Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Maine Root Root Beer

My soon-to-be-dentist friend Dick found this little root beer next to the previously posted one at Cost Plus World Market. Maine Root Beer has been around since 2004 and is brewed in St. Scarborough, ME. It has a real hippie look to it and is all about the pure, natural flavors and what not (kind of like Virgil's). It was started by a couple brothers just helping out a friend with a restaurant and became popular enough to go into distribution. They actually make a whole line of different sodas with natural flavors and organic ingredients. Apparently people love this stuff. It has the appeal of being "all natural", so it's closer to the original stuff. In fact, there is a link on their website to this fun little website which is all about the natural root beer movement. I personally rather like the sweet and sugary "corporate" way of making root beer because it doesn't taste like boiled yard work, but i suppose that's open to discussion. I haven't messed around on this site too much, but there is a lot of silly stuff on there you can look at if you're really into root beer culture. Looks more like hippie culture to me, but whatever. Just don't believe everything you read (unless it's on this blog).

It comes in your typical dark brown 12 oz. glass bottle and the label on it has some weird root drawing or something on it and a list of all the ingredients (kind of like Virgil's). There is a lot of typed print on the label, i guess to reassure you that they really do use all these natural flavors. The color scheme is green, brown and white, very Earthy colors, and as i have already stated, i get the over all impression that this is a hippie root beer. Don't believe me? Look at a picture of it's creators on the home page of their site. Two words; greasy hippies.

Anyway, despite the fact that this is a hippie drink, it's not terrible. It's not great, but not terrible. It has the black licorice flavor, but not overpowering, it's semi-sweet and lightly carbonated (kind of like Virgil's). I guess what i am trying to say is that if you like Virgil's, you'll probably like this. It doesn't have the exact taste Virgil's does, but it's close. It also does not have the incredible marketing job that Virgil's has, with their giant bearded man and awesome packaging. All in all though, it's not a terrific drink, but it also doesn't taste like a dead guy, so that's a plus.

My official review is that Maine Root gets 4 (four) IBCs. This is one of those drinks you just have to like the basic taste of. Virgil's has a bit more to it than just the black licorice flavor which makes it more likeable for me. Maine Root simply compensates with a sweet sugary after taste. So again, if you like black licorice flavored root beers, be my guest. Just don't buy to much of this stuff. We don't want another hippie uprising.

Bundaberg Australian Root Beer

As you can probably tell from the post title, this little root beer comes from Australia. A friend of mine found it for me at Cost Plus World Market. Bundaberg is the city in which this brewery is located and operates in Australia. It was founded in 1960 and produces several flavors and types of soft drinks. If one was so inclined, they could take a tour of the Bundaberg Barrel and get a taste of their brewing experience. It's kind of a neat little structure. I doubt i'd take the time to go see it if i ever end up in Australia, but it might be worth snapping a quick picture or something.

The typical 12 oz. dark brown glass bottle has a fun yellow label on it with the root beer's name and a picture of Australia in the corner, reminding you where it's made. There is also a big kangaroo pictured in the center to reinforce that fact. The bottle i got wasn't all that interesting, but the one on the site looks pretty interesting to me. I would have liked to get one of these bottles cuz it looks like more fun. I'm sure you agree with me.

One thing that was different about this root beer is that it says right on the label that you need to invert the bottle before drinking. I believe it's because they use the yeast fermentation method of carbonation and it is in effort to stir up some of the settled ingredients before drinking it. Either way, inverted bottle or not, this stuff is bad. Not good at all. My darling wife believes it resembles the taste of cough medicine. It definitely has that yeast taste to it, and the company claims that it uses such authentic and natural ingredients in the old way of brewing and drinking root beer that it is "the way root beer used to taste". If that's the case, then no thanks. I wonder if they put a kangaroo on the label because that's what this stuff tastes like.
My official review is that Bundaberg gets 1 (one) IBC. I have seen other reviews that call it "the best root beer i didn't like", and recommending people need to try it at least once just to see what it's like. I disagree with this sentiment. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. It's just plain bad. On top of it all too, it's expensive, most likely because it's imported. So save yourself the money and skip this one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Abita Root Beer

This root beer has the claim on the bottom of the bottle that it is made with pure Louisiana cane sugar. Abita is a brewery founded in 1986 outside of New Orleans that makes both beer and root beer. Funny story... i was at the Pop Shop the other day picking up some more root beers and a customer came in and was asking the hippie at the counter for a root beer they have from Louisiana. I piped in and immediately said, "it's called Abita, and it's right over here." He came over and verified that it was indeed what he was looking for. So, you know... just proves how awesome i am. Abita Springs, the town where Abita is brewed, is noted for it's pure water springs which are fabled to have medicinal properties. In short, Abita cures cancer. I know, i was surprised too.

The 12 oz. stout glass bottle has a label that reminds me of Egyptian for some reason. It only uses a few colors, but looks like it could have hieroglyphics and it. Don't worry though, it doesn't. Just english. So don't worry about cracking out the Rosetta Stone just yet.

The taste of this thing is reminiscent of Thomas Kemper again. It has a decent root beer flavor, a hint of black licorice, and a mellow honey after taste. I didn't mind it, but it wasn't my favorite either. However, that malignant lump on my breast has since disappeared. Thanks again Abita.

My official review is that Abita gets 5 (five) IBCs. It wasn't bad as far as the taste goes. The honey taste was mellow and didn't go too far and it was a decent over all blend of root beer. My lovely wife didn't care much for it though, and i don't know that i liked it enough to get it again. Unless of course i break my leg or have clogged arteries or contract tuberculosis. Don't worry Abita, i got your number.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sioux City Root Beer

This root beer has a long and rich history of American heritage. You can learn more about it on the website, but the basics are that Sioux City Beverages are part of the White Rock water company which was founded in Waukesha, WI in 1871. It was later bought by National Distillers and moved its operation to New York state where it is currently produced. In 1975, White Rock introduced Sioux City Sarsaparilla, which is the first in the Sioux City line of flavors. I quite enjoyed the sarsaparilla when i tasted it, and i'll admit that i like it better than the root beer, but i'll get to that in a moment. Anyway, the company itself has a long and distinct history, but i will let you read up on that if you care to. Quite impressive and worth a look if you have the time (or care in the slightest about beverage history). However, guess what else White Rock distributes... Olde Brooklyn. Boooo... That was a very unimpressive root beer. But hey, you can't win all the time.

The 12 oz. brown glass bottle is fairly standard. It looks a little more stout than a typical bottle though and reminds me of a Stewart's bottle. Each flavor has a different picture embossed on the bottle, all of which are cowboy themed. They are going for that old west look and feel. This one looks like a sheriff sitting in a saloon playing some cards and enjoying a delicious mug of root beer. The sarsaparilla has a picture of a sheriff walking through the swinging doors of the saloon, presumably on his way to sit down, play some cards, and enjoy a delicious mug of root beer. Not sure if there is any kind of connection with chronology there, but i doubt it. I'm probably just stretching for something that's not there.

As far as taste goes, you already know that i enjoy the sarsaparilla more (which i am debating the idea of including sarsaparillas in my reviews because it is so similar to root beer), but that doesn't mean the root beer is bad. In fact, i think it's quite good. I rather enjoyed it. It has a nice, mellow wintergreen flavor to begin with and then it has a kick of something to it that kind of reminds me of Gale's root beer, which i have reviewed previously. It's almost like the yeast taste that i thought i tasted in Gale's, but it could be something completely different. Either way though, i thought it was pretty good. A nice blend. I was also interested to see that Sioux City uses both cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Not sure how many sodas do this, but it's the first time i took notice.

My official review is that Sioux City gets 6 (six) IBCs. It's a good root beer, no doubt. I like the taste of the different and unique flavors as they blend together. Like i said, it reminded me of Gale's, but i think Gale could take some lessons from Sioux City. Grab one if it's available, or if you can find the sarsaparilla, i say go for that one instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sea Dog Root Beer

I have seen this one around, on different websites and even on display in a restaurant. Sea Dog Root Beer is similar to other root beers that are actually restaurants selling their root beers commercially, except that Sea Dog started out as a brewery and moved into the restaurant business later. It is centered in Maine and was started in the town of Camden in 1993. Sea Dog also brews beers and competes internationally with its brews.

The 12 oz. bottle has a picture of a lovable little dog on the label wearing a longshoreman's hat. That is just so tender. Awww... Anyway, his name is Barney, and he is a Great Pyrenees breed. The website speaks very affectionately of Barney and maintains that he embodies the spirit of their brews, including their root beer. Oh, and also he's dead. Just thought i should mention that.

I am not a fan of Sea Dog. Now, i have never been to Maine and don't really intend to make plans to do so anytime soon, but if i do, maybe i will stop by the restaurant and give it a whirl. But as far as the root beer is concerned, i am not interested. It has that base black licorice flavor that i am just not a fan of. I will say though, they don't go over board with it. It's fairly mellow and i appreciate that. I also swear i taste a hint of honey in the after taste, but i didn't see anything about honey mentioned in the ingredients. Either way though, it wasn't what i was looking for in a root beer.

My official review is the Sea Dog gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not terribly done, but at its core it is not my favorite blend of flavors. I am sure there is a market for it out there though and some people just rave about it. Maybe it's up your alley, maybe not. But as far as i'm concerned, i don't think i'll have it again any time soon.

Cool Mountain Root Beer

This little root beer sat quietly on the Pop Shop shelf almost hidden among the other root beers. I was scouring the rest of the root beers i have yet to try and stumbled upon this little bottle. Cool Mountain has only been around since 1997 and makes several different flavors of soda. The name of it took me off guard at first and made me think of the 2003 movie Cold Mountain, which has quite an eclectic cast if i might say so myself. They are situated in Des Plaines, IL. In this respect, they kind of remind me of Jones, but don't offer the crazy, out-on-a-limb kinds of flavors that Jones does. I think Cool Mountain also participates in giving back to the community, or at least promoting education, because along with the company's website, there is this website listed on the bottle. Good for you Cool Mountain. My hat is off.

The clear glass 12 oz. bottle has a clear, rather colorless sticker label with a nice mountain range pictured below the root beer's name. Makes me think of the majestic Rocky Mountains. You know, because Des Plains, IL is typically known by the presence of the majestic Rocky Mountains close to the vicinity. So right there, they lost the credibility they earned from donating to/promoting education for Native Americans. And we already know how i feel about sodas in clear bottles. I am skeptical at best about them.

I was at a BBQ recently (see the post about Mason's Root Beer) and one of the people there picked up a bottle of this root beer and said, "this one is one of the ones i really liked." I had not tried it at that point, but i knew he was a Weinhard's fan and that i couldn't trust his judgement. Well what do you know... i'm a genius. This stuff isn't good. It's not bad, but it's not even "alright". It's just kind of... blah. Really watery and little carbonation, the only thing i could really taste outside of the faint root beer flavor is the cane sugar. It loses flavor so fast that i was disinterested with it after just a few drinks.

My official review is that Cool Mountain gets 3 (three) IBCs. I really don't have much to say about this one except that it is very forgettable. It's not necessarily bad tasting, but it holds no appeal for me. You can give it a try if you'd like, but i would recommend saving the money and just drinking sugar water instead to achieve the same effect.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mason's Root Beer

This is another little root beer that falls under the Real Soda umbrella. The bottle says it's produced in Atlanta, GA, but i don't know how long it has been around. I actually picked this one up at a BBQ i was invited to by a coworker (hence the wierd stucco background in the picture since i took it outside his house with my cell phone). I found a tag line on the Real Soda site alluding to ties with The Masons, a centuries old secret society with many prominent members over the years. This isn't the best source for an introduction to this group, but if you are completely unfamiliar with the Masons, go watch the movie National Treasure, starring Nicholas Cage. It is about the Masons and American History (but done up with Hollywood writing and effects). Or, just drink the root beer. It's actually made from an old Masonic root beer recipe. At least i choose to believe that.

It comes in a typical 12 oz. glass bottle and the label is very plain and rather dull. Nothing with actual Masonic ties since the Masons have a rich history of symbols and elaborate decoration with secret meaning. This is just a big M and the word Mason's in it and a picture of a root beer barrel with the words "keg brewed flavor" written on it. Not very Masonish if you ask me. Not even really brick-layer masonish. Maybe the guy who brewed it is named Mason.

As far as the taste goes, it was nothing new to me. I am thinking of putting a little piece into my reivews to tell people what other root beers the root beer i am reviewing reminds me of. For this one i would say, "tastes like: Jack Black's Dead Red, Dad's, Rat Bastard". But i guess i already kinda do that, so i probably won't add that little section. Anyway, it has that nutmeggy, pumpkin spicey taste to it that seems to be pretty common in a lot of root beers. It's not overpowering, and it's not a bad tasting drink, but it's not really anything new or different either.

My official review is that Mason's gets 6 (six) IBCs. It gets the same rating as all the other sodas it tastes like (except Rat Bastard, which is just a jerk). Really, there is very little differentiation to me between these sodas. Jack Black's is a bit stronger on the flavor, but other than that, i don't know that i could pick them out in a blind taste test. So if you're into those root beers, try this one too. It's nothing new, but it's right up your alley.

Zuberfizz Creamy Root Beer

This little root beer with a funny name comes from Durango, CO and has been around since 2002. Zuberfizz Soda Company makes sodas in several flavors and distributes them all over the west, but mostly just within Colorado. I have actually tried a different flavor soda by this company and it wasn't bad. I have also been to Durango several times to do some snowboarding. The little town is knows for Purgatory Ski Resort, which is a lot of fun if you're into that kind of thing. Big Jeff even owns a time share there. It's a quaint little town that tries to be big, but maintain it's small town reputation. Oh... and Zuberfizz makes root beer there.

It comes in a stout 12 oz. bottle and has a colorful, modern, and well done label. Big font, soda cap design in the background and along one side (you can't see in this picture), and a good match of bright and dark colors. Not that the colors of the label have much to do with the taste of the root beer, but i (the expert) thought it was worth mentioning.

Zuberfizz is another one of those companies that is big time into the cane sugar idea. So all their sodas are made with cane sugar. That's fine, i like cane sugar sodas for the most part, but i don't usually go out of my way for them or anything. Another ingredient they use, at least in their root beer, is honey, which is why Zuberfizz tastes a lot like Thomas Kemper to me. It's not nearly as strong as Thomas Kemper, and there is much more of a root beer taste before the honey after taste, but over all, i didn't like it all that much.

My official review is that Zuberfizz gets 5 (five) IBCs. It was fine for what it is, and i would drink it over Thomas Kemper, but i am not really a huge fan of the honey taste. However, if you do like the honey taste, i think Zuberfizz at least does it right. It's not overpowering and it's not a bad compliment to the rest of the root beer flavor. Ultimately though, i would go for something a bit different or try one of their other flavors.

Gray's Gourmet Root Beer

I couldn't find a lot about this one on the internet either. No official site that i know of, but several sites where you can buy it online. However, looking at the label on the bottle we can see that Gray's Root Beer is brewed in Janesville, WI (which is Wisconsin, in case you were wondering). The label also says that it's a family own and run operation since 1856 and gets its name from the family that runs it. It doesn't make me think of the Gray family, it makes me think of Gray's Anatomy, and what an awful and stupid TV show it is. Luckily this root beer has no connection (that i know of) to terrible TV programming. To be honest, i am pretty disappointed by most all TV shows these days. Anyway, this is about root beer, and not TV shows. If you want a review of TV shows, you'll have to visit my other blog,

It comes in a clear glass 12 oz. bottle that is pretty standard. The label is brown with big font and a little cartoon picture of a root beer barrel. It's fairly simple, but i can appreciate it. It gets the message across. Whatever.

It's a good root beer, but nothing special about it. It has a good, classic root beer taste to it that's enjoyable, but nothing much else. I was a little surprised that it was as good as it is. I don't know what it is, but i almost have a bias against a root beer in a clear bottle. However, this root beer uses high fructose corn syrup. A lot of the independent brews use cane sugar, and when they come in a clear bottle, i usually am not as impressed with the taste. Just noticing a trend here. I believe the scientific method would call for me to make a hypothesis based on my observations, so i would make the hypothesis that perhaps the amount of light that is let in by the clear bottle affects the content of the soda (particularly the cane sugar) and alters the taste slightly. I'm probably wrong, but i gave it a shot, right? And hey, in my opinion science is really just about sounding smart.

My official review is that Gray's gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's a good, basic root beer. Not amazing and not really unique at all, but it's good. It will just have to join the ranks of all those other middle of the road root beers. I'm not sure how widely distributed it is, but i didn't mind it and you should give it a try if it's available.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Waialua Root Beer

It's probably not hard to guess where this root beer comes from, but i'll go ahead and tell you anyway. Waialua Root Beer is bottled in Waialua, HI and has only been around since 2003. My wife has a cousin who lives on Oahu not far from Waialua. If i had known about this root beer back in May 2007 (or been doing this blog back then), i might have made a special trip to visit the bottling plant while my then fiance and i were there visiting. Waialua also makes a few other flavors that are centered around flavors found in the Hawaiian Islands such as mango, pineapple, and vanilla cream. These four flavors are all Waialua Sodaworks produces at this moment. I think when my wife and i retire in the Hawaiian Islands (which we intend to do), we will have to sample all the other flavors as well.

Waialua bottles all of its sodas in clear 12 oz. glass bottles. They kind of make a point of using clear glass bottles because it's what all companies used to do in the old days or something. Hmmm... neat. Anyway, the label is a lot of fun to look at if you are a guy and a great source of jealousy if you are that guy's wife. My wife hates the label, as well as the fact that i can't stop looking at it even now. That's right hula girl... shake that skirt of yours. There is some writing at the bottom that looks like it is of Asian origin. I was surprised to discover that Honolulu has a large population of Japanese people, so i would guess it's Japanese. But it doesn't really look like Japanese to me. I would ask a friend of mine that used to live there, but he only pretends to speak Japanese and doesn't really know any of it. He's basically worthless when it comes to speaking and reading Japanese. Plus he's allergic to milk, so... you know... can't trust him anyway.

Waialua sticks to its promise of using only native Hawaiian flavors because their root beer doesn't taste like root beer at all. All i can taste is brown sugar. It's not a bad taste, but it is rather overwhelmingly sweet. Not what i am looking for a in a root beer personally, so it doesn't really do it for me. Additionally, Waialua has little carbonation in it and tastes a bit flat.

My official review is that Waialua gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not a typical root beer. I think it's a stretch really to call it a root beer at all, but i'll go with it for the sake of argument. I loved Hawaii when i was there and am more than happy to promote anything Hawaiian, but i can't in good conscience give it more than a 4. It's decent, but sweet and lacking in the real root beer flavor. Try it if you'd like, especially if you're in Hawaii (it might have a different effect over there), but i would choose other standard root beers over this one when it comes to taste.

Empire Bottling Works Root Beer

Here is a root beer that's hard to track down on the web (as far as an official site), but luckily a lot of the info we want is printed on the bottle itself. Empire Bottling Works is based in Bristol, RI and has been in operation since 1930. There is a phone number on the bottle if anyone is interested in calling them. Just click on the picture to enlarge it if you can't quite make it out. We are back to a lot of the sodas that use real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and Empire is one of them. I don't know much else about the company, but let's face it, you (my loyal readers) could probably care less about the company. So let's just get down to brass tacks.

I got off on the wrong foot with this one and was already expecting it to be garbage. For starters, i hate the bottle. It's a 12 oz. bottle that has an irregular shape. It kinda reminds me of the old milk bottles from back in the day when they left them on your door step (remember that kids? *sigh* boy, memories...). The label is very retro with a 40s or 50s look to it. You'll have to click on the picture to enlarge it to get a better look at what i am talking about, but this bottle is filthy too. It's covered in some goopy guk stuff on the left side of the picture like it had scotch tape on it that melted in the sun and then was peeled off and left the residue. Also, the label is scuffed and ripped up, which i don't like. But guess what. This is the best/cleanest bottle i could find. For realsies. They all seemed like they were covered in this crap, and most of the labels on the bottles i saw got the worse end of the deal that this one got. Now i suppose we could crack it up to having one of the bottles break and spill over all the others or something, but i went to a different section and found a different bottle of Empire, and the bottle was a different shape (still 12 oz.) and it was still covered in goop with a jacked up label. Come on Empire, get with it. It makes me think they just salvage any bottles they can, regardless of uniformity, and fill them with root beer without washing them.

When i opened it up, it had a nice smell of wintergreen, so i was hoping it might redeem itself for what it lacked in looks with taste. It has a decent wintergreen flavor to start with (which i like), some regular old root beer flavor, and it almost tastes like bubble gum in the after taste. But the taste doesn't last long and it leaves kind of a taste of aspartame i your mouth that's rather unpleasant. My wife said it reminded her of a diet soda, which i have read on other reviews for this root beer. There is also little carbonation in it. It's not flat, but i would have liked it to be more carbonated. Unfortunately, it didn't win me over.

My official review is that Empire gets 3 (three) IBCs. Not the best showing in a root beer. The taste itself isn't half bad, but it's not very memorable or outstanding. They lost me big time on the bottle though. I seriously think they fished it out of the trash and just filled it with root beer. But hey, i bet it cuts down on cost. Sorry Empire, but i am recommending my readers to go ahead and skip you.

Addendum: 7/23/2010 - So, nothing to do with root beer really, but one of the things my trip to California recently rewarded me with was a chance to visit a Rocket Fizz store and meet the owner, a swell guy. I bought a few root beers and my wife got some old timey candy, and he actually gave me a bottle of Empire Bottling Works Spruce Beer free of charge. It is a clear soda (think Sprite or 7-Up), but he said he hadn't tried it and wanted to know what i thought of it. So i cracked the thing open and... WOW! That stuff is powerful strong, not in a good way. Seriously, it tastes like Vick's Vaporub. I would say if you can find it just get one for the experience. You only need to do it once though. I doubt you'll go back for seconds.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bulldog Root Beer

I was introduced to this root beer by a colleague of mine who spoke quite highly of it. Bulldog Root Beer has only been around since 1997. It is brewed in Fresno, CA, and one thing i found interesting was that the brew master is a woman. Hmmm... i thought that couldn't be true at first since women have smaller brains than men and are far inferior to them, but i guess it's almost like cooking, so i suppose that's feasible. Anyway, they make it a point to tell you that they brew (i.e. cook) their root beer, and don't just mix a bunch of artificial flavors. It seems like most of the root beers out there want to have the street cred of "real" and "authentic" taste that only comes with long boring testimonials on their websites. Well whatever, the point is that it's root beer one way or another. Just cuz it's "authentic" doesn't always mean it's good.

The bottle is a typical 12 oz. and on the label is pictured two adorable dogs named Hops and Barley whose breed the root beer is named for. Now, here is where i am confused, and maybe someone can straighten this out for me. I am not a dog expert (i am too busy being a root beer expert), but the name of the root beer is Bulldog and those don't look like bulldogs to me, they look like pitbulls. Am i wrong here? Is that ok to call it Bulldog Root Beer and not Pitbull Root Beer? I know i am splitting hairs here and it has nothing to do with the taste of the root beer, but it still kinda bothers me. I mean what if i called my root beer Lighthouse Root Beer and put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it? It just doesn't make sense to me. But whatever.

Although my colleague spoke so highly of it, i have to admit i wasn't too impressed. My very first impression was, "this tastes like Weinhard's." Normally i would spit that cursed liquid out and run my tongue over a cheese grater to get the taste out of my mouth, but i am a professional and as such i promised i would review this root beer. What i mean when i say it tastes like Weinhard's is that it has the same candy corn flavor. It's not nearly as strong though, and not nearly as sickly sweet. Then the after taste hit me and i thought to myself, "this tastes like Thomas Kemper." One of their key ingredients, like Thomas Kemper, is honey, and it has the same kind of honey taste that TK has, but again not nearly as strong. So it's kind of like a blend of low potency Weinhard's and Thomas Kemper. I didn't care more for TK and i absolutely abhor Weinhard's, so i wasn't all that fond of this one. In Bulldog's defense though, the blend of the tastes combined with the toned down potency wasn't a bad mix, but i personally just didn't find it all that appealing.

My official review is that Bulldog gets 4 (four) IBCs. I couldn't in good conscience rate it higher than Thomas Kemper, and the candy corn taste wasn't winning it any points. Again, this is probably one of those root beers that fits a particular taste. It wasn't awful, but it's not my cup of tea. I would pass this one up and go for something else.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A&W Root Beer

I'll round out my reviews of the juggernauts of root beer that i have sampled recently with this one. And i mean it for realsies this time... if you haven't heard of or tried this one, you have a shallow and meaningless life that you should probably just go ahead and end sometime in the near future. A&W was started in 1919, the same blessed year IBC began brewing root beer. This is the big one kids. I would wager that this is probably the best known root beer in the country, and possibly on the planet. They are such a big deal that they landed the website domain name Quite a catch, if you ask me. A&W gets it's name from the two founders, Roy Allen and Frank Wright. They combined the first letters of their last names to create A&W. Allen eventually bought out Wright and started a franchise restaurant to sell hamburgers along with his root beer. A&W has since basically become the McDonald's of root beer. There are still A&W fast food restaurants around. The food is ok, but the root beer is the real draw and appeal. There is a lot more history about the company on their site, so if you'd like to do a little research of your own, feel free.

Again, i picked this up at a gas station in a 20 oz. plastic bottle, although it's not your typical plastic bottle. It has a different shape to it which is unique to A&W (as far as plastic bottles go). The logo is displayed on a background made to look like a barrel. Again, i don't particularly care for the plastic bottles, so this one isn't a big deal to me. I think of any of the bigger named root beers though, this shouldn't be too difficult to find in a 12 oz. glass bottle. I could be wrong, and if i am, you're pathetic for wasting your time just trying to prove me wrong. It doesn't mean you're cooler or smarter than me, it just means you need a hobby. Or a girlfriend, but i doubt you're attractive enough to find someone who will tolerate the sight of you. But thanks for being a loyal reader regardless.

Addendum 7/25/2010: well look here, i found it in a glass bottle. It wasn't too difficult either. There is a place in Los Angeles called Galco's that sells A&W in glass bottles.

Also, i found a bottle of A&W BBQ sauce while i was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and i thought it was kinda funny. They actually have several different sauces flavored with various sodas and liquors. I didn't try it or anything, but i am a fan of A&W as well as a fan of BBQ. So maybe i'll mail order some to try it out. I get the feeling it just tastes like BBQ sauce though.

Addendum 7/1/2016:  I also just found these new A&W flavored Pop Tarts. Gimmicky, but they did pretty good on the taste. Not terrible. I took them on a camping trip and we had them for breakfast. The only thing that would have made them better would be to wash them down with some IBC.

I don't need to go on and on about how A&W tastes. It's good, we all know that. I will say it reminded me a lot of Stewart's with a nice carmel finish. It can't be as popular as it is by tasting gross, right? So they have to be doing something right. I will see other reviewers from time to time talk about how A&W isn't even good, it's just a low end mass produced root beer. I have a term for these people; root beer snobs. They are the same people who turn their nose up at your favorite band or movie because it's so trendy, and then list off several bands or movies no one has ever heard of to validate their own need to be individual and break away from the mainstream. Seriously, i know people have different tastes, but stop being a tool and putting down a good, classic and original root beer to promote others that no one has ever heard of so you can "express your individuality". No one cares what you think, they care what i think. And further more, no one takes your opinions seriously when you start out by downgrading a perfectly good root beer like this.

My official review is that A&W gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I am sure most people will feel this rating is more than fair. I still have my favorites, but i will acknowledge good taste when i come across it. It's a good soda, people. It's all over the place. Get one. I recommend it.

p.s. if you REALLY want to know what the worst band currently performing is, click here. It's true, they're so trendy and lame. Someone needs to stop them.

Man... i'm so awesome.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mug Root Beer

Again, here is another root beer that is going to be well known among just about everyone. I'm probably going to keep this one short. Mug Root Beer is common just about all over the U.S. I picked this one up in a gas station also. According to the site, Mug started in the 1950's in San Francisco, CA. The root beer's mascot, a bull dog named "Dog" (well at least it's easy to remember) has a history of his own listed on the website. I doubt it's true, but it makes for a cute and fun little story i suppose. Whatever. The point is, Mug has made a name for itself and, like Barq's, can be found in restaurants and gas stations all over the country.

Again, because i bought it in a gas station, it's in a pretty regular 20 oz. plastic bottle. I hope to be able to review at least most of my root beers in glass bottles, but i realize i will have to do some from plastic bottles, and at some point maybe even cans. But if i can find this in a glass bottle i will update the picture and maybe the review. The label is very colorful and polished with the mascot holding a mug of root beer under the name. He's cuter on the label than he is on the website, where he kinda freaks me out a little. Just take a look and i think you'll see what i mean.

This is a good root beer, but not much less or more. I like it a lot, and there is something about it that is specific to Mug and sets it apart, yet it's still quite anonymous in the way of root beers and can be lumped in to a lot of the regular middle of the road variety. I enjoy the classic root beer taste though and the nice carbonation. Mug also uses high fructose corn syrup instead of pure cane sugar, and again, i think that's simply to save money because it's such a widely distributed root beer and part of a large conglomerate (i.e. Pepsi). But i don't hold that against a root beer. At this point, i don't care about the whole corn syrup/cane sugar feud. Whatever guys, let's just act like gentlemen and let bygones be bygones. Except you, Wienhard's. You're still worthless.

My official review is that Mug gets 6 (six) IBCs. Like Barq's, i end up drinking a lot of this stuff while i am out and about. It's a good root beer and deserves the reputation it has, but again, it's not really anything special. I like it, but i wouldn't choose it out of a line up. Weather traveling or eating out, chances are you'll be drinking this soon anyway, so i don't really care if you pick one up or not.

Barq's Root Beer

I went on a little trip this weekend to visit my family for Thanksgiving and wanted to pick up some root beers to review, so i thought i would do some of the basics. The next few reviews should be root beers that are foreign to nobody. One such review would be for Barq's Root Beer. It has been around since 1898. Barq's is brewed in New Orleans, LA and is part of the Coca-Cola family. When i lived in Toronto, i was told by everyone that it was a Canadian root beer. Supposedly there were hilarious Canadian TV commercials for it, but i never saw one since i didn't watch TV. Of course, Canadians take claim for inventing a lot of things which just isn't true (i.e. basketball,, black people, the phrase "for a good time", etc.). Anyway, the good news for us though is that you can find it all over the United States. I picked this one up in a gas station.
Barq's proudly flaunts the tagline, "Barq's has bite." I'm not sure what this means, but i do know that when i mentioned Barq's to my wife and Sweet Lola Jane, they both independently mentioned to me that Barq's has bite, in case i wasn't aware. So i guess that counts for something. It is one of the few root beers that contains caffeine, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I was unable to find a glass bottle of this stuff, so i went with the 20 oz. plastic bottle common to most soft drinks found in a gas station. If anyone knows where to get this stuff in a 12 oz. glass bottle, let me know so i can give it my professional review and see if it still measures up. The logo has been the same for as long as i can remember. The same bold, cursive font proudly displaying this soda's name is easy to spot among the shelf of soft drinks.

If you haven't ever tasted Barq's, 1) stop being stupid and get in touch with society man, you're embarrassing everyone, and 2) it definitely has a bite to it. I think i mostly taste the strong, rich root beer flavor, but it has a very subtle hint of a wish of a dream of a whisper of black licorice flavor to top it off. It is ever so subtle, and that's why it's good. As you know, i don't like black licorice, but this flavor is a definite plus to the soda as it doesn't hinder the rest of the rich root beer taste. It's quite a compliment to the rest of the flavor. Most of the lesser known root beers i pick up from the Pop Shop proudly display the fact that they are made with pure cane sugar. This is not the case with Barq's. They go the money saving route by using high fructose corn syrup instead, which is common in most soft drinks. I don't know that it tastes any better or worse, i just know it's good.

My official review is that Barq's gets 6 (six) IBCs. I know i just ranted and raved about it and it may seem like i am kind of giving it the shaft now, but i mean Barq's no disrespect. It's a genuinely good root beer and i drink it a lot. My only beef is that because it is so widely distributed, i end up drinking it a lot. Therefore, if i have the option, i am usually going to reach for something else to try a little variety. But a lot of gas stations and fast food joints stock this stuff, and i never shy away from it when i am in the mood for a root beer and it's my option. So grab one when necessary, but try something new if you have the option.

***ADDENDUM 5/12/2019***
Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. I just wanted to drop a quick update to this post to say i found a 12 oz glass bottle of Barq's at the local Rocket Fizz here in Gilbert, AZ. The bottle is pretty cool looking, with an old fashioned throw back design for the printed on label and some neat looking facets in the glass bottle to add some texture and flare. I like the overall aesthetic, and it still has the same great taste we've all come to expect from Barq's. This doesn't mean i am amending my score. You still get a 6, Barq's. But it's good to know i can grab one of these in a glass bottle if the mood strikes me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Berghoff Root Beer

This root beer has been around a while. Berghoff is also a restaurant that bottles and sells its root beer commercially. The Berghoff restaurant is located in Chicago, IL and has been making root beer since 1898. The website shows a picture of the restaurant and it looks like a pretty swingin' joint. I have been through Chicago once as well (on the same road trip that took me through St. Louis) and spent an afternoon there, but didn't get a chance to look for Berghoff's. Probably because i didn't even know it existed. But anyway, it was started by a German immigrant and has a rich history (which you can read about on the site if you so choose to). The restaurant looks pretty cool. Reminds me of Cheers in Boston, which in case you didn't know, the inside of Cheers looks nothing like the TV set which was filmed in Los Angeles.

The bottle is your standard 12 and has a very ornate label. It looks like an actual beer bottle label. This isn't much of a shock at all considering Berghoff originally made beer. But it has lots of fancy looking font, gold colors, and it's eye catching for sure. I think it probably compliments the history of the company, and i should know since i'm a huge history buff. Man... i'm so smart.

Anyway, moving on to taste. It's a good root beer. I liked it and it has the good root beer flavor, but it kind of puzzles me. It has another element to it that for the life of me i just cannot identify. There is just something about it that i can't place. It's not bad by any means, but it bugs me that a professional of the highest caliber like myself cannot figure out exactly what this root beer tastes like. I will say this though, the extra whatever doesn't take away from the flavor, but it doesn't really add to it either. It's just kinda there. So all in all, Berghoff is just another regular root beer.
My official review is that Berghoff gets 5 (five) IBCs. I didn't mind it at all, but it kind of your standard middle of the road kind of root beer. I am not sure how widely distributed this root beer is either, but i wouldn't pick one up unless you wanted to help me figure out what i'm tasting. But to be completely honest, i'm the professional here and you're not. What do you know about root beer? Nothing. So i probably wouldn't listen to you anyway.

Thanks for being a loyal reader though...

Fitz's Root Beer

Here is another root beer i hadn't heard of before i became a world renowned professional root beer reviewer. Fitz's Root Beer has been brewed and bottled in St. Louis, MO since 1947. That's where Big Jeff was born, so that's kinda neat. The website says that Fitz's is also a drive-in style restaurant that is still in operation today and sells its root beer commercially. I drove through St. Louis one time with my wife (then girlfriend) and a few other friends on our way out to beautiful Buffalo, NY. I doubt i will ever make that drive again, but i decide to, i might make a detour to go and visit Fitz's drive-in to see if it's any good. Check out this video of of a recent news piece done about Fitz's restaurant. The bottling plant is located right in the restaurant, and they cater to both kids and adults. Sounds like a cool place to me.

It's a 12 oz bottle, but it has a little different shape to it. It's almost like the short, stout bottles of Iron Horse and Thomas Kemper, but it's tall instead of short. Either way, i like it. I also dig the label design. It's colorful and modern while maintaining a retro look. It's also very simple, but it caught my eye when i was picking out root beers at the Pop Shop. There isn't a lot to it, but something about it sticks out to me. You can disagree with me and say it doesn't to you, but we all know you're lying, don't we readers? (i like to get my readers involved. keeps the morale high.)

To top it all off, Fitz's is a good tasting root beer. It's not really amazingly different at all, but it has that good mellow wintergreen flavor followed with a smooth vanilla finish. It's well carbonated and easy to drink. Sip it or chug it, this stuff is pretty ok.

My official review is that Fitz's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. It's not necessarily an original flavor, but i enjoyed it none the less. Plus, the news piece makes the restaurant look like it's a pretty cool place to visit. I'm not sure how widely distributed this stuff is, but i think it's worth picking up again, and if you get the chance you should try it out too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rat Bastard Root Beer

This root beer is a jerk that almost demands that you drink it. Rat Bastard is one of those terms you hear on NYC cop dramas on TV or in the movies. Honestly, being from Arizona, i don't know the true implication of calling someone that, except that you mean to tell them they are a big meany and you don't like them. I can't find where Rat Bastard is bottled or how long it has been around. I would wager some where either in or near New Jersey or NYC. Again, on the bottle i am directed to visit this site, but i find it incredibly unhelpful. I am not sure what i am supposed to be looking at/for. So it's a mystery. How about i just make something up and you believe me. Ok? Here goes. Rat Bastard is bottled in Kentucky. It has been around since March.

Ok, but really, here is what i do know about Rat Bastard; it's very arbitrarily aggressive. The bottle is your typical 12 oz. dark brown glass bottle. The label has multiple funky colors and has a sloppy, hand written feel to it. It has several things written on the label that just come off like this root beer is really mad at you. I get the feeling like, "What are you lookin' at?! Just drink me, you queer!" On top of the cap, it says an insulting word not suitable for our younger readers, and under the cap it just says, "Stop putting Canadian quarters in the parking meter!" I imagine other caps have different complaints listed under them. Hey, RB... why so angry? Seriously, is the world that mean to you? Come on, lighten up. Maybe if you weren't $2 a bottle (yup, it's a pricey one) people would like you more and be more friendly to you. And to be honest, i wouldn't have even bought you if i weren't reviewing root beers. You jerk. You big bully meany jerk.

As far as taste goes, Rat Bastard isn't bad, but it's nothing new. Again, i immediately thought of Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer. They have the same distributor and refer to the same useless website (, so i imagine they come from basically the same place. It's different in that it's not nearly as strong of a nutmeg flavor as JBDR. I actually almost appreciated it more because it wasn't so overpowering. But it also lacked a lot of carbonation and it was basically flat. So that was a downer. All in all it was kind of a let down cuz it felt like i had already tried this one.

My official review is that Rat Bastard gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's not a terrible soda, but it's nothing new. I have tasted this already, and the fact that it has so little carbonation turns me off. And it doesn't help that it is just so aggressive. At least to for me it doesn't. I just don't care to be bullied around by my root beer. I get enough of that from my wife. And the final blow came when i had to pay $2 for a regular bottle of it. I just didn't think it was worth it. So i would say skip this one and get a Dad's or a JBDR instead if you want a similar taste.

Stewart's Root Beer

This one shouldn't be new to anyone. It's a real classic and can be found all over the place. Stewart's has been around since 1924. It was actually started by Frank Stewart, a school teacher looking to supplement his income. The company only recently began bottling and selling root beer out of Rye Brook, NY. Up until 1990, you had to go to a Steward's root beer stand or drive-in, and up until 1992, the only flavor they sold was root beer. Now it can be found in grocery stores and gas stations all over the country and they have several flavors to choose from and continue to produce more. I would be surprised if people haven't at least seen Stewart's around. I have actually had Stewart's several times before, though i haven't had to review it until now.

The bottle is a shorter, sorta stout 12, though i am not as drawn to this one as i am to the Iron Horse or Thomas Kemper designs. It has the label printed on a clear sticker in just a few colors (orange, white, and brown) and is pretty simple. It's not really flashy, but it doesn't really need to be. I think the name is recognized enough that people know what they are getting into.

It has that classic root beer taste with a nice, rich carmel finish. I was eating chips before i drank it, and it almost tasted like carmel popcorn to me from the salt. But my wife assured me it was just a carmel flavor, and not a carmel popcorn flavor. In fact, she insisted it tasted like carmel syrup that you would put on ice cream. I promptly raised the back of my hand to her, ready to strike, and she remembered her place.

My official review is that Stewart's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I like this root beer a lot. It's not an IBC, but it's a good substitute for one if you can't find one. The good, solid root beer flavor is well complimented by the carmel after taste. This also reminds me of Iron Horse, which i found quite delicious. But i still think Iron Horse is better. Anyway, the great thing about Stewart's (besides the fact that it's good) is that you can find it all over the place, so it's readily available. Grab one where ever you are, cuz it should be easy to find.

And if i may take a minute to be serious, i love my wife and i never hit her. Domestic violence is nothing to make fun of or joke about. Except for this. Makes me laugh every time.

Faygo Root Beer

Here is one i had never heard of before doing my reviews. Faygo was started in 1907 in Detroit, MI by Russian brothers who were originally bakers. Faygo offers a variety of different flavors of soda. The website give a detailed history of their beginnings and successes. One of the mentions on the website is that their logo was updated, which makes me think this bottle i have pictured is the old logo. The logo on the website looks a little more modern. One thing i thought particularly interesting about this one is that you can buy a copy of one of their old 1970's TV commercials singing a memorable song from your childhood (if you're old enough). Oh... and you have to buy it on VHS. Hmmm... i don't think i even have a VCR any more. I guess it's supposed to be a very popular song from back then that people will want to keep in their video and music libraries. Perhaps you can get a copy of just the song... on vinyl or cassette. Seems like they might be a bit trapped back in the "glory days".

This bottle is a 12 oz clear glass bottle, and like i mentioned above, i think this might be the old logo. It's very retro, but i don't dislike it. It's kind of endearing. But it just goes to show that these guys have been around for a long time. I imagine it's fairly popular in some circles, but this is the first i have heard of it.

It's not a bad tasting drink. It definitely has that classic root beer taste, but on top of that there is another flavor i am having difficulty pinpointing. It reminds me of a candy from my childhood, and i want to say circus peanuts, but i am sure that's not right. I just can't exactly figure out what i am tasting. But it's good. Not amazing, but good. I liked the rich, classic root beer flavor followed by the childhood candy flavor which i will identify for now as those crappy little marshmallow circus peanut candies that make you sick if you eat more than 6 of them. It makes for a good tasting root beer though.

My official review is that Faygo gets 6 (six) IBCs. I was teetering on giving it a 7, but it's just not that amazing. It's good, and i would drink it again, but i couldn't quite give it a 7. It's more middle of the road than extraordinary. But i would choose it over some of the other brands out there that fall into the same catergory. I say give this one a shot if you'd like.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thomas Kemper Root Beer

This is another root beer that often gets a lot of attention and praise (at least in root beer circles). Thomas Kemper (by the way, really nice site) has only been around since 1990 and is brewed and bottled in Portland, OR. My wife loves Oregon. I myself have never been there, but i hear it's full of hippies. Yuck. Anyway, they have a line of sodas they distribute, and one of the things that they really promote is the fact that their sodas (or at least their root beer) contain pure Northwest honey. This is how they want to distinguish themselves in the root beer market. Good for them. I got no issues with promoting the fact that you use honey in your soda.

i like the short, stubby bottle they use. It's a 12 and it has an attractive label. There is a lot of info on the side about how TK started and what goes into brewing their root beer. There is a little emblem of a honey bee on the label as well as the cap, and the design is both retro and fresh, so no complaints there either.

But... i can't make it through this review with out complaining a little. Ok, a lot. My initial review was that i hated this stuff. I know they put honey in their root beer, but it was overpoweing. It's all i could taste. I had a friend in high school that wouldn't eat honey at all because he said it's like eating a bee's puke. He was dead serious about it too. I'm not really in that category. I just don't necessarily like the taste of honey, but i don't hate it either. I would say i am impartial to it. However, when my root beer tastes only like carbonated honey, i begin to have a problem with it.

I actually put off writing this review after talking to a colleague because i told him how much i disliked it. He told me he thought it had a taste very similar to Virgil's and that he thought it was good. He said he could barely even taste the honey. I told him he was clearly mental and that it tasted nothing like Virgil's and i couldn't taste anything but the honey. So he convinced me that maybe i just got a bad bottle (i've had bad bottles of different root beers before, not including Weinhard's which are all bad bottles), so i gave it another shot. It did change my mind... but just a little. I found that i could indeed taste the black licorice taste (like Virgil's), but ever so slightly at the beginning. And again, the overwhelming honey taste was a big turn off for me. It almost tasted gritty and raw, like i was drinking straight honey. So in the end, i still wasn't a huge fan of it.

My official review is that Thomas Kemper gets 4 (four) IBCs. I was originally going to give them a 3, but the second try on it convinced me to cut them a little slack (i'm not going to make a habit of it though). I will give them credit for originality with the honey. It's something i haven't had a lot of in a root beer before. So kudos for that. However, i think they could tame it down a bit. And i know there is a big following for TK out there. It probably stems from my not caring much about the honey taste though. If you're into honey (a lot), you might like this stuff. It was a bit too raw for me though. So unless that's what you're into, i would say get something different.