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Selling Seltzer

Tapping into Vermont's specialty beverage market

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These days, soda companies are more likely to base business decisions on the vicissitudes of the stock market than on the changing weather. But at the Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company in Poultney, the outside temperature plays a key role in one of their all-natural drinks: carbonated sap they call Vermont Maple Seltzer.

Richard Münch, who owns the company with his brother Robert, says that when the sap runs, they have to work quickly. "We bring it in and immediately put it under refrigeration. Then it goes through a pasteurizer to about 220 degrees . . . and its chilled back down and carbonated. Then we bottle it." Wendy Cadieux, who jokingly refers to herself as the "chief cook and bottle washer," notes that in the spring, when theyre working long hours, you get "giddy and drink a lot of soda."

The process used to make the seltzer is so unique that it was patented in 1993. Says Richard, "We've always been mad inventors tryin to come up with something that we could make and sell . . . one spring we were making maple syrup and drinking sap, and I came up with the idea of carbonating it."

People are often surprised by the crisp, fresh quality of the bubbly sap, which has only a hint of maple syrups aroma and sweetness. For those who wanted a stronger flavor, the brothers began putting out a more intense maple soda in 1996. They also make non-maple flavors: Country Apple Jack, Tangerine Cream Twister, Raspberry Rhubarb Ramble and Mango Moonshine. Their newest flavors are Kickin' Cow Cola and Rugged Mountain Rootbeer.

Vermont Sweetwaters products are distributed throughout New England, and you can send an email to york@sover.net to learn how to get the soda shipped directly. Find them locally at City Market maple flavors only and at Sweet Clover Market and other specialty food stores.

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