Although I’m not a soda drinker, what a hoot to take the Avery Beverage tour, which includes making your own soda!
Avery’s has been around since 1904, with founder Sherman Avery starting his operation when hundreds existed in Connecticut, 8 in New Britain alone. Now the oldest surviving operation, Avery’s is sold around the U.S. and apparently in New Zealand.
The ‘factory’ is a simple one, still set up in the same barn from those early days. The equipment only dates back to the 1950s, a heyday for soda making. The method has stayed the same since then, too.
The equipment is jammed into one small room that comprises the factory. The Bottle Sterilizer gives each bottle a sterilizing bath, which takes about 20 minutes. Then the Bottling machine drops in 2 ounces of the sweetener, called syrup, with the Syruper. The Filler machine fills each bottle with carbon dioxide, which makes the bubbles in your soda. The Capper tops each bottle with a metal cap called the crown. That’s it. Not a complex process. Even we could do it!
So Will guided us up the steep stairs.
Here’s where the syrup is made. 700 pounds of sugar added to well water, and you, too, can make 8000 bottles of soda. A smaller tank is used for making batches of particular flavors, which is then gravity-fed through pipes to the first floor.
And oh what flavors they are. You wouldn’t want to miss the Zombie Brain Juice, Dog Drool, or Worm Ooze. Well, maybe you would. Those are the instant-cavity fruit drinks from the “Totally Gross Soda” line.
Like me, you might gravitate more toward the Birch Beer, Root Beer, and Sarsaparilla. Did you know that natural root of sarsaparilla is a carcinogen? So artificial flavor is used, enhanced by star anise, just as root beer is flavored with vanilla, cloves, and other spices.
But such delights were literally not on the table for making our own. Instead we maneuvered around the equipment on the sticky-sugar floor to blend our sodas with fruit flavors.
One shot equals about an ounce, so each of us calculated the combinations to create up to 2 ounces. One boy on our tour was proud to have made “Alien Snot”–yes another of those dreaded Totally Gross flavors. It’s actually a combination of kiwi and blue-raspberry, which doesn’t sound gross at all (excepting the sugar content is about 1000% of the daily value).
I stuck with the slightly tarter lemon and orange, with low quantites of syrup. My outcome is more like a flavored seltzer. The Virginia Darr extracts we used have been an Avery partner since 1905. By the way, that’s how Cream Soda gets made–with vanilla extract.
So with our two ounces of syrup in the bottom of the bottles, all were crated back downstairs to the bottling machine.
Here’s a video of the filling and capping, after our exuberant countdown.
Then cold off the line:
The color combinations are so festive, aren’t they? You may notice that in some of the bottles, the colorful syrup is at the bottom of the bottle. Our last task was to flip the bottles three times to blend, and voila! We have soda!
We wrapped with what Will calls “quality control testing.” You got it, a taste test. It’s a fizz!