Think of a tale where a man meets the love of his life at a very young age. They grow up together, share some very special moments together, and the man falls in love. One day though, the man must move across the world, and the love of his life is now thousands of miles away. Now you may have guessed that this isn’t any regular love story. This is the story of Ken Graham, and his love; root beer, and what led him to create his own soda company, Soda Folk. A little too dramatic for somethings such as root beer? Maybe. But it was this love that led Ken to create his very own root beer and introduced it to a place like London.
A quick fact before getting into Ken and his root beer: most people in London do not like root beer. “I discovered that a lot of people in Britain have a really negative opinion of root beer, because the wintergreen flavor reminds them of a medicine called Germolene,” Ken told us.
A British alternative to root beer would be something such as dandelion and burdock, and if you have ever both you can clearly tell that they are not similar at all. One is delicious (root beer), and the other. . .well, is an acquired taste to say the least. Ken’s love for root beer began when he was a child. Growing up in the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado, he was always surrounded by nature; more specifically pine trees. How does this relate to root beer? Ken and his childhood friends one day decided that they would make their very own root beer out of the roots and herbs from around the area. Just as Mother Nature had intended!
“My parents had a garden in the yard, and grew a lot of the produce we ate. When we’d go hiking, we’d forage berries and wild plants to use in our kitchen at home. I guess all of that put the idea in my head that I could use whatever we had in the back yard to make root beer, which has always been my favorite drink. I don’t remember exactly how old I was (Seven? Nine?), but I pitched a few friends on the idea of making our own root beer and selling it at school. To us, that meant putting a bunch of roots and sticks into some water, adding sugar, and pouring whatever resulted it into a bottle. We thought our soda tasted great, though at that age, I’m pretty sure we would have liked anything with sugar in it. When my dad saw what we were up to, he went out and bought some yeast and root beer extract, and he and I started home-brewing our own sodas.”
From this point on Ken was ” totally hooked on the idea of the soda business.” He even went on to purchase old vending machines and use them to sell his soda in local office buildings around the area. Thus the love grew.
In July 2012, Ken (now an adult) moved to London with his wife after she got a job there. As stated before, people in London usually do not like root beer. Because of this root beer is a rare commodity in London. Not everything in London was foreign to him however! Ken Graham discovered a childhood friend near by who ran his own craft beer, and so he joined him in that adventure. It was the combination of the lack of root beer and the connection to a place that had brewing equipment that led to him to make his own root beer.
“Because I couldn’t find any good root beer over here, I decided to start making my own at home. After some trial and error, I came up with a good recipe, and decided to try making a batch on the brewery equipment. It didn’t really work, but it gave me the idea of creating a craft soda brand. I started asking our customers if they’d be interested in craft sodas, and the response I got was so positive, I started raising the money to launch my own business. After my friend sold his company and moved back to the States a few months later, I started working on Soda Folk full time.”
Curious as to what Soda Folk root beer tastes like? Ken Graham would describe it as “wintergreen and maple on the nose, a nice, foamy pour, smooth vanilla on the palate that leads into a minty bite, rounded off with a light maple finish,” but simplified it by saying, “root beer is like dandelion and burdock (a traditional British soda), only a thousand times better.”
What is up next for Ken and Soda Folk? Well in a couple of weeks they will be having an official launch with a popular burger chain in London! Soda Folk has a cream soda flavor that they sell now, and is working on a black cherry soda that is going to be released by next year! Ken also has a few other ideas for flavors such as apple beer, hibiscus lemonade, honey ginger ale, and, “a crazy cola I make out of tea.” Any of those you are craving? Why not email him or tweet at Soda Folk and let them know!
An ending note: if you are looking for a root beer to top all root beers, why not try Tommyknocker root beer! Ken Graham says that this is his favorite root beer. Why not take that endorsement from a man who knows a little about root beer?