Local flavor: Arden Hills craft soda company opens tasting room


Northern Soda Company co-founder Michael Goodwin and staffer Josh Kenow man the taps, where visitors can order pints to drink or growlers to take home. (Bridget Kranz)

Northern Soda Company’s factory and taproom are located in a small warehouse space in the industrial park behind Lexington Station in Arden Hills. (Bridget Kranz photos)

Co-founder Jesse Hopkins has ordered a projector for the space and is planning to organize movie nights, bingo games and other activities this summer.

Northern Soda Company in Arden Hills is expanding its factory store into a full-service tasting room, hoping to create a family-friendly space where visitors can hang out and drink soda — or pop — to their heart’s content. 

The business opened its doors just last year, but has already found a wide market in the Twin Cities. Its products are carried in Kowalski’s Markets and Hy-Vee grocery stores, as well as at local breweries as a non-alcoholic option. Co-founder Jesse Hopkins credits the area’s brewery boom with helping to pave the way for craft soda.

“When you go to a brewery, you’re willing to pay a little bit more for the beer because it’s so great,” he says. “It’s made it a lot easier for us to sell something that’s going to be more expensive than a Coke or a Pepsi. There’s so much more care and effort put into making it, and people realize that.”

Hopkins also looked to breweries for inspiration when expanding his own factory store into a true soda “tap room” this spring, filling it with board and arcade games and making it a space where people can spend time. On Saturday, June 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hopkins will be hosting a “make-your-own-soda” event. 

“We’ll have 30 different syrups and [visitors] can mix and match them into a soda,” says Hopkins. “We’ll fill them with carbonated water in a growler and then they’ll get to take their own soda home.”

The tasting room and factory store has also expanded its hours for summer; it’s open to the public Fridays from 3 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In addition to root beer, cream soda and other staples, Northern Soda Company offers more than 100 rotating varieties. On a Saturday in early June, one family stopping in from Bloomington on their way to the cabin loaded up on huckleberry pop, while an older couple was eager to chat with Hopkins about his new birch-flavored concoction. 

Most of the recipes used by the business are based on those from the mid-20th century, and Hopkins tries to stay away from extra preservatives and acids. Behind the tasting counter, one of the founders recommends the North Coast Cooler, a caramelized pineapple soda that he says tastes like a clear Lifesaver gummy. 

In addition to playing games with their families, younger visitors frequently make trips between the tasting counter and the back of the store, carefully selecting flavors to take home. Having all been educators at a middle school in West St. Paul, Hopkins and his co-founders are used to being around kids and are excited to use the space as a learning opportunity. 

“[We want to] be able to use this as a place where we can teach kids the manufacturing side of the business, and the retail side,” says Hopkins. “We have birthday parties come in and we’ve hosted Boy Scout groups and Girl Scout groups, tried to form some connections with local schools.”

Visitors can also take tours every half hour during business hours. The small factory is located in the same building as the tasting room, both in the company’s headquarters at 3747 Dunlap St. N. in Arden Hills.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at 651-748-7825 or bkranz@lillienews.com.

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