Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cicero Beverage Co. Salted Caramel root beer

Background information: The bottle and website don't seem to have much information, with the website merely listing a couple awards for this drink as some other beverages they offer.  I'm intrigued by their "Candied Bacon Cream Soda" as well as their upcoming "Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Soda."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Distributed by: CBC Sales Inc., Chicago, IL 60607.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Salt (Sodium Chloride), Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), and Citric Acid.

My thoughts: I'll admit, I'm a sucker for all things caramel.  So anything I say here might be influenced by the delicious taste of this gooey confection.  But don't worry, I didn't let it get the best of me.

The cap came off with a very strong "pop!", indicating that there would be plenty of carbonation in this drink.  As I poured the root beer into my mouth, I was prepared for something wondrous...but instead was left a little perplexed.  The "root beer" itself has a bit of a sour taste, a flavor I've encountered before and am decidedly not a fan of.  There isn't a lot of sassafras here and is overpowered by the caramel flavor.

Aftertaste brings out more of the caramel goodness, plenty sweet and tasty.  As I predicted, the carbonation is plenty powerful, perhaps a bit too much for some, but I like my root beer to have some bite to it.  Fortunately, despite the powerful effervescence, there is no hint of the dreaded "carbonated water" flavor.  Somehow, this incredibly strong carbonation is able to mix in a nice creamy sensation, perhaps buoyed by the caramel.  The drink is a bit sweet, but not more than I'd expect from a caramel beverage.

This could have been one of my favorite root beers, but for the lack of, well, root beer.  The rooty flavor is conspicuously weak and matters are made even worse by the subtle sourness I'm detecting.  Everything else about this is what I want from a beverage (perhaps a tad less sweet would be nice), but the final score reflects that this is supposed to be, first and foremost, root beer.

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Barrel Brothers Creamy Vanilla root beer

Background information: (from the bottle): "From the Rocky Mountains a creamy new twist on an American Classic."

*note: the website briefly covers Apple Beer, but makes no mention of their root beer.

(info from a distributor): "Barrel Brothers Root Beer is brewed with the tradition of old-time homebrews in mind. Its long-lasting, foamy head and aroma of vanilla is matched with a creaminess and body that exude a draft root beer tone. And, it’s brewed with vitamin C and calcium! Over a century ago, home-brewed sassafras gave birth to root beer as a popular cure-all. Now the Barrel Brothers have introduced a 19th-century tradition into the 21st with a root beer that satisfies body and soul like the old-time homebrews. So blow the foam and savor a cold draft of Barrel Brothers’ creamy dark blend!"

*additional note: it seems that Barrel Brothers used to produce a regular root beer that has since been suplanted by this "Creamy Vanilla" version, and they taste different.

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Apple Beer Corp., S.L.C., UT 84117.  170 calories, 43g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Water, High Fructose Corn Sweetener, Natural and Artificial flavors, Quillaja Extract, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate as preservatives.

My thoughts: As a big fan of Apple Beer Corporation's other soda offering, appropriately entitled "Apple Beer", I had high expectations for their take on root beer.  Also, having never heard of "Quillaja Extract" before, I did a little research to see what it was.  According to Wikipedia, it's an Evergreen tree (also known as a soap bark tree) whose bark contains quillaia, a food additive that creates "foaming for drinks."

The bottle claims to be "creamy vanilla" and in that aspect I was not in the least bit disappointed.  Initially, there is a very strong vanilla flavor with a weak showing of rooty sassafras.  There may be some other flavors in play, but the vanilla is so overwhelming that I can't pick anything else out.

As far as aftertaste is concerned, it too is dominated by vanilla.  Good thing I like vanilla.  It is a pretty sweet drink and does leave a sugary residue behind.  Not terrible, mind you, but a just bit more than I usually care for.  This drink is nice and smooth, even creamy, so it seems that the Quillaja is doing the trick.  Carbonation is well balanced; not too sharp and just enough bubble to it.

My overall feelings are a bit mixed.  I like this root beer, but it unfortunately falls a bit short in the "root" department, feeling more like a cream soda (another favorite soda of mine) than anything else.  While I'd love to give this a higher score, I'm gonna have to dock it a bit for not quite living up to the full potential of the root beer moniker.  It is, however, a beverage that I would be more than happy to consume again, keeping in mind that my ratings are based on rankings as a root beer, and not as a soda in general.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Teddy's root beer

Background information: (from the internet): "Unique Beverage Company, LLC manufactures and distributes non alcoholic beverages. The company offers refreshing drinks, flavoured drinks and energy drinks. The company markets its products under the Cascade Ice, Teddy’s Root Beer and Wired Energy Drinks brands. Unique Beverage Company, LLC was founded in 2001 and is based in Everett, Washington."

*note: I pulled this description from an internet search because the website is pretty much useless, with no real information.

(from the bottle): "Root Beer has been an American Classic since the late 1800's.  First used for medicinal purposes, Root Beer is now enjoyed as a soft drink or as the main ingredient in Root Beer floats.  Teddy's is a hand crafted, traditionally rich and creamy Root Beer, made from only the finest ingredients.  We know you will love Teddy's classic Root Beer."

Product details: 26 fl. oz.  Unique Beverage Company, LLC., Everett, WA 98213.  288 calories, 70g sugar. Plastic bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural and artificial flavor, sodium benzoate (preservative), phosphoric acid, sucralose, Ace K.

My thoughts: After my previous unpleasant root beer experience, I decided to try something a bit different from usual.  Instead of the usual glass-bottled variety, I opted to try a cheap grocery store root beer that comes in a plastic bottle.  At the very least, I figured it couldn't be any worse than the last.  Also, unlike the typical 12 oz in a bottle, this one come with a whopping 26 oz.

Seeing as how it isn't a very fancy looking soda, I had low expectations.  Unscrewing the lid off, I was greeted with a root beer candy smell.  Not a particularly good sign.  The flavor matched the smell exactly.  It had a very strong root beer taste, but it was a very artificial taste.  There were no hints of other spices or flavors other than an overbearing wintergreen.  The aftertaste brought me more of the same wintergreen mint flavor.

Carbonation is pretty poor.  It runs flat.  Sugar-wise, it's sweet, but not too terrible.  Pretty much what I've come to expect from a generic grocery store root beer.  I couldn't detect any of the sucralose taste, something I'm usually able to suss out.  It seems smooth enough, helped in part by the lack of effervescence.

Nothing special here folks, so move along.  This root beer doesn't do anything particularly well, but at the same time it also doesn't completely fail.  I wouldn't buy this again, as I can find slightly better generic root beer in bulk for cheaper.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

So Duh! Rockin' root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Established in 2009 Hermitage Brewing Company is located in San Jose."

"Hermitage started when Tied House closed down its iconic downtown San Jose location in mid-2009. All the brewing equipment was transferred down the road to South 7th Street, where Hermitage is today. Hermitage soon added a bottling line, complete with disco ball and audio of ABBA’s greatest hits, which automatically starts when the bottling line is turned on."

"Along with producing its own label of small batch beers, Hermitage contracts with beer and soda clients to produce their products. Hermitage is regarded as a professional and reliable go-to contract brewer for many regional and state brewers."

*note: while the Hermitage Brewing site goes into lots of detail regarding their various alcoholic beverages, there is barely a mention of their soda offerings

(from the bottle): ""Duh" means many things to many people; an airport code in Ohio, a punk rock band.  To us, So Duh!, means - "isn't it painfully obvious this is a delicious craft soda made in small batches with quality ingredients & pure came sugar."

"So - if any asks, "is that soda good?", we hope you'll say Duh!"

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Hermitage Brewing Co., (650) 965-2739.  ? calories, ?g sugar. Glass bottle with non-twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Alfalfa Honey, Natural Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Vanilla.

My thoughts: I'm wasn't particularly sure if "So, Duh!" is supposed to be a joke, or an accurate depiction of the intellect of the clientele that would enjoy consuming this beverage.  Combined with the absence of any nutritional information, I feel they are trying to hide something.  My first taste confirms this suspicion.  Uggghhh.  This stuff is terrible.

There is a strong molasses flavor, with a very, very slight hint of rootiness.  But not impressive at all.  That quickly turns into an aftertaste comprising of a few other flavors.  Honey is noticeable, and I actually like that part.  But it also leaves a flavor that vaguely reminds me of beef jerky.  I like beef jerky.  I do not like my root beer to taste like beef jerky.  By the end of the bottle, however, there must have been some accumulation at the bottom of flavor that made me bump up my aftertaste score, as it not only tasted moderately pleasant but also leaving a creamy texture behind.

While the honey sweetness is initially nice, the subsequent thick sugary coating in my mouth is a bit too much.  Carbonation is terrible, among the worst I've had.  It's almost entirely flat.  Sure, that makes it smoother, but it lacks the refinement to really be considered smooth, and I also count frothiness as part of that criteria, which is also absent (probably because it lacks carbonation).

"So, Duh!"  This is probably the most intelligent phrase you're likely to hear out of the mouth of anyone who likes this drink.  The bottle claims "Soda with an Attitude."  The only attitude I have now is a bad attitude because they tricked me into buying this awful swill.

Rating: F+
flavor: F+
aftertaste: D
sweetness: D
smoothness: D
carbonation: F

Saturday, August 30, 2014

WBC Goose Island Chicago Style root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Chicago’s visitors are awestruck by its towering skyscrapers, iconic bridges, and breathtaking lakefront, but locals never miss a chance to enjoy one of its lesser known but equally memorable experiences…a WBC Chicago Style Root Beer. Made with 100% REAL SUGAR, naturally caffeine-free and never pasteurized, it’s unlike any of those syrupy concoctions you’ll find in an aluminum can or two liter bottle. Rich, creamy, and thick in tradition, each sip of our WBC Chicago Style Root Beer reveals a flavor as unique as the city it’s named for. Just like Chicago, we’re sure you’ll find yourself wanting to visit it again and again. Our Chicago-made brew is still made with the original recipe."

"While drinking a bottle you’ll notice the vanilla notes up front and wonder what familiar taste you’re getting at the end. The wintergreen finish will cause you to reach for that second bottle. Maybe pour it over some vanilla ice cream this time? As the line up’s first born, WBC Chicago Style Root Beer expresses its own personality with a fresh design that plays on classic Chicago iconography while making it clear who the star is in the soda line up."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  WIT Beverage Company.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Triple filtered carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives and citric acid.

My thoughts: While on a trip to Chicago, my friends introduced me to this root beer, which they had bought two cases of.  Seeing as how they have good taste, I had high expectations for this root beer.  Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

Initially, I'm greeted with a nice, hearty rooty flavor.  Not too artificial.  As promised by their website, there is a hint of vanilla.  The aftertaste fades rapidly, but a very slight wintergreen lingers behind, subtle just as it should be.

It doesn't leave too sugary of a feeling in my mouth and I'm extremely happy with the amount of carbonation, tickling a little bit but not with too much bite.  I wouldn't call this a creamy root beer, but it certainly isn't bad.

I was also a tad disappointed to discover that, despite the namesake, I could detect neither the flavor of goose (I had been hoping for a hint of hearty Dutch Emden or perhaps a smidge of delicate French Toulouse) nor the earthy tones of island flavor, or at least it had no flavor of any island that I've ever sampled in my many travels.  The lack of goose and island flavor aside, I found this to be a quite delightful beverage and would recommend it to my friends, not only in the Chicago region, but those geographically arranged elsewhere.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

O-So Vanilla Butterscotch root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Orca Beverage was created in the 1980s by owner Mike Bourgeois while he was studying a new and emerging class of beverages called the “New Age Beverage Category” at the Albers School of Business at Seattle University. This new and exciting extension of the larger Carbonated Soft Drink category was made up of products that were alternatives to the mainstream brands that dominated the industry."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Orca Beverage Inc., Mukilteo, WA 98275, 425 349 5655.  170 calories, 43g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Vanilla Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (a preservative).

My thoughts: I gotta say, I do like my butterscotch root beers and O-So is no exception.  It all starts with a moderate rooty taste.  There isn't a whole lot of complexity as far as the root beer flavor is concerned, seeming about average, if a bit thin.  But the aftertaste, oh the aftertaste!  That is a divine flavor!  The butterscotch has just the right amount of kick to it, with a thick, strong flavor.

With such a strong aftertaste, I would have thought it would leave a syrupy coating in my mouth, but was pleasantly surprised that not only was it not too sugary, but that the flavor dissipated just enough, leaving behind just a hint of the buttery goodness.  The carbonation is nice and strong, with a pleasing bite.  Typically, having bite to the carbonation negatively impacts the smoothness, but the rich butterscotch flavor lent a feeling of creaminess to the drink.

I debated an overall score of "B+", but the initial flavor was just a bit too weak to justify the "+".  As far as all the other attributes go, O-So is doing it right.  If they would just kick up their initial root beer flavor a notch or two, then this would certainly be in grade A territory.

Rating: B
flavor: C
aftertaste: A
sweetness: B+
smoothness: B+
carbonation: A

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Foxon Park root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Foxon Park Beverages, Inc. was founded in 1922 in East Haven, Connecticut by Matteo Naclerio, an immigrant from Italy. He quickly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of his era and decided to open up a beverage company called “Foxon Park,” named after the street on which it resided at the time. Home delivery and a vast variety of flavors were the key to success back then, and unique flavors such as Iron Brew (a drink made famous in Scotland), Gassosa (a lemon flavored Italian soda), Birch Beer, Root Beer, and many others set Foxon Park apart from the vast competition. Ownership has been passed from generation to generation and still remains in the family today, continuing the tradition that was started so long ago."

"Although much has changed over the years, the recipe has remained the same. Using only the best ingredients, including real cane sugar, Foxon Park has become a drink of choice throughout many parts of Connecticut and has started to garner interest in other parts of the country as well. Thanks to its ever growing distribution radius, this soda has been spotted in restaurants as far west as California and as far south as Florida."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Foxon Park Beverages, INC. East Haven, Conn 06513 CT.  130 calories, 34g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, and sodium benzoate.

My thoughts: Whoa!  There is some wintergreen in this thing and it's pretty strong.  The initial flavor is fairly weak in the rootiness, but I there are some spices in there but it's hard to single them out with the overwhelming mint.  Not only does it dominate the upfront flavor, but the aftertaste as well.  It's certainly not a well balanced mix of flavors.

I do like the crispness of the carbonation.  It's strong and a bit prickly, just how I like my CO2.  Of course, high carbonation usually means less smooth, which is the case here, but not negatively so.  There is still a hint of creaminess and I think it works well.  The sugar seems to be just about right too, not leaving the dreaded coating behind that some of the more poorly sweetened beverages can.

Unfortunately for this root beer, it just doesn't have what it takes in the flavor department.  With a lack or rootiness and an overabundance of wintergreen, it's unable to take advantage of the strengths offered by the other criteria, which is too bad.

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg root beer

Background information: (from the website): "This Special Edition of Virgil’s Bavarian Nutmeg is imported from Bavaria and produced with swing-top pint size bottles. Virgil’s is a gourmet root beer. We’re what Ben and Jerry’s is to ice cream, what Dom Perignon is to champagne.

We’re a micro-brewed root beer made with all-natural ingredients. We use herbs imported from around the world and unbleached pure cane sugar.

Virgil’s Microbrewed Root Beer contains these key all-natural ingredients:

  • carbonated water
  • unbleached cane sugar

  • Along with these natural herbs and spices (including point of origin):

  • anise from Spain
  • licorice from France
  • vanilla (bourbon) from Madagascar
  • cinnamon from Ceylon
  • clove from Indonesia
  • wintergreen from China
  • sweet birch from the southern US
  • molasses from the US
  • nutmeg from Indonesia
  • pimento berry oil from Jamaica
  • balsam oil from Peru
  • cassia oil from China

  • Gluten Free. No Preservatives, No Caffeine, No GMO’s, and No artificial anything! Some root beers claim to be “cold-brewed”. This is merely another term for the filtering process that yields common soda. Even so-called premium root beers like Stewarts, IBC and Weinhard’s are not hand crafted brews like Virgil’s. Only Virgil’s Microbrewed Root Beer is truly “brewed”."

    (from the bottle): "Virgil's is a superb blend of spices and herbs gathered from the world over; anise, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, wintergreen, sweet birch, molasses, nutmeg, pimento berry oil, balsam oil and cassia oil."

    Product details: 16.9 fl. oz.  REED's Inc, L.A., CA 90061. (800) 99-REEDS.   214 calories, 28g sugar. Glass bottle with lever activated rubber-stopper top.

    Ingredients: Purified carbonated water, cane sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, herbs and spices.

    My thoughts: This is a big bottle of root beer (16.9 oz vs 12 oz).  And the ingenious sealing mechanism for the lid is fun.  But does that translate to a good root beer?  Read on.

    This is a hearty root beer.  There is a nice strong rooty flavor right off the bat, but mixed in is a very noticeable note of licorice or anise.  I like to taste my root beers before looking at the ingredient list, so as to not alter my perceptions by anticipating certain flavors.  So I was happy to see that my tongue wasn't lying and both licorice and anise were on the menu.  The aftertaste has lingering licorice/anise as well, but the vanilla makes itself known and, while the ingredients say it has wintergreen, I didn't notice it until reading the label and sampling it once again, as the wintergreen is extremely subtle.  There are a few other spices listed, but none of them made themselves known to my tastebuds in any distinguishing manner.

    This drink goes down nice and smooth.  The mix of spices makes it soothing and the moderate amount of under-carbonation certainly helps in this aspect, but I would certainly trade some of the smoothness for a bit more carbonation bite.  Sugar-wise, I'm quite pleased with this root beer.  It may be ever so slightly too sweet, but nothing that detracts too much from the enjoyement.

    Overall, a pretty good root beer.  I didn't notice the nutmeg contributing much, despite the prominence on the bottle.  Maybe I just got a bottle that was a little flat, but it could certainly use some help in the carbonation department and would make this a much better root beer overall.  The score is mostly saved by the mix of spices, though the licorice/anise could be toned down a notch or two.

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

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Old Town root beer

    Background information: (from the website): "Here at Old Town Root Beer Company We have over 500 Sodas in glass bottles...all ice cold and ready to go...our Root Beer Floats will really hit the spot on any day!!  We are family owned and operated since 2000. Come in and enjoy a taste of the past and try our very own Micro Brewed Root Beer!!"

    *note: website listed on bottle says .com, but actual website is .net

    Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Old Town Rootbeer Co. Temecula, San Diego, Barstow, Chicago, Branson and a city near you! ? calories, ?g sugar. (no health info on bottle) Glass bottle with twist off top.

    Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Honey, Natural and other Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preserves freshness), Phosphoric Acid, Real Vanilla.

    My thoughts: Judging from the size of the root beer collection at their location in Temecula ("Over 100 Choices!" according to their website), I'd assume that if Old Town Rootbeer Co. was going to craft their own root beer, it would be something special.  How could connoisseurs such as the fine owners of this establishment create anything mediocre?

    Happily, I can report that this is a really good, bordering on great root beer.  First of all, this doesn't taste like a boring old root beer extract.  There are various spices at work here, and there is a nice rooty flavor and the spices are subtle, and so well blended, that it is hard to single out any one flavor.  This complexity is quite appealing.  As the delicious nectar finishes the journey in my mouth, I'm left with a pleasing hint of wintergreen, anise, and the slightest touch of vanilla.  Sweetness is spot on, perhaps due to the combo of cane sugar and honey; it leaves no overly sugary coating feeling in my mouth.

    Is it perfect?  Not quite.  While smooth and creamy, I think the carbonation could use about 10% more fizziness to it.  And...well, dang... I can't think of any other glaring deficiencies that need to be addressed.  But for some reason, despite all this has going for it, the numbers just don't add up.  It has all these qualities that I love in a root beer, but for some reason the overall package just doesn't blow me away.  Looking at the numbers, this should be an "A" soda, yet I feel that it isn't quite there.  I can't really explain why, as the root beer is tasty, but it doesn't "Wow!" me for some reason.  This is a good root beer that I'll be happy to make room for in the future, but hopefully it resonates with me a bit more, as I feel that I should like it even better than my grade suggests.  Looking at their Facebook page, it also appears that they have two additional root beer products I need to try: D-n-A (sweeter w/ honey) and Rt. 66 (spicier with cinnamon).

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

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

    Zuberfizz root beer

    Background information: (from the website) "We take pride in the manufacturing process, ingredients and packaging we use at Durango Soda Company Inc. Each batch is handcrafted in small quantities with fresh Rocky Mountain water from the San Juans. Our finished product is then transferred to glass bottles - a superior container to aluminum or plastic for both taste and the environment. So twist one off and drink it down. It's the real deal."

    Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Durango Soda Company Inc., Durango, Colorado. 159 calories, 43g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

    Ingredients: Triple-Filtered Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Gum Arabic, Phosphoric Acid and Sodium Benzoate.

    My thoughts: It's been a few months since my last root beer, so I was hoping to return with an übergetränk, and I thought with a name like Zuberfizz, how could I go wrong?  "Zuber" sounds exciting and powerful, while "fizz" sounds...well...fizzy.

    Flavor-wise, it's strong, but artificial.  I can't taste much except the rooty flavor, with nary a hint of spices except for a lingering minty aftertaste.  Not bad, but nothing special.  It's also a little bit sugary syrup tasting, not particularly bad, but again, nothing special.  The carbonation starts out just about right, but as I drank my way through the bottle, the fizz fizzled out.  Is it "creamy" smooth like the label suggests?  Sure, but nothing extraordinary.

    In the end, my übergetränk ended up being a mittelmäßiggetränk, neither exceeding nor lagging behind your garden variety, grocery store root beers.

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