Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tractor root beer

Background information: (from the website) "We launched Tractor Soda to take a product people have loved for decades and make it better. It’s as simple as that. Our commitment to sourcing only 100% organic and non-GMO ingredients comes from our immense respect for the farmers and growers who bring food to our plates each day. We hope they'll be proud of our product. And we hope you enjoy our hand-crafted sodas.

As we tread further into the 21st century, consumers continue to make it clear that they want an earth-friendly, healthier alternative to the products and services they've grown accustomed to. For years, the soda industry has refused to change. And, in many ways, it’s gone the opposite route entirely: producing beverages that are loaded with alternative sweeteners and other unnecessary ingredients. 

Tractor Soda was created for the consumer who’s mindful of the planet we live on. We give our retail partners the tools they need to present an alternative soda that’s new yet familiar, organic yet refreshing, simple yet full of flavor. 

Our innovative delivery system eliminates the excessive waste of traditional soda packaging, making Tractor Fountain Sodas an eco-friendly alternative to bottled sodas.

As a side note, I see that Tractor Soda Co. is based out of Coeur d'Alene, ID, the city right next to my small, childhood town.

Product details: 12 fl. oz.  Bottled by the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shops, LLC. P.O. Box 3663, Camarillo, CA 93011. 118 calories, 29g sugar.  Glass bottle with twist off top.

Ingredients: ultra-filtered carbonated water, organic cane sugar, organic blackstrap molasses, organic aged bourbon vanilla, organic wintergreen, organic sassafras, organic sarsaparilla, organic sweet birch, organic bark/roots/spices (including organic licorice, organic nutmeg, organic cinnamon), organic caramel color, organic juniper berry extract, organic quillaja.

My thoughts: With a huge list of "organic" ingredients (did I mention they're organic?), this seems like a root beer that ought to offer a complex taste, with plenty of subtleties to be discovered. That said, the initial flavor is not super rooty. It's certainly a root beer, make no mistake, but the sassafras is a little on the weak side. It really wouldn't be a big deal, as there are plenty of other things going on here, however I do note that overall flavor could use another notch or two of intensity. As for how the other spices play out, I'd be hard pressed to pick out any particular flavor over another, as the blend is nice with no particular spice overpowering the others. The aftertaste does feel a like the sassafras stands out just a bit more. Interestingly, the wintergreen doesn't seem to add a minty flavor to the drink, but I can certainly feel it's cooling effect.

This is one of the less sugary feeling root beers I've had; sweet enough, but not making me reach for a water immediately after to wash down my mouth after finishing the bottle (looking at the nutritional facts, I note that most root beers have about 50% more sugar). I really like the carbonation, as I'm a fan of aggressive bubbles that sting just a little bit. Carbonation seemed to stay strong through the whole bottle. A general side effect of high carbonation is that often the smoothness suffers a little bit, and this is no exception. The bubbles of carbonation remained just that, without transforming into a frothy foam that makes the drink a bit creamier. In fact, this is probably one of the least creamy root beers I've had that lists quillaja (an additive to increase foaminess in drinks).

My end impression is that this is a moderately good root beer with a bevy of spices, however it's held back by the strength of the flavors, all lacking in intensity and making it feel slightly watered down. Keep the proportion of spices the same, but dilute them a little less and this could jump up into the "A" catagory. I wish more root beers nailed the carbonation the way this does, but they missed the opportunity to transform some of that effervescent might into foam. An admirable effort that needs a bit more work to really dial it in.

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