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
F A N T A S T I C

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mt. Angel Root Beer

Well, this officially exhausts my root beer reserves. I don't have anymore bottles in my fridge to try, so the hunt begins again. Maybe not for a while though. I am technically homeless for the time being, so perhaps when we re-establish ourselves in the greater Phoenix area i will look at ordering some more root beers. Mt. Angel Root Beer is brewed by Mt. Angel Brewing Company in Mt. Angel, OR. According to the website, they won the silver medal in the 2012 National Open Root Beer Competition. The gold no doubt went to IBC. Trust me on this one, you don't need to look it up. The company was founded by two brothers who love brewing old fashioned sodas. They have 4 flavors they currently brew in their modest set up; root beer, marionberry (whatever that is), hazelnut, and orange cream. This seems like a sideline/passion project for these two brothers, but it might be their main source of income. I doubt it though. The website is a bit amateur and doesn't contain a ton of info.

I was able to procure this root beer in a 12 oz dark glass bottle from one of my regular websites that i visit for finding single bottles for sale. However, i probably bought this as few as 3 and as many as 5 years ago, because the website says that this root beer is available in 22 oz glass bottles and in several sizes of kegs only, but that 12 oz bottles are no longer available. Don't know how accurate that is but i'll let you do the legwork on that if you care to find out. The label is very simple. It's white and green and has a logo of the Mt. Angel Brewing Company which looks like a family crest completely with a banner with a declaration in Latin. It says "Venite et Gaudete", which according to Google translate means "Vineyards and Rejoice". So... yeah. There you have it i guess.

I like this soda. I'm sad i sat on it for so long. It's sweetened with pure cane sugar and has a subtle wintergreen flavor, which i am a big fan of (or for you grammar geeks out there, of which i am a big fan). In fact, the entire flavor of the root beer is very subtle. It's almost like it comes on weak when you drink it as fades in with the aftertaste. Kinda weird, but good. Not amazing, but for what it's worth my wife approved of it too. From the way the website tells it, this stuff is some award winning refreshment best accompanied by some vanilla ice cream for root beer floats. Might be worth looking into, but also expensive cuz they tend to favor selling this stuff by the keg rather than small volumes. Decent stuff though.

My official review is Mt. Angel Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. I don't give half ratings, but i would be willing give this an unofficial rating of 6.5 because i appreciate the effort these guys put in. Not quite at the level of a 7, but it's good. Mt. Angel sounds like a beautiful area too. Maybe if i ever get up to Oregon i will check it out.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Barton Springs Root Beer

Well... there's nothing quite like writing a root beer review while lying in bed next to a crib with a screaming toddler that won't go to sleep. This might be brief before i commit premeditated babycide. Barton Springs Root Beer comes from Austin, TX and is named after the fresh water springs located there. I couldn't find a website for the Barton Springs Soda bottling company which brews and bottles a few different flavors of soda, but i did find some pictures online of the springs themselves. Very serene and pretty looking. Ocala, FL, where i lived for the last 3 years, has about a dozen of these little fresh water springs all around. They are fun to visit under the right circumstances. The water is crystal clear and fairly cold year round and there is lots of wildlife and stuff to see. Barton Springs seems like a nice place on a hot day.

This root beer came to me in a clear 12 oz glass bottle with a very colorful label. I would say it relies heavily on the pastels and Easter colors. In total it's a very simple design, but the bright colors saves it for the most part. I wish i had more to comment on, but i don't. Plus... this baby isn't making it any easier on me to think of more inane things to say about this label. It's fine. Overall i like it i suppose.

Barton Springs Root Beer is sweetened with pure cane sugar, and it shows. It's a very sweet drink, although the flavor is still a touch too watered down for my liking. I get a hint of anise in there, but otherwise it's not very distinctive. In fact, the more i drink it the less i like it. It's average at best, maybe even a little below average. Maybe if you drank one of these things while visiting Barton Springs it would taste better, like how Chinese food tastes better when you eat it using chopsticks.

My official review is that Barton Springs Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. Full disclosure, i'm actually writing this after the fact. I drank this in the Tampa airport before boarding the plane that would move me and my family back to Arizona. Plus, we had just eaten at the airport TGIFriday's and it was all very rushed, so i may not be giving this thing a fair shake. But still, it really didn't do it for me, and the only thing i can blame for that is the root beer itself.
Now if you'll excuse me, i have a baby to murder. My next post will likely be from prison.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gene Autry Root Beer

This root beer is bottled and distributed by Rocket Fizz as part of their line of root beers and sodas named after celebrities. I don't know much about Gene Autry other than he was a country singer, something i am definitely not an expert about. I don't even possess a remotely reputable opinion about country music in general, not to mention the works of the late Gene Autry. So for that reason, this was simply another root beer on my check list. Not something that got me excited like the Judge Wapner root beer (also by Rocket Fizz). In fact, i know so little about Gene Autry that when i went to the source of all truth to learn a little more about the man, i was surprised to learn that he was really more of a 1940's and 50's television and movie star than a country music star. And i was even MORE surprised to learn he performed several CLASSIC Christmas songs, and even wrote one himself. So it seems like there is a lot more to this guy than i am giving credit. I suppose he deserves his own posthumously awarded root beer.

The Label is a simple black and white photo of classic Gene Autry, posing in his cowboy get up with a horse. His name is spelled out in font that resembles lasso rope. It's very simple but very striking. I've come to find out his image is so iconic that it inspired generations of kids to dress up like cowboys, though before doing this review i would not have been able to determine who he was just by looking at a photo of him. The label is fitting for the man. Not really indicative of root beer other than saying the words "root beer" below his name, but i'm not gonna hold that against this one.

Oh that this beverage were half as great as the man himself. I don't know much about the guy but have at least a little respect for him now, and it pains me that his legacy is somewhat tarnished by this unappealing root beer. It's really not great. Sweetened with cane sugar, though the base flavors are not easily identified. It's a little spicy, but rather watery and overall just kinda tastes like bad fruit and leave a gross aftertaste. It's a shame that they used this opportunity to further immortalize a music and film legend with a very substandard root beer.

My official review is Gene Autry Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. And that's being generous. I thought maybe a 5 based on the merits of the man, but i can't let that slide. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone as a way to quench their thirst. Maybe for the Gene Autry fan and memorabilia collector, but not to anyone looking to enjoy a good solid root beer. Hopefully the root beer they name after me when i die is no where near this terrible.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chicago Root Beer

Keeping on the theme of location based root beers (see my last post), this root beer is named for the great city of Chicago, IL. Chicago Root Beer is bottled by Evolution Brands right in Chicago. The company makes and distributes several flavors of soda under the Chicago name. Not sure how long they've been in operation. It looks like they rely mostly on bulk orders with 24 bottles in a case at 60 cases per pallet. If you're interested in becoming a distributer there is some info on the website for you. But if you're like me and just want one bottle to try, you'll probably end up going to The Root Beer Store and getting a bottle for a few dollars plus an exorbitant amount of money for shipping. I'm sure i've mentioned this before, but i've been to Chicago a couple times and rather enjoyed myself. Nice little city.

The 12 oz glass bottle is laden with a label that is bland in color scheme but rich in imagery. The iconic Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) is displayed in the dead center, highlighting the fact that Chicago is a hub for architectural study and application of new and old ideas. My wife and i took a boat tour looking at all the different styles and disciplines of architecture displayed in the buildings lining the river. It was neat and enlightening. I'd recommend it. There was another tour on segways along the banks of Lake Michigan, but it was a little more than we wanted to spend. Maybe if we go back i would look into it. One thing i noticed on the label is that my bottle says "fountain classic" below the name and the pictures on the website say "draft style". I am not sure if there are two different styles of root beer they make, but i didn't see any evidence of that on the website. Looks like they probably just updated the label at some point. Anyway, the label is pretty nice. The end.

I don't love the taste. It's reminiscent of so many other forgettable root beers. It is sweetened with pure cane sugar and has a hint of carmel taste, but it the flavor fades fast and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Dozens of root beers have this same taste and they all fail to impress. For as great a city as Chicago is, this is not their best showing.

My official review is that Chicago Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. This one narrowly escaped a 3, but i guess i am just feeling generous tonight or something. It doesn't make me sick, but it's really not very worth while. Please go to Chicago and enjoy the scenery and fun elements of the city, but don't go out of your way to grab one of these root beers. I simply can't recommend it.