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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Polar Root Beer

I got this root beer recently from Rocket Fizz, and the only thing more generic looking that this bottle of Polar Root Beer is the website listed on this bottle of Polar Root Beer. Seriously. This is all it is. Am i missing something? This is quite possibly the most useless website i've seen. And as a result, i had to turn to the source of all truth for info on Polar and their operations. It's a short webpage about the soda company, but the highlights are that the company is a family founded, owned and run company dating back to 1882, they have an inflatable bear mascot named Orson outside their main plant in Worcester, MA that occasionally get stolen by fraternities as a prank, and the company had a legal dispute with Coca-Cola after they ran a TV commercial with a polar bear rejecting a Coke for one of their own beverages. You'd think with all the years they have been in business they could at least afford a decent website, but maybe Coke cleaned them out after they lost their lawsuit.

The bottle is slightly different shaped than a traditional 12 oz bottle, but otherwise it's pretty standard (although clear glass instead of brown). The label is simply a cheap looking sticker, something not uncommon but that i've never been impressed by, and features an image of a nude polar bear on all fours. Orson is sitting up and waving as well as wearing a green t-shirt, but we can presume this polar bear featured is indeed Orson. Not much else to say about the label. It's not the worst thing i've seen, but i've definitely seen nicer in my extensive reviewing experience.

Polar boasts minimal ingredients, natural flavors, cane sugar and low sodium. Again, this is not uncommon for most root beers. And although the first thing i think when i drink it is, "this tastes cheap", Polar Root Beer isn't half bad. It has a nice wintergreen aroma and subtle creamy finish to it. It's sweet like cane sugar, a little watery, and decently carbonated. Overall, i think it's a good root beer. I went into this expecting much worst, so i was pleasantly surprised how refreshing this root beer turned out to be. But considering they have had 136 years to really nail down the recipe, i suppose i shouldn't be surprised at all. Of course, most of that time they didn't have the internet (and me) to sway public opinion for the worse. I think the "cheap" comment comes from the somewhat watered down taste. But if i'm being fair, this is a decently good root beer.

My official review is that Polar Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. As i said above, it's a good root beer, but the taste doesn't blow me away. That's why it only gets a 6. It's one i would definitely repeat drinking, but i've had better. However, they receive my full endorsement as a nice, refreshing, drinkable root beer. Go out and try one today if you'd like. Or don't. I really don't care either way.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Judge For Yourself! Root Beer

So this one looked suspiciously familiar to me and instantly made me think of Judge Wapner Root Beer. I thought maybe they had just re-branded it, but i think what's REALLY going on here is that Real Soda is trying to compete with Rocket Fizz which now owns the distribution rights to Judge Wapner Root Beer (or perhaps they always did). My original post on Judge Wapner Root Beer which was posted over 9 years ago says it is distributed by Blue Dog Beverages, but the label on Judge Wapner says it is the intellectual property of Robert Powells, a real life family member of Judge Wapner and affiliate of Rocket Fizz. So either i was wrong all along (not likely) or distribution has changed hands. Regardless, this whole preamble is just to say that Real Soda came up with Judge For Yourself! Root Beer, in my opinion to capitalize on the popularity of Judge Wapner. So, in light of this probably invented rivalry, i have decided to indeed "judge for myself" by doing a head-to-head blind taste test of these two root beers and i will post the results here for you to consider. Also, my kids are going to participate, but i assure you their opinions should and will make no impact upon the overall results. After all, they are not only children, they are idiots.

A head-to-head rivalry of litigious proportions

But first, let's not break with tradition and talk a bit about the packaging for Judge For Yourself! Root Beer. The bottle is a typical 12 oz dark brown glass bottle with a twist cap. The label isn't the cheapest thing i've ever seen, but it's pretty close. It has various different fonts with a terribly done photoshop job of a gavel smacking down on a mug of root beer with the most basic cartoon face that can be imagined. What i'm saying is that the artistic execution lacks effort. And to take up the dead space on the label they threw in a tagline that says "So good it should be banned!" (not bad), but then take a real left turn and throw another tagline that sounds like faux scripture that says "Judgement Day Cometh To Those Who Have Lost Their Fizz." What? Not only does it sounds stupid and not make sense, they also lost their original vision by writing "Have" and not "Hath". If you're gonna try and scare people into drinking this stuff with fear of divine judgement, at least stick with it and don't bail half way through. Or should i say "hath" way through.

So, the biggest thing i wanted to know is if these two root beers taste distinct enough from one another. So to do that, and for purposes of this review, i needed to know what Judge For Yourself! tastes like by itself. By itself, its very thin tasting. It's sweet from the cane sugar and has a decent aroma, but not a great aftertaste. It tastes kind of like a root beer flavored medicine. There is definitely nothing that distinguishable about it and I did't really like it by itself to be honest. BUT... i also had a hard time distinguishing it from Judge Wapner. OOOOO.... murmur murmur... is what you are all saying to each other, because i game Judge Wapner an 8, which is a very good rating in the context of my reviews. So if i didn't like this one and had a hard time telling them apart, does that mean i don't really like Judge Wapner? Sadly, i would probably have to concede that. I was not that impressed with Judge Wapner this time around. However, my original rating stands since i don't make a habit of going back and re-rating root beers. Plus, it's been 9 years and i don't know what did or could have changed during that time.

So to conduct the test, we poured some of each root beer in identical cups with marking on the bottom to tell which root beer each cup contained. The taster then left the room while the cups were being shuffled. The rest is pretty straight forward. The taster would taste both and determine which one was which. As for the results of the blind taste test, i guessed wrong the first time and right the second time. My wife and son both guessed right both times. My daughter put some into a cup of her own with some ice cream and then dipped pretzels and chicken nuggets in it. My wife tipped me off to the secret between them before my second attempt, and the key was that Judge Wapner has a distinct wintergreen undertone which Judge For Yourself! lacked. Perhaps the wintergreen is what helped sell Judge Wapner for me 9 years ago, but sadly it wasn't enough this time.

My official review is that Judge For Yourself! Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. It isn't a good root beer. It's a novelty root beer, and a bad one at that. I have a fridge full of these kind of "joke" root beers that both Real Soda and Rocket Fizz are now known for. So the effect of it is in the branding, which in this case loses to Judge Wapner every time. It's a clear knock off, a generic that is trying to ride the coat tails. This stuff is akin to an RC cola compared to a Coke or Pepsi, and as such doesn't deserve your time or money. Get yourself a Judge Wapner if you're into court themed sodas, but don't bother with this one. Case closed!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Original New York Seltzer Root Beer Soda

Ok, i'm gonna be straight up with you guys... i have very low expectations for this one. I think just seeing it most would probably agree. For starters, the fact that it's clear throws me off a lot, even being a HUGE fan of Crystal Pepsi in the 90's. But that's not the only thing throwing me off about Original New York Seltzer Root Beer Soda. The fact that it's called root beer soda and not just root beer also makes me think this stuff isn't legit. The company was founded in Walnut, CA in 1981 by a father and son team, contrary to the nostalgic 1930's era font and east coast affiliation, but more about that later. The founders focused on making a soda line free of preservatives, and consequently all their flavors of soda are clear in color. They use the acronym ONYS to refer to the soda line in short hand. While this line of soda is reported to have had great success and found a following in the 1980's (according to the company's own website), it essentially vanished in the 1990's. It has only recently began being brewed and distributed when an childhood fan bought the original factory in 2013 and began production in 2015. I bought this on a recent trip to the local Rocket Fizz shop, but this soda is apparently being sold at several grocery stores nation wide.

Alright, lets get down to the aesthetics. First, the bottle. It's real short and stubby and clear glass (so you can see the clear soda inside it). The label says it's 10 oz, but i have a hard time believing that since it's so small next to a traditional 12 oz bottle. As mentioned before, the font on the label has a somewhat 1930's Great Gatsby-esque vibe to it. There is a picture of the Manhattan skyline at the bottom of the bottle right above the company's motto "The Choice is Clear." The color scheme is pretty uninspiring, but other than that i think it's a quite pleasing label. It definitely caught my eye when i saw it first. I assume the 2nd distribution run kept the original label and design, which i think was a wise choice (if it is indeed the case).

So remember when i said i was concerned this one would be garbage? Well i'm actually quite happy to say this one isn't half bad. I expected a weak root beer flavor that was dominated by soda water, but instead found a nice aroma and refreshingly classic root beer taste. It has good carbonation, is sweetened with cane sugar, and tastes like a root beer should taste. It left a bit of a bad after taste, but that's not immediate. So overall, it was a pleasant and surprising experience.

My official review is that Original New York Seltzer Root Beer Soda gets 7 (seven) IBCs. Kudos ONYS on the root beer. It's a good solid flavor. It's unique. It's retro and a throwback and i think people are gonna like it. Grab one of these little guys if you get the chance and give it a try.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Private Selection Creamy Ginger Root Beer

I keep seeing this one and i swear i have reviewed it already, but when i go back through my posts it isn't listed. I'm probably thinking of Signature Select which i reviewed not that long ago, but it also reminds me of the Safeway Select generic brand of soda that was only $0.25 per can back in the mid 1990's. This root beer definitely falls into this same category, which is why the ambiguous nature is so confusing. Private Selection is the house brand of Kroger, and as a result this root beer can be found in numerous grocery stores across the nation (so much so that i don't even remember where i picked this one up). Do i need to look up a website for Kroger? I don't think so, but here it is anyway. I think everyone is aware of this giant food conglomerate. My prediction for this review; unremarkable.

For a generic root beer, the label isn't as bad as i would think. It's a sticker label on a 12 oz. brown glass bottle with typical font styles and color schemes, but Kroger put a little flourish into it to jazz it up a bit with some detailed graphics and images worthy of a t-shirt design from the mid 2000's. It's fairly simple, but not too simple. I think it's decent for a generic soda.

This root beer is sweetened with real cane sugar and, as the name and the graphics on the label suggest, flavored with ginger. I'm not really picking up the creamy aspect as this stuff is basically just a ginger beer. I like ginger beer, ginger ale, and generally most things ginger flavored with the exception of ginger snaps. But does that mean i like this root beer. No it does not. There is no root beer flavor to speak of. I know ginger is a root and that technically makes this a root beer, but it would be more aptly branded as a ginger beer since it will not meet the expectation of any sane person buying a root beer. And i know i said i like ginger beers, but i wouldn't even say this is that good of a ginger beer. It's mediocre at best. Very dry and watered down. Again, no creaminess and no root beer flavor. My 6-year-old son took a quick drink and began nodding in approval followed by an immediate physical change in body language, complete with a disapproving face and shaking of his head. I fear that anyone who tries this "root beer" will come to the same conclusion much more quickly than my son who both lacks experience and is, dare i say, basically an idiot.

My official review is that Private Selection Creamy Ginger Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. Despite the paltry score, this stuff isn't undrinkable. It's simply not a good ginger beer, and not a root beer at all. I would caution anyone thinking of trying this to seek another option.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yacht Club Root Beer

I'll be honest... i have no idea where i got this root beer. It's been in my fridge for so long i really can't recall where it came from. Probably the Root Beer Store. Regardless, today i am reviewing Yacht Club Root Beer. Yacht Club comes to us from Centerdale, RI and has been around since 1915 with a varied line of flavored sodas, making it one of the oldest root beers i have reviewed. They don't have much of a website despite having what appears to be a very active twitter account, but i was able to get that the company is big on being green and recycling, so much so that the state legislature named Yacht Club "The Official Soda of Rhode Island". They have run a bottle return program for a long time where you could get a credit for your returned bottles. They then clean and reuse the glass bottles. According to the site the program was being suspended while the bottle washer was getting refurbished. No word as to whether or not it is back up and running of not. But i don't live in Rhode Island so this has little to no impact on me. However, kudos for the green effort. I think anything you can do is valuable, especially if it has a practical effect like this. On the other hand, this bottle i drank from has had countless other mouths touch it, which is a little unsettling.

The other bit of info i got from the website is that Yacht Club only sells their beverages in glass bottles and no other containers. This bottle is a 12 oz. clear glass bottle and it's not what i would call a "stubby bottle", but it is a little shorter and different shaped than a typical bottle. The label is fantastic. In the background it shows an image of a very colorful and pristine shoreline as viewed from the ocean with the big Yacht Club logo and the Official RI Soda seal up front. The brown background for the logo (the upside down triangle) changes color per label based on the flavor of the soda, and sometimes the logo color will change as well presumably as to not clash with the backing. Overall i think the label is top notch. I dig it a lot.

The website also mentions the importance of good ingredients like pure cane sugar for the integrity of the soda, even if it ends up costing more. So i appreciate that they want to make sure they are making soda the right way. Unfortunately in this case it doesn't really translate into a superior soda. It's not bad, it's merely fine. Some may say unremarkable. My 6-year-old son says it just tastes like regular root beer, which i can't really refute. It really doesn't stand out in any way. The only other thing i would say is that it leaves a bad taste afterward, which is not much of an endorsement either. But it's by no means bad. In fact, i'd go as far as to say it's rather good. But good is the enemy of great, just like a treadmill is the enemy of my wife. She's more of a couch kinda gal.

My official review is that Yacht Club Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. It's simply just ok. I like the label. I like that they promote and encourage recycling. I like that they use premium ingredients. But i'm only sort of impressed with the drink itself. So... yeah. Not sure what else to say. The end.