Old Fashioned Sody Pop and a “True Brews” Give-away!

Want to learn more about fermenting your own sodas?  We’ll cover this and several other methods for making your own bubbly beverages in a class I’m doing for Greensgrow in September. Tickets here.

strawberries and thai basil

So sweet and summery!

You all know that I’m a wild fermenter.  I’ve mentioned before that Sandor is my spirit animal and my love and appreciation for his methods and his guidance (in book form) will never die.  As such, when I make fun, fermenty beverages, I always take the wild road.  Until now, that is.  I made some with packaged yeast!  There were a few reasons for this:

1) I got Emma Christensen‘s new book, True Brews.  Her soda recipes call for packaged yeast and I always try to be faithful to the spirit and instructions of a cookbook when I first use it.  (Wanna annoy a recipe-writer?  Ask loudly why their recipe didn’t work after you didn’t follow their instructions!)

2) I know this is convoluted: but, in all these years, I’ve only ever made one fermented soda with packaged yeast and I feel to stay true to my mission of experimentation, I should explore other approaches, even if they are technically easier and definitely less wild.

3) I’ve been short on time for, say, the past six years and I thought it could be fun to speed things up for once.

I was really happy with the results!  Having said that, you dyed-in-the wool Wilders might want to stick to your wild yeasts, cultures or starters.  See below the recipe for a couple conversion starting points.  There are definitely advantages to using packaged yeast over wild yeast.  You control for off-flavors that can sometimes come from wild yeasts and the time to get your final beverage is drastically reduced!

Despite my wild tendencies and slightly less wild nature of this book, it’s definitely one I’ve been waiting for and it did not disappoint!  As you have probably picked up from the title, it’s all about fermented beverages.  It  is a beautiful, well-written book, not surprising if you’re familiar with Christensen’s work on The Kitchn. It’s so full of fermenty goodness, you might burst!* It will definitely be accessible to those who have never fermented a thing in their lives, but fermenting dab hands will appreciate the details and the wide variety of beverage ferments that are covered.  From sodas to sakes and wines to beers, this book is full of fun fermentation (my favorite kind).

I decided to use one of my most beloved herb/fruit combinations, but you should definitely feel free to experiment with what you have on hand.  Strawberries are dwindling in these parts and blueberries are just coming in, so if that’s true in your region, by all means, sub blueberries!  Blueberry/basil is a great combination, but personally I would use blueberry/fresh oregano.  Did I say would?  I mean will.  I will definitely be making blueberry oregano soda with pre-packaged yeast in the hopes of converting some sugar-loving, reluctant family members to love fermentation as much as I do.

Strawberry Thai Basil Soda

Adapted from Emma Christensen’s “Master Soda Recipe” in True Brews

Makes 1/5-2 liters

If you don’t have access to thai basil, any variety of basil will work.  You might also sub half tarragon, half sweet basil to more closely approximate the taste of this version.  So many typical garden herbs would work well here.  Think: cilantro, parsley, rosemary, mint, savory, thyme, etc.  This recipe yields a sweet, pulpy soda.  If you want it to just be liquid, you can sub 6 cups of juice for your strawberries, or strain by lining a strainer with a fine-weave cheesecloth after pureeing.  Be aware that the latter will take a while.  I personally love the pulp and I wouldn’t have it any other way!



  • Fine mesh strainer, metal is okay here
  • Large saucepan
  • Food processor or blender
  • Funnel
  • Sealing bottles (recycled plastic 2-liter bottles work well for this, always be aware of the risks of fermenting in glass, namely explosion)
naturally fermented soda explosion

*This is what happens when you don’t use a cloth to quickly open your bottle!


  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, preferably organic, thoroughly washed
  • The zest and juice of 3 lemons (about 8 T juice)
  • 1/2 cup of tightly packed Thai basil leaves
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/8 t dry champagne yeast, divided
Strawberry soda

Fermenting your own sweet soda is simple!

  • Heat one cup of water until boiling, turn off the heat and add sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved.
  • Zest and juice lemons.  Add basil leaves to the lemon juice and let them sit while you hull your strawberries.  I’ve found this method preserves the fresh taste of the basil pretty well.
  • Put strawberries, lemon stuff and bail into a heat-proof bowl and pour the heated sugar water over them to macerate.  Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Pour the whole shebang into your blender or food processor and blend until completely pureed.  Depending on the size of your machine, you will probably need to do this in two or more batches.
  • When it’s all pureed, strain mixture through your fine mesh strainer, into a pitcher or bowl.  I use a chopstick or small, silicone spatula to stir, allowing the juices to flow through and the larger solids to stay in the strainer to be composted when the straining is done.
  • I like to do smaller bottles to preserve the bubbles (once you open it, they dissipate, just like with store-bought soda), so I bottle mine into a one liter and a half liter bottle.  Divide your yeast according to the bottle size you choose to use.  Fill bottles to 3/4 full and top with water, leaving an inch of headspace.
  • Shake the bottles to distribute yeast.
  • Let them ferment at room temperature until the plastic bottle becomes hard.  My large one took 24 hours, my small one was done overnight.  Stick them in the fridge.
  • Once they are chilled, you can drink them!  Chilling is important because it also slows fermentation.
NOTE: These will be highly pressurized!  Open your bottles over the sink with a cloth on top of them.  If you can, have a friend nearby with a glass to catch what flows down the sides.
Strawberry soda single bubble

Bubbling slowed to a nice, festive fizz

A couple options for fermenting sodas without packaged yeast (just sub these starter for the yeast in the recipe).  Add these BEFORE bottling:
  • 1/4 cup of whey to 2 liters of soda. Ferment covered with a secured cloth, stirring twice daily until you see bubbles, about 12 hours to one day.  Then bottle and proceed with recipe.
  • 1/2 cup ginger bug liquid to 2 liters of soda.  Ferment covered with a cloth, stirring twice daily until you see bubbles, about 3 days.  Then bottle and proceed with recipe.

I bought True Brews for myself but Ten Speed Press is generously gifting the giveaway copy to one of my readers.  So here’s how to win your free copy:

  1. Contest is open to residents of the continental United States.
  2. To enter, leave a comment telling me about your very favorite fermented beverage.
  3. Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, June 27, 2013.
  4. One comment per person, please.  Additional entries can be made, for a maximum of three per person, by tweeting a link to this post with the hashtag #phicklebrew, or by pinning it and posting a link to the pin in a separate comment before the contest ends. I will add tweet entries to the end of comments in number terms for random.org consideration.

Congratulations, Heather M!  Please come back and tell us what excellent brews you’ve made with this book!


  1. says

    Oh! My favorite fermented beverage is Kombucha! I love to play around with the kinds of tea I use and to troubleshoot the strange things that happen in the jar. I also love that you can share with your friends and neighbors which makes it a community ferment :)

    • Amanda says

      Me too, Jona Shoe! I just checked a whole bunch of guys out of my SCOBY hotel. I think they’ll be much happier in their forever homes.

  2. Philly Pina says

    I haven’t made too many fermented beverages, but have dabbled a bit in ginger beer and added lemongrass to one of my batches. This year I plan to make ginger beer with hibiscus tea. Blueberry-oregano might also make it in the rotation now that I have recipe. Thanks!

    • Amanda says

      @Philly Pina, Sounds great! I love going nuts with the flavor combos and this book has lots of fun flavor ideas for the different brews

      @Ann, I hear you on the wild yeast. Many of mine get a banana-ish flavor, especially after aging. I’ve grown to appreciate it. Now I call it “terroir.” :-)

  3. Ann says

    I love a good ginger beer! I have never been very successful with wild yeast in it, but I keep trying. I haven’t tried it with a keifer or other non-ginger bug starter, so maybe I’ll rry that out this summer.I usually make a couple of batches using some champagne yeast in 1 liter seltzer bottles. When it’s done I chill it, add some dark rum in my glass and enjoy a Dark & Stormy. Yum!
    I look forward to trying this strawberry & thai basil soda and I like Philly Pina’s ideas. I’ll have to try them out too!

  4. says

    Oh this book would be awesome for the budding ferment-er in my house–he started home brewing and it has led to foraging for fruit in the neighborhood for all sorts of concoctions! The one-gallon batches sound great!

  5. says

    This is the perfect thing to use up all those gorgeously cheap strawberries in the markets right now! Though my favorite fermented beverage is, was, and always will be ginger beer. Which makes me all swoony.

    • Amanda says

      @Sara – Yes, the smaller batches are great! This is making me consider doing “real” beer more seriously! So much more manageable!

      @Ruthy- I am with you on the swoon!

      @Heather – Glad you’re liking kombucha!

  6. Ali R says

    Gingerbeer is my favorite homemade fermenty-soda. It’s beyond easy–roughly the same situation and I use the same yeast you do, but you can even use baker’s yeast–just chop up a load of ginger and squeeze in some lemon juice, pour over boiling water and stir in a cup or so of sugar, and sprinkle in yeast! I just do this in a big bowl on the countertop and usually get crazy bubbling in a day or so–then that’s it! Yum!

  7. Nick says

    I love homemade kefir blended with a bit of frozen strawberries and a dash of sugar. It tastes even better once it starts to warm up to closer to room temperature.

  8. says

    I really love kombucha, but have given it up during my pregnancy – just to be on the safe side. I’m really excited to get a copy of this book, and experiment with champagne yeast. It will also give me an excuse to visit my favorite brewing supply shop!

  9. Jessica Ferguson says

    My favorite fermented beverage is beer. But a 2nd is kombucha. I want this book!!! Thanks for the opp to win it.

  10. Jessica D. says

    Beer is my favorite fermented beverage. Pilsners in the hot weather and darker, perhaps flavored beers (aka pumpkin porter) in the cooler season.

  11. Kaitlyn says

    I have just gotten started with fermenting. And love it. Recently, I fermented vegetable juice (homemade V8) and it was lovely with the additional benefit of probiotics. I can’t wait to try my hand at other ferments.

  12. says

    kefir, I love the stuff, I could drink it all day. I was so sad when my grains died when we moved, and I haven’t had a chance to get more :(

  13. beth abels says

    We have been fermenting our own root beer with our kids, our last batch blew up in the fridge! Lots of sticky glass shards, but no holes, lucky! We remain undeterred and will start up our next batch this summer.

  14. amanda says

    Making some Ginger Beer right now–gotta seek inspiration elsewhere too! Heard this book is awesome.

  15. HolliV says

    Have you ever experimented with bananas in your fermented soda-making? I am curious if anyone has ever tried it. I’m trying to think of a fairly inexpensive soda to make with a ginger bug, and the organic bananas I get are a great price.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Holly,

      I’ve never made banana soda, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. The only thing I can think of as a deterrent would be that the color might be unappealing since the bananas will brown.

      Let me know how it turns out!

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