Saturday, April 23, 2016

Old Red Eye root beer

Background information: (from the bottle) "Legend has it, there was a craggy old bull named Red Eye - with a glint and a gnarly attitude, he could only be coaxed from his pen to do his daily duties when a brave soul would pop open a bottle of his favorite root beer, pour it in his tin bowl, then run like heck before being stomped. Red Eye preferred his root beer frosty cold."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by & under the authority of Orca Beverage Soda Works, Mukilteo, WA 98275 (425) 349-5655. 170 calories, 42g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, caramel color, sodium benzoate (a preservative).

My thoughts: Yet another root beer coming out of Orca Beverage. These guys seem to make a lot of different root beers. But the question about this one is: will this be one of the good ones, or is it just a piece of bull****?

The initial flavor is very heavy on the rooty sassafras. There's no mistaking that this is a root beer and it comes on strong. Mixed in with this is a very apparent wintergreen, but mintier than I care for. Beneath all this is a hint of the anise/black licorice taste. As the aftertaste kicks in, while still dominated with wintergreen, the anise becomes slightly more apparent. I typically am not a fan of black licorice, but the flavor is subdued enough (or perhaps overwhelmed by the wintergreen) that I don't mind it at all.

Sugar content is right about where I'd expect it to land, but it does feel a tad on the sugary side, leaving a noticeable coating in my mouth. Carbonation is nice, as it's slightly aggressive, which I like. I can certainly feel some bite on my tongue, but I don't particularly feel the effects in my throat. I think they did a good job on the carbonation. That said, the aggressive carbonation takes away a little from the smoothness in my mouth (though it does have some creaminess to it), but it's a nice tradeoff.

In the end, it's a pretty decent root beer, but goes a little overboard on the wintergreen. If they'd tone that down a little, I think they'd have a winner on their hands. As it is, I'm fairly pleased with this root beer and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to those that enjoy the minty side. It's not a bull**** drink, but neither is it one I'd sing its praises until the cows come home.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Polar Classics root beer

Background information: (from the website) "A savvy bartender from Worcester, Massachusetts, who already made his own whiskey and gin, began crafting a bubbly new beverage. Using pure cane sugar, natural fruit, and herb extracts with his own carbonation style, he was working on a hunch that “soda pop” would be a hit. That was 1882 and the man was our great-grandfather, Denis Crowley.

Since ice was scarce back then, he adopted the Arctic Polar bear as a mascot so folks would know his drinks were cold and refreshing. For over 130 years we have remained a family business and that bear is still on every bottle we make. The world has changed since then, but nothing has replaced the pure enjoyment of a ice-cold, well-crafted American soda.

We still rely on quality ingredients, great people, and great-grandad's original recipes to craft Polar Cane Sugar Sodas - except now we call them our Classics."

*note: Polar "Classics" are not to be confused with Polar's regular line of sodas, the latter of which use high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled Under the Authority of Polar Beverages, Worcester, MA 01615, USA. 160 calories, 45g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Acacia Gum, Quillaia Extract, Citric Acid.

My thoughts: Any time I see polar bears, I think of LOST and how they never did provide a satisfactory explanation for where the polar bears came from...or really for any of the mysteries of the island. So, I'm hoping that this drink doesn't leave me equally unsatisfied at the end.

First off, this has a nice strong rooty flavor to it, though it battles with a rich vanilla taste. As the initial flavor fades, it takes on an even stronger, creamy vanilla aspect. Perhaps it was the sweetness, but I felt that the taste was a little on the "candy" side. I'd wager that it's also due to the simpleness of the sassafras and vanilla, with no other apparent spices to give it more complexity. Into the second half of the bottle, I could detect a faint anise/black licorice undertone as well in the aftertaste, but the main flavor remained fairly simple.

My biggest gripe is certainly the sweetness. It feels stronger than it needs to be and almost tastes a bit sugary to me. It's not bad, but could stand to be dialed back a notch or two. But what it lacks in sugary perfection, Polar more that makes up in carbonation and smoothness. It's a very hard balance to manage. Too little carbonation, and it'll feel smooth but flat. Too much, and it looses that creamy texture. But Polar finds a perfect match, perhaps one of my favorites to date. It has a nice strong carbonation, not too aggressive (though it could be slightly more so, as I enjoy a bit a sting on my tongue), and it has a great creamy feel to it, giving it an extremely smooth complexion.

I'm torn on where to rate this. I was toying with a "C+" overall, but felt that makes it closer to just average than it deserves to be. But a "B-" felt generous considering it's overly simplistic approach to flavor. In the end, I decided that the creaminess made me enjoy it enough to round it up into the "B score" category. It's a good root beer and I wouldn't hesitate to drink it again should the opportunity arise.

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

New York Seltzer root beer

Background information: (from the website) "The groundbreaking brand known for its signature rounded bottles and crisp, clear, all natural flavors. No artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or corn syrup. ONYS took over the beverage landscape to become a staple in countless New York shops & eateries. The love spread quickly, catapulting ONYS to national and international success. We’re bringin’ seltzer back. Original New York Seltzer ®"

Product details: 10 fl. oz.  Bottled under the authority of Original New York Seltzer. 130 calories, 33g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbontated water, cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavor.

My thoughts: That's one short ingredients list and this root beer tastes a bit different from what I'm used to. It has the obvious, typical root beer flavoring and feels a bit minty, but there is a strange undertone that I can't identify, but it is vaguely fruity, but without evoking any particular fruit. The aftertaste is more of the same.

I'm a fan of the sweetness. Per ounce, this comes in around the lower end of what you would typically find (3.3 grams per ounce) and I like that the drink feels crisp and light, rather than thick and syrupy. As a "seltzer", I'm not quite sure where on the carbonation scale this should sit, but I think it could use a little more kick to it. It does come across as nice and smooth and creamy, so it's a very pleasant drink without any harshness that higher carbonation content tends to add.

Overall, I like it. It isn't one of my very favorite root beers and, at 17% less root beer per bottle than the usual 12 ounce drink, tends to go a bit faster than expected. If I had to sum up the drink with one word, I'd use "crisp". While it won't be at the top of my list to buy again, I liked the experience enough that I plan on hunting down some of their other flavors (peach, raspberry and blueberry).

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