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:

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  165 calories, 49g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

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.

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-