Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Filbert's root beer

Background information: (from the website) "During the early 1900's, George Filbert, his wife and their young son, Charlie, could be seen on a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood delivering bottles of milk to stores and homes. George also delivered ice and coal and provided general moving and transportation services to the Bridgeport community.

It wasn't until the height of prohibition that Filbert's began making Root Beer.

George's son, Charlie who had a love of Root Beer created a recipe that was distinct from other Chicago area bottlers of Root Beer. In 1926 he started making his own "draft style" Root Beer soda.

Since so many establishments had barrel dispensing equipment, it was manufactured in half barrels and supplied mainly to taverns and restaurants.  In fact, during the 1940's, Filbert's was supplying thousands of half barrels of Root Beer to customers across the Midwest.  Filbert's Root Beer supplied the Berghoff Restaurant with its own draft style root beer for over 50 years.

Now 85 years later, Ron Filbert, the fourth generation Filbert, continues to make his families famous Root Beer in the same Bridgeport neighborhood where his Great-Grandfather started it all back in 1926."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Distributed by Filbert's Root Beer Co., Chicago, IL 60608.  150 calories, 41g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar and/or corn sweetener, caramel color, natural & artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (as a preservative).

My thoughts: After looking at the ingredient list and seeing "sugar and/or corn sweetener" llisted, my expectations weren't very high, as cane sugar seems to be the preferred sweetener of the finest root beers (to be fair, many of the worst use cane sugar as well).  Well, this drink is just like the regular canned stuff you find on your grocery store shelf.  It has a moderately artificial and strong root beer flavor, with none of the additional natural spices or flavorings that mark an attempt to be different.  Aftertaste is more of the same, and the usual sugary coating is left behind in my mouth.  Carbonation is pretty good, but nothing too special.  This root beer doesn't try to be anything out of the ordinary, and it succeeds wonderfully at that.  But success isn't always a great virtue, as this root beer is not worth buying over the far cheaper generic stuff.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tower root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Prospect Hill Beverages, LLC is bringing back Tower Root Beer to the New England area using the original recipe bottled and distributed by Prospect Hill Bottling and Soda Water Co. Tower Root Beer was first established in Somerville, MA in 1914 by Domenick Cusolito who immigrated to the United States from Salina, Italy and settled in the Boston area. After World War II, his sons, Jack, Richard and Paul, assumed the responsibility for the management and operation of the family business. Now, Larry Cusolito, Richard’s son (Domenick’s grandson) is heading up a third-generation of the family, to reintroduce the Tower Root Beer brand in the New England region and re-establish the Cusolito family tradition in the soft drink market.

Tower Root Beer is being bottled by EMPIRE Bottling Works, Inc., a contract bottling company located in Bristol, RI under the ownership of Mr. Ed Borges, until such time as a manufacturing facility can be secured for private production. Mr. Borges’ operation is also a family business with a tradition that goes back to 1930."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Prospect Hill Beverages LLC.  150 calories, 41g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Pure carbonate water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness).

My thoughts: This root beer comes from Boston, and we all know what else is in Boston: Harvard, school of choice for Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerburg.  So does this root beer get liked or does it get banished to the dark corner of our wall, joining ranks with the aunt I never talk to and the political posts by people who haven't the slightest clue what they are taking about?

I have to admit that flavor isn't bad at all.  There is a nice strong rooty taste with a hint of wintergreen.  The aftertaste doesn't really reveal any additional flavors, but gives a vague creamy and almost buttery sensation.  This drink is very smooth.  Sweetness seems dialed in just right and carbonation is well balanced.  Nothing about the drink blows me away, but the parts work together to create a pleasant root beer that is a bit better than I expected.  This root beer gets a "like" in my (Face) book!

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

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jackson Hole Soda Buckin' root beer

Background information: (from the website) "We produce incredibly delicious, high quality sodas that honor the pioneer spirit of the old west. When it’s time to relax after a long day in the saddle, there’s nothin’ better than knocking back one of our old-time soda fountain favorites. Our flavors are as varied as the sun setting over our beautiful Grand Tetons and will bring a smile to your face!"

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled for JH Soda, 970 W. Broadway, Suite E, PO Box 30000, #87, Jackson, WY 83002, (307) 920-0018. 198 calories, 53g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, quillaia extract, caramel color, red #40, citric acid and sodium benzoate (to preserve flavor).

My thoughts: Jackson Hole is known for it's nature and outdoor life, which leads me to think that this root beer should also reflect the natural flavors and spices that can make a great root beer.  Well, if Cert's wintergreen mints are your idea of natural flavor, then this meets the criteria.  For me, not so much.  There is so much mint that the root beer flavor is quickly overwhelmed and the aftertaste is all wintergreen with some licorice/anise rearing its head.  I like a bit of mint, but this is just way too much.  Sweetness is fine (surprising, given the much higher than average sugar content), but the wintergreen still makes it seem candy-like, while the carbonation is average.  So if you like your root beers to  leave you feeling like you just brushed your teeth, then this one might be for you.  I, however, like to keep my teeth brushing and root beer drinking experiences separate (but equal!).

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mason's root beer

Background information: (there doesn't seem to be a real website for this brand, so here's what Wikipedia has to say) "Mason's Old Fashioned Root Beer is an American brand of root beer. It is owned by the Monarch Beverage Company of Atlanta but is not widely distributed.

Mason's Root Beer was first manufactured in 1947 by Mason & Mason, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois. During its early years, Mason's Root Beer and flavors line were widely distributed in the Midwest as well as some Southern states.

In 1970, the Rheingold Corporation entered the soda pop business with the purchase of Grapette, changing the company's name to Flavette. The Flavette division subsequently purchased the Dr. Wells soda pop brand and Mason & Mason, Inc. In 1975, Rheingold and its Flavette division were purchased by PepsiCo, Inc. in a hostile takeover. The Federal Trade Commission felt that PepsiCo owned too many brands and forced it to divest several of its brands. By 1978, Mason's Root Beer had been acquired by Monarch Beverage Company but was mostly shelved in favor of the higher-volume Dad's brand of root beer, which Monarch acquired in 1986."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Produced under the authority of the Monarch Company, Inc, Atlanta, GA 30342. 160 calories, 40g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, sodium benzoate (a preservative), citric acid, natural and artificial flavors.

My thoughts: Just as some of the greatest buildings of the antiquities were expertly built by master stonemasons, so I expect this root beer to have been crafted by only the finest of sodamasons, exemplifying the pinnacle of technical and artistic achievement.  Part of that expectation is met: it was crafted, but certainly by no root beer artisan.  It has a nice strong typical root beer flavor upon initial taste...and not really anything else.  Maybe a hint of vanilla in the quickly dying aftertaste, but that's it.  Sweetness is average and uninspiring, and the carbonation is a bit weak.  This root beer does nothing above and beyond the generic stuff in the cans on your local grocer's shelf.  Boringly average.  Next!

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bedford's root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Bedford’s sodas have been a Pacific Northwest tradition for over 30 years. Handcrafted and known for outstanding flavor, Bedford’s is now available from coast to coast and considered a fine example of a regional soda made with care and quality ingredients. Enjoy a Bedford’s for flavor and refreshment."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by Orca Beverage, Mukilteo, WA. 180 calories, 44g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, caramel color, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, gum arabic, quillaia, citric acid and sodium benzoate (a preservative).

My thoughts: Some root beers aspire to be more than just root beer flavored.  This is one of them.  There is a certain root beer flavor, but it's easy to tell that there is a lot of other things going on, not all of which are identifiable by my mediocre taste buds.  There seems to be some vanilla, but it there is also a fruity cherry aspect that hides just below the surface.  The aftertaste has the root beer fade a little and the vanilla gets a wintergreen companion, while the fruity note becomes stronger.  I like what it's doing (then again, I'm a big Dr Pepper fan).  Where this drink falls short is in carbonation, as it runs flat.  Sweetness is a little strong as well, feeling a bit sugary and leaving my throat a little more coated than I care for.  Overall, they are doing some nice things with this drink, but are held back by carbonation issues.

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