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.  http://www.virgils.com

    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.  http://www.oldtownrootbeer.net

    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.  http://www.zuberfizz.com

    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-