Cripple Creek Dream Lode Golden Ginger Ale
Homer Soda Company
Cripple Creek Dream Lode Golden Ginger Ale in the glass-bottle
Available for wholesale distribution and private events (weddings, office parties, BBQ, the list is endless!)
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When Mike Lynn became president of Cripple Creek Brewing he didn’t take over a family business as much as resurrect a bit of family lore. Although Chicago in the late 1990s was a far cry from the mountains and gold mines of Colorado, Lynn was determined to revive the “halcyon days of Cripple Creek, Colorado” by bringing back a century-old family recipe.
Lynn grew up listening to stories about his great-grand uncle and his adventures in Colorado during the 1890s gold rush. Frank J. Wisner, a Chicago entrepreneur, decided to make his fortune in the Colorado gold mines in an area known as Cripple Creek located west of Colorado Springs. Needing a way to support his Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Mining Company operations, Wisner started brewing sodas to sell to the miners.
According to family legend, Wisner was in one of many drinking establishments on the infamous Myers Avenue, which was known as the “red light district” of Cripple Creek, and was inspired after drinking a new beverage–root beer. His innovative idea was to add molasses to the root beer, which would give miners a heartier beverage, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of having their compatriots think they were temperance advocates. Thus, Myers Avenue Red Root Beer, a cinnamon gourmet root beer with a golden red color, was born.
Wisner also came up with Dream Lode Golden ginger ale after he drank a “magic elixir” of lemon and ginger root and had a dream of striking gold that same night. Next, Wisner developed Celon’s Mythical creme soda, named after the daughter of the man who ran his mines. The sodas struck gold with miners but Wisner did not. The mining operations dried up and he moved back to Chicago in the early 1900s without making a dime.
Lynn says the formulas for the sodas were never written down but have been passed down through the generations by word-of-mouth. “The story always stuck in my mind and a couple of years ago I wondered if I could resurrect it,” Lynn says.
Lynn set up shop in Warrenville, IL, USA, recreated the three original flavors and found a local brewery that would brew and bottle the beverages. For Lynn, Cripple Creek is truly a “hands-on” operation as he personally hand labels the bottles and delivers them to retailers. His wife and cousin also assist with marketing and selling the brand.
“We are the sales force,” jokes Lynn.
The soda brand is available only in the Chicago area and is distributed to specialty food stores and a few delis and pizzerias. The brand is sold in single serve bottles at a retail price around US$1.50. Lynn got retailers on board by bringing his sodas into specialty groceries and delis and getting the owners to sample his products.
“Once people tried it, they absolutely fell in love with it,” he says. “When (the brand) gets in some place, it sells. People really like it. It’s like in real estate, people say it’s ‘location, location, location.’ But in this industry it’s ‘distribution, distribution, distribution.'”
Featuring cane sugar, cinnamon, and molasses, the Myers Avenue Red Root Beer offers consumers a truly old-fashioned taste that is unlike other root beers on the market, Lynn says. Celon’s Mythical creme soda adds a hint of almond for a unique flavor and the ginger ale brand is made with real ginger. All the brands are made with real cane sugar.
Lynn is now working on an orange flavor to add to the soda line, but he’s waiting to see if consumer demand warrants a fourth flavor before bottling it, he says.
The bottle labels feature old photographs of Wisner and his mining operations as well as a replica of an actual share of stock in the 1890s mining company, adding to the brand’s old-fashioned style. Lynn designed the labels based on conversations with relatives about what the original labels looked like. The Myers Avenue Red Root Beer won a bronze award in the Beverage Packaging Global Design Awards in 2000.
Lynn’s primary focus right now is expanding distribution in the Chicago area.
“I’m just trying to get a toe-hold right now. This year one of my goals is to get a restaurant account,” he says. “I’m just trying to get it into people’s hands so they can taste if for themselves.”