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.

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.