Monday, January 8, 2018

Signature Select Root Beer

New Year, new me? Hardly. My only resolution is to hold steady and keep reviewing root beers are a ridiculously slow rate with as little effort and accuracy as i can allow myself to bother to exert. Sure, i've got several in the fridge i could do and get a bunch more posts out, but let's be honest; most people have migrated over to Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest or any of those other social media sites and i still can't bring myself to do it. Partly cuz i'm lazy, partly because i have no interest in that, and partly because i have the hubris to think that these reviews are special and anyone who really wants them should have to do a little work. But i realize that hurts me since less people will see or read my reviews, though i'm not sure i ultimately care who sees these. This is for me more than anyone else, yet i still strive to make it public and endeavor to do my due diligence when reviewing root beers. However, the truth is i have been slacking on my reviews and don't put near as much research into these root beers as i used to, mostly because they all taste the same now. So if it sounds like i'm jaded and full of contradictions, its only because i am. So with that unnecessary preamble, buckle up for another year of mediocre root beers and equally mediocre reviews. Let's begin, shall we?
This root beer was purchased at a Vons grocery store in Anaheim, CA. At least i think it was. I saw this here in Arizona at an Albertsons, but i don't think i bought it until later when i strolled through a Von's while on vacation. This is a quintessentially generic root beer, likely the house brand of whatever grocery store conglomerate owns and operates Vons and Alberstons and i believe Safeway (this is where i would insert something from the internet that i researched about this topic, but i no longer care to do because i don't think it really matters, and it's certainly not interesting enough to warrant a google). This root beer is distributed by Better Living Brands, LLC. When i looked up the website listed on the label, it takes me straight to a Safeway page. So, there you go. I told you, i've been doing this a long time at this point. 

The true mark of a generic root beer is the label. It is well established in my posts that generic labels follow many of the same themes and color schemes and this label is no exception. It's trendy, in my opinion, in the way opening a vintage themed bakery or dessert store is trendy. That's what the theme of the label reminds me of, specifically a local bakery called SweetTooth Fairy, and by local i mean there is one near where i live but in reality there are several locations in Arizona and Utah (i think it originated in Utah, but again, refuse to research it more). If this root beer wasn't owned by Safeway, i could see it being sold at a STF bakery based on the label alone. I could spend some time describing the label in even the briefest detail, but i'm just gonna ask that you go ahead and look at the photo instead. As for my opinion, it's a perfectly utilitarian label that fails to excite my imagination or fire my spirit and inspire me to do anything in the slightest. Thumbs up. 

It shouldn't surprise you that the taste follows suit. It's a low carbonation, watery, artificial root beer flavored soda that is sweetened with cane sugar. Just. Like. Hundreds. Of. Others. The subtle aspects of the label try to imply that this is some sort of unique craft soda, but it's far from that. This is a mass produced, generic root beer with a VERY familiar taste that sells a price point slightly above the other generic brand on the shelf next to it because this one comes in a glass bottle. It doesn't taste bad, but it also doesn't excite my taste buds at all. My son claims it is "super spicy", but i assure you that it is not. In fact, it's more watery than anything. It's not spicy. It's not significant. It just is. 

My official review is that Signature Select Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. I don't know what else i can say about it because it has so little depth to even pull from. So i won't say anything else at all. Try it if you want, but i intend to forget about this one entirely. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Craft Root Beer

Merry Christmas everyone! This isn't exactly a Christmasy root beer, but i have been neglecting my review duties and my fridge has been accumulating more root beers from various sources and destinations. So before i forget anything about where i got most of these root beers, i need to get some reviewed during the last month of this year. I've actually been holding on to this one since March. My wife and i were celebrating our anniversary down in a little mining town 6 miles from the Mexico border called Bisbee, AZ. Craft Root Beer is a naturally crafted artisan soda, or so the label says. It's distributed by US Foods Inc out of Rosemont, IL, or so the label says. They offer two distinct flavors of soda; root beer and ginger beer. I don't know much else about the company and am too lazy to do the research. So i won't talk about that any more, but i will talk at length about the charming little town of Bisbee. I'd recommend anyone who is close enough to visit to do so. It's an old town that was once one of the most populated towns in the wild west, drawing people from all walks of life to work in or around the booming copper mine. The town is built in the hills surrounding the now closed mine. Visitors are invited to tour the mine (which we didn't do, but would look into on a return visit).

One of the events we learned about was an annual race called "The Bisbee 1000" because there are thousands of steps all around the town since nearly everywhere in Bisbee is built into the mountain and stairs connect most walking paths. It wasn't going on when we were there, but it would be something I would be willing to drive the 3+ hours from Phoenix to take part in. Looks fun.

We stayed at a fun little motor park with old Airstream trailers set up as hotel rooms called the Shady Dell. My wife had discovered this little RV park and wanted to go check it out, so i took her down there for our anniversary this year. It was a lot of fun and a neat experience. I'd recommend it to anyone (FYI it's an adults only campground. Sorry kids.) We went on a ghost tour at night, which just walked us around the town and told stories about local ghosts and historical landmarks in Bisbee. It was pretty uneventful and quite cold. And the next morning we did some more exploring around Bisbee. That's when we found this root beer at a little breakfast place called Ana's Seasonal Kitchen. First off, Ana's was incredible. I think they only do breakfast and lunch but it was the best. Highly recommend it. That is where i noticed another patron drinking a Craft Root Beer. I had one with my meal and got another one to go, and it's been in my fridge since then waiting to be reviewed.

The label of Craft is vibrant and lively. Big bold font dominates the labelscape (a word i just made up) and the cream colored background is strewn with pastel blue and red stripes and peppered with stars as a play on American patriotism. The logo is a photo of a goofy looking dude in a navy hat with a straw hanging out of his mouth. The ginger beer logo has a girl posing like Rosie the Riveter, but we aren't talking about that label, we're talking about this one. It's very colorful and whimsical, which is probably what drew my eye to it in the first place. Good job Craft on "crafting" an enticing label.
Did you guys see what i did there? I sure hope so, cuz it was real obvious.

As it turns out, this is a pretty decent tasting soda. The ingredients listed include nutmeg, anise, and sweet birch, or so the label says. I get a faint root beer flavor out of it, slight anise, and a lot of cane sugar flavor. But it's a reasonably good tasting root beer, though not quite unique. I can think of a dozen or so similar tasting root beers (just not by name right now). And the carbonation was lacking in the one i drank during this review, which i don't remember being the case when i drank it in Ana's Kitchen. I wouldn't call this a run of the mill tasting root beer, but i wouldn't say it necessarily stands out either.

My official review is that Craft Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. Overall i like it. It's a good root beer. The fact that it's not as unique as i would hope from an "artisanal" root beer made it just shy of a 7 rating. But i like the vibe and attitude of the root beer, which are fake metrics i use sometimes if i can't think of anything realist or measurable to critique the root beer on. I asked my now 6-year-old son to rate it on a scale from 1 to 10 and he gave it a thumbs up. Not the sharpest boy, but he makes up for it in good looks. Anyway, check this one out if you're down in Bisbee at Ana's Kitchen. I think you'll enjoy the overall experience. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Arcy's Root Beer

I am doing this one out of order. It's actually the most recent root beer i have tried, but i still need to write a review for one i drank back in February. Luckily i have a spare one of those in the fridge, but this one was... special? Not really, but it is from half way around the world. My wife and i had the privilege of leaving our two awful (-ly lovely) children with her sister and took a trip out to the island of Cebu in the Philippines to meet up with some friends of ours. The Philippines is a beautiful country and it was an amazing trip. The islands are very distinct and all offer unique experiences and the people are some of the warmest, nicest, most hospitable people i've ever encountered. And as a bonus, every thing is written in English and everyone speaks it to a reasonable degree. We had no trouble getting around. I keep saying the Philippines has everything to offer that Hawaii has at a fraction of the price. I'd definitely recommend visiting if you have the means. We went to a little town on the southeastern coast of Cebu called Oslob to swim with whale sharks in the beautiful crystal blue water. That's where i happened to stumble upon Arcy's Root Beer. The website says this is a distinctly Filipino company (so it's called the Philippines in honor of Prince/King Philip or whatever, but i have no idea why when you talk about the people you spell it Filipino). They have a license to distribute the American brand RC cola in both regular and diet formula, but then i think the rest of their products are in-house brands. So the name Arcy's seems a little plaguristic to me, but apparently they are able to get away with it.

I found a 500ml plastic bottle of this root beer at a 7-eleven gas station along with several local candy bars with vaguely sexual names.
The label is very unappealing and unimaginative. It's almost the bare minimum of what needs to be on the label. They use the traditional color scheme of browns and yellows along with some sort of font that is straight out of Saved by the Bell or something, minus the vivid colors of course. I feel like with all the time they saved ripping off a name they could have done much better on the label. Oh well.

This isn't a bad tasting root beer. The first thing I noticed when I cracked it open was that it has a nice aroma to it, very root beer in nature. And the taste wasn't far behind. It's basically a standard root beer flavor with a bit of a spicy aftertaste. On the downside it had very little carbonation (nearly flat), but from our experience that was typical of most sodas we drank in the Philippines (which really wasn't that many). I am sure the Filipino recipe for Arcy's borrowed heavily from the standard American flavor, and maybe even from another root beer under the RC umbrella. Side note: we also found Zest-o brand root beer in several of the local grocery stores, but I had already tried that brand when I went to Dubai and from what I recall I wasn't all that impressed with it.

My official review is that Arcy's Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. It was fun to find something all the way on the other side of the world, but when it comes down to taste this root beer is no better than your average American brand. I love to travel and I love root beer and I love to mix the two when I can, so this was a win in my books. I would absolutely love to go back to the Philippines and discover more of that beautiful country, but I won't be making a special trip just to drink this again. However, if you find yourself over there go ahead and give this one a whirl.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sky Valley Organic Root Beer

Holy cow people, get ready for a turd. I have been sitting on this one for a while cuz i just didn't feel like getting around to writing about another piece of garbage root beer, but i figure i will give this one just as much time, research and effort as it deserves. Sky Valley Organic Root Beer is distributed by Sky Valley Foods out of Danville, VA. I bought it at a local Target, of all places. The website gives just as much info as the label does, so it wasn't super helpful. It's organic, vegan, non-gluten, non-GMO, and caffeine free, which is a round about way of saying it's terrible. But i'm getting ahead of myself.

The label is bright and colorful and somewhat sloppily wrapped around a 12 oz. clear glass bottle. This root beer is sold in a 4-pack and the picture on this post is the one bottle that had the label applied with even an ounce of precision and care. The rest are crooked, wrinkled, and speak volumes about how everyone involved with this root beer couldn't care less how it's presented or received. It has a portrait of a bear (for whatever reason) and is otherwise a quite pleasant label. BUT, don't be fooled... it merely acts as a camouflage to hide the dark truth that festers inside this bottle.

In case your cognitive abilities or powers of deduction are somewhat impaired or underdeveloped (as is common in most of my readers), i will go ahead and spell it out for you. This root beer is terrible. It's garbage. It's awful. It's unpleasant. It's unfulfilling. It's unrefreshing. It's unsatisfying. It's terrible at parties. It's probably a bad listener and has a criminal record. It's undesirable. It has no redemptive qualities. The nail in the coffin is that this is an "organic" root beer, and in my experience any soda that brands itself as "organic" has no business being a soda. The ingredients say it's sweetened with organic cane sugar, but guess what... this root beer isn't sweet. Not in the least. It has many of the ingredients found in most root beers, but guess what... it doesn't taste like root beer. Not at all. It has no discernible flavor other than gross. It's so watery and bitter while you're drinking it and the after taste is horrendous. My wife was offended by the taste and my five year old won't even drink it.

My official review is that Sky Valley gets 1 (one) IBC. If you've read this entire post up to this point, this rating should come as no surprise to you. I try and reserve this rating, the lowest rating i give, for those root beers truly worthy of it's terribleness. I considered giving this a 2 for a moment, but i cannot be convinced it deserves anything more than a 1. I really don't know what else to say except that this beverage should not be consumed by anyone. This root beer should be a hard pass. I can't speak to any of the other flavors of Sky Valley sodas, but i won't be the one to test any of them out.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Killebrew Root Beer

So i know it's been a while, and i know i say that every time i post a new root beer, but i have a perfectly good explanation. I'm lazy. And Fallout 4 isn't going to play itself. But as fortune would have it, i had to travel out to Minneapolis, MN for work recently. Minnesota wasn't my dream destination in the middle of January, but i figured i would make the best of it and do some root beer scouting while i was in a new part of the country. So i ducked into a local Cub grocery store to find this locally brewed Killebrew Root Beer. Killebrew has been around since 1996 and is named after Harmon Killebrew, a hall of fame professional baseball player for the Minnesota Twins. I don't follow baseball (or sports for that matter), but i figured something was up with the name Killebrew because one of the streets outside of the Mall of the Americas is named Killebrew Dr. I am sure he has lots of other things named after him because he seems pretty beloved by the Minneapolis area from what i have read.

I got a six pack of 12 oz. dark brown glass bottles. The label on the bottle is very colorful. It has the name Killebrew pasted across what i guessed was a baseball diamond, before i know who Harmon was, and the words "With the Hall of Fame Taste" are strung along the bottom of the label. It even has some subtle pinstripes just like a Minnesota Twins jersey. Well done on the label, really. It's a break from the boring traditional root beer labeling.

I cracked open the first bottle to find a very pleasant wintergreen aroma. The root beer itself was kind of spicy tasting with a nice wintergreen tone to it and a hint of honey. It was a nice flavor overall. It was a little watered down, but that was only a minor setback. I drank the whole six pack during my short stay and was quite satisfied with it. Killebrew is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, so you can hold that against them if you want but i'm not going to. I thought this was a really reasonable root been.

My official review is that Killebrew gets 6 (six) IBCs. I liked this root beer well enough. I really don't have much bad to say about it other than it was mildly watered down. It didn't knock my socks off, but i wouldn't have a problem drinking this stuff again. I just doubt i will get up to Minnesota any time soon to get my hand on more. If you can find it, give it a shot. It's pretty decent stuff.

IBC recipe change?

So I was alerted by a reader (tip of the hat to you Squealer, don't let it go to your head) that IBC recently underwent a change in recipe that is leaving people pretty unhappy.

I tried to do some research online about it but could only find that the company is now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, a conglomerate that owns and distributes several sodas and root beers including Hires, Stewart's, A&W, and yes, IBC. To be honest, i don't know how long they have been owned by Dr Pepper Snapple and i don't really care. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group website claims that, "the quality of IBC Root Beer has been upheld by retaining the original, secret formula packaged in a distinctive brown bottle." So they are claiming that the recipe is the same, though i don't know when this description on their website was posted or if it ever gets updated. I can't find any specifics on what the changes were, who made the changes, when the changes were made, etc. except that some people say it was sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and changed to cane sugar, and others say just the opposite. But it seems like every post i have been reading about this is of one consensus; they are upset with the change and no longer want to drink IBC.

I recently bought some IBCs and i did notice they changed to a sticker label on an otherwise unmarked bottle, which was quite disappointing to me. And to be completely honest, i did notice a change in the flavor. To me it was subtle and I couldn't tell you how or what changed, but i don't know that it was enough to make me upset. The "new" flavor wasn't an improvement, i'll say that, but it certainly doesn't make the root beer undrinkable. Come on, if you think that you're being super obtuse about this whole situation. Do you know how many GARBAGE root beers i have drank over the last 9 years i have been doing this blog? Dozens, if not hundreds. You think this soda is worse now? Every soda has become worse over time. Everything is getting cheaper, smaller, less healthy, easier to produce with little consideration of how the public will react. It's a natural side effect of our capitalistic society, ever cutting corners to seek the marginal stock increase, appease the investors, and help everyone's retirement funds grow. You don't like the new recipe? Move to Russia, you pinko commie.

So here is my hard line in the sand. IBC is still the best root beer available on planet Earth. Keep in mind that i have a system in place that hinges entirely on rating other root beers on a basis of how good they are compared to IBC. I have a vested interest in this root beer. Am i being biased? You're damn right i am. But that's why you read these reviews, isn't it? Am i happy with the change? I don't even know what the change really is. Am i a die hard IBC fan? Till the day i violently murder my whole family and then take my own life (someone start the clock). So that being said, and based upon my most recent tasting of IBC, i still feel they can do no wrong in my eyes. And the day i stop drinking this delicious golden nectar is the day it starts tasting anything like Henry Weinhard's.

That's right Henry, i still hate your guts and your stupid root beer more than anything.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ramblin' Root Beer

Well my wife has grown tired of Florida living, so we packed up and moved back home to the west coast (or close enough). We are back in the Phoenix area and getting settled in, so when my friend Richard (who loyal readers will remember from my numerous references to) suggested we head to California for a weekend trip we thought it might be nice. So we all piled in his truck and headed to the beach. On the way, Richard suggested we stop at a little place called Winchester Farms in Hemet, CA for a famous Jullian Pie. It was a cute little farm stand on the side of the road with a little country store inside. The lady helping us was very animated and very pleasant. She insisted we take a look at a gigantic lobster she had for sale in a salt water tank outside. Richard was brave enough to reach in, feel around for it and pull it out, and when he did my son started screaming at this hideous and enormous monster from his nightmares. Good times.

Anyway, the stand is where i picked up a bottle of Ramblin' Root Beer. If was fitting that we rambled all the way across the country to find this root beer, so i eagerly purchased a bottle along with an afore mentioned pie. The website greets you with a hearty "It's Back!" on the page, though i doubt anyone really realized it had left. But apparently this root beer has been around since 1979. Another thing i learned from the site is that there are a couple other flavors or Ramblin' i will need to track down, including a butterscotch root beer and a maple root beer. And of course, the site had to mention it's first televised commercial featuring a young Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as little Orphan Annie on Broadway in NYC. I hope she remembers and appreciate her roots (beers).

I found this root beer in a traditional 12 oz. brown glass bottle. The website mentions that the logo has been updated (as can be seen in the above commercial). It's a definite throw back look with a modern spin, but still conforms to the traditional color scheme of the majority of root beers. Nothing really special or extraordinary about the label though. I wish i had more to say. But... i don't.

It's flavored with real cane sugar an had a nice mint smell when i cracked it open, but... that ended up being VERY misleading. The only thing i can compare the taste of this stuff to is Pine-sol. Or really probably more like Simple Green, or some other kind of chemical cleaner. It's really weird and off-putting, but oddly not completely disgusting. I drank the whole thing, but neither Richard nor my wife nor my son thought it was any good at all. I'll give Ramblin' credit for coming up with a unique taste though.

My official review is that Ramblin' Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. And by 4, i mean barely 4. As i said, it's not completely undrinkable, but it's at best unpleasant. I have to admit, my insides felt cleaner afterward though. It was a weird one for sure, but i am committed to finding and trying the other two flavors. Perhaps they won't be as much of a disappointment.

And by the way, i must say that the Jullian Pie was