Friday, January 20, 2017

O-So Butterscotch root beer

Background information: (from the website) "Orca Beverage was created in the 1980s by owner Mike Bourgeois while he was studying a new and emerging class of beverages called the “New Age Beverage Category” at the Albers School of Business at Seattle University. This new and exciting extension of the larger Carbonated Soft Drink category was made up of products that were alternatives to the mainstream brands that dominated the industry."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  O-So Delicious is a trademark of Orca Beverage Inc., Mukilteo, WA 98275 425-349-5655. 170 calories, 43g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Vanilla Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (a preservative).

My thoughts: Having reviewed the O-So Vanilla Butterscotch root beer about two and a half years ago, I can't exactly recall what it tasted like, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this "non-vanilla" butterscotch root beer is the same drink, minus the "vanilla" in the title. I'll skip looking at my review from then (so as to not influence the outcome of this one) and then go and compare this to the old review after composing my thoughts.

Now, as I was then then, I'm a fan of butterscotch root beers. On the butterscotch front, this doesn't disappoint. There is a very strong butterscotch component to this drink, with that flavor perhaps overwhelming the usual sassafras flavor that root beer is known for and leaving me wanting a bit more rootiness. I feel like the vanilla gets a bit outdone as well, but is still noticeable. After the initial flavor, which quickly fades, I'm left with predominately a lingering of the butterscotch taste, and nary a hint of sassafras. After some time, I feel that I can also detect a lingering hint of coolness that is normally a side effect of wintergreen, though I'm not noticing any sort of the flavor.

The drink feels excellently sweetened, tasting nice and sweet (butterscotch does benefit from a slightly candy-like sweetness), but without leaving a syrupy coating of sugar in my mouth. They seem to have struck just the right balance with this. In full disclosure on carbonation, I've had this bottle sitting around for quite a while, so perhaps the carbonation has decreased from when it was fresher (I don't know if carbonation decreasing is a thing as drinks sit unopened), but it's pretty flat. Not much fizz or bite to the carbonation. I can hear the bubbles, but don't really feel them. Smoothness is a mixed bag, as the lack of carbonation makes it fairly smooth, but it also lacks the punch to generate a creamy foam. I think some extra carbonation would go a long way to improving the consumption experience.

So, now I'll go look at my "vanilla butterscotch" review and see how they compare...

Seems like the flavor has stayed more or less the same, with a weaker root beer flavor than I generally like. Interestingly, my carbonation experience last time was vastly different than this go-around. Did I let my bottle sit too long? Did I get a bottle from a  badly carbonated batch this time? Was the last one from an exceptionally carbonated batch? It's hard to tell without going out and finding a third bottle to see which side of the equation it falls on. I'm going to err on the side of caution with my ratings and consider the carbonation and smoothness scores a little less than I normally would. At the end of the day, however, I think this is the same formula as the previously tested "vanilla butterscotch".

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

American Classics root beer

Background information: (from the website) "We love ginseng and what it does for you. But how can we share this with every generation, and to the world?

And it all started with this one simple question.

In 1981, Ginseng UP company set about crafting a soda packed with premium ginseng, in pursuit of bringing this beneficial root to many in a convenient way. Specializing in the finest Korean ginseng, we set about infusing ginseng with high standard of quality ingredients combined with triple filtered water, all carefully packed into a single bottle. With uncompromised standard in taste and quality, Ginseng UP Original soda was born.

Since then, the company has innovated to offer a full line of craft sodas and drinks, made without preservatives or high fructose corn syrup, in all the favorite flavors. As we continue to craft premium soda in our own bottling plant in Massachusetts, we are committed to continually develop our flavors; and invite you to join in our journey of spreading Ginseng UP to the world."

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Ginseng Up Corp, Worcester, MA 01604. (508) 799-6178. 150 calories, 45g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: Triple Filtered Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Wintergreen, Oil of Cloves & Other Natural Flavors, Gum Acacia, Caramel Color (From Caramelized Cane Sugar), Korean Ginseng Extract.

My thoughts: After a not-so-brief time away from reviewing root beer, I'm back with a "100% all natural" root beer. I tend to like my naturally flavored root beers, so look forward to seeing what this drink has to offer.

Right off the bat, this has a very strong root beer flavor, with sassafras to spare. Though wintergreen is listed fairly high on the ingredients list, it isn't nearly as strong as I would have thought. While present, it doesn't leave an overly minty feel in my mouth. Vanilla, as is normal, makes itself known, along with some other spice sensations that I can't quite identify, though one of the flavors I suspect is clove. The aftertaste brings a little more of the wintergreen to the front, but nothing to egregious.

While obviously a sugary drink, as all decent sodas are, it feels right on par with what I expect from a carbonated beverage such as this. No overwhelmingly sugary coating is left in my mouth, just the normal amount. Carbonation is moderate, if a little on the weak side. I prefer a bit of bite to my bubbles, and this one didn't quite get there. As such, it is fairly smooth, but is missing the creamy foam that some of the more frothy root beers produce.

By the end of the bottle, I had to admit that it was an admirably tasty drink, though one with a couple shortcomings. The natural taste was slightly undone by falling a bit flat on carbonation and froth, keeping it from being a truly great root beer. I wouldn't hesitate to drink it again, but don't plan on making this one of my go-to root beers.

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