Saturday, December 26, 2015

Brigham's Brew root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Where’s the beer? Where are the breweries?” Those were among the first thoughts Greg Schirf had after moving to Utah from Milwaukee in the early 80’s. Incredibly, drinking and brewing were all but forbidden. Greg took matters into his own hands and did what any self-respecting midwesterner would do: He started a brewery. Wasatch was the very first brewery in Utah – and one of the first craft brewers in all of the U.S. – brewing award-winning brews since 1986.

In 1988, Greg Schirf proposed another bill to the Utah Legislature making brewpubs legal in Utah and opened the first brewpub at the top of historic Main Street in the resort town of Park City. Wasatch continues to misbehave, turning out naughty beer after naughty beer year after year."

(from the bottle) "Wasatch Brewery proudly presents this hand-crafted root beer named after Utah's legendary founding father Brigham Young. Brigham's Brew is bottled in small batches, keeping the traditional cane sweet taste freshly brewed. Brigham's Brew goes down smooth and easy and is perfect for any occasion."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Wasatch Brewery. 210 calories, 54g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.wasatchbeers.com/ (must be 21 years of age or older)


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Maltodextrin, Honey, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Vanilla Extract, Yucca Extract, Sodium Benzoate (a preservative), Citric Acid.


My thoughts: Brigham Young is often associated with his polygamous ways. Having one woman is tough enough. Having multiples, I can't even imagine. Root beer, on the other hand, I prefer to take the polygamous approach, enjoying many different kinds rather than just settling down with only one root beer 'til death do us part. So, will this be the one that finally convinces me to stop testing the market and settle down to a monogamous root beer relationship?

The initial root beer flavor is pretty strong, with a very noticeable vanilla taste to it. It's pretty pleasing. The rootiness fades quickly, leaving behind a strong wintergreen taste. It's a fairly aggressive mint, riding just on the border of being too powerful. At least it's not a toothpasty taste.

Seeing as how this root beer has about 25% more sugar than most I've tested, I was expecting it to be overly sweet. Oddly, this is not the case. While it does leave a bit of a sugary coating in my mouth, it's not offensive. All root beers leave at least a little bit of a sugary coat, but this one seems no worse than any other. The carbonation is decent, with the carbonation that is there very feisty, but it seems that it's lacing a little bit in quantity. This drink goes down fairly smooth, with a hint of creaminess to it. I'm guessing the Yucca extract helps with that, but it could stand to be a little creamier.

Well, I think I'm okay with one bottle for now. I'd drink it again if someone offered it to me, but I won't necessarily seek it out. It's a solid root beer that does many things right, but isn't exceptional in any of its aspects. No need to practice monogamy with just this one root beer. I think I'll continue to enjoy the companionship of many root beers instead.


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


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Capone Family Secret root beer

Background information: (from the website) "During the 1920's Capone's warehouses were raided by the police 137 times, eager to seize their inventory of illegal alcohol. There were only a few items found on every single raid and it was not alcohol. It was cases of the "Capone Family Secret" Soda. After 80+ years the "Secret" Soda was finally made public, so families can enjoy great sodas, while experiencing a piece of history."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Distributed by Capone Family Secret, Inc., Chicago, IL 60607. 160 calories, 41g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.cfsbeverages.com/


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


My thoughts: Al Capone, famous gangster who was a rotten guy. Well, this root beer lives up to his namesake, being a rotten root beer.

The first thing I notice about this root beer is that it has sort of sour taste to it and almost no sassafras flavor. Not in a sour gummy worm kind of way, but more in a sour milk kind of way. After that, it reminds me a bit of the time I made some root beer and used yeast to carbonate it and left it in the sun too long. It tasted terrible, in a yeasty manner. The aftertaste doesn't offer any reprieve from this, with the main flavor just slowly fading away and a mild minty taste lingering behind. Ughhh.

Sweetness is all right. The carbonation is pretty good; slightly aggressive without being over the top. This root beer isn't particularly smooth or creamy, so it doesn't do down as nice as it could, but perhaps it's partly the terrible flavor that makes me not want to drink it down.

I'd write more, but this root beer doesn't deserve it. Al Capone was an awful man and the root beer with his namesake is equally awful. Stay away.


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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Olde Brooklyn Williamsburg root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Our story dates back to 1871. Ulysses S. Grant was president, Jesse James was robbing banks, and Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern and managed to burn down much of Chicago. Yes, those were tempestuous times. And not far away, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, pharmacist H.M. Colver had formed the White Rock Company to sell local spring water that the Potawatomi Indian tribe believed had special medicinal powers.

In 1952, Alfred Morgan, then president of White Rock and grandson of the founder of Morgan Beverages (est. 1858), purchased White Rock. For five generations since, our family has proudly crafted and bottled high-quality beverage products right here in the United States.

White Rock is a trusted brand with a stellar reputation for purity, integrity, flavor and value --a brand as American as the spring from which White Rock originally flowed. In fact, countless American families (maybe even yours!) have come of age hosting and toasting with White Rock mixers and soft drinks. And the reason, quite frankly, is simple: taste.

If you've never tasted White Rock beverages, get hold of one and give us a try. And if you've grown up drinking White Rock at home, and maybe you haven't had one in a while, it's time you relived taht memorable flavor your taste buds have been missing -- and craving."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled under the authority of White Rock Products Corp, Whitestone, NY 11357. 180 calories, 43g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.whiterockbeverages.com/


Ingredients: Triple filtered carbonated water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), citric acid.


My thoughts: Good olde Brooklyn, home to the hipster elite and their ever demanding ways. These people demand that everything be superior to what the rest of us ordinary plebs. Does this root beer deliver on it's haughty ambitions, or is it an impostor, unable to pull off the skinny jeans and meticulously groomed facial hair?

My initial reaction is positive. I like how this stuff tastes. The rooty sassafras is quite pleasant, leaning more towards a natural flavor and not super artificial. There is a strong vanilla component to it. As the flavor fades away, I'm left with a cooling, mint-like sensation, but I don't necessarily taste and mint flavor. It also seems a bit fruity, reminding me of artificial cherry flavor. Making my way through the bottle, however, the drink seems to lose some of its flavor, becoming weaker the more I drink. Another odd sensation is that the aftertaste leaves a sensation on my tongue similar to that when I eat a Popsicle and lick the wooden stick.

Sweetness is pretty good, though could stand to be reduced just a little bit. This drink is nice and smooth and seems to have a decent creaminess to it. The carbonation starts off strong, offering just about the perfect balance. By midway through the bottle, it's lost some of its bite, but still decent.

Well, at first glance this seems like it's the perfect hipster embodiment. But upon closer inspection, one notices that it's kind of a poser, doing a great job of imitating what it's trying to be, but not quite pulling it off. For the less discerning hipster, they might never notice that this root beer isn't as good as it could be. But for me, I see through the admirably well orchestrated charade and can tell where it's failing. I'd happily drink this root beer again, but it falls short of the high bar set by some of its superior colleagues.


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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Frostop root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Ever since L.S. Harvey opened his first root beer stand in Springfield, Ohio in 1926 the name Frostop has stood for the creamiest and tastiest root beer in America.

From the twenties to the outbreak of World War II, Frostop root beer stands covered the landscape.  high school sweethearts, families and anyone looking for a refreshing treat would stop at their local Frostop to grab an ice cold mug full.

With the war over, Frostop soda shops once again opened their doors and became the place to go to enjoy the rich vanilla taste of the best root beer you could buy.  By 1958 there was at least one Frostop Soda Shop in every state in The United States!

Today, we are still in Ohio and we are still making the creamiest and tastiest root beer in America.  We ship our root beer and all of our great soda flavors all over the United States and have even sent it to our armed forces in Afghanistan!  And with the addition of Frostop Direct and Frostop Catering to our corporate family, we can now provide our products over the web or as part of our on-site catering service.

Times have changed, but we still serve our refreshing treats in the big brown bottle, and we still make our root beer, and all of our sodas, using the finest natural ingredients available.  And just like back in 1926 when Mr. Harvey was running the store, when it comes to taste, NOTHING TOPS FROSTOP BUT THE FOAM!"


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Distributed under authority of trademark owner: Frostop Beverages, Inc., Columbus, OH by C-B Beverage Corp, Hopkins MN 55343, USA. 1650 calories, 48g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.frostop.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Corn Syrup, Pure Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Phosphoric Acid and less than 1/10 of 1% of Sodium Benzoate to preserve freshness.


My thoughts: The root beer flavor is very up front and center, delivering a strong but artificial flavor, sort of halfway between root beer candy and a more natural tasting root beer. But underneath, there seems to be a little more going on, with vanilla making quite the showing. I like it, but at the same time I don't really like it a ton. Sure, it's got a bold flavor, but it feels very two note, with no additional spices that I can detect.

What really caught me off guard was the sweetness. It might just be my imagination, but I swear I can even taste the flavor of sugar. This guy goes overboard on sweetness, with the sensation bearing out the greater than normal sugar content listed on the label. But all is not mediocre, as the carbonation is pleasant, delivering a nice fizzy drink that doesn't feel harsh. As such, this drink goes down smooth. It's not super creamy, so could still stand to improve in that aspect of smoothness, but it's not bad.

This root beer would probably make a good float, as the bold flavor would be nicely balanced by the ice cream (which tends to mask subtler spices anyway). But as a straight-up beverage, it has definite room for improvement, but isn't a bad drink. I'd drink it again, but won't go out of my way to procure it again.


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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rat Bastard root beer

Background information: I couldn't find any information on the website relating to this root beer. In fact, the website looks like it was designed to be a Geocities page in the 90's and never updated.

(from the bottle) "Quit being a dick   drink it."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Real Soda in Real Bottles, Ltd. 190 calories, 40g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top. http://realsoda.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Molasses, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Caffeine, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Herbs: (American, Siberian & Korean Ginseng; Jasmine; Clove; Dong Quai - Angelica; Skullcap (Mud Dog Weed); African Capsicum; Ginko Biloba; Gotu Kola; Goldenseal; Echinacea; Reishi & Shitake Cordyceps); Sodium Benzoate (to preserve freshness).


My thoughts: As one of the odder ingredient lists of all root beers, I had no idea what to expect. Most of them, however, aren't the usual suspects. The label says "It's us against them." I aim to see whether I'm on team "us" or team "them".

I was a bit worried that with all the random ingredients, the flavor would be substantially compromised. My worrying was in vain, however, as this tastes like a run-of-the-mill root beer. It has a bit of sassafras taste and some vanilla, but not a whole lot else. The aftertaste is sort of the same, the flavor slowly fading away. Burping (excuse me!), however, brought forth an unpleasant taste/smell.

This drink seems a bit on the sweet side. It leaves more of a sugary feeling than I care for, but not terribly so. Where it really let me down was the carbonation, falling flat quickly. I think this lack of carbonation also contributes to the syrupy consistency that makes it seem sugary. It's hard to rate smoothness, as the lack of carbonation makes it hard to compare to a properly carbonated beverage, but it's probably average.

Overall, the flavor was more average than I expected from all the weird ingredients, but it was fairly lackluster. The lack of carbonation was a major letdown and probably the single biggest negative influence on my final rating. There are much better root beers out there, so I can't really recommend this one.


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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sea Dog root beer

Background information: The Sea Dog site has nothing to say at all about this drink, as they instead advertise their various beers. It seems, though, that Sea Dog root beer is somehow connected to Cap'n Eli's root beer, as they both feature the same dog mascot (who appears in the Cap'n Eli comic books).


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Sea Dog Brewing Co., Portland, Maine. ? calories, ?g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.seadogbrewing.com/ (must be 21 or older to visit site due to alcohol-related material)
http://www.captneli.com/ (root beer site)


Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel coloring, natural & artificial flavors including wintergreen oil, anise, and vanilla, spices, herbs, citric acid, and sodium benzoate as a preservative.


My thoughts: After a particularly long week of work, I felt a bit like a dog put out to sea. Hoping to make life better, I reached for my next root beer who sounds like it could empathize with my plight. Unlike a sea dog, who would presumably be wet and smelly from hanging out in the salt water all day, this drink was pretty pleasant. There is a nice strong rooty taste, with a nice mix of spices. With so much going on, though harmoniously, it takes multiple swigs to figure out all the flavors in there. A bit of wintergreen, some vanilla, a hint of licorice. Good stuff. The aftertaste is also very good, with the flavors maintaining their ratios and slowly tapering off. The long term aftertaste is a little off, hard to describe, but not entirely pleasant.

Sweetness is pretty good, maybe just the slightest bit more sugary than perfect, but only a minor complaint. The carbonation is interesting. It's strong, but usually that means that I can feel big carbonation bubbles popping around in my mouth. This, however, feels like super small, but concentrated, bubbles with a sort of sharpness to them. The carbonation can feel a bit harsh, almost stinging, but in a way I like it. It may not be a sensation that all will enjoy. In spite of this, the drink actually feels pretty creamy, perhaps aided by the smallness of the carbonation bubbles. This makes a pleasant contrast to the bite of the carbonation.

Going in, I didn't have the highest expectations, seeing as how a lot of my root beers lately have been mediocre. But this did the trick, topping off a week of hard work with some delicious root beer nectar. I'll certainly add this to my list of root beers to drink again.


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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cool Mountain root beer

Background information: (from the website): "All Cool Mountain Flavors are made with Pure Cane sugar and 100% Caffeine Free. Lightly carbonated not overly sweet with a bold refreshing flavor since 1997. Our clear glass bottles are wrapped with custom pressure sensitive labels, capped off with a black and chrome twist off promotional bottle cap that seals in freshness. Our Master 24 pack carton is beautifully printed white tab lock box to display our companies trademark logo name and flavor with cut out handles. More than 50% of our package is made from recycled materials meeting all state, federal nutrition compliance and truth in labeling requirements."

Whew, their website is pretty boring. While most root beer sites like to tell an interesting history, this one just spouts out a couple facts, with the information all feeling very impersonal. Oddly enough, this lifeless content is juxtaposed with the image banner at the top showing exciting and adventurous people doing fun things like snowboarding, white water kayaking, rock climbing, motorcycling, and surfing. Perhaps they figure that people don't read anymore and will just see exciting pictures and assume that all the words must be exciting as well.


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled under the authority of Evolution Brands LLC, Des Plaines, IL 60016. 160 calories, 40g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.coolmountain.com/


Ingredients: Filtered water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as a presevative.


My thoughts: I wonder what other names they went through before settling on the name "Cool Mountain"? I imagine Chilly Molehill, Frigid Elevationally Exception Landmass, Awesome Alititudal Precipice or maybe Totally Excellent Peak? Well, either way, I can't help buy wonder, is this a root beer I would climb to the top of the highest bluffs to acquire? Read on to know the answer to this question that has haunted humanity from their earliest days.

My refrigerator maintains a constant 37°F, fulfilling the "cool" part of the beverage's name. As for the taste, there's a strong, but generic, root beer flavor. Unlike many other root beers, where I can taste a bunch of other individual spices, this one just has the one note: typical root beer. It's not bad or candy-like, but it's nothing special. Pretty much what I'd expect from a normal can of store-bought root beer, maybe slightly better. The aftertaste doesn't offer anything different, with the root beer taste just slowly fading off.

Sweetness is average, getting the job done while only leaving a moderate sugary coating behind. Nothing I can really complain about. Carbonation is where this root beer shines, with a nice strong tingle on my tongue that maintains it's strength all the way to the bottom of the bottle. Smoothness suffers a little here, partially due to the strong (but not overly so) carbonation. Combine this with the lack of creaminess, and this isn't a particularly smooth root beer.

At the end of the bottle, I concluded that I would not scale Mt. Everest to get a bottle of this root beer. To be fair, I wouldn't scale Mt. Everest for any sort of root beer, as I hate heights and detest the cold. I would, however, scale a small incline, perhaps even a moderate countryside hill, to drink this root beer. It's not exceptional, but it's right up there with the average root beer at the grocery store, and even those are worth a minuscule amount of exertion from time to time.


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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Iron Horse root beer

Background information: (from the website) "In 1869, Central Pacific's steam engine the Jupiter was nicknamed IRON HORSE. It met Union Pacific's #119 at Promontory Peak, Utah, uniting the Atlantic Coast with the Pacific. Today, IRON HORSE still unites rich flavor with original refreshment. Our commitment to authentic recipes blend quality ingredients with a cool, low carbonated taste enjoyed by those who built the rail lines so many years ago."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Distributed by Iron Horse Products, Inc., P.O. Box 24824, Edina MN 55424. 180 calories, 45g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.drinkironhorse.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), and natural and artificial flavor.


My thoughts: The label design and brand name are excellent exercises in advertising, as they connote a connection with a time of steam locomotives, when almost everything food related was manufactured from natural ingredients. This was an era where sugar came from the cane, well before high fructose corn syrup became commercially available in the 1970s. So it's ironic that in the world of small batch root beers dominated by cane sugar for sweetening that this drink would buck that trend by using the cheaper, lower quality HFCS. But does that translate into a worse drink?

The flavor is very sweet up front, with not a whole lot of sassafras rootiness and just a touch of vanilla. There is also the slightest bitter taste, one that I had to keep searching for to determine if it was really there or not, but it was. Besides the weak root beer flavor, there isn't much else going on with the flavor. There might be a very minute hint of wintergreen in the aftertaste, but maybe I'm imagining things.

Buster is just as excited about this root beer as I am.
While the sweetness isn't bad, in fact it would serve quite well in many other root beers, I feel like it overwhelms the weak flavor, making it seem stronger than it really is. They say they purposely keep the carbonation low to "keep the flavor rich", but I didn't find it to be very low. While it may not assaulted my tongue with spark and tingle, it certainly seemed up to the task and lasted all the way until the bottom of the bottle. This drink is a little bit creamy, giving it a nice smoothness that contrasts well with the carbonation levels.

At the end of the day, this isn't a root beer I'd invest in again. I think it has serious flavor issues (not surprising as "flavor" is the bottom ingredient on the list). The carbonation is great, but isn't enough to save this drink. Just like the steam powered locomotive, this drink can't keep up with modern competition.





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

edited to add: many times after I write my review I will browse other reviews to see how other's thoughts line up with mine. I never read the reviews before I drink a root beer (so I don't go in with a preconceived notion). What I found interesting is that there are quite a few extremely good reviews for Iron Horse, saying it had fantastic flavor. I noticed most of these reviews are from ~2011 or earlier. The couple more recent ones I found weren't super impressed with this drink, drawing similar (though not always agreeing) conclusions as I. It just seemed interesting that the once lauded flavor seems to have been abandoned for a recipe that hasn't received nearly such effusive praise.

Friday, August 28, 2015

St. John Brewers Virgin Islands root beer

Background information: The St. John Brewery website seems to be primarily dedicated to their alcoholic beverages, with only a passing mention of their root beer. Even their "root beer" page is just advertising their bar. So not a great resource for learning more about the soda side of the business.

If you want to read more about them (it's a pretty interesting story), they have a fairly decent history of the company here: http://www.stjohnbrewers.com/ourstory.html


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  165 calories, 49g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.stjohnbrewers.com/


Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel coloring. natural & artificial flavors including wintergreen oil, anise, vanilla spices, herbs, citric acid, sodium benzoate as a preservative.


My thoughts: The great question in my mind is this: Has this root beer been blessed by divine Sainthood to be a rapturous event, or will it be devilishly bad? Does the palm tree logo with a tap in it indicate that this drink will taste like palm tree, or was the graphic designer trying to trick me? Inquiring minds want to know!

Well, in the flavor department, this drink is more angelic than it is demonic. There is a nice blend of spices, with a strong, rooty taste and very distinct vanilla, anise, and -mildly- some wintergreen. I like that each of these flavors is present and notable without any one being overpowering. What I find interesting is that as I drink, a different flavor becomes slightly more pronounced than the others, only to have a different one overtake it on the next swig. Aftertaste is nice, with the wintergreen lingering the longest, but never overpowering.

With such good flavor, this drink is certainly destined to be heavenly, right? Smoothness is nice, with a decent creaminess to it. Sweetness seems right on point too, as it is definitely a sweet drink, but I didn't feel that was overly sugary, with only a moderate sugary coating left in my mouth. This was surprising to me, as it has about 20% more sugar than most other root beers, so I was expecting it to be substantially sweeter and leave a much more prominent coating in my mouth.

So far this root beer is a slam dunk! Sainthood achieved! Wait! Stop the press! A scandal has come to light that causes it to fall flat! Unfortunately, with sainthood virtually guaranteed, the devil in the details rears its ugly head, for it seems that somebody forgot the effervescent aspect of this root beer. It has a little bit of bubble, but not much, coming across as fairly flat. What little carbonation it has is maintained throughout drinking the entire bottle, but the problem is just that it is too flat to begin with.

So, does this root beer deserve to enter the pearly gates of rootbeerness? Despite the sin of flatness, I'd give it a pass to get in. All saints have minor flaws and St. John overcomes this weakness with an overall goodness that is hard to contest. I really with this had a bit more bite to the carbonation, as it would join the elite root beers if did. As for the tree logo, I did not taste any tree flavor in this drink, so the logo is mercifully inaccurate.


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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maine Root root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Handcrafted soda made with Fair Trade Certified organic evaporated cane juice.  Open a bottle and taste the flavor of extracts of wintergreen, clove and anise.  Our recipe combines these ingredients with FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED ORGANIC SUGAR to allow the flavor of each of these extracts to come through.  This is the one that started it all.  Pop a top off and see why. CAFFEINE FREE."

"For 6 years now, Maine Root's FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED organically sweetened sodas have been thrilling fans from New England to Texas. This all started when younger brother Matt, a boat builder and former fishing guide, was helping a friend, Bobby Morgan, build the oven at Flatbread Pizza Company in Portland, Maine. Finding the restaurant's current root beer less than palate pleasing, he brewed his own. Praises and orders flowed and soon brother Mark quit his software sales job to expand their distribution."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages, Portland, Maine 04101. 160 calories, 41g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://maineroot.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated pure water, Fair Trade Certified organic cane juice and spices.


My thoughts: Natural and organic, how could you go wrong? Well, the first way to go wrong is to have a very weak and short-lived rootiness. While the sassafras seems to be nice and natural, it unfortunately doesn't make enough impact, quickly dissipating into a mild aftertaste of spices, with vanilla being the predominate one. Now, the taste isn't bad. In fact, it's quite good and refreshing. So it's too bad that it fades so quickly.

Carbonation levels are great. This is a nice crispy drink that maintains a good carbonation until the end. It isn't one of the smoothest drinks, however, as the carbonation doesn't exactly translate into froth, falling a bit short in creaminess. Sweetness seems to be in line with what I expect from a root beer, so I have no complaints there.

This is a root beer that I wished I liked more. It doesn't have anything particularly wrong with it other than the flavor is too weak. What flavor is there is pretty decent, tasting nice and natural. I would certainly drink this root beer again, but given a selection of root beers, I can't say this one makes a compelling enough case to beat out many of the others.


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


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chicago root beer

Background information: The website doesn't provide much information, merely telling us the root beer is available in 12 oz. bottles, kegs, and syrups for restaurants.


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Cool Mountain Beverages Inc., Des Plaines, IL 60016. 180 calories, 40g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.chicagorootbeer.com/


Ingredients: Filtered water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium as a preservative.


My thoughts: Well, sorry to disappoint, but this is another candy-like root beer with a strong, artificial rootiness to it and little in way of other flavors. Once the initial flavor subsides, it turns into...well...less of the original taste. No additional notes become apparent, with the main flavor just fading away.

Despite the candy-like taste, overall sweetness levels aren't too bad. I would have expected from the initial flavor to have more of a syrupy coating in my mouth, but it really wasn't too bad. Carbonation is decent, providing a nice little *pop* to my tongue, but isn't too aggressive. The drink doesn't provide a particularly creamy experience, so smoothness is just average.

To sum it up, this is just another mediocre root beer, certainly not worth the additional premium paid for it over a plain old regular can of grocery store soda. Absent any other root beer selection, this will get the job done; it just won't excel at it.


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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Crater Lake root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Crater Lake Soda is made with pure cane sugar, as opposed to the high-fructose corn syrup that many of our competitors use. In addition we don't use additives such as caffeine or foam enhancers. Foam enhancers are present in some soda products, especially root beers and cream sodas, to promote a stable head for visual appeal. Crater Lake Soda varieties are all lightly carbonated for a full, crisp taste. We are happy to brew our sodas the old-fashioned way to meet consumer demand for healthier products and a true gourmet soda. Crater Lake Soda varieties are also Kosher and gluten-free."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Crater Lake Soda Co., Portland, Oregon 97220 USA. 160 calories, 41g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.  http://www.craterlakesoda.com


Ingredients: Sparkling water, pure cane sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), citric acid.


My thoughts: Keep Portland weird. That's one of the taglines for the city of Portland, OR, so I expect them to also keep their root beer weird. In a good way. Well, they don't exactly do that. Instead, this root beer settles for a very generic root beer flavor; strong, but not complex. It mostly delivers a general sassafras flavor, with little else.  The aftertaste doesn't really offer anything additional, as the original flavor just sort of fades away. The overall taste, therefore, is just "meh".

Carbonation is some moderately weak sauce. Sure, there are some bubbles, but it feels like it's on the verge of going flat. There really isn't any foam or creaminess, so I wouldn't say it's particularly smooth, with the majority of the "smoothness" coming from the lack of carbonation. It seems a little on the sweet side, feeling a bit more sugary than it really needs to be.

What a letdown. This drink does a couple things okay, but also a few things less well than average. I was hoping they had managed to bottle up some of Portland's weirdness, but instead they delivered a bottle of indifferent "whatever". If you're looking for an average or better root beer, look elsewhere. While it isn't a gross drink, it doesn't really do anything particularly well and there are better root beers for less money.

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


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fireman's Brew root beer

Background information: (from the website): "In December 2000, Rob and Ed were sitting on a steep hillside of an extinguishing brushfire above the Glendale Mountains. They were staring into the midnight sky, dreaming of the cool smooth taste of a fresh beer to quench their scorched dry mouths. From this point, these two Los Angeles based firemen set out to brew the best Fireman's Brew in the world.

The result was Fireman's Brew, the perfect choice to "Extinguish Your Thirst" & "Ignite the Party"! In a brief moment in time, the two men gave birth to a vision that they are living out today. Their thirst for beer and coffee after that exhausting day launched them into developing a hero's brand of products that every American could relate to. With every product sold, Fireman's Brew donates a portion of its profits to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Emmitsburg, Maryland. So whether your beverage of choice is beer, coffee, or root beer, sit back and relax with the smooth taste of a fresh Fireman's Brew!"

(from the bottle): "Extinguish your thirst" and "Ignite the Party". If they wanted to be extremely clever, they should bottle this stuff in fire extinguisher shaped containers, but I suppose the current logo on a regular shaped bottle will have to do for now.

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by Fireman's Brew Inc., Inyokern, CA.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.firemansbrew.com


Ingredients: Natural Artesian Spring Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural Flavors, and Citric Acid added.


My thoughts: It's been mega-hot the past week and it seems that being doused by a firehose would be a refreshing way to cool off. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any firehoses handy, so I'll have to make do with this Fireman's Brew root beer, hoping that it'll provide the cool refreshment that I'm in dire need of.

It may just be the heat talking, but this cold root beer started off by doing exactly what I want, giving me a cool, rooty flavor. The sassafras taste is nice and natural, with a hint of other spices, with wintergreen seeming the most prevalent and a little vanilla. As the initial flavor fades into an aftertaste, the wintergreen takes on a little more prominence without becoming too minty. The flavors disappear almost as quickly as the drink is swallowed, and I wish the taste stuck around a bit longer.

I really like the crispness of this drink, with lots of carbonation. Unfortunately, this makes it not so smooth, as I don't detect any creaminess and my mouth is left feeling a little too clinical and clean, almost like I just drank straight carbonated water. Don't get me wrong, I like the clean feeling, but it feels a little to sterile. Fortunately, smoothness is the least important quality to me. Sweetness, on the other hand, is great, with just the right amount of sugar. There is hardly any sugary coating left behind, which may also contribute to the "sterile" feeling.

Well, just like a firefighter doing his job -get in, get things done, then get out of there- this drink does a fantastic job while in my mouth, but once it's done in there, the flavor gets right on out and moves on. While not the absolute best tasting root beer I've had, it's pretty solid and I wish the flavor would stick around after putting out the fire.

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


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rocky Mountain root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Rocky Mountain Root Beer was the idea that started it all.  We wanted to make the best flavored, all natural root beer available. We set out to create a flavor that evokes memories of the old West.  Think warm vanilla and caramel notes that glide along a creamy cloud of delicious sassafras flavor.  We also add a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to give a grounded earthiness that ends with a spicy finish.  We hope you enjoy the end result of our quest to create the best root beer made.

Rocky Mountain Soda Company was created with one goal in mind, quality. We strive to make the most unique, best tasting, highest quality, all natural soda available. We achieve our goal by using only the finest all natural ingredients.

We custom craft each of our flavors in small batches and package every bottle by hand.  The benefit of our efforts is realized in every sip you take. We thank you for the opportunity to present our soda for your drinking pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do…Cheers!"

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Rocky Mountain Soda Co, 4420 Glencoe Street, Denver, Colorado 80216.  140 calories, 39g sugar. Glass bottle with pop off top. http://www.rockymountainsoda.com


Ingredients: Carbonated Colorado water, Rocky Mountain beet sugar, natural flavors, potassium sorbate as a preservative.


My thoughts: Rams are some badass animals.  If you get in their way, they'll destroy you with a massive head-butt to the face.  Not only that, but unlike most other root beers with a twist off top, this one is a pop-off variety that requires a bottle opener or one of many opening methods developed across the bars of the world. So for a root beer to rock one tough mofo on their label and a cap that requires more than just a twist of the hand, I expect this root beer to back it up with an equally manly drinking experience.

So, to the flavor.  While it didn't smash me in the face with taste, there is a fairly strong sassafras flavor, making it nice and rooty, though I think it could use just a tad more as it goes just a tad thin as the aftertaste kicks in.  Underlying this is a variety of spices, though none so strong as to overpower the others.  As the sassafras dies away, the aftertaste develops into a few flavors, with cinnamon and nutmeg coming through.  Their site doesn't say anything about anise (black licorice), but I could swear there is a hint in there.

Another oddity is that this drink is sweetened with beet sugar, rather than the normal cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  I'm not sure if this is a huge factor, but it didn't leave my mouth all sugary feeling.  The carbonation is okay; it gets the job done but could stand to have a little more spark to it.  It's also not super foamy, making it less creamy smooth than it should be, especially considering the average carbonation.

I really appreciated the complexity of natural spices that this root beer brings to the table.  It tastes pretty good, though the sassafras could use a little more face-smashing intensity.  At the end of the day, I can heartily recommend that ewe try ramming some of this down your gullet.

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


Monday, June 8, 2015

Jonnie Ryan root beer

Background information: (from the website): "In 1935, the Janik brothers (Stephen, Walter and John) founded the Johnnie Ryan Bottling Company in Niagara Falls, New York. Taking pride in their soft drinks and only using the finest ingredients available, quickly made Johnnie Ryan beverages a hometown "family favorite".

Today, many old memories return and some new ones will be made when you enjoy a bottle of our premium soda. Johnnie Ryan beverages are made of the finest extracts and flavorings available, and still sweetened with 100% pure cane sugar, just like our grandfather and his two brothers did, over seventy years ago.

We also package our premiums in a classic glass bottle to preserve freshness, great taste and carbonation. No expenses are spared in the manufacturing of this product, making it still a genuine "family favorite."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  The Johnnie Ryan Co. Inc, Niagra Falls, New York.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.johnnieryan.com


Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, citric acid, sodium benzoate (used as a preservative), natural and artificial flavour, caramel colour.


My thoughts: Before even opening this bottle, I'm a bit predisposed to liking it. Something about the bottle design is very appealing to me, so kudos to the graphic design person who came up with this.  On the flip side, having citric acid listed as the third ingredient makes me worry, as it's usually one of the last ingredients and makes me wonder why there is more citric acid than there is flavor ingredients?

My initial impression is that it tastes like root beer...candy.  It is rooty, but very much leaning towards a more artificial flavor.  There's a bit of vanilla in there that becomes more predominate as an aftertaste.  Speaking of the aftertaste, it's still a little rooty, but toned down enough that the "candy" aspect of it fades away leaving a wintergreen vanilla taste in its wake.

As far as sweetness, I was pleasantly surprised that it was pretty good.  Perhaps I was expecting a candy-like sugar coating to match the flavor, but was left with a fresher feeling.  Carbonation is good, providing a nice sparkle on my tongue while not veering off into over-aggressiveness.  The carbonation helps build up a decent froth in the mouth, making for a fairly smooth experience.  I've had plenty of root beers where the carbonation is gone by half way through the bottle, but this one stuck around until the end (even though it was certainly subdued by the bottom of the bottle).

By the end of the bottle, I was enjoying the bottle more than at the beginning.  Perhaps I was starting to forgive it of it's slightly candy-like rootiness, but this drink has so much more going for it that the other criteria helped it to surmount my initial flavor impression.  If they got the rooty flavor a little more dialed in, perhaps using some more natural spices instead, then that would really help this one vault up the the "A" catagory.

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


Monday, May 11, 2015

Judge Wapner root beer

Background information: The website doesn't have much information on this drink, listing it in their "Soda Pop Labels of Fame" section and merely detailing it with, "I sentence you to drink my root beer!"


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Intellectual property of and bottled by Judge Wapner's real life family member Robert Powells of the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shops, LLC, PO Box 3663 Camarillo, CA 93011.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.rocketfizz.com


Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, real vanilla, citric acid.


My thoughts: I can't say for certain whether this and the Gene Audry root beer I had yesterday are rebadges of the same recipe, or if they are merely very similar.  It seems that they are ever so slightly different, but it's entirely possible that the minute differences I think I'm detecting are due to variances with how my taste buds are registering it today.

Like Gene's, this has a basic root beer flavor, though it seems a little stronger and slightly less candy-like.  No individual spices seem apparent, the vague touch of vanilla in the aftertaste is still there.  Carbonation is okay, perhaps leaning a little more flat.  It could use a little more bubbly punch.  It feels a little bit thicker than yesterday's root beer, perhaps lending it a slight lead in smoothness.  That thickness seems to make the sugar stick a little more in my mouth, but not too badly.

Just as the Gene Autry root beer before it, this one isn't anything exceptional and doesn't offer enough to compel me to buy it again instead of the cheaper root beer in a can.  I feel like this could be a slightly different recipe, but it isn't enough to elevate it above the same average score.  The bottle has Judge Wapner proclaiming, "I sentence you to drink my root beer!"  Compared to some of the other root beers I've had, I'd be happy to accept the sentencing, knowing I got off relatively well.  But since the judge isn't going to make me drink this, I think there are better ways to do my root beer time.

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



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gene Autry root beer

Background information: The website doesn't have much information on this drink, listing it in their "Soda Pop Labels of Fame" section and merely detailing it with, "America's Favorite Singing Cowboy presents and exceptional root beer!"

The bottle has some info about the Gene Autry's foundation: Autry Qualified Intrest Trust and The Autry Foundation; Visit www.geneautry.com

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shops, LLC, PO Box 3663 Camarillo, CA 93011.  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.rocketfizz.com


Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, real vanilla, citric acid.


My thoughts: I have a sneaking suspicion that this root beer and my next one (Judge Wapner), both being made by Rocket Fizz, are likely rebadges of the same root beer, so I'm curious to see if tomorrow's root beer tastes the same.

As for this one, it has a basic root beer flavor, maybe leaning a bit towards the artificial.  There really isn't any hint of individual spices, though there is a hint of vanilla in the aftertaste.  Carbonation is decent, though nothing special either.  It merely does the job of carbonating the liquid, but doesn't create any pop or crispness.  Like the regular mass-market grocery store root beers, this one isn't particularly creamy and doesn't get any bonus points in the smoothness category.  Finally, it has the normal amount of sweetness that does it's job while leaving just a little bit of a sugary feeling behind, perhaps a tad better than the high fructose corn syrup variety.

In the end, this is just a run-of-the-mill root beer that doesn't offer anything exceptional for it's higher-than-typical price.  I can get virtually the same experience out of a can of A&W for a fraction of the cost.  It's not a bad root beer, but the value just isn't there to justify buying this again.  I will note, however, that this is a different root beer formula from Rocket Fizz's own Root Beer Float that I tried a little while back.

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


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

IBC root beer

Background information: (from the website): "The smooth, creamy refreshment of IBC Root Beer began in 1919 with the Griesedieck family and the Independent Breweries Company in St. Louis, hence the name of IBC Root Beer. Development as an alternative to alcoholic beverages during prohibition, IBC Root Beer became renowned for its quality, richness and great taste.

When the independent Breweries Company closed, the Kranzberg family purchased the trademark and distributed IBC Root Beer at their North-western Bottling Company, its popularity grew during the 1920s, and it was soon available at many top restaurants. In the late '30s the Kranzberg sold the IBC trademark and formula to the National Bottling Company owned by the Shucart family.

After World War II, Marketing and production methods changed and IBC Root Beer's revival began after the seven-up company purchased Taylor Beverages in 1980 and increased sales and distribution throughout the Midwest and the south."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Manufactured for Mott's LLP, Rye Brook, NY 10573 USA.  160 calories, 43g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.ibcrootbeer.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural and artificial flavors, modified food starch, citric acid.


My thoughts: I'm sure most people are familiar with grocery store stalwart IBC root beer, as it seems to be the "step-up" root beer of choice on their shelves.  Is this drink worthy of it's iconic status?  That's what I hope to ascertain.

The typical root beer flavor is strong with this one.  This is obviously designed to have the classic root beer taste that people are familiar with and IBC doesn't try to stray from that formula.  It's good, but there isn't anything particularly special about this drink.  The aftertaste provides more of the same, with no reveal of any deeper flavors.

Carbonation is nice, not too flat, but not too crispy.  Some of the more effervescent root beers will continue to crackle a little bit after you swallow it, but this one vanishes with the rest of the drink.  Not bad, but not great.  Despite using high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar, this one doesn't come off as too sweet and doesn't leave a particularly sugary coating behind, which is a pleasant surprise.  It does froth up just a little bit in my mouth, but once again isn't exactly a standout in terms of creaminess and smoothness.

At the end of the day, IBC is a good root beer that just manages to squeak by the average can of root beer.  I don't believe it's particularly worthy of it's status as the go-to "fancy" root beer for almost every grocery store, but's it's a safe bet that just slightly outdoes the usual root beer mediocrity that adorns many a shelf at the store.  It won't win any legitimate "best of" competitions, but I'd drink it over the usual canned counterparts if I were offered the two.

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


Monday, April 20, 2015

Oogavé root beer

Background information: (from the website): "The subtle yet well-defined flavors of our agave sweetened organic soda pair well with the variety of botanicals found in every bottle. With notes of sarsaparilla, vanilla, and horehound, this is an honest-to-goodness soda fountain favorite. Did we mention it's all natural?"

(from the bottle): "Gluten-free, caffeine-free, low-glycemic and vegan"

*note: Are they trying to convince me not to drink it, because this description on the bottle is doing a great job at exactly that! ;)

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Oogavé Sodas, 4420 Glencoe Street, Denver, Colorado 80216.  100 calories, 24g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.oogave.com/


Ingredients: Purified Carbonated Water, Organic Agave Nectar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors and Caramel for Color.


My thoughts: Okay, it's an "all-natural" root beer sweetened with agave nectar instead of cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  I tend to be leery of these alternative sweeteners, as my experiences with them aren't positive.  In fact, I'll just come right out and say I hate diet sodas.  Except diet Dr. Pepper.  I'm not sure what magical elixir they mix in there, but it's good.

I worked on a Stevia commercial a couple years back and they provided cases and cases of free soda.  I tried a couple and they were absolutely disgusting.  So we left several cases with the sound stage when we were finished.  A couple months later I was once again shooting at the same place, and they still hadn't managed to dispose of all the drinks we gave them, so apparently it wasn't much of a hit.

Moving on to this drink, it smells pretty good.  I'm expecting it to be pretty gross and...hey, it's not half bad!  It doesn't have any of that terrible aspartame or diet flavor that most sugar-free drinks suffer from.  The flavor is nice and crisp, feeling a bit lighter than I'm used to with notes of vanilla.  It's actually a refreshing change from the usual soda I drink.  The aftertaste seems to come compliments of horehound (which the website says it has), as it's a little bitter.  The aftertaste seems a bit medicinal as well, and about 10 minutes into drinking it and with a quarter of the bottle remaining,  I feel a little gross, as if there's a distasteful flavor wafting around in my belly.  For some reason, it sort of reminds me of the sensation I had when I was a kid and I'd go swimming in a pool and accidentally swallow some of chlorine water and then I'd have this odd chlorine feel in my stomach.  Not that this tastes like chlorine, but the sensation is bringing back those memories.

Sweetness is just about right on, leaving my mouth free of any lingering syrupy feeling.  The taste, however, seems to be missing just a little bit of something that I get with sugared drinks, but it's nothing major.  Carbonation is excellent, with a nice bite to it.  It still goes down smoothly, with a bit of froth.

I was all ready to hate on this root beer, but it ended up being fairly decent.  It won't make it into my favorite root beer list, but it's certainly a worthy alternative for those looking to cut back on sugars.  Unfortunately, it seems that Oogavé has another lineup of beverages that contains both agave and Stevia (boo! hiss!), which likely won't taste as good.  If my previous Stevia experience is any indicator, you should avoid those like the plague.  But as long as this one remains Stevia free, I can certainly recommend it to those avoiding sugar, however, if you're fine with your root beer being all sugary, I'd suggest sticking with those instead.

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


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Death Valley root beer

Background information: (from the website): "Start with ice cold, pure artesian spring water from the historic Indian Wells Spring. Then, we use a blend of fresh sarsaparilla, birch root, natural vanilla, clean wintergreen, raw ginger, fresh licorice, pure cane sugar and a secret ingredient that gives this soda our signature Old West root beer taste."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Brewed by Indian Wells Brewing Co..  180 calories, 45g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.mojavered.com/


Ingredients: Indian wells artisan spring water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, real vanilla, citric acid.


My thoughts: After an initial hearty root beer flavor, the aftertaste is somewhat similar to this root beer's name, in that it dies off quickly.  This ends up leaving a bland flavor in my mouth.  Despite the ingredients list saying "real vanilla", there isn't much hint of this flavor.  The website claims all sorts of spices as well, but I can't seem to detect anything except maybe the vaguest hint of wintergreen.

Just like the aftertaste, the carbonation is dead on arrival.  There are very few bubbles here and it quickly feels flat.  Without any real creaminess, the smoothness factor suffers.  Sure, it feels moderately smooth since there's no carbonation, but it's not very impressive either.  Sweetness is mediocre, leaving my mouth feeling a bit more sugary than I care for.

If this is what the old west tastes like (according to the bottle, it's "A taste of the old west."), then I'm glad that we have moved on to the "new" west.  Extremely disappointing, I can't recommend this root beer.

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


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Stewart's root beer

Background information: (from the website): "In 1924, Frank Stewart set out to develop the world's best-tasting root beer which he intended to sell in order to supplement his income as a schoolteacher. With the secret recipes in hand, he soon opened his first Stewart's Drive-In where he served ice-cold Stewart's Root Beer in tall, frosty mugs. The creamy taste of Stewart's Root Beer was an instant success and has been enjoyed by consumers for over 75 years!

For the first 66 years, Stewart's Root Beer was only available at Stewart's root beer stands and later, at Stewart's Drive-Ins. In 1990, Cable Car Beverage Corporation acquired the bottling rights for Stewart's and began selling Stewart's Root Beer in 12 oz. amber glass bottles."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled under the authority of Stewart's Beverages LLC, Rye Brook, NY 10573.  160 calories, 41g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.drinkstewarts.com


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate (a preservative), Citric Acid, Quillaia Extract, Gum Acacia, Yucca Extract.


My thoughts: With a nice, appealing rootiness up front, Stewart's makes it known that they're going for the classic root beer taste.  Alongside the sassafras, there is a pleasant vanilla sensation, with hints of other spices just beneath the surface.

The aftertaste fades quickly, but leaves a little more vanilla glimmer behind.  I do have to admit that I'm recovering from a cold and am at the tail end of it, but my sense of taste may be somewhat impaired still, so some of the intricacies may be lost on my palate.  Sweetness is satisfactory, with just the right amount to give the beverage it's needed boost, but not enough to leave an overly-sugary residue in my mouth.

Carbonation is spot on.  Many root beers tend to lose some of their effervescence as I reach the bottom of the bottle, but this one held strong up through the end.  The bubbles seem to foam up just right as I drink it (likely due to the quillaia extract), making it a nice smooth, creamy drink.

With so many things going right, how could I not put this towards the top?  Well, it seems that Stewart's played it a bit too safe in the flavor department.  It has a good taste, but doesn't try to do anything special, making it blend in a bit with the rest of the root beers.  It just needs a little extra spark to set it apart from the pack.  I'm quite pleased with this root beer and certainly wouldn't have any problem adding it into my rotation of root beers to drink on a normal basis.  But when I want to reach for that root beer that has a little extra something special, this probably wouldn't be my choice.

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


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Empire root beer

Background information: They have no website which, in this day and age, is ridiculous.  What could they possibly be trying to hide?  A fleet of Star Destroyers?  I giant base the size of the moon?  The vicious Gungan Grand Army?

All I could find about this company is that it's family owned since the 1930's and that they have a physical location.  Looking it up on Google Maps shows a building with a semi-trailer blocking most of the front.  Very curious indeed.  What better place to stage a strike against the rebel scum?

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Empire Bottling Works, 61 Buttonwood, Bristol, RI 02809.  401-253-7117.  170 calories, 46g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top.


Ingredients: Natural artesian spring water, made with 100% cane sugar, natural and/or artificial flavor extracts, citric acid, sodium benzoate (Preservative).


My thoughts: After a couple mediocre root beers, I'm hoping that the force is stronger with this one.  Even though I rooted for the rebellion, the Galactic Empire was pretty cool as well and if Darth Vader had brewed his own root beer, he probably would have named it Empire Root Beer, with a tagline of "Come to the dark side."  So, hopefully this drink is more Vader than it is Jar Jar.

My initial taste was full of root beer flavor, but it leans more towards the artificial side of things.  It seems very one-note, with no complexity to the formula.  Okay, technically it's more two-note, as there is a ton of mint flavor, as the root beer taste dies away and I'm left with a strong wintergreen mint aftertaste.  While I do like some wintergreen, this one veers more towards toothpaste territory.

Perhaps this one can be saved by it's other attributes?  Well, you remember how multi-layered and nuanced the performances were in the prequel trilogy?  Yeah, they fell flat, just like this root beer.  There's a little bit of fizz, but it's quite bland.  Sweetness seems fine, but for a drink as lacking in effervescence as this one, it doesn't seem particularly smooth, as it lacks any sort of creaminess.

If this was the kind of root beer that the Galactic Empire was cranking out, it's no wonder the people rebelled and blew up the Death Star.  This is the sort of drink I'd expect to find on a backwater bar in Mos Eisley, but not something wearing the Emperor's namesake.  No wonder that guy was so grumpy.  Now if only someone would make a Dagobah Draft Root Beer, I bet that Yoda guy could toss in some roots and spices and whip up a mean drink.  As it is, this ends of being the Stormtrooper of drinks, no matter how much it tries, it always misses.

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


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dublin Texas root beer

Background information: (from the website): "The history of Dublin Bottling Works begins in 1891, but the real story begins a few years earlier and 80 miles to the east.

In 1885, the wild frontier town of Waco, Texas, was nicknamed “six-shooter junction.” Wade Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store was a prominent business and popular meeting place in downtown Waco. People came in for everything from flea powder to stationery, from cigars to fountain drinks.

One of Morrison’s employees, pharmacist Charles Alderton, noticed how customers loved the smell of the soda fountain with its many fruit, spice and berry aromas. He wanted to invent a drink that tasted the wonderful way the soda fountain smelled. After much experimentation he finally felt he had hit on “something different.” Patrons at the drug store agreed.

Soon other soda fountains were buying the syrup from Morrison and serving it. People loved the new unnamed drink and would order it by simply calling out “shoot me a Waco!” But Morrison named it Dr Pepper, after the father of a girl he had loved back in his home state of Virginia.

In 1891 Morrison and new partner Robert Lazenby organized the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company in order to sell Dr Pepper as well as other soft drinks.

That same year, while visiting Waco, a Texas businessman by the name of Sam Houston Prim tasted the fountain drink and knew he wanted to sell it through his new Dublin Bottling Works company. An agreement was made between Mr. Prim and Mr. Lazenby, and Dublin became home to the first facility to actually bottle Dr Pepper.

The soda enjoyed steady growth in sales and began to spread in popularity across the country. But it wasn’t until 1904 that Dr Pepper gained real national exposure. Along with other soon- to-be favorites like ice cream cones and hamburgers, Dr Pepper was introduced to the rest of the U.S. and the entire world at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Over the years, Dublin Bottling Works became known for the Kloster family’s commitment to friendly service and quality products, including the distinctive taste of what came to be called “Dublin Dr Pepper” and a host of other fantastic sodas, all made with pure cane sugar. Although Dublin Bottling Works no longer produces Dr Pepper, we maintain a special relationship and legacy that’s rooted in the life and work ethic of W.P. Kloster."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled under the authority of Dublin Bottling Works, Inc. Dublin, Texas 1-888-398-1024.  160 calories, 42g sugar. Glass bottle with twist off top. http://www.dublinbottlingworks.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Phosphoric Acid, Citric Acid.


My thoughts: After making a recent business trip to Dallas, I thought it appropriate to review my Dublin Texas root beer.  Of all the root beers I've tried, this is the first to have an almost explosive effect upon opening the bottle.  It wasn't in danger of fizzing over, but instead made a popping sound as the cap came off.  This can only mean one thing: this root beer is eager to get into my mouth!

The initial flavor is certainly root beer flavored, though it reminds me of the sort of quality I get from a normal can, such as A&W.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but not that impressive either.  There isn't a whole lot of complexity going on.  The aftertaste is decent, a bit more of the typical root beer flavor.  Sometimes I think I detect an extremely subtle wintergreen, while other swallows I don't, so I'm not sure if it's just my imagination.

Despite the less than stellar flavor, I'm impressed with the other attributes.  The carbonation lives up to my very first impression as it's strong, but manages to be so without being harsh.  I'm pleased to report that it's also sweet without being syrupy.  Sometimes having very crisp carbonation causes the drinks to lose their smoothness, but this one manages to blend the two just right, with a pleasant creamy sensation as you drink it.

In the end, this root beer ended up as a mediocre root beer.  If they would only try to push the boundaries a bit more in the flavor department, they might come up with something truly worth writing home about.

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


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tommyknocker root beer

Background information: (from the bottle): "Tommyknockers slipped into Colorado gold camps with the immigrating Cornish miners during the 1859 rush.  These mischievous elves guided many a fortunate miner to the "Motherlode".  Renew the legend - share a Tommyknocker Root Beer with a friend."


Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO 80452.  160 calories, 42g sugar. Glass bottle with pry off top. http://www.tommyknocker.com/


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Organic Root Beer Flavor, Aged Organic Vanilla Extract, Pure Maple Syrup, Caramel Color, Citric Acid.


My thoughts: So, here's a drink that isn't afraid to go au naturel.  Fortunately, the elf mascot isn't having any of that and is fully clothed.  My first whiff of this aromatic root beer is interesting, as there seems to be a lot of spices wafting around in the bottle, with a very earthy spice scent dominating my nostrils.

The first taste is very strong.  I'm not used to root beer tasting anything like this and I'm not sure whether it's bad or good.  There's certainly some root beer in there, but a lot of other spices are vying for attention, and I'm not sure what they all are.  One of them reminds me of dark molasses and another of grain (like wheat or barley or something).  The aftertaste isn't particularly pleasant, as it has a slight sour tinge to it.  I'm doing a terrible job of describing the flavor, as it's so unlike any other root beer that I'm not quite certain where a lot of the flavors are coming from.  It certainly feels complex and, stealing an adjective from the ingredients list, seems "aged".

Now on to things that I can better assess: the carbonation is great, nice and bubbly, with just the right amount of kick.  It feels nice and creamy and goes down very smoothly.  Sugar feels spot on, as it is sweet without leaving an overly sugary residue behind.

I'm at odds with this.  First and foremost, I'm not a huge fan of the overall flavor.  In fact, I can't quite decide whether it's gross or whether I like it.  While it doesn't make me want to go pick up a six pack, I find myself oddly intrigued with its flavor.  There have been a few root beers that I didn't like and wouldn't have felt bad if I had never sampled that particular flavor before, but this one leaves me feeling glad that I had the opportunity to try something so different, even if it wasn't the most pleasant experience.  I'd recommend giving this a try just for the experience, even though my score may not reflect that sentiment that well.

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