There are 100 different bottles of root beer on the wall at Blue Sun Soda Shop, along with dozens of microbrewed crème sodas and quirky regional soft drinks like Cheerwine of North Carolina, Irn-Bru from Scotland and Dang! That’s Good sodas from Milwaukee.
The Spring Lake Park store has shelves of cola brands you’ve never heard of, birch beer made in small batches, soft drinks from Australia, Jamaica, Japan, India, Italy and Lebanon. There are sodas that taste like pickles, teriyaki beef and lemon meringue pie. Plus soft drinks called Alien Snot, Dog Drool, Bug Barf and Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer.
And where else can you get bacon soda? “That’s gross,” said Mark Lazarchic. “We sell a lot of it.”
Lazarchic is the Minneapolis man who brought many sodas to Minnesota when he started the Blue Sun Soda Shop in 2015. He claims to offer the world’s largest selection of soda pop, more than 1,300 flavors.
You can try a whole bunch of them at his latest invention: the Minnesota Soda Festival.
The Aug. 4 event will be like the Beer Dabbler, where you can sample more than 100 varieties of carbonated beverages at the same time, but instead of beer, it’s all pop.
Lazarchic, 49, opened his 5,500-square-foot store partly because he doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, and he had a hard time finding sophisticated soft drink alternatives.
He said when he goes to a bar with friends, he’s offered all sorts of craft beers where “they exposed it to a picture of Jane Fonda for exactly 15 seconds, they swirled a cinnamon stick in it for 45 seconds, and it’s then exposed to ultraviolet light for two minutes and then shaken 3 ½ times by a man exactly 4 feet tall.”
“If you didn’t like that, your options were Coke and Sprite,” Lazarchic said.
“I thought that was ridiculous,” he said. “If you drink soda, or you like drinking soda, you need to know there are more than two companies making soda.”
Lazarchic is a soda snob. He’s a pop critic who prefers his root beer to be complex, “with a lot of anise flavor to it, a lot of cinnamon to it.”
Almost all the soda he sells comes in glass bottles. (Soda doesn’t taste as good in cans or plastic bottles, he said.) And pop served in bars or restaurants often comes out of a soda fountain machine that isn’t correctly calibrated and hasn’t been cleaned recently, he said.
Lazarchic, who also owns a fireworks company, an online wedding supply company and bottles his own line of soda called Whistler, first feared that a specialty soda shop might fizz out. But he’s been selling about 3,000 to 4,000 bottles of soda a week. He charges $2.49 to $1.99 a pop, depending on how many bottles you buy.
Soda pop lately has been coming under increasing criticism for being linked to increased risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Lazarchic’s response: “Just drink one, for God’s sake. Have some discipline.”
The Minnesota Soda Festival
When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Blue Sun Soda Shop, 1625 County Hwy. 10, Spring Lake Park.
Admission: Free, but tickets for 20 tastings cost $5. There also are a limited number of VIP tickets, costing $20 each, which include unlimited sodas, a collectible tasting cup, T-shirt and a meal voucher good at any food truck at the event. Bouncy castles, face painting and carnival games will also be at the event.