Craft soda by St. Charles East Alums is now available at local breweries and restaurants - Shaw Local

Craft soda by St. Charles East Alums is now available at local breweries and restaurants – Shaw Local | Pro Club Bd

Frank Schiffner and his friend Josh Carnell have been interested in unique sodas since they were students at St. Charles East High School.

From the history of old soda companies to the original flavors and artful bottles, the couple traveled to various farmers’ markets and grocery stores throughout the area in search of the perfect soda.

But when they searched, Schiffner, 27, and Carnell, 29, couldn’t find exactly what they wanted. That’s how their company, Sunset Soda, began in 2014 when the two experimented with flavors at home. A year later, they began brewing their first batches of soda.

“We’ve seen the craft beer boom and its rise. Soda was left out and fell behind,” Schiffner said. “We wanted to make original flavors, something new and interesting. Soda has the same flavors in a generic bottle with a paper label or in a can for mass appeal.”

After spending a few years developing their lemonades and creating a business plan, the aspiring entrepreneurs found a place in Geneva last summer. They began producing their first flavor, Short Shorts, a Horchata root beer, in March.

Horchata is a sweet, creamy beverage popular in Latin American countries that’s blended with a traditional root beer to create a unique flavor, Schiffner said.

“Short shorts were so hard to get right. It took me from 2015 to a few weeks ago to feel like it was perfect,” he said. “I can honestly say it’s one of the best root beers in the country and I’ve tried almost all of them. We’re trying to make Michelin star lemonades. At least that’s what I’m working towards.”

Sunset Soda’s newest flavor, Poolside, is a citrus soda made with grapefruit, orange and hibiscus and makes a great cocktail mixer, but can also be enjoyed neat, Schiffner said.

Sunset Soda co-founders Frank Schiffner (left) and Josh Carnell began producing small-batch artisanal sodas last March.

The lemonades are all made in small batches at the Geneva site. The sodas contain no alcohol, no caffeine, and no preservatives, and the sugar is all natural, Schiffner said.

Schiffner and Carnell peel and cut all fruit by hand before brewing and then aerating them in their kettle.

Carnell said the brewing process takes about eight hours, the carbonation process about a day or two, and then another day to bottle and label the soda. The procedure yields about 56 cases.

Co-founder Josh Carnell bottles Horchata Root Beer at Sunset Soda in Geneva.  Sunset Soda began producing craft soda in small batches this past March.

“[Frank and I] have worked at various [beer] Breweries, so we were in the mindset of discovering and exploring from the raw materials to the finished product,” Schiffner said. “Soda is more bare bones compared to beer. Only raw materials are used in our soda – fruits and spices. Our turnaround time is a few days compared to beer which takes weeks. We have a faster process, but we try to use that brewing experience and knowledge. We want to make one [non-alcoholic] Product comparable to craft beer.”

The sodas are not available at grocery stores but are available at several establishments in the area including Penrose Brewing, Geneva Winery, Geneva Ale House, Art History Brewing, Craft Urban, Alter Brewing and more. Customers can also order directly from the company and have it delivered to their home.

Carnell hopes its sodas can provide a high-quality, non-alcoholic option in breweries for underage or non-drinkers.

Co-founder Josh Carnell samples horchata root beer at Sunset Soda in Geneva.  Sunset Soda began producing craft soda in small batches this past March.

“I want to be the local craft soda company and have the best range of drinks,” he said. “For me, visiting a brewery after working at a brewery should be fun and accessible to everyone, including people under the age of 21. We want to offer a better experience.”

While Sunset Soda is only available locally, the two friends hope to eventually expand beyond the TriCities.

“We want to take on Coke and Pepsi,” Schiffner said. “The goal is to bring great soda to the Chicago area first, and later to the entire nation. But we’re still expanding into local bars and restaurants. This is a passion of mine that I believe will never die. It’s a love It’s very rewarding to see people’s faces as they try it and enjoy it.”

For more information about Sunset Soda, visit sunsetsodaco.com.

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