Serious Eats: Drinks
Soda Pop Sorcery: Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer
According to the copy on the gaudy label (purple and gold is really only a color combination you can get away with if you're the king of something), Flying Cauldron has been manufacturing this "magical brew" for "under age wizards" since 1374. Call us fun-hating skeptics if you must, but we sort of doubted that this concoction actually dated back to the Black Death and only now managed to find a distributor, so we did a little digging—that is, we looked at a different part of the label—and found out it's actually made by Reed's, the folks who make one of our favorite ginger beers.
The whole thing, from the curiously familiar type style on the label to the Bertie Bott's-esque flavoring to the ad copy's claim that it was originally developed at a "brew pub in Hogsbreath England [sic]" screamed that it's supposed to be some kind of Harry Potter tie-in. Apparently, though, Reed's couldn't get hold of the license, but they went ahead and rolled out the product just the same. So, if you're a child who won't consume anything without the Harry Potter imprimatur, or an adult who's just way too into wizard rock, congratulations: finally, there is a soda for you.
Then again, even non-fans might well be intrigued by Flying Cauldron. Butterscotch boosters are a criminally underserved sector of the American soda consumption market, and it's about time they had an option other than getting sloppo on Buttery Nipples.
If nothing else, Flying Cauldron is a handsome-looking drink, with a full foamy head and a gorgeous gold color. Its scent is more cream soda than butterscotch, but is pretty pleasant just the same. (It's also gluten-free, for those of your worried about getting glutens in your butterscotch soda). Sweetened with both cane sugar and stevia, it clocks in at 120 calories—nearly Coca-Cola levels of sugary kick—so you might want to go easy on handing it out willy-nilly to your "under age wizards", lest they start bouncing off the walls of your castle.
As for the flavor, well...it tastes amazingly like butterscotch. It's lip-smackingly tasty, and despite the double dose of sweetener, it's surprisingly smooth; while it has a distinct aura of liquefied hard candy, it's not wince-inducingly sweet or syrupy. This stuff is probably not going to make it into anyone's regular soda rotation, it's mighty fine as a dessert drink or occasional treat. (The label suggests dunking a scoop of vanilla ice cream into it. We have too much to do to spend an entire afternoon in a sugar coma, but we were sorely tempted.)
We never would have pinned ourselves as butterscotch soda lovers, but Flying Cauldron managed to surprise us, and that's a kind of magic.