Issue 30

Sodas Which You May Not be Entirely Aware of: Green River

Sodas Which You May Not be Entirely Aware of: Green River

Okay folks, here we are again. Your favorite quarterly column showcasing rare and desirable sodas is finally back. This time we will be exploring Green River – I’m quite excited about this featured soda. First, we will look at a bit of the history behind Chicago’s original Green River soda, then we will objectively scrutinize its packaging, and lastly, we will actually be pouring the Green River into my mouth, revealing the treasures contained within. Enough prattle, on with the adventure.

The back of the bottle boasts the phrase, “Rich in History” and “Today, we celebrate Green River’s rich history!” Bah, I’ll be the judge of that. I have never taken a soda’s word for anything and I’m not about to start now. Heading over to the official Green River website, we can see if this soda can back up its claim. Right away, it is made clear that this soda was introduced in 1919. That’s a super long time ago. In a few more years, I’d imagine they will be having quite the centennial celebration over at the bottling plant (barring any unforeseen Armageddon, of course).

Alright, so it has been around a while. I’ll give them a point for that. Next, the website claims that Green River wan an immediate success during Prohibition. I guess we will have to trust them on this one. There are no customer testimonials from 1919 to confirm or deny this. If there was one, I think it would go something like this:

“Well, since the government is taking away alcohol, I decided to switch to Green River soda. I had grown accustomed to getting blitzed out of my gourd every night after work on the railroad, but drinking a sugary green liquid is surely just as rewarding. I may not be rotting my liver any longer, but rotting my teeth will do just as well.” – Phineas Gauge, 1919

And that’s about it as far as the history goes. You can click on “Photos & Fun Facts” on the website, but it won’t really enlighten you any more. Sure there are literally three facts, but none of them are fun. What is sort of neat is a list of the Green River catchphrases used throughout the years:

  • Snappy Lime Drink
  • Have a Green River
  • Wherever you go
  • Most Refreshing
  • Lighter, Less Sweet, Lively Lime
  • The Original Lime Drink
  • Where refreshment flows
  • Caffeine free since 1919

What I like about this list is that nearly all of the catchphrases are terrible. I kind of like the “Have a Green River” phrase. It makes me think of an old farmer at a general store. “Did you just come in from harvest to purchase next year’s seed? Well, take a second and have a Green River.” The rest are all terrible. Either the publicity guy at The Schoenhofen Brewery was a dull human or he was trying to sabotage the company. By far the worst one though, is the current phrase. Caffeine free since 1919? That isn’t exciting at all! Get with it, Green River. I shake my head in disgust.

Well, enough about the history, let’s look at the bottle itself. Starting at the top, the cap itself is green (how appropriate) and says “The Original Green River”. Hey, that’s pretty good. Not a lot of room on a bottle cap. That’ll do.

Moving on down, the bottle itself is clear, showcasing the bright green soda inside. Another good move. The label has a green background with what I interpret as a moon setting on the horizon and reflecting off a river with what looks to me like two palm trees on the shore. I’m not sure the palm trees are appropriate for a soda coming out of Chicago, but the image is nice. I can’t help but be reminded of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Perhaps Mr. Kurtz would have faired better in his savage enterprise if he had had some Green River? Anyway, I like everything about the soda’s packaging.

Now, onto what really matters – the taste. As I write this, I am cracking open a freshly chilled bottle, lest you be nervous about the credibility of my memory. As the emerald liquid crosses my lips, I am immediately introduced to a crisp lime taste. If I am honest (Am I even capable of being anything but?), the lime flavor is slightly artificial, but the flavor is grand. You will not be convinced that you are drinking something procured from fresh limes, but what you do get is an even richer bounty. The lime flavor has transcended the realm of actual fruit and in fact entered a higher plane of existence. My taste buds are quivering in equal parts delight and terror. They have encountered something approaching Nirvana, but is it too good to be true? Let’s not forget the story of Icarus who flew to close to the sun and plummeted to the sea. Will I somehow be punished for tasting the glory of Green River?

What an adventure! While I cannot agree with the “rich history” of Green River, I can wholeheartedly recommended it based on aesthetics and certainly on flavor. Its history can basically be boiled down to, “it’s really old,” but don’t let the lack of an exciting past deter you from trying this soda. You can try this and many other curious varieties at B & G Tasty Foods. Let me leave you with inspirational words from John Fogerty about his feelings toward this magnificent beverage.

 

John Fogerty

“Green River”

Well, take me back down where cool water flows, y’all.

Let me remember things I love.

Stoppin’ at the log where catfish bite,

Walkin’ along the river at night,

Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight.

 

I can hear the bullfrog callin’ me, oh.

Wonder if my rope’s still hanging to the tree.

Love to kick my feet ‘way down the shallow water,

Shoo fly, dragonfly, get back t’mother.

Pick up a flat rock; skip it across Green River.

Well!

 

Up at Cody’s camp I spent my days, oh,

With flat-car riders and cross-tie walkers.

Old Cody, Junior took me over,

Said, “You’re gonna find the world is smold’rin,

And if you get lost, come on home to Green River.”

 

Well then. Come on home.

Eddie Morin

Eddie Morin

I’m Eddie Morin. I’m from Omaha. I run B & G Tasty Foods, and I like eating food, playing video games and dinking around with my wife and kids. I used to not be so fat. That’s all I really think there is to me.


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