Is there room for craft soda in a healthy lifestyle?

Adam and Rebecca Hanson, proprietors of Antiqology in Huntington, Ind. They say they carry the Midwest's largest selection of craft soda.

Adam and Rebecca Hanson, proprietors of Antiqology in Huntington, Ind. They say they carry the Midwest’s largest selection of craft soda. (Bob took this photo last year when he wrote a newspaper article on their shop.) 

These days it seems like family and friends are always trying to outdo each other when it comes to who’s gone the longest since drinking either diet or regular soda – whatever your particular vice, I guess.

Looks good, eh?

Looks good, eh?

I haven’t had a Diet Coke since January and probably haven’t had regular pop for several years now. But after a recent visit to a funky antique shop that specializes in craft soda, I found myself coveting a root beer. Antiqology in Huntington, Ind., carries 60 different kinds — each with its own unique name, label and taste – and 400 varieties of craft soda in all.

I didn’t succumb, though Bob and I did have fun picking out a dozen different bottles to take to an upcoming family Thanksgiving for a “tasting.” But now I keep wondering: Is there room for craft soda in an increasingly health conscious America?

Shop owners Adam and Rebecca Hanson clearly think so. And they’re hardly the only ones who believe that small bottlers’ cane sugar-based drinks are better for you – or at least not as bad as – more widely known industrialized versions made with high fructose corn syrup and a lengthy list of ingredients no one can pronounce, much less identify.

Besides, they note, most of their customers “come in and drink one soda, maybe two.” It’s a rare treat, at least in part because of the higher cost, usually around $2 per 12-ounce bottle.

Whereas with cheaper conventional soda, says Rebecca, “it’s not about the experience or the flavors or the treat, it’s about filling yourself with fluid.”

Aw, who can resist a hippo?

Aw, who can resist a hippo?

Many of the Hansons’ customers are as interested in a soda’s ingredients as its flavor or pop culture cache. And some people who come into the shop say now that they’ve tried “real” soda, they’re no longer as interested in grabbing a gas-station pop or ordering a Coke at a restaurant.

Even if some of them have now picked up a weekly craft soda habit, “maybe in some ways this is better, because they’re no longer consuming such vast amounts,” Adam says.

As for the Hansons, they don’t drink more than a soda per week themselves, if that, generally when they’re having people over to their house. Their kids are allowed either one scoop of ice cream or one soda per week, but not both.

“It’s something special,” Rebecca says. “It’s a treat.”

A firm believer in moderation, she thinks soda gets a bad rap not because it’s inherently bad, but because of people’s consumption habits.

“If you can’t control yourself, you could kill yourself by drinking too much water,” she says.  “I don’t hate that McDonald’s exists. I don’t hate that these things exist, because I know how to consume them .”

I’m probably going to have that root beer one of these days, over Thanksgiving if not before. Probably on a cheat day, because unlike Rebecca Hanson I don’t do well with that whole moderation thing.

Actually, this Victorian Lemonade -- imported from Britain -- is only 9 ounces. Hard to go overboard on that.

Actually, this Victorian Lemonade — imported from Britain — is only 9 ounces. Hard to go overboard on that.

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