Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Anchor Ginger Root Beer

I am writing this on an airplane on my way home for Christmas, so i think i'm gonna keep this one brief. Anchor Ginger Root Beer is bottled and distributed by our friends over at Orca Beverage Inc. It has a total sailor vibe to it, but less of a modern day sailor, like in the Navy, and more of a salty old sea dog aboard an old pirate ship. There have been other pirate themed root beers i have reviewed in the past, but this is not one of those. It's a straight up sailor root beer with no pirate affiliations other than those i conjure in my own mind. The website doesn't give much info about Anchor and the small paragraph on the site page is also on the bottle label. I think by reading it you will understand why i think of sailors in the golden age of sailing instead of a modern military serviceman or even boating enthusiast. Rather than type it out, i will just show a pic of it. Laziness, you win again.

We are back to 12 oz. dark brown glass bottles, which is a step in the right direction. The label is professional and looks good. A big emblem of an anchor dominates the view and everything is in it's right place. Below the name of the root beer is a little tagline saying (and yes, i will type it out this time), "Soothing Beverage for the Traveller". They say ginger is used to cure motion sickness, or at least help abate the effects of motion sickness. And by they, i mean people on the internet who are probably not doctors and may in fact be hippies who have managed to steal internet access from a local non-chain coffee shop.

The upshot is that this root beer is an oasis in the desert of mediocrity i have been seeing in the root beers i have reviewed recently. To be fair, i don't review as frequently now as i have in the past, so they are more spaced out, but this is still a welcome reprieve. Good carbonation, good root beer flavor, just a hint of ginger (which is enjoyable), and ultimately a great compliment to a plate of nachos which i strive to eat at least one of every day or my life, and often succeed. It's all about goals, you know?

My official review is Anchor Ginger Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I liked this one quite a bit. I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be one of the better ones i have reviewed this year. I got this from the Root Beer store, so check them out.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Big Ben's Root Beer

'Ello 'ello! I know what you're thinking by looking at the name of this root beer! Well knock it off, cuz you're wrong dummy. This is Big Ben's Root Beer (apostrophe "s", possessive). Besides, the Brits don't even like root beer. The website for this root beer is a bit rough. Seems like it never got updated from the mid '90s. From what i gather, Big Ben's beverages has 23 flavors of soda and is made in Catawissa, PA (a place i've never heard of). Since it's brewed in Pennsylvania, i wonder if the name of the root beer has anything to do with the Pittsburg Steelers. Hmm... someone will have to let me know if i'm on to something with that. Probably not though since this root beer was brewed and sold long before Roethlisberger was even in the NFL. The root beer is bottled by Catawissa Sparkling Beverages, a company started by a husband and wife back in the 1920s. I am still unsure if this bottling company ended up changing it's name to Big Ben's or they are just licensed to distribute Big Ben's along with several other brands. I don't know. The info on the website is a bit confusing and does not follow any hard narrative. It just kinda wanders and talks a lot about equipment used to brew sodas. I found it quite an uninteresting read, nor very enlightening. I'm note sure who wrote it, but i must say... it could use some work. But what would i know? I've only written somewhere around 170 amazing root beer reviews. And by that i mean my reviews are amazing, certainly not all those root beers.

The website does mention switching labeling methods during different times in production. The current label is a glued on paper label with basically no frills. It's not the most generic looking label i've seen, but it's a contender. The colorful font is the only thing that saves this from being utterly drab. Even so, that's not enough. It just looks like a cheap root beer based on the label alone. I'll be honest... it's a little depressing to look at. I almost didn't want to drink it, and if i didn't take a vow and hold myself to a strict code of ethics i probably wouldn't have bothered with this one based on looks alone.

Sigh... sometimes i hate having a strict code of ethics. I'll just cut to the chase. This stuff isn't good. It's not terrible, but it's certainly not a strong root beer. If this is popular in Pennsylvania then Pennsylvania is wrong. I don't know, i've never been there, but they aren't putting their best foot forward with this one. Right off the bat, clear glass bottle. My theory holds strong. I've had one or two good ones in clear glass bottles, but this seems to follow suit with most of the rest of the garbage in clear glass bottles. I guess they want you to really see their failure clearly so you have to make the moral decision of whether or not to ingest this stuff with full consciousness of the choice you are making. It has an almost bitter, really acrid taste to start, finishes with a hint of sweet from the cane sugar, and fades into an overwhelmingly bad after taste. Doesn't taste like root beer at all and what little flavor it has is very watered down. The carbonation is just shy of abominable as well. All in all, i was in for a terrible night after drinking this.

My official review is Big Ben's Root Beer gets 2 (two) IBCs. I gotta say it. I hate this root beer. I hate that i am currently passing it through my body. It's not good. Period. Still, the crazy thing is that i have had worse. MUCH worse, and not just Henry Weinhard's. Just steer clear of this one. That's really the only thing you need to take away from this train wreck .

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Gift Idea

So seeing as it's the holidays, i thought i would pass on this gift idea that i have seen in the past. It's not new and i didn't make it up. I would venture to guess many of you root beer lovers have already seen this if you're spending your time reading a root beer blog. But i figured i would show it anyway.

Root Beers Reindeers. It can be done with any brand of root beer (except Henry Weinhards, cuz that would be a sin and would offend the sweet baby Jesus). I of course recommend IBC. They are simple to make. Just some brown pipe cleaners for horns, googly eyes and a red puff ball for a nose. It's an inexpensive gift and people love them. Give them a shot. There is a little rhyme that goes with it, but i don't remember what it was. I'm sure you can look it up though.


Another idea is to give a variety pack of root beers. One year my wife and I gave our families some hand picked variety 4-packs. I don't recall exactly which root beers we gave them, but if i were to do it again this year i would probably choose my line up as IBC (obviously), Iron Horse, Goose Island, and maybe something like Buckin' Root Beer cuz it's good and a bit different. Hanks would be a good option as well in my opinion. And we made up a little rhyme to put on a card with it. It went something like this: 

Merry Christmas to all! We bring you good cheer!
With this hand picked variety 4-pack of root beer.
We know it's not much, but we just want to say
we wish you a Merry Christmas in our own special way. 
So we hope you enjoy them. We've brought you the best.
And if you don't like them, you should just act impressed. 

Olde Philadelphia Root Beer

So i took a little break from reviewing. The only thing i can really say is i'm lazy. Sorry. But i intend to make it up by reviewing a few of these this week before i fly back to AZ for the holidays. This root beer has nothing to do with Christmas, but it does join the ranks of the elite few with "olde" in the title. Olde Philadelphia Root Beer touts itself as being "the REAL taste of America". Sounds like a tag line Steven Colbert would give it, as i picture him saying it in my mind when i read that sentence. From the website i gather that this soda company has been around in Philadelphia for a while, but in 2010 came under new management who decided to shift the many flavors in their line away from high fructose corn syrup and begin using cane sugar to sweeten their sodas. They speak a lot about being revolutionary by relaunching their new cane sugar soda line in 2011, but it seems to me like they are just following suit with most of the small, vintage craft sodas out there. Lots of people are doing cane sugar guys. I wouldn't jump to calling yourself revolutionary just yet. Maybe you should use ponies to brew the root beer. Or children. Now THAT would be revolutionary. Or at the very least, controversial. On second thought, looks like that's already been done too. Sorry Olde Philly. Just keep your eyes open for a good opportunity i guess.

This root beer is one of the dreaded 12 oz. clear glass bottle root beers that typically disappoint. I don't know what it is about these clear glass bottles, but i am usually not impressed by them. The label is colorful and nice. The website also said that while redesigning the logo, they wanted to be sure to keep the Liberty Bell central in the design to make this a uniquely Philadelphia brand root beer. Fair enough. I really don't have any problems with that. Olde Philadelphia is written in Olde English font and it has a sense of majesty about it. Like they are trying to be fresh and new while holding onto the past. It's not lost on me Olde Philly, i can appreciate the workmanship.

I just wish there was more to the taste. As is typical of clear glass bottle root beers (again, i don't know what it is), the flavor is lacking. It's quite watered down and doesn't really taste like root beer at all. I taste the sugar. I feel the sensation of the carbonation on my tongue. I know my mind is telling me this is root beer. But i fail to make the connection with my taste buds. It's just not cutting it for me. If this were in a line up of unmarked root beers, i wouldn't be able to pick it out. It just has no substance. The website makes a big production of how much work went into revitalizing this whole brand starting with redoing the recipes, but this just tastes unfinished to me. Back to the drawing board Olde Philly.

My official review is that Olde Philadelphia Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. This is a touch harsh i realize, considering the fact that i didn't say it's gross. It's not. It's just nothing. It probably falls more into the 4 rating range, but i see way too many of these root beers in the same category claiming to be something they are not; legitimate. You've still got some work to do Olde Philly. Tighten it up and come back to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Zippy's Giant Root Beer

This root beer is tied to a burger joint in West Seattle, WA and has been around since 2008. Zippy's Giant Root Beer is made and sold at a place called Zippy's Giant Burgers and is distributed by Orca Beverages, which is also located in the northwest and distributes several sodas and root beers that i have reviewed. I know i said it's in West Seattle, but the bottle says "Wesseattle", which i tried to do a little research on and couldn't come up with much. I assumed it's just a region of Seattle, specifically in the western part of the city. But i talked to someone who lived there and she hadn't heard of it before. Even the source of all truth is stumped by this one. Maybe my root beer comrade Eric can give us some first hand info since he's from that area.

So, the label. In a word… creepy. There are a lot of colors and a picture of a kid holding a burger and drinking a mug of root beer. The freakish cartoon image of the kid licking his/her lips is unsettling at best. It reminds me of every creepy/scary toy doll movie from the 80s. The color scheme and frightening imagery definitely catch the eye, but if i weren't reviewing this for the purpose scientific discovery and a general civil obligation to provide reliable information regarding the appropriateness of root beers to the public, i doubt i would think this was worth drinking based on looks alone. I mean, seriously… this kid is freakin' me out with his/her huge sunken eyes, piggy nose and weird mouth. Come on Zippy's, hire a new artist at the very least. You're not doing yourself any favors here.

I can't comment on Zippy's burgers, but as far as the root beer is concerned i doubt i would make a visit to the restaurant. It's really watered down, low carbonation, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is sweetened with cane sugar and has a slight creamy vanilla undertone, but ultimately disappoints on multiple levels. I didn't hate it while i drank it, but the aftertaste is really making me hate it now. My wife said she didn't drink enough to formulate an opinion (not like it would matter anyway since she is untrained in root beer expertise). My son seemed to like it, but he's not even 3 years old yet and likes any soda, which he calls a "spicy drink". So his opinion is unreliable as well. Looks like mine is the only one that counts (as always), and i say this one is no good.

My official review is that Zippy's Giant Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not great and seemingly gets worse the more you drink it. I'm not opposed to going to Zippy's if i am ever in Wesseatle and maybe i would try it again at that time. Maybe a fresh batch would taste better. But that's probably the only circumstance that would lead me to trying this stuff again. Sorry Zippy's.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Old Red Eye Root Beer

There she is... Old Red Eye. I'll bet that's what the ranchers who owned the bull this root beer is named after used to say when they saw her (technically a him seeing as it's a bull, but for the sake of the story let's just pretend for a little bit). Old Red Eye Root Beer has a very brief history on the label which seems more fable than fact. The legends says this old bull would only leave his pen to go to farm work if someone poured some of this root beer into his tin drinking bowl. Sounds like someone made it up to slap on a root beer without an origin. This is bottled by the Orca Beverage company out of Mukilteo, WA. They are a distributor that puts out several other sodas and root beers, including several i have already reviewed on this blog. That being said, i don't know much else about the story/history behind this root beer, including how long it's been around. And i don't care to take the time to try and find out because winter is coming.
 
This is a typical 12 oz. brown glass bottle. It looks quite normal and ordinary. The label is nice. Only three colors, stark in contrast. I like it quite a bit. Very simple but bold. It stands out with the big bull's head drawing and Old West style font. No fuss, no filler. Just straight up label.
 
And guess what... i actually liked the taste of this one quite a bit too. It's almost offensively root beer flavored and sweetened with pure cane sugar. Very strong flavor with a big kick of something i can't quite put my finger on. All i can really say is that it's spicy (not a perfect descriptor, but i really don't know how else to put it). You know how they say Barq's has bite? (or at least they did back in the 90's) Well this stuff has some bite to it. I like it. I was pleasantly surprised. I really didn't expect much from this but i gotta say, i enjoyed it. I even made a root beer float with it and was not let down.
 
My official review is that Old Red Eye Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I like it. It's a no nonsense root beer. Probably why they gave it an Old West motif. Grab one if you have a chance. It's worth it.
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dang! (that's good) Butterscotch Root Beer

As promised, here is the sister root beer of Dang!, which carries the same name. Dang! (that's good) Butterscotch Root Beer is made and bottled by the same company that does original Dang!, Imperial Flavors out of Milwaukee, WI. I don't really feel like going into the very briefly covered history of the company, so look up the last review if you're interested in learning more. I know it's been nearly two months since i reviewed the last root beer, but i want to keep this brief. I'm a busy man and have things to do.

This root beer comes in a 12 oz. brown glass bottle, a little different from your typical shape though. It's a little more broad shouldered, if that makes any sense. I like it. Not the first time i've seen it, but i will still give them props. The other Dang! i reviewed was also in a cool bottle, but not the same one. This label is just a different color scheme than the original. It has a beige/cream color to go along with the butterscotch theme. The one thing different about this label is that it doesn't have the little month/year scale thing on the side like orignal Dang! had. Not that i miss it though. I really don't care either way.

I was impressed with original Dang!, but i'll be honest... i don't love this stuff. It just tasted like those butterscotch disks, not root beer. It also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Carbonation is ok, but ultimately, i don't really like this that much. It's quite a let down based on how much i enjoyed original Dang!. I'm pretty bummed out about it. I had high hopes/expectations. My feelings were hurt. I feel betrayed. The life is slipping away from me. I wish i hadn't tried it at all. I'll never love again. I've lost my faith. How many other ways can i say it wasn't good?

My official review is that Dang! (that's good) Butterscotch Root Beer get 3 (three) IBCs. Just did not care for it. And i don't think it really is as bad as a 3, but it deserves it for being so disappointing. If you like butterscotch sodas, maybe. But in my opinion, don't bother with this one. Go for an original Dang!. Much more satisfying.