A Cooler Coke: Waialua Soda Works Pineapple Natural Soda

Simplicity is a good idea. With simplicity comes focus; with focus comes deliciousness. At least that's the theory. It's certainly what lead me to pick up a bottle of Waialua Soda Works Pineapple Natural Soda the other day.

I was milling around the deli area of the Midtown Spec's, trying to grab something quick to bring home for dinner, when the jaunty hula girl on the label grabbed my attention. The label feeds into the retro schtick that seems to go hand in hand with many craft sodas, as if by virtue of subdued color palettes and 1950s graphics, the soda harkens to a simpler, more wholesome time. Because, as everyone knows, soda was better for you back then, when you had to get it from the general store for two bits, after walking a mile uphill both ways.

For me, the pursuit of better soda has nothing to do with health benefits, and everything to do with flavor. The simplicity of pineapple soda called out to me, offering freshness, vibrancy, and clearly defined flavor. It did not follow through on its promises.

The slightly pearly, clear soda reminded me of the look of simple syrup, somehow broadcasting its sweetness and viscosity with just a look. The aroma comes across first as simply clean and slightly citrusy, and then it hits me; this smells exactly like those tubular hard candies that my kids love to grab from the bowl while leaving a restaurant. Interestingly, I'm pretty sure the "pineapple" flavored candy has a similar opalescent tint.

Interesting does not equal delicious, however, as borne out by the similarly candied taste of this soda. It's clean and relatively light, despite its confectionery leanings. The taste leads with a general sweetness, followed by a mild citrus flavor and the vaguest hint of "pineapple." Yes, the quotation marks are necessary, as the fruit flavor here is analogous to the imitative candy.

The soda did have one redeeming quality. Its carbonation was evident, but restrained. One of the things I dislike most about the majority of big brand sodas is the ridiculous amount of carbonation that seems to be the norm. It's like Coke and Pepsi are in an epic struggle for world belch domination. Just a few sips of most sodas, and I'm primed to rescue Charlie from the exhaust fans.

Despite my disappointment with this soda, or perhaps because of it, I'm longing for a true-to-life pineapple soda. I don't necessarily want simple carbonated pineapple juice, though I have no doubt that's delicious. I just want a pineapple soda that actually tastes like what it says it is. Any suggestions?

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