Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tommyknocker Root Beer

In 2010, my lovely wife and i went on a Caribbean cruise. One of the on-boat entertainers was a young juggler who did a free show performing his routine for anyone on the boat who would come and sit in the air conditioned theater reserved for hired talent. This kid was probably in his mid 20's at the time, and while his act was reasonably impressive to someone like me with no juggling ability, he wasn't without flaws. There were several times he dropped bowling pins or balls or whatever he was hurling around in the air. However, the audience was very understanding, accommodating, and appreciative that he would share his talent with them, applauding at a well executed maneuver and encouraging when an item was dropped or the described action was not achieved as stated. But the part of the show that really burned into my brain was when he talked about his passion for being a juggler, that he had wanted to do this very thing all his life, and that he was so lucky that he could share this passion with his young bride who supported him in his efforts, found a love for the art herself, began learning the craft and even eventually became his juggling partner. Then the lovely young lady came out on the stage and the two of them performed a dual juggling act that went off without a hitch. It was heartwarming to see these two young souls share their love for each other and for the work they do with a crowd of strangers. The audience probably comprised of about 100 people and i don't know that any of my fellow audience members really even remember this couple. But i do. For some reason they made an impression on me, and to this day when i think of them i practically can't help but say these words aloud to myself; "wow... what a couple of NERDS!"

I picked up this root beer at the local Rocket Fizz here in town. Tommyknocker Brewery is located in Idaho Springs, CO about 30 miles west of Denver and has been around since 1994. The brewery makes several ales and lagers as well as a small line of sodas. The website speaks a little about the origin of the name, but i went to the source of all truth to learn about the Tommyknockers. These mythical creatures are akin to Irish Leprechauns, known for causing mischief in mines, rewarding those miners which leave them food by warning of impending collapses and stealing unguarded tools from careless miners who paid them no respect. The legends comes from English and Irish immigrants who came to work in the mines in America and the "knocking on the walls" preceding a collapse as the support trusses are about to give under the weight of the cave are attributed to the Tommyknockers. The brewery offers free tours to all who are interested in that sort of thing. 

The typical 12 oz brown glass bottle is adorned with a colorful label depicting a jolly Tommyknocker enjoying a frosty mug of foamy root beer. I really like the label, but i'm a sucker for lots of color and effort to make an interesting and eye catching label. So as far as i'm concerned, this is a homerun. Sorry if this seems rushed or brief, but i think you can get a better sense of the excellence of the label just by looking at the photo.

This isn't a twist top (not that that matters but i figure it's worth mentioning) and the first thing i noticed when i got the cap off was the rich aroma of maple syrup, mint and vanilla, all of which feature prominently in the flavor. This root beer has a rich, deep taste with a smooth finish and maybe a hint of anise, which i don't love but i think works reasonably well in this case. The syrup/molasses flavor dominates with a creamy after taste of vanilla mixed with carmel. I really appreciate when root beers have a good flavor because i have a lot to say about them, but all that really needs to be said is that this stuff is good. REALLY good. Its sweet, it's refreshing, it's deep and rich, and it's an overall winner. My only real criticism is that i wish it were more carbonated than it was, but other than that i'm very satisfied overall.

My official review is that Tommyknocker Root Beer gets 8 (eight) IBCs. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close. This stuff might be tough to find depending where you are regionally, which also makes it more expensive when you can find it. But it's worth checking out and at least investing in a bottle or two. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

I use too many commas and i don't know how to stop. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Cheers Boston Root Beer


Well well well, this is going to be a super special review indeed. Not because the 10th anniversary of me doing this dumb blog quietly came and went back in Oct of 2018, though that is special, but for another reason. You see my dear readers, this review right here that you happen to be reading with your very own eyes is nothing less than THE 200TH ROOT BEER i have drank and reviewed. Yes, this is an historic event the likes no one has ever seen. What's that? Other reviewers have drank and reviewed more than 200 kinds of root beer you say? Well then i would respond to that asinine comment with this simple question... do any of those reviewers or their reviews matter even a little bit? The answer of course is no. No they do not. So this is truly a special event. Wow. 200 root beers. And it only took me 10 years. I can assure you i will give this review my maximum effort. Ultimately that means that i will spend upward of 1 whole hour writing this thing, mere minutes of which is actual research of the root beer itself, and that not unlike The Avengers End Game, the whole concept will be overblown and stretch the limits of tolerable suspension of disbelief with the end result being fairly predictable/inevitable. And not unlike the final season of Game of Thrones, the pace of this review will doubtless include a slow beginning, confusing middle section, and unsatisfying end followed by a petition for me to rewrite the whole thing. Shall we do one more? Not unlike John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, this review will probably include a lot of relentless violence, including someone being killed with a book. Alright, i think that's enough of that.
Now, on to talking about the root beer. I have several root beers in my fridge right now, most of which are likely mediocre or novelty drinks with no real thought behind them other than a catchy pun-based name or something of the like. Sorry root beers in my fridge, you know who you are. But for this, my 200th root beer review, i wanted to review something special. Something not regionally available here in Arizona, that i hadn't heard of before, and that isn't music based (i plan to do a whole run on music based root beers soon). So when it came to decide amongst the root beers in my fridge, this was an obvious choice. First off, i should say that this root beer is a nod to the hit TV show Cheers from the 1980's. I have never watched the entire series as i was but just a small lad during it's original airing. I just caught a few odd episodes here and there, but i am aware of the characters/actors and some of the tropes involved. It's a beloved TV show centered around an actual bar in Boston, though i'm told the TV set bar does not resemble the real life Cheers at all. The other reason this root beer is special is because i had no idea it existed until my lovely wife presented me with two bottles of it last Christmas. She went out of her way to order these from the Cheers fan website and gift shop, which from what i can ascertain is attached to the original Cheers bar on Beacon Hill in Boston. It appears there is another Cheers bar built to be a replica of the TV set at Faneuil Hall, also in Boston. I don't get any indication from the website about the brewing of the root beer and how long it's been available, but kudos to my wife for finding this one.

These bottles are the "stout" 12 oz. brown glass bottles that i like. I just enjoy the shape of them. A little different than the standard shape. The label is a color image of the iconic Cheers... logo? That's not the right word. It's the image during the opening credits and theme song of the outside of the bar. I'm sure there is a term for that, but i don't know it. Anyway, it's very recognizable to anyone even passively familiar with the show such as myself. It's very plain and very straight forward, but it's effective. I like it ultimately. Not much else to say about it.

I get the feeling this stuff is brewed on site there, though it may not be. I have no way to back that up, but the taste of this root beer reminds me of Surf City Root Beer which is self brewed at Brewbakers in California. It has that same kind of yeasty taste to it that underlies the VERY subtle root beer flavor. It's not super sweet, but it's good and well carbonated. I get a pretty bad aftertaste from it as well. I can't really pull a strong flavor profile out of this root beer though. I don't dislike it, but it's somewhat ambiguous as to what it actually tastes like. I've drank both bottles at this point and still don't have any real idea of what more i can say about this root beer.

My official review is that Cheers Boston Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. I know i had a big long preamble about how this is a special root beer hand selected to by my anointed 200th review so it's a little disappointing that this one falls on a flat 5 like so many other boring, bland root beers. But i gotta be honest, and this one is just fine. I don't dislike it, but there's nothing about it that pops. So was this root beer review a failure? Well... yeah, probably. But not unlike Breaking Bad, we all knew from the very beginning how this thing had to end. We always knew Walter White was a dead man, just like we all knew that 200 reviews into this thing i would still be giving out middle of the road scores to just about every root beer that comes my way. So you're welcome for being predictable. And if we are lucky i will lend my expertise to many more subpar reviews in the years to come. Cheers!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Rocky Mountain Root Beer

Hey... all you mothers out there... HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!! Congrats on bringing children into this world and contributing to the ever growing global population (now somewhere around 7.35 billion). Let's get it over 10 billion and blow this thing out, shall we? Anyway, it has been a while and i figured it was a decent time to review another root beer. I am going through all the root beers i picked up from the local Rocket Fizz here in Gilbert, AZ and this one fits into that category. Rocky Mountain Root Beer is brewed in Denver, CO along with a wide variety of other soda flavors. I did a bit more digging than i normally do to find out that the company was founded in 2007 and has only about 6 employees. The company touts the fact that they use all natural ingredients and brew their sodas in small batches to control the quality of the product. Other than that there is some info on the website for people looking to distribute the soda, but not much else in the way of company history or background. It seems they are trying to go the "healthy soda" route with their brewery, which usually is a disaster when it comes to taste. But they have clearly made enough of an impact to stick around for over 10 years now and expand past the borders of their home state.

The brown 12 oz glass bottle is adorned with a beautiful label picturing a majestic mountain ram against a mountain range background. Looking at the website i see that each flavor has it's own unique label picturing a different mountain creature native to the area. The artwork does not shy away from the intricate detail of the image shown. It's very unique and deserving of recognition. Well done, i'm impressed. Probably more than i should be really considering it's just a big dumb goat staring me in the face. But i'll give credit where credit is due.

Natural ingredients. That seems to be the hot new ticket every brewery is trying to capitalize on. Cane sugar, spring water, natural flavors, etc. In trying to be different, they end up all being the same. So what does that mean for the taste of Rocky Mountain Root Beer? Not much. I cracked the bottle opened and tried to get a nice whiff of the initial essence and struggled to find a discernible creamy aroma amid the seemingly vacant odor-scape (a word which i just made up but with which everyone is already deeply and thoroughly familiar with the concept). The taste is similarly vacant of discernible flavor. It's overwhelmingly watered down tasting, fairly (if not completely) flat, followed by an acrid aftertaste. There really isn't much to say about it other than it's barely there. Maybe a touch of anise? It's really hard to tell what's involved in the flavor, but the only real standout quality is that it's unsatisfying.

My official review is that Rocky Mountain Root Beer gets 3 (three) root beers. I'm just not at all swayed by this stuff. It doesn't scratch that root beer itch for me in the slightest. I don't hate it, which surprised me why i ended up with such a harsh rating, but when i weighed the whole picture this is where my heart landed. Either that or i'm just eager to get this one over with. I truly don't hate this one, but i would be hard pressed to reach for another one of these. So i'm gonna stick with my rating. Sorry Rocky Mountain, but you're just gonna have to try harder next time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Batch Root Beer

I've actually had this root beer before on tap but didn't review it at the time because i wasn't sure if i had already done so. Turns out, i hadn't, but i was lucky enough to discover a bottle of this back home in my fridge. Batch Root Beer is brewed in California using natural ingredients. There isn't much else i can find about the company. They have been around since 2013, but the website is very vague about any kind of origin story. Why so secretive Batch Root Beer? Why don't you tell us a little more about yourself? As i alluded to, i had this on tap at a burger joint in the Gaslamp District of San Diego called Burger Lounge. From what i remember they had a pretty tasty burger. But i don't review burgers. I leave that to the Doughboys. The root beer on tap was honestly not very memorable, so this is essentially like reviewing it for the first time. Just thought i'd throw that out there as a disclaimer, as if it mattered at all or anyone really cared about this post or anything i do with my life. And that includes my immediate family, who would prefer i simply die and leave my root beer legacy and fortune to them. Little do they know i've squandered it all betting in gambling rings of back room games of tug-of-war. I can't pick a winning team to save my life, but the rush is just too good to quit. You'd think it's gonna be the burly guys every time, but i've got a squandered fortune that proves otherwise. 

This tight-lipped root beer may not be spending money on advertising, but they don't skimp on the label design. It's a very professional and clean looking label. First off, the bottle is a standard 12 oz brown glass bottle (i'm obligated to point out that fact, simply by convention at this point) and there really isn't much else to say about it. But back to the label; this thing really sells the stuff. The logo is a rich, clean image of a top-down view of a bottle cap with the name of the soda company on it. Batch makes a variety of flavors and the label varies from flavor to flavor in color scheme as well as one other small detail. At the top of this label, it says "smooth". That descriptor at the top of the label will change with the flavor to things like, "satisfying", "clean", "tantalizing", "delicious" and others. Just a fun little extra thing they throw in.
There are a few small images of bears resembling the California state flag as well as an interesting inscription resembling something akin to the Greek alphabet or perhaps hieroglyphics. No idea what it might say or mean or why it's included at all, but i thought it was interesting enough to point out yet benign enough to not care to research any further. 

I mentioned i didn't really remember much about drinking this root beer when i had it in San Diego and now i see why that is. This root beer has a rather clean and refreshing taste of a good solid root beer, but is otherwise completely unremarkable to me. The sweetness of the cane sugar stands out in the flavor profile, but not much else. It has a very thin, watery flavor that's very forgettable. I applaud them for the effort to use natural ingredients and still make a soda that doesn't taste like absolute garbage, but this beverage ultimately falls short of anything less than mediocre when it comes to taste. Sorry Batch, but yuh just aint cuttin it. 

My official review is that Batch Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's sad because lesser root beers have been relegated to this same score but i just can't think of a good reason to elevate this one. It's just such a nothing soda to me. I feel refreshed when i drink it, but that lack of a good solid strong flavor, good or bad, make this just on the cusp of a classic root beer. I think you need to tweak your formula a little Batch. And i know i said i'm not qualified to judge burgers the way the Doughboys would, but i'd be interested to see how Mitch can do picking out different root beers in a Wiger Challenge-esque challenge. Mitch is a bit of a wizard with these things, but it would be interesting if he could differentiate them from one another. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Indian Wells Special Reserve Root Beer

I had a goal of posting at least one review a month this year and i've already failed at that. Last month was a bit of a doozy for me as we sold our house, moved back into our tiny condo we had when we were first married and had no kids, and remodeled said condo all in the span of 45 days. And this month hasn't been much easier as we try and adjust to a smaller home and organize everything while putting on the finishing touches of the remodel. It was not something i would like to ever do again. Lots of long days of work and late nights of remodeling. But the upswing is that we made a decent amount on selling the house and had enough to completely pay off my student loan. So now we are just going to slum it here for a bit while we save up to buy or build a new house in a few years. And hopefully i can still post the rest of the months this year. So i apologize for not posting in a while and for the fact that i need to keep this brief so i can get my kids ready for bed now. This root beer is one i picked up from the Rocket Fizz store. Indian Wells Special Reserve Root Beer is brewed by the Indian Wells Brewing Co. in Inyokern, CA and has been around since 1995. The website on the bottle takes me here, which is very confusing, but a simple Google search for this root beer took me to the correct website. There wasn't much info on the website, including any mention of this root beer though it's the same brewing company that makes Death Valley Root Beer, but i found some info on the bottle about The Indian Wells Spring that served as a watering hole for miners and explorers in the mid 1800's. It serves today as the source of water for this brewing company.

Right off the bat this root beer stuck out to me for a couple reasons. First off, it's in a 22 fl oz bottle, much larger than the typical 12 fl oz. Second, it's sealed with dripped wax for a decorative effect.
The top of the cap is also imprinted with the logo of the brewing company. So these distinctive features along with the colorful label made this a sure fire pick for me. I like the professional and colorful label. It contains the typical imagery of barrels on an old piece of parchment paper. Lots of different fonts and styles and lots of other superfluous info about the root beer or the brewing company. I give it kudos for the effort on a nice presentation.

The label lists several different flavors present in this root beer recipe, including vanilla, sarsaparilla, birch root, wintergreen, ginger, wild cherry bark, licorice and cane sugar, all aged in barrels made from Quercus Pyrenaica Chestnut wood, whatever that is. So i was expecting to be overwhelmed with flavor. The reality is that i didn't find this root beer all that interesting. It was a bit thin and not even all that sweet. It almost tastes just like sucking on a popsicle stick that never had a popsicle on it. And on top of that underwhelming taste experience, it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

My official review is that Indian Wells Special Reserve Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. I didn't really care for this at all, and i rated it lower than i rated its sister root beer Death Valley, although i really don't remember what Death Valley tastes like except that when i saw they were brewed at the same place i just remembered i didn't care much for Death Valley. Luckily i had my two awful kids to help me drink all 22 fl oz of this stuff, and luckily they are still little enough and dumb enough to realize this stuff isn't that great. They were just happy to have root beer before bedtime. So that part of the experience was a win-win for me, but even though this root beer stands out in the store i will likely pass it by next time i see it and i think you should too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Kroger Real Sugar Root Beer

Happy New Year everyone! It has been a little bit since i've posted but there is a lot going on. Don't need to go into it, but it's good to be back in the root beer reviewing game. We drove up to Utah to spend Christmas with my wife's parents and at a local Smith's grocery store in West Jordan, UT i found this Kroger Real Sugar Root Beer. It's the generic brand of that grocery chain, but i suspect most people are familiar with the Kroger brand of food. They supply dozens of grocery stores nationwide. The Real Sugar Soda line has a number of flavors, root beer being one of them, and should not be confused with Kroger's line of flavored seltzers. I made the mistake of getting these as well and quickly found out it was not what i would consider "good". I will not be reviewing Fizz & Co. Seltzers in root beer flavor. It is decidedly NOT a root beer.

I picked up a 12 pack of 12 oz cans because that was what was available to me. The label follows the traditional generic root beer color scheme of browns and grays with some silver and black in there as well. It's a lot nicer label than a lot of generics though. It has an old timey photo of who i assume is B.H Kroger and his family standing outside one of their grocery stores. For the sake of the story i'm going to say it was their first store with no credible facts to back that up, but it's a likely assumption, especially given that the label has a little blurb about the Kroger's first store being opened back in 1883. The font is big and bold and pretty. Definitely a step up from other generics, which is basically what i said before. Well done Kroger.

As you can guess from the name, this root beer is made with real cane sugar. It's quite sweet, which is a known side affect of using sugar, and has a really nice tone and finish. These words of course mean nothing, but it makes me sound sophisticated and like i know what i'm talking about when i use them. But the reality is this is a pretty good root beer. One of the better generics i've had for sure. The flavor is full and rich, not shallow, and has a nice vanilla finish to it. It really doesn't disappoint. I can't really think of anything negative about it other than it's not very original. But original or not it's still a refreshing drink with a solid root beer taste.

My official review is that Kroger Real Sugar Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. That's a solid score for any root beer and an exceptional one for a generic root beer. This one really surprised me. It consistently delivers the goods. I don't really have another to say bad about it. Give it a shot wherever you find it. It's probably pretty widely available.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ozark Mountain Root Beer

This is a relatively new root beer in the game and is entirely new to me and was acquired on one of my recent trips down to Rocket Fizz. The Ozark Mountain Bottleworks company has a quite modest lineup of classically flavored sodas, including 2 seasonal flavors. One of the flavors on the standard roster is root beer (of course, or why would we even be talking about these guys). The family founded and run company has only been around since 2009 and operates out of Branson, Missouri. Now, i don't know much about Branson except that old people go nuts for it. Apparently there are lots of shows and attractions that specifically appeal to a certain generation of Americans, which in my estimations is fading fast. The only thing i can think to compare it to here locally (we get a lot of "snow birds" in the winter here in the Phoenix area) is a place in Mesa, AZ called Organ Stop Pizza. It is so named because there is a two story parlor room with one wall consisting entirely of a giant pipe organ and all the necessary mechanisms to run it. It is, in the very least, impressive, and at most, an astonishing miracle of modern engineering.
The pizza is laughably overpriced and subpar tasting at best. The running joke among locals is that it's called Organ Stop Pizza because if you eat the pizza it will stop your organs. But on any given night, you can go in this place and find it packed to the brim with table after table of 80+ year old people sitting, eating pizza, and listening to and singing along with the organ player while he plays standards from the All American Songbook, along with some interesting variations of Star Wars, Mission Impossible and other popular movie themes. It is astonishing how popular this place is. Definitely something everyone should experience at least once. My daughter goes crazy every time they raise the little curtain above the organ and she gets to see the little dancing cat marionettes.
Anyway, having never visited or even researched Branson and just knowing the little that i have heard about it, this pizza place is the only thing i can reference which i can think of that directly appeals to octogenarians. Take your grandparents there some time. They are bound to have a good time.

Back to root beer now. This root beer comes in a clear 12 oz. glass bottle. The label is very simple and the same for each of the standard flavors, the only difference being the color of the background. This label is no frills. It's so straight forward that it's practically gay backward (does anyone know what this means? cuz i don't). But despite the extreme minimalism of the label, i actually really quite like it. It seems like it would be on a baseball jersey for a team from the 1920's. They do make a seasonal soda with a tropical fruit flavor called Smugglers Run which has an entirely different label, but the rest follow this same simple format. And hey, if it works then why bother changing it up?

OZMB (the abbreviation used frequently on the website) claims to use natural flavors and real cane sugar with all their sodas. Speaking specifically of the root beer flavor they say this: "It is designed to highlight the classic flavors of Root Beer and Sarsaparilla to create a unique taste unlike anything else on the market." Well, i can't say this tastes like nothing else i've had, but i will say they do a very good job of nailing down the classic flavors of Root Beer and Sarsaparillas. I specifically only review root beers on this blog, but in case i haven't mentioned it before i am still a big fan of Sarsaparilla and Cream Sodas as well. And OZMB does a good job of making a fine tasting root beer. It has a decent bite to it, though the overall flavor is a bit thin tasting. It has a good aroma and decent carbonation as well. Nothing really sets it apart from other root beer flavors for me, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable tasting.

My official review is that Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. I was on the hairy edge of giving this a 7, but it's just not quite there. It could have a bit more bold taste to it without doing anything to the flavor. But regardless, i did enjoy this one quite a bit and would definitely revisit it. Cuz just like Organ Stop Pizza, the experience is enough to bring you back, even if you are unrepentantly getting gouged on the cost.