I think it might be safe to say when you’ve met people who are living “big” and all in, you know. This little panhandle of ours is turning out some ambitious food and beverage entrepreneurs as of late. The newest addition to this wave of crafty locals is Pensacola’s Ryan and Jenn Eaton, owners of Big Jerk Soda Co. . This wonderful, all-natural soda business was created out of passion in February 2018.
Ryan and Jenn have been manifesting their dreamy destinies full of big-flavored adventures, among them, living on the road and starting a soda company. Their story is an exciting elixir of perseverance, blind faith and curiosity. The big takeaway? What you are passionate about, can become your way of life.
How does a couple rooted in the panhandle come up with the idea of launching Big Jerk Soda Co.? It all started in a 1900’s-esque saloon in the outpost town of Polebridge, Montana. They began an epic road trek across the U.S., summer of 2016, with intentions to live out of their car and visit all 420 national sites.
During their visit to Glacier National Park, they fell in love with a local watering hole that served up the spiciest ginger beer for their favorite: Huckleberry Mules, sourced right from the neighboring mountains. When unexpected events caused a disruption to their plans and they had to return home, they couldn’t stop talking about that big-flavored ginger beer and how they could create it in their home kitchen.
“It was a little accidental. We really love Moscow Mules and were juicing at home. We got some home brew equipment and thought, ‘we could make this,’” Jenn Eaton explained about the process of launching Big Jerk’s first official flavor.
The first big batch was 5 gallons of their signature spicy ginger beer for a weekend trip to the springs with friends. They started taking it with them to gatherings, and the crowd began encouraging the couple to serve it up. “We’d make another batch and people in the restaurant and bar community started saying to us, ‘If you go legit, we’d love to carry this,’” Ryan said.
They procured their first four local accounts in February 2018. Adjustments to packaging and ironing details since has allowed for organic growth. Now, Big Jerk Soda Co. features 7 flavors including Blueberry Peach and Lavender Lemonade, that are carried in 38 locations across the Gulf Coast. Including all four of Amavida Coffee Roasters cafe locations.
“We scaled as we saw the need. We started small and got help from the community. We could not have done it without them,” Jenn said.
The couple works diligently as a duo to provide a product that is all-natural, with zero preservatives and flavorings originating from fresh, real, fruit additions.
They run the entire Big Jerk Soda Co. show from the kitchen space at The Leisure Club in Pensacola. After the restaurant closes at 4 p.m., Ryan and Jenn get to work with the 30 square feet of equipment to make and bottle 30 cases a night, or, 700 bottles. Since going into business almost 500 days ago, they have bottled over 1450 cases.
If you need more proof their soda is the real deal? Since there are no chemicals to inactivate the yeast in the fresh fruit juice, the Eaton’s strongly advise all Big Jerk consumers to keep their sodas refrigerated.
“We are an all-natural brand, and a real drink. We are intentionally choosing to let the fruits speak for themselves. We want to inform more people about better alternatives and we have something to say in the arena of fresh fruit beverages,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s culinary background, their experience of travel, and living in a coastal community that is committed to elevating each other to succeed, has been the perfect mingling of flavors for this husband and wife team’s dreams to become reality. It may have looked as a happy accident, but there was certainly a bigger plan in the works for their wandering spirits to fall for those spicy ginger beer mules. Sometimes we need to leave a place, fill up on new, and return with perspective to give those gifts we’ve acquired away.
“I left Pensacola and returned and I saw this place has having so much potential. We love this community, it has intentionally made room for new,” Ryan said.”It really is the perfect mix of small town and big city feel. You can make anything happen, you won’t be lost in the shuffle. Every day when I find myself stuck, I remind myself we’re right where we are supposed to be,” Ryan said.
Big Jerk Soda Co. is served on tap at Polonza Bistro and you can meet and greet the inspiring couple and enjoy a grab and go tasting at the Palafox Market every Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. In addition to all-natural soda offerings, Big Jerk Soda Co. has branched out and created all-natural cocktail syrups. To find out more about Big Jerk Soda Co., follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bigjerksoda/