Indulge your taste for bottled soda pop at Grandpa Joe's | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Indulge your taste for bottled soda pop at Grandpa Joe's

"I thought how great it would be to have a bottle shop for sodas."

click to enlarge Indulge your taste for bottled soda pop at Grandpa Joe's
Photo by Charlie Deitch
A small sampling of the pop at Grandpa Joe's

Hearing Adam Cannon talk about the beverages in front of him, you'd swear he still worked at Sharp Edge serving one of the joint's numerous craft beers.

But this is not a bar. We're standing in a quaint, colorful, old-time candy store in the heart of Beaver, and the drinks he's describing are bottled sodas — about 200 of them — gathered from across the country and around the world.

Cannon, the owner of Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop in Beaver,talks about the "syrupiness," "herbalness" and "dryness" of certain root beers. He explains how certain "full-flavored" ginger beers — there are 20 different varieties in his shop — "hit your nose," as if he's talking about a fine wine or really good microbrew.

"I worked for many years at Sharp Edge," Cannon says. "I have five kids now; I own a candy store and I don't drink anymore. This is all I have. It's amazing how popular it's become. People really love it."

The Beaver store just hit the 200-pop mark, and Cannon hopes to add another 100 sodas by the end of the summer. There is also a Strip District location, which is owned by his business partner Chris Beers, that doesn't have quite as many, but still a fair selection.

There are local brands like Red Ribbon Soda, from the Natrona Bottling Company, and selections from across the globe, like Bundaberg root beer and ginger beer from Australia. There's even ice-cold root beer on tap, which at the Strip District store is used to make root-beer floats.

The store has brands of soda from companies you've likely never heard of like Sioux City, Appalachian Brewing and Regatta, as well as regional sodas you like the southern Cheerwine.

There are also brands you haven't seen in years like the lemon-lime Bubble Up or Frostie Root Beer. Also on Cannon's shelves is Moxie, a soda from New England that dates back to 1876. You've likely seen its retro advertising sign — a bright orange backdrop with white and blue letters — featuring baseball legend Ted Williams saying "Make Mine Moxie."

"If you ever wanted to know what pop tasted like in the 1800s, this is it," Cannon says laughing. "It's herbal and medicinal, but some people really like it. It's all they come in to get."

The bottle shop is a perfect fit in Grandpa Joe's. While Cannon says the Strip District store is a "typical Strip District shop with floor-to-ceiling candy," the store in Beaver has a nostalgic charm to it. It is bright and colorful and filled with both the candy you remember from your childhood and new, trendy brands and flavors. There is also a mix of new and old novelty items ranging from wax lips to band-aids with Jesus on them.

But the mix of old and new sodas really offers a unique draw.

"We really try to keep up and do research and see what's out there," says Cannon of the sodas, which include several varieties of root beer, cola, lemon-lime, orange, grape and cherry. All of which can be bought in mixed six-packs. "People make suggestions all the time, and we do our best to get them in. I think it's a food trend that people are really enjoying. Pop just tastes better in a glass bottle."