Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Rogue Root Beer

Happy July 4th everyone! This root beer looked pretty patriotic when i chose it from my fridge to review today, and that was the main reason i chose it. I picked up this bottle of Rogue Root Beer from a local Target of all places well over a year ago. It's been sitting in my fridge just waiting for the perfect time to be consumed, which i deemed today to be. Rogue comes from Newport, OR and is part of the soda line of a craft brewery known for making craft beers (quite an extensive selection) and even spirits from natural ingredients mostly grown right there on the Rogue farm. I tried to get more information, but i couldn't get much in way of the brewery until i went to the source of all truth and discovered the brewery was founded in 1988. I can't confirm they have been making root beer for that long, but these guys have experience in the brewing industry and have made a name for themselves, having won numerous awards for their craft beers and spirits. And speaking of patriotic, i found a youtube video on the Rogue website with an Uncle Sam looking dude recruiting people to the Rogue Nation by reciting the Pledge of Rougelligence. May be worth a look if you guys are interested.

Now, talking about the bottle and the labeling, i have a lot to say. First, you may see from the picture that this is not an ordinary looking bottle. That's because this is a 22 oz clear glass bottle. Again, on the patriotic tip, they use a red, white and blue color scheme. The label is printed onto the bottle (not a sticker) and while it's difficult to see in the picture above, the bottle neck has the words DARE, RISK, and DREAM printed on it.


So how do i feel about this? I. Love. It. This is what labeling on a root beer bottle should be. A+ and 5 stars for the labeling. It's bold and unique and i couldn't be more pleased with it. The back even has a couple recipes using the root beer; one for a cocktail and one for a root beer float, which is simply to pour this over two scoops of vanilla ice cream, which seems a little unnecessary, but i still give them credit for the effort. I'm super thrilled with the bottle all together. The size, the design, the colors... everything. It's even a rare case where it's not a twist top bottle. You have my attention Rogue.

Until... this part. So real quick i will go back to the label, which has a dedication to the kid in each of us. This blurb talks about how this root beer is brewed with Rogue farm honey and given a "creamy texture, caramel richness and a rush of vanilla." Sounds pretty good right? Well i'm not getting any of that, with the exception of the honey. What i am getting is a taste of honey mixed with a pretty prevalent black licorice base and an aftertaste that's likely akin to coming off heroine. I don't like it AT ALL. Super let down for me. My wife, who likes black licorice, says it tastes like an armpit. My kids, who are idiots and are completely unreliable with their opinions being 3 and 6 years-old, took a taste and asked, "what IS this?!" That's likely because it tastes nothing like root beer, an unfortunate minefield of this industry. I've had way more "root beers" that taste nothing like root beer than i have of those that do. And this one just seems to be par for the course in that sense.

My official review is that Rogue Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. I really, really wanted to give this one at least a 4 based on the bottle and label and attitude, but i can't in good conscience do that knowing what i know about the taste. That's the real deciding factor in it every time, because if this were served to me in a non-discript glass i would probably rate it a 2. Or a 1. I don't know if i could give it more than that. Sorry Rogue, i really wanted to like you. And i really hope your award winning craft beers are better than this, but even if they aren't at least the people pouring this heinous fluid down their throats would have the added benefit of being hammered afterward. As for me, i just need to go brush my teeth and tongue. Like, for a while.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Stubborn Classic Root Beer

I want to say i picked this root beer up at a local grocery store here in the Phoenix area called Albertson's, but i'm not certain of that. It's either that or i got it while i was in California at a Von's. Either way, Stubborn Classic Root Beer can be found a lot of different places. The Stubborn Soda company has been around since 2015, so they are relatively new on the root beer scene. The bottle says it is manufactured in Florida, but the website says, "STUBBORN SODA is a registered trademark of The Concentrate Manufacturing Company of Ireland." I confirmed this soda comes from Ireland as best i could by reading 3 whole websites, because i'm that dedicated to journalistic excellence. You'll notice the second "B" in Stubborn is printed backward, which is part of their trademark. The "mantra" of Stubborn Sodas is to use real ingredients (no HFCS or artificial sweeteners) and to mix up the norm with interesting and unique flavor combinations. The website brands it as a craft soda and as an alternative to craft beer.
They even partnered with PepsiCo for distribution in the U.S. and teamed up with Robert Kirkman, created of The Walking Dead, for marketing. Ultimately, i don't really care, but part of me thinks that's a weird pairing and kind of dumb. But i guess that's what being STUBBORN is all about. The year 2016 is about the time i completely lost interest in that show. I mean, i was into it at the beginning, then on the fence from about season 5, and right when Neegan showed up is when i checked out entirely. It's terribly repetitive and slowly paced and drawn out now. A real shame. Season 1 is still my favorite i think. For more details on how i feel about that show, please visit my side-blog Cosmo's The Walking Dead Reviews

This root beer comes in a regular 12 oz brown glass bottle. I bought it as a single, but i'd bet you can get a six pack of this if you really wanted to. The label is very basic. Not much to it. Black and white color scheme with a brown accent, the unofficial official color of root beer labeling. It has the Stubborn logo and flavor and that's about it. A little unimaginative, but they are trying to establish their brand as "not the norm". I get that, but still... could have used a little more creativity with the label.

Natural ingredients being key to their recipes, it's no surprise that they use real cane sugar for sweetening. In addition to that, the ingredients on the label lists purified stevia leaf extract, which i assume is one of the natural sweeteners used and is likely the taste i am getting most when i drink this. In short, it's not one of my favorite root beers. The root beer base is very thin to begin with, and the overwhelming taste of the stevia almost gives it a bit of fruity aftertaste that doesn't sit very well with me. It has decent carbonation and is only slightly watered down tasting, so i wouldn't say it's all bad, but it ultimately does not satisfy when i want a good root beer finish. It's no secret, i'm not a fan of the natural sweeteners, stevia included. It just over powers the whole root beer flavor for me. 

My official review is that Stubborn Classic Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's another case for the natural sodas and how they just can't compete for soda supremacy. I get people want unprocessed ingredients in their sodas. I get people are more health conscious now. I get people are looking for a good substitute for something they used to enjoy that is not good for them. I just can't get behind it when it comes down to it though. These sodas just can't stack up to a regular root beer, regardless of how it's sweetened. Given the option, i wouldn't choose this over a real classic. Sorry Stubborn, but i'm gonna have to stick to my guns on this one. You're no good. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cicero Salted Caramel Root Beer

So we just made a quick run to the local Rocket Fizz shop here because a buddy of mine is "on assignment"in Indianapolis right now and stopped into a Rocket Fizz there and looked over a bunch of root beers to ask if there were any i needed. I conferred with him for a bit and then decided to run down to our local shop (as mentioned) since he would have to try and pack them in his checked baggage to fly home with, and i just felt that was a bit too risky. But it was fortunate that he contacted me because Rocket Fizz did indeed have a ton of root beers that i needed. I haven't been to that shop for several years now. Last time i went was in Thousand Oaks, CA and the guy there was trying to talk me into opening a franchise of my own in Phoenix. Well apparently someone else beat me to it and it turns out that they have a pretty decent rotation. Long story short, i got 14 more root beers i don't already have, and when i brought them home and added them to the collection i have  been accumulating over the last several months/years in my fridge, i decided it was high time that i review another root beer. Probably need to pick it up in the next couple weeks/months because i have a bit of a back log and haven't posted for quite some time. So with that long and senseless preamble, lets talk about Cicero Salted Caramel Root Beer. This isn't one i picked up tonight. It's one my sister-in-law got for me somewhere in Utah, though they did have it at Rocket Fizz. This root beer comes out of Chicago, IL. Cicero Beverages has a whole line of sodas, including another "Chicago Style" root beer. If it's anything like Hank's or Goose Island, i'm sure i would like it. An interesting note, the website says it is "certified women owned". So there you go. That probably means they want it to be said with the somewhat pretentious pronunciation "care-uh-mel" instead of the common tongue's "car-mull" that we lay folk use in our informal conversations. And by "we lay folk", i mean you dummies.

This root beer comes in a brown 12 oz. glass bottle. The label shows what i assume is the iconic Chicago riverfront with the river as a delicious golden brown river of care-a-mel. My wife and i did an architecture cruise up that river many years ago and it was lovely. I've visited Chicago twice and really enjoyed myself both times. The rest of the label is well designed. It looked like an aged piece of parchment with burnt edges and bold lettering. I like it.

And they are true to their word because this stuff tasted like thick salted caramel. It really has no root beer base that i can discern at all. It's basically straight caramel, which means it's very very sweet. It's also very good. I have yet to encounter someone who doesn't like a good salted caramel. However, i really would have liked at least a small hint of root beer. They should have just called this salted caramel soda, not salted caramel root beer. Overall though, it's still a dang good soda.

My official review is that Cicero Salted Caramel Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I like it. It's a good "root beer". My wife really enjoys Kraft traditional individually wrapped caramel cubes, and while they may not be strictly categorized as "salted caramels", this is what i think of while i drink this root beer. Again, i wish it was a bit more root beer flavored, but it's still a very good one. Definitely try one out if you get a chance.

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.