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.

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.

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.

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