those items can be a chore and so the kit comes in handy for the first-timer.

Brown PET Bottles icon
Ok, ok, so The Fermenter already has a preferred extract and yeast.  Perhaps some more bottles would be more in line so larger batches can be made all at one time.  Nothing wrong with that, and if you don't want to empty commercial bottles of store-bought swill, just buy some brand new PET bottles perfect for fermenting.
True Brews by Emma Christensen
Emma Christensen of the Kitchn put this out this year as a guide to all things fermented for those with limited space.  She claims that all the recipes are scaled to be able to be made in a small apartment.  Not bad for a hobby that is on its way to taking over my basement (and that's just soda, I'd hate to think how much more gear I could amass if I were to actually homebrew other beverages).  The soda section may be only a portion of the book, but the recipes are not bad at all.  Be sure to check out the watermelon-mint soda that looks to be the red one showcased on the cover, it's fabulous.

For The Budding Pro
Right now in the U.S. craft beer is on the rise, so why not craft soda?  The Budding Pro is poised and ready to take on the Big Three in the soda business and has a brand and logo to prove it.  On the pro's Christmas list this year, you can be sure that you'll likely find one or more of these:

Branded Brewski Bell Soda Glass
Glassware is great to drink from.  There's something magical about it.  There's something even more magical about drinking from glassware with your own logo on it.  There is a minimum order and a setup fee, but if you don't mind picking up a few dozen, these are a perfect way to start your own brand. They are available as 6.75 oz and 21 oz sizes.

Custom Patches
Hawk your wares in style with your own logo attached to ball caps, jackets, polos or whatever.  The best alternative to embroidering a shirt is buying embroidered patches and then attaching them to whatever you wish.  It's more versatile and inexpensive than direct embroidery. primarily caters to the Boy Scouts, but they're open to other orders as well.

Bottlemark Custom Caps
Labels are easy enough to make with a laser printer, but the ultimate in customized bottled beverages is the custom bottle cap.  Bottlemark specializes in custom printed caps and they can work with just about any size order.  They're pretty popular among craft brewers, though, so order early!

And with that, hopefully you'll get some ideas for that crazy soda-maker in your life.  Happy Holidays!

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