Monday, December 31, 2012

Route 66 root beer

Background information: (from the website) "In addition to our "World Famous" Route 66 Route Beer we also bottle and distribute Route 66 Orange, Lime, "old fashioned" Cream Soda, and our new Black Cherry from our headquarters in Lebanon, Missouri.

These gourmet soft drinks are bottled under the highest of standards using our unique special formulas, dating back to 1996 with the formulation of our Route 66 Root Beer.

The original highway, established November 11, 1926 lead travelers from Chicago through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, ending in Santa Monica, some 2,448 miles. US Route 66 was officially decommissioned from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985, however, portions have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name 'Historic Route 66' and has begun to return to maps in this form."

(from the bottle) "Get your kicks with Route 66 beer."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by authority of: Route 66 Sodas LLC, Lebanon, MO 65536-0766. 160 calories, 28g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Real Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavorings, Quillaia, Citric Acid, Soduim Benzoate (preservative).

My thoughts: The name Route 66 brings to my mind images of old muscle cars and hot rods, as well as classic times.  So I expect this root beer to have a strong, classic taste.  It partially lives up to that.  Like a well designed muscle car of a bygone era, there is a well defined attribute to the taste.  This is definitely root beer and doesn't seek to hide it.  I like it.  But as us muscle car aficionados know, they run strong but don't get great gas mileage, making for a fairly short ride (by today's fuel mileage standards).  This gas analogy applies twofold.  First, the initial flavor quickly disappears, running out of power as soon as you swallow.  This quickly fading flavor is not replaced by anything else, so the aftertaste feels weak.  The second gas analogy is even more on the nose, as this could use more carbonation and could stand another trip to the gas station.  Overall, this drink is much less Z/28 or Shelby Cobra, and more a standard, run-of-the-mill V6.  So while muscle cars have taken up their esteemed mantle in history, I doubt that Route 66 will find such a favorable place in the history books.

Rating: C
flavor: B
aftertaste: D+
sweetness: B
smoothness: B
carbonation: C-

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dog n Suds root beer

Background information: (from the website) "…in the early 50’s two school teachers from Champaign, Illinois started a small hot dog & Root Beer stand that rapidly grew thru out the Midwest. Soon there were Dog ‘n Suds Drive-In restaurants from coast to coast. Fifteen in the greater Grand Rapids area & over 50 in Michigan.

The 50’s Drive-In Root Beer stands are nearly a thing of the past whose tale is told thru Hollywood movies. Two original Dog 'n Suds Drive-Ins exist in the state of Michigan. The Dog ‘n Suds Drive-Ins in Montague & Muskegon are operated by a local family that won’t let those “…good ‘ole days” be forgotten."

This family has served frosty mugs of the “…world’s creamiest Root Beer” for over 45 years. Now available at retail food & beverage stores…"

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by Clover Club Bottling Co. Inc.  DNS Distributing Inc., 4221 Grand Haven Road, Norton Shores, MI 49441. 170 calories, 30g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, pure cane sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (as preservative), natural and artificial flavor.

My thoughts: I've had some very carbonated drinks in my day, but this has to be the most violently carbonated drink yet.  They really dialed that carbonation knob up to 11.  The bubbles don't just dance on my tongue, but they have a prickly feeling and feel like they are not just bouncing around, but hurling themselves to and fro with all their might.  It's certainly an interesting sensation that I really enjoy (sort of a liquid Pop Rocks vibe), but I feel like it may be detrimental to the root beer experience.  Perhaps that is really a shortcoming of the flavor.  There is hardly any hint of root beer, as the tactile nature of the bubbles overwhelm whatever functioning sense I have left, including my taste buds.  Of course, what do you expect when "flavor" is the very last ingredient?  By the time I reached the end of the bottle, a slightly rootier taste appeared, but it was too little too late.  The aftertaste is slightly fruity, as it reminds me of eating a slightly rotten and fermented piece of gross fruit.  Never before have I had such a disgusting aftertaste in my root beer.  Sweetness seems fine but, due to the extreme carbonation, this is not a smooth drink at all.  Not recommended.

Rating: F
flavor: F
aftertaste: F-
sweetness: B
smoothness: F
carbonation: A-

Monday, December 17, 2012

AJ Stephans root beer

Background information: (from the website) "AJ Stephans Company makes the finest elixirs and mixers in New England"

(note: the website is terrible and lacking information and seems to not have been revised since 2006.  Their "news" hasn't been news since 1998!  Now I'm not expecting them to maintain a fully interactive, multimedia-enabled HTML5 page with video, music, and such -this is just root beer we're talking about- but to advertise your website on the label and then not update it with any content in the last 6 years is just plain lazy!)

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  AJ Stephans, PO Box 5115, Fall River, MA 02723 (508) 646-9929.  170 calories, 43g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Pure carbonated water, cane sugar, flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate as a preservative.

My thoughts: Judging by the sound the top made when I twisted it off, I had low expectations for the carbonation.  From the barely audible hiss of the escaping gas, to the lack of bubbling noise, this drink betrayed it's flatness from the beginning and was soon confirmed by the almost complete absence of detectable carbonation.  I suspect that the guy responsible for carbonating their drinks is the same guy who maintains their website, as both are poorly done (note: don't let your website programmer run the carbonation machine, nor vice versa).  Flavor starts with a moderately rooty taste (nothing too strong however) with a hint of wintergreen.  The aftertaste quickly develops into a strong wintergreen, with no other detectable flavors.  The wintergreen is pleasant, but ends up being too overpowering in the end.  I wouldn't mind drinking this from time to time if it had a reasonable amount of carbonation.  As it stands, however, I can't recommend this.

Rating: D+
flavor: C
aftertaste: C-
sweetness: B
smoothness: B
carbonation: F

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bundaberg root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Established in Bundaberg in 1960, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks have been delivering premium crafted beverages from our family-owned brewery for over 40 years."

(from the bottle) "Traditionally brewed to a genuine old recipe from real sarsaparilla root, licorie root, vanilla beans and molasses.  Bundaberg Root Beer is an authentic taste of yesteryear."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Pty Ltd., 147 Bargara Rd Bundaberg, Old Australia 4670.  190 calories, 44g sugar.  Glass bottle with peel and pop off top.  Best before 02 Jul 13 09:02

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, root beer brew (water, sugar, molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, vanilla bean, yeast), caramel color, citric acid, preservatives (potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), root beer flavor.

My thoughts: G'day mate.  When I think of Australia, I think of such great things as: Hugh Jackman, Crocodile Dundee, Steve Irwin, and koala bears and kargaroos.  One great thing I won't be thinking of is this root beer.  Initial taste is not rooty at all, but sort of a sour milk and herb mixture that is also sweet.  It's an interesting flavor that has nothing to do with root beer (evidenced by "root beer flavor" being the very last ingredient on a rather lengthy list).  The aftertaste has a strong sour cream flavor with some vanilla mixed in there.  If the sourness wasn't quite so powerful, this would be a much better drink (but still wouldn't really be a "root beer").  Carbonation is a bit flat and I feel that they tried to overcompensate for the sourness by sweetening it up just a little too much.  It does feel pretty creamy and is nice and smooth.  As a "non-root beer" drink, this is okay, however not exceptional.  But in the immortal words of Croc Dundee, "THAT'S not a [root beer]," (pulls out a Henry Weinhard's) "THAT'S, a [root beer]!"

Rating: D (as a root beer)    C+ (as a beverage in general)
flavor: D-
aftertaste: D+
sweetness: C-
smoothness: B
carbonation: D