A bottle of green river on a black background

Where can you get Green River in 2022?

Green River is a Midwestern Icon—a sweet, citrusy, emerald-green soda that is steeped in over a century of history. If you already knew that and just want to get some for yourself, I have good news for you! You can buy Green River online right here on the Sprecher website.

If you want to learn more about how Green River achieved Midwestern fame, read on.

Who came up with Green River?

These days, Green River is known as a Chicago soda. It is especially beloved on the South Side, and it takes its place in the limelight (pun intended) every St. Patrick’s Day. Chicago has been dyeing the Chicago River green every St. Patrick’s Day since 1962. Naturally, Green River is the perfect soda for the occasion, and historically up to a third of the annual sales of Green River have happened on St. Patrick’s Day. [1][2]

Because of Green River’s name and its close ties to a uniquely Chicagoan tradition, many think the drink was invented in Chicago. Citizens of the Windy City will be sad to learn that Green River was actually invented by Richard C. Jones of Davenport, Iowa. Jones owned a soda fountain and ice cream shop, and he debuted the drink in 1916 in the hopes of bringing more high school students into his store. Why he called it “Green River” is lost to history, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess. [3]

Green River didn’t make it to the city of broad shoulders until 1919. With the looming threat of prohibition, breweries needed recipes for non-alcoholic beverages they could make on their equipment. Jones presumably needed cash, so he sold his recipe to the Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewery in Chicago. [4]

An art noveau poster of a young woman drinking green river
A Green River Ad from 1931 [2]

Jones’ shop no longer stands, but Lagomarcino’s Soda Fountain in Davenport will happily sell you a glass of Green River a stone’s throw from where it was first made. [5]

Why is Green River popular in the Midwest?

Green River took the Midwest by storm because it was in the right place at the right time. Soft drink sales took off during Prohibition, and Green River was there from the beginning. In fact, the Edelweiss Company initially packaged Green River in old beer bottles. [6]

Green River’s arresting color and refreshing flavor made it stand out from the competition. When it got tied in with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Green River cemented its place in the market with Chicago’s large Irish American population. By the end of prohibition Green River was only outsold by one other soft drink—Coca-Cola.

An antique glass bottle with a marble stopper
An antique bottle with a marble stopper – Green River was once packaged this way. [3]

Some even claim that Green River is the reason Midwesterners call soda “pop.” Instead of being capped, Green River bottles used to be sealed with a glass marble. The drink had to be opened by shaking the bottle until the marble fell in. Since the marble was held in place with carbonation, it would “pop” before falling in. No source that tells this story can confirm it, but it’s a fun tall tale. [7]

Green River … isn’t that a Song?

If you type “Green River” into your friendly neighborhood search engine, the soda is not the first thing that comes up. Instead, you will likely learn that Green River is the name of a song and an album by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). If you haven’t heard of them, you may want to consider moving out from under a rock and into the light of day.

File:John Fogerty live at Odderøya Live 2012.jpg
John Fogerty, Credence Clearwater Revival lead singer, and noted Green River enthusiast. [4]

Is this a coincidence? Surely John Fogerty, CCR’s lead singer, was just singing about some river he saw and not a now-obscure Midwestern soda. Someone asked the man himself, and this is what Fogerty said:

“I got the idea when I was eight,” he said. “There was a little pharmacy, a little drug store out at the end of my street, and they had a little soda fountain in there … [O]ne of the fizzy drinks they could make for you was Green River. They had a little picture … I just stared at that thing… ‘I gotta save that.’ I wasn’t really sure why, a song title or what. I was only eight, I wasn’t playing yet – but I think I was speaking about songs.” [8]

The rest, as they say, is history.

Who makes Green River now?

So where can you get Green River these days? That’s been a common question for decades because Green River is a survivor. Not only has the soda lived through one of the most tumultuous centuries in human history, Green River has also outlived many of its makers.

As you now know, the recipe went from Richard C. Jones to the Schoenhofen Edelweiss company. If you haven’t heard of the Schoenhofen Edelweiss company, it’s because they closed their doors in 1950 (despite their catchy name).

Following the closing of the Edelweiss company, the recipe was passed from one manufacturer to another. This period of Green River history is murky, but sources agree that by the 90s the beverage was on the ropes—it was only being sold in Seattle (which has a Green River, of Green River Killer fame), and it was unclear if anybody was making more.

Around 1995, the rights and recipe were sold to Clover Club Beverages, a small independent bottler in Chicago. Clover Club brought Green River back to life, and then WIT Beverage Company (WBC) took over the brand and continued Clover Club’s work. [9]

In October of 2021, WBC passed the torch to none other than Sprecher Brewing Company, another Midwestern craft soda icon. As Milwaukee’s Original Craft Brewery, Sprecher knows what it means to preserve a legacy. Sprecher plans to let Green River shine yet again by re-introducing it to the country that has loved it for over one hundred years.

In a nod to that long legacy, one last story. In 1918, Green River inspired entertainer Eddie Cantor (your great grandmother’s celebrity crush) to write this snappy jingle:

For a drink that’s fine without a kick,
Try Green River,
It’s the only soft drink you should pick,
Try Green River. [10]

The Sprecher Brewing Team couldn’t agree more. Buy a 12 pack of Green River here, and see what Cantor was singing about.

Always stay in the know by joining our Sprecher Squad email list, and get the first access to our new craft sodas, craft beer and deals on apparel and gift shop items. Sign up today.

Sources

[1][6] Ceara Milligan, “Midwesterners Can’t Get Enough Of This Lime-Flavored Soda,” Mashed.com.

[2] Raf Miastkowski, Things You Didn’t Know About Green River Soda,” Thrillist.

[3][5] Rohini Chaki, “Green River Soda,” Atlas Obscura.

[4] “What is Green River Soda?,” Sodapopcraft.

[7] Lindsey Conger, “3 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Chicago’s Green River Soda,” Urbanmatter.

[8] Martin Keilty, “How John Fogerty Came Up With ‘Green River’ When He Was 8 Years Old,” Ultimate Classic Rock.

[9] “Green River flows again,” Daily Journal, Kankakee, Illinois.

[10] “Green River (soft drink),” Wikipedia

Image Sources

[Header Image] Sprecher Brewing Company Media Library

[2] Attributed to artist Rolf Armstrong, this ad art was found in an abandoned warehouse formerly occupied by the A.C. Shulz Lithography Company in Milwaukee.

[3] Liz West, “soda bottle,” CC BY 2.0

[4] Jørund F. Pedersen, “John Fogerty live at Odderøya Live 2012.jpg,” CC BY-SA 3.0

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7 comments

I have wonderful memories of going to a local drug store soda fountain for Green Rivers in the 70’s. I wish I could take my grandchildren to that place for Green Rivers today.

North End of MC

Richard C. Jones was my father’s uncle. I remember when we were growing up my father told us that his “Uncle Dick” had invented Green River. We thought that was pretty cool to have that family connection to the creation of something like that but the fact that it still lives on is truly awesome!! I’m sure my great uncle never dreamed that his invention would still be around and and as popular as it is over 100 years later!!

Jack Jones

My Grandparents would buy cases of soda of which they would get 6 bottles of Green River and the grand kids would fight over them, this was in the 40’s. Oh would I love to get some now. This was in Elmhurst, Illinois

tom hickman

My Grandparents would buy cases of soda of which they would get 6 bottles of Green River and the grand kids would fight over them, this was in the 40’s. Oh would I love to get some now.

tom hickman

We love Green River! In our area (north of Seattle), Brier Pizza House has Green River “on tap” along with the standard soda offerings. Since we discovered that, whenever we go there for a meal, we always have Green River, too! (They also have wonderful pizza and a variety of other delicious meal options. We are long-time customers.)

Charlotte Trayer

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