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 This isn't much of a shock at all considering Berghoff originally made beer.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.

Jones Root Beer

This is a soda that i would wager nearly everyone has heard of. Or, i should say, of which everyone has heard (sorry grammar geeks). Jones Soda is a product of Canada and has authority to brew and bottle its sodas in Seattle, WA. Jones started out as an affiliate of another distributor and was officially established as its own company in 1996. Jones made a name for itself through its variety of classic as well as unique and "wierd" flavors, and for the variety of photographs shown on the labels of every bottle of Jones Soda. One of the appeals is that the consumers can get involved by sending in photos of... anything really. If Jones likes the picture, it will feature it on their bottles. The flavor of the soda has nothing to do with what pictures are featured. As far as i can tell, it's completely random. Jones also has different fortunes under the cap which are straight from fortune cookies. Consumers can also send in some of their favorite fortunes to see if they end up under the cap. So the interaction with the public is kind of a cool thing and draws a crowd.

Jones frequently puts out "holiday packs" of usually 4 different flavors that are related to a certain holiday. For example, with Thanksgiving fast approaching, maybe you'd like to pick up a pack with flavors like turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Maybe for Christmas you want to taste a "pear tree" or a "candy cane" soda. They don't stop there though. It seems they try and out-do themselves every year (or so...) on top of that. Kinda neat that they keep trying to develop new flavors like that. I would call them the Jelly Bellys of sodas, and that's because i'm clever.

It's a 12 oz bottle, clear, and it has a resealable cap. This bottle features a color picture of what seems to be a chandelier or something. Sometimes they are color, sometimes black and white. Again, as far as i can tell, it's completely random regarding which picture ends up on which flavor or bottle. I have seen the same picture on several different flavors. This photo is #8120, and another novelty is that Jones lists on thier bottle the name of the person who sends in the photo and where they are from.

It's a good tasting root beer. It has a classic, solid root beer taste with a very good vanilla after taste. But nothing about it really makes it an amazing root beer. It's good, but it doesn't stand out that much. I mean, i like root beer as much as the next person, but when you're looking at the whole range and scope of Jones flavors (meaning, there are a lot of them), you might look over the root beer for something else that you've never even thought of in a soda before.

My official review is that Jones gets 6 (six) IBCs. I like the root beer. It's a good flavor. But i think i am just more a fan of the soda in general. They have tons of great flavors, and the pictures and interaction with the public is pretty cool. So if i had my choice of Jones sodas, i probably wouldn't reach for a root beer. Hey, you can't drink root beer all the time, right? But i would recommend it if you're looking for a good tasting root beer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bawls Guarana Root Beer

Before i start with this, i am just going to say that from the name of this root beer, there is an obvious direction this review could take. However, i am electing to take the high road. All i will say is that from the website, the "mascot" for Bawls is this. (insert your own joke here) Anyway... Bawls is a relatively new company that includes guarana in all its drinks. Really, this should be considered a type of energy drink, or an alternative to an energy drink. Kind of a wierd concept. The website said it was looking for a drink that's an alternative to coffee. This means that this root beer contains caffeine, and a lot of it. There is even a warning label on the back of the bottle which reads, "Warning: This product contains high levels of caffeine." The company has deemed this "geek beer" (but written G33K B33R, because words that include numbers mean this product helps you improve on your math skills). I guess it's supposed to vitalize your mind or something, or so they claim.

The bottle is crazy. It's kind of a wierd shape. Long and skinny with a bulbous top, plus it has little bumps all over it (you can make them out in the picture). It's also only 10 oz., because aparently even the company thinks you shouldn't have too much of this stuff. I read on their site that their sodas are also available in color changing cans. So, you know... that's novel.

To be honest, it doesn't taste bad. I was expecting the kind of sickly sweet/mediciney taste you get from typical energy drinks. But this isn't a typical energy drink. It just taste like regular root beer. Not bad at all, except the flavor doesn't last very long and kinda falls flat quickly. Nothing specifically struck me as special or unique about it, except that moments after i drank it i had a huge amount of caffeine coursing through my veins. I am just glad i drank it in the morning. It is a great alternative to energy drinks if you don't like the taste of the typical energy drink.

My official review is that Bawls gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's just a typical tasting root beer, and i am rating it on taste. The high levels of caffeine aren't a big selling point for me, although i wouldn't mind something like this to stay awake on long drives or whatever. The taste is just good all by itself. Just don't drink a bunch of them close together, and that's not just me saying that... it's the company too (and probably your doctor). It packs a punch when it comes to caffeine, that's for sure. It also gives a crash when it all wears off. Hey... you can't win them all. So pick one up if you need some pick me up.

(p.s. that tagline is mine... i just made that. Maybe they'll buy it from me.)

Sparky's Fresh Draft Root Beer

Here is another one that took me completely by surprise. I was expecting one thing and got something totally different. It is brewed by Knox Brewing, a small family run operation in Pacific Grove, CA. According to their website, Sparky's has only been in business since 2000. Also according to their site, root beer is the only thing they brew. It started out as just a fun hobby that the Knox family would do and give out root beer to friends. Apparently there was a big enough demand for it that they decided to go into business. I still can't figure out who Sparky is, because on their site they have just a few pictures up of the family, and they list all the people in the picture and finish by saying "Sparky not in photo". Maybe it's a dog or a close relative.

The bottle is really basic in design. It has a white paper label with a glass of root beer on front and some phantom ovals (presumed to be fingers) around the bottom. The Sparky's name is strewn across the front in big bold red letters. Simple design, nothing extravagant. It's a short and stubby 12 (which i like), and it's also available in 22 oz. bottles. I saw these at the Pop Shop as well, but went with the little one instead. That's probably a good thing i did...

Here is why i was taken by surprise... the name Sparky's and the red colors on the label (as well as the red cap) gave me the assumption that it was going to be cinnamon flavored. Maybe even a little spicy or hot to the taste, like the little candy Hot Tamales. But it was far from that. What it actually tasted like was wintergreen. Now, if you've read my reviews, you'll know i like the wintergreen flavored root beers. Well not this one. It was an overpowering flavor. I seriously had a hard time drinking it. It was so strong that the first taste made me cringe a little. One of my techniques for tasting is to take two or three big swigs to let it really permeate my senses. Seriously... when i did this i almost passed out. It's like someone dissolved 30 Altoids mints in carbonated water. That's all i could taste, and it was so much that it was just not good at all. I got goose bumps every time i drank some, and i found i had to sip the rest of the bottle to finish it. It was just too strong.

My official review is that Sparky's gets 2 (two) IBCs. It kind of pains me to rate this one so low, seeing that it's such a new and small company and all. But seriously Sparky's, you need to go back to the drawing board. I guess someone likes this stuff, but i couldn't imagine who. I'm not really in the root beer brewing game, but if i was to give some advice to Sparky's it would be to tone down the wintergreen A LOT. It's just unpleasant to drink. Don't bother getting this stuff, unless you really really like the taste of a whole tin of Altoids all at once.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dog n Suds Root Beer

Just as i suspected, Dog n Suds is actually a restaurant that just sells its root beer commercially. The Dog n Suds Root Beer site is here (i think this is just a tribute site) and the restaurant's site is here. It is located in Lafayette, IN. I am not going to get into a lot of the history of the diner itself, but Dog n Suds opened in 1956 and is still in operation today. If you want more particulars about the history, you can look on their site. I'm not about to do any favors for anyone from Indiana. You know who lives in Indiana? Serial killers. I'll just keep to myself, thank you.

It's a pretty standard bottle. The logo features a cartoon dog in a chef's hat with a hot dog and a pitcher of root beer. This is the same logo the restaurants use. It's fairly plain other than that. I wish i had more to say about it. But... i don't. Soooooooo... yeah.

You're probably asking, "how does it taste, Cosmo?" Well, it tastes like root beer. Just plain old root beer. Nothing particularly special about it. I know you're probably itching for more of a discription than that, so if i had to say something else i would say since it's from Indiana (home of serial killers), it tastes like murder. Yup, root beer and murder. I think i nailed it on this one guys.

My official review is that Dog n Suds gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's a really regular little root beer. Nothing stands out about it. Maybe the food is good at the restaurant, but i doubt i will have reason to go to Indiana any time soon to find out. I know, i know... looking at their site, they have other locations outside of Indiana. But the midwest isn't a prime real estate location for me, so i doubt i'll ever find out. Anyway, if you want a plain old root beer, go ahead and pick one of these up. Not bad, but not great.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife is watching Top Chef (i hate all reality TV shows), and one of the chef's is named Fabio. How unfortunate.

That's all.

Filbert's Old Time Draft Root Beer

Anyone from Arizona will know exactly where i am about to go with this. Filbert's is a root beer that has absolutely no affiliation with Filiberto's, a crappy Mexican fast food chain here that is basically on every corner. The conditions of cleanliness at their places of business always give the impression that the establishment is visibly on the verge of being shut down by Health Inspectors. It's the only place on Earth that serves the most disgusting/delicious food known to man. It's so dirty that it's amazing. Even the font and the colors used for the logos bear an eerie resemblance. But anyway, this post is about root beer, not burritos with questionable meat content.

Filbert's was started in Chicago, IL in 1926. They don't have a website that i know of, but i got some info from this distribution site about the company and it's humble beginnings. It is still a family owned and operated business, which if you care about that kind of thing might pull on your heart strings a little.

It's a very colorful label on an otherwise ordinary bottle. The colors remind me of Mexico, or at least the inside of an Americanized Mexican restaurant. There is a big barrel of root beer pictured on the label. Other than that, it's a fairly simple design, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The bottle might be good for breaking over the head of a white guy for dancing with your Mexican women (i actually saw this once in Mexico. No really, i did).

As far as taste goes, i had very low expectations. I guess i shouldn't have, because just like Filiberto's, it's really good despite the unappealing surroundings. I liked it a lot. It has a good classic root beer taste with a very rich and creamy vanilla finish. The after taste is almost like you're eating a vanilla ice cream cone. This took me by surprise, but it's not the first time i got something completely different from what i expected with regards to root beer.

My official review is that Filbert's gets 8 (eight) IBCs. It's a good buy, but because it is so sweet i might consider it more of a dessert root beer. All in all though, i was pleasantly surprised by this one and i would recommend you pick one up if you get the chance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer

So i know we just did Virgil's, but this is part two of our two part voyage of enjoying Virgil's. One thing i failed to mention in the last post is that Virgil's makes several other flavors of soda besides just root beer. However, this is a "Special Edition" root beer that Virgil's makes, and therefore earns the right for me to review it (sorry diet root beers, you do not earn that right).
Now, we already know all the care and effort Virgil's pours into brewing it's root beer. So what makes this one different from their regular recipe? Well let's get into that, shall we?

For starters, the bottle is a lot different. One, it's a lot bigger. In fact, at 24 oz. it's double the size of the standard bottle. It's also shaped differently and has some crazy contraption for a cap. Again, i am taken with the packaging choices Virgil's makes. This is a big bottle of soda, and it's not your typical twist top. It has a ceramic cap with a little clip system to reseal the bottle after you open it. When you first open it, it makes a pop, kind of like a champagne bottle does (only without sending a cork flying across the room and possibly damaging a priceless work of art or sending a pregnant house maid into early labor after been struck in the eye and tumbling down the stairs, as commonly happens when opening a bottle of champagne). I took a video of it and wanted to post it, but unfortunately, i was at work and only had my cell phone as a video camera. And while that might have worked for the Flight of the Conchords, it didn't work so well for me. But i promise to take some proper video footage and post it. I know you're all so eager to see it.

Addendum, 6/11/2010: ok, so it has taken me nearly two years to get this video done, but i am a man of my word and i am posting it in all it's glory. Most likely you have all tried this root beer by this time, being as diligent followers of my word as you all are, but for the new comers, here is what i meant to convey nearly two years ago...

Here's where Virgil's gets me. It's delicious. It's really really good. I would say much better than their regular recipe. It has that nutmeg, pumpkin cookie taste to it, but it's more like a good pumpkin pie with whip cream. The vanilla cream after taste is fantastic, and i really enjoyed it from start to finish. Here's where Virgil's loses me. It's $4.25 a bottle. OUCH! I know it's double the size of a normal bottle, but by that logic, a normal bottle would be over $2. Any way you look at it, that's an expensive bottle of root beer. Now granted, $4.25 isn't going to break the bank, at least not for a well-to-do and classy guy like me, but it's still the principle of it. Should i get a double sized bottle of really good root beer for $4.25, or should i get a six pack of the best root beer on the planet for $4.00 (and sometimes on sale for $2.50)? I think my point is clear. Regardless though, this is a good root beer, and sometimes it's worth paying the price for the experience.

My official review is that Virgil's Special Edition gets 9 (nine) IBCs. This stuff lives up to the tag line on the label. It's really rich and creamy, very smooth, and the over sized bottle is a treat. The price is not, but this is one of those root beers you just have to get every once in a while. I liked it a lot, and i think you will too. And if you don't, kill yourself.

Just kidding.

But seriously, if you're gonna be a butthole like that, you should probably just kill yourself.

Virgil's Root Beer

Alright, now this one has a lot to it. A friend from work swears by this stuff for a lot of reasons. The fact that he swears at all and offends my tender and delicate ears should be enough to end my friendship with him, but he makes up for it in other aspects. Besides, i'm merciful. Anyway, so Virgil's is a root beer that takes itself very seriously. Just read their "About Virgil's" page on their site. Everything from their method, to their ingredients, to their numerous awards for their root beer. Virgil's is now distributed through Reed's Inc. out of Los Angeles. The source of all truth indicates that it was bought out by Reed's in the early 2000s, and from what i can gather from off the bottle, it was originally brewed in the north of England. I am not sure how long it has actually been around though. But the story of what goes into Virgil's is quite astounding. They make it very clear that they use only 100% natural ingredients. No artificial flavors, no preservatives. And it's not like they just run down to the corner store and pick up what they need. Just take a look at this laundry list of ingredients from around the world...

Virgil's Ingredients List
Virgil's Microbrewed Root Beer contains these key all-natural ingredients:
carbonated water
unbleached cane sugar
Along with these natural herbs and spices (including point of origin):
anise from Spain
licorice from France
vanilla (bourbon) from Madagascar
cinnamon from Ceylon
clove from Indonesia
wintergreen from China
sweet birch from the southern US
molasses from the US
nutmeg from Indonesia
pimento berry oil from Jamaica
balsam oil from Peru
cassia oil from China
Pretty impressive so far. But it might be a bit too much. Virgil's gets a little cocky and bad mouth's a couple other root beers, one of which is Wienhard's, which isn't difficult to do. Kudos there. However, in the same breath, they claim to be better than IBC. Alright... hold on now... let's not get carried away and say something we're going to regret now, ok Virgil's?

The bottle is your standard 12 with an elaborate label of multiple colors, including golds and regal reds. It wants you to know it doesn't mess around, but that it's also for the whole family. They do this through the picture on the label. A cloudy background to create the feeling you're in heaven in the presence of God (their tagline is "...We brew a root beer so pure, so rich and creamy, you'll swear it's made in heaven."), two well behaved and simply dressed children sitting on both sides of a table, and a giant of a man with an unruly and vicious man-beard standing in the middle of them holding several pictures of root beer. Why, it's as if Michelangelo himself painted it. It's quite impressvie, and they are definitely going the intimidation route with the bearded man. You only put a bearded man on your label to say one of two things; 1) this stuff is totally awesome, or 2) this is about to ruin your life in the worst way.

But wait! Virgil's is just getting warmed up. Not satisfied with a plain old bottle of root beer? Need something more to prove to your friends that lifting weights and combing your chest hair isn't the only way to show your manhood? Well then why don't you pick up a mini-keg of this stuff? That's right... Virgil's packages and sells it's root beer in a mini-keg. Four words... holy geez that's awesome! Man... if IBC made one of these, there wouldn't be a price too high. I would sell my house to buy one. Here is a picture of the mini-keg that i took when we went to the Pop Shop. I put a regular 12 oz bottle next to it so you could get an idea of the scale. Seriously Virgil's, bravo on that.

But let's talk about taste. With that crazy mix of ingredients, your palate should be just going wild. But what i found was that the dominant flavor was the black licorice again. A little disappointing (again, i just don't care much for black licorice). However, it wasn't over powering and it had a good creamy vanilla aftertaste that kinda saved it for me. It is an award winning beverage, but to me, it's just "good, but not great."
My official review is that Virgil's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. Honestly, it's not the taste that draws me to this stuff. It's decent, but i should really give it just a 6 based on that alone. However, the story of what goes into this drink, the accolades it receives, and the fact that you can get it in a mini-keg all lend to the experience. Well done Virgil's. It's a root beer worth trying, if nothing more than to just see what all the hype is about. If you have a chance, grab one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Frostie Root Beer

My wife wanted me to wait to do this one for Christmas, but i didn't want it to sit in my fridge that long. Frostie has been around a while also. I couldn't find an official site, but the source of all truth says that Frostie was started in 1939 and is currently being produced in Temple, TX. This one was actually recommended to me by a guy i work with also. Frostie also produces many other flavors which can be found for sale on several websites. Not sure how easy it is to find this stuff in stores around the country.

This root beer also comes in a clear bottle, which is pretty standard in size and shape. It also has the Frostie logo embossed on the bottle (like IBC) around the top of the bottle before it gets to the neck. The clear sticker label shows a little Santa Claus looking guy on it and a snowy scene with a mug of root beer. It looks like it would be a holiday drink, but really there is nothing particularly "Christmasy" about it.

It's not bad, but there's really nothing special to this stuff. I liked it, it has a subtle wintergreen flavor and a very light vanilla/creamy aftertaste, but all in all it's just kind of a standard root beer. I have heard from other review sites that it is not what it was "back in the day", and it kind of universally has the reputation of being an average root beer. Sadly, i have to agree with these nobs.

My official review is that Frostie gets 6 (six) IBC. I like the wintergreen in it and it's a decent root beer, but nothing particularly stands out about it. I wouldn't make a trip just for the Christmas aspect of it. I'd think Dad's or Jack Black's taste more like the holiday spirit. But i am not sure Frostie was even trying to allude to reminding you of Christmas. Well what's with Santa on your bottles then? Anyway, it's not a bad root beer. Try it if you get a chance. Or don't. I don't care.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gale's Root Beer

This was another root beer recommended to us by one of the hippies in the Pop Shop. Again, i couldn't find a website for the root beer itself, but i did find that the recipe was actually made by a famous chef name Gale Gand. Her website has the root beer listed there. It is distributed through Gale's company, Gale's Bread and Butter Inc. in Riverwoods, IL. Here is a picture of Gale. According to the story on the bottle, she owns a number of restaurants throughout the nation and claims to serve this specific brand of root beer in them.

I think we are lead to believe that the cartoon picture on the bottle is of none other than young Gale with her faithful terrier "Rootie". I kinda like the design behind the label. It almost looks to me like an old 1800's medicine bottle, like you see in old apothecaries or on display in drug stores and doctor's offices for decoration. She should bottle the root beer in old bottles like that. That would be sweet. The writing on the top of the label is essentially Gale's story, told in first person about living and cooking in England for a while and missing root beer so much that she acquired a dog, named it Rootie, moved back to America, and began making her own recipe of root beer. Neat. Not sure what your dog has to do with that, but if it sells root beer for you, more power to you.

The label also says it is cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla flavored. The problem is, i could basically only taste a little of the vanilla in the aftertaste. The initial taste is a very sharp and bitter taste that takes you by surprise, but then fades into a nice vanilla. I know a lot of root beers use yeast and fermentation as a method of carbonating the soda, and it's almost like i could taste the yeast in the initial drink. I didn't think it tasted bad, but my wife didn't seem to like it much. It's definitely different, i'll give it that, but i am not sure i love it. I don't even know if i like it. It wasn't half bad, but i don't crave another one. I will say it was a nice contrast between the bitter and sweet tastes, and being a professional chef perhaps she was going for that. (Man... i am really official sounding. I even impressed myself with that one.)

My official review is that Gales gets 6 (six) IBCs. It's not really what i expected from a famous chef, but i am not all that familiar with Gale Gand and her style of cooking or specialities. Maybe root beer might not be one of them though. And who knows, maybe it is. Either way, her root beer is original and interesting, but it might be appealing to only a specific crowd. I'd say try it if you'd like, but it's probably not what you'd expect in a root beer.

Olde Brooklyn Root Beer

Olde Brooklyn Root beer is distributed by White Rock Beverages out of Whitestone, NY. White Rock also bottles Sioux City and it's own line of White Rock sodas and spritzers. There are little facts about when it's production was started and what makes this stuff so special. Well i'll just break it to you now... it isn't. Basically it reminds me almost exactly of Dr. Brown's, but it's like a cheap substitute. There are several similarities i can see between the two, starting with where they are from. Dr. Brown's was established in the NYC region. The bottle of this root beer does at least say it was born in Brooklyn, which i probably should have assumed without being told based on the name alone.

Now take a loot at the bottles... I have only reviewed one other root beer with a clear bottle so far; Dr. Brown's. Not only that, but Dr. Brown's has pictures of prominent locations in the NYC area printed on the clear sticker labels. Olde Brooklyn has the Brooklyn Bridge (a prominent location in the NYC area) printed on each bottle on a clear sticker label. Hmm... Anything else similar?

Yup. It even tastes an awful lot like Dr. Brown's. No, it's not a dead ringer, but it has a bit of a wintergreen taste and is quite sweet, as well as has the same tinge of just spitting out mouthwash aftertaste as Dr. Brown's. This stuff is a fair bit more watery though, and has hardly any carbonation. It's not overpoweringly sweet, but the sweetness of it is almost emphasised by the wateriness of the drink itself.

My official review is that Olde Brooklyn gets 3 (three) IBCs. It's just not good. It's a bad copy of Dr. Brown's at best, and at worst, it's a cheap attempt at saving money on carbonation and originality. My guess is this thing is mostly stocked in the same areas as Dr. Brown's, like it's Dr. Brown's weird, stalker-ish secret admirer who just wants to be acknowledged. But Dr. Brown knows as soon as he even says "hi", Olde Brooklyn with think they're the best of friends, and Dr. Brown can't have that. He's a free swingin', high dealin' dude with goals and aspirations. Olde Brookie is just gonna get in the way, draggin' him down, and that's why Olde Brooklyn will always be alone in his life, sad and miserable.

It almost makes you feel bad for Olde Brooklyn, until you remember how he's a low life who tried to steal your girlfriend. Jerk...

Buckin' Root Beer

This is another one we found in the Soda Shop, although i talked with a colleague who said she and her husband were in Jackson Hole, WY (where this root beer is from) and picked up some of this very same root beer. Buckin' Root Beer is part of the Jackson Hole Soda Co. I am not sure when they started brewing as their website is quite basic and lacks information about the company itself. What i did find is that they produce several flavors of soda portraying a kind of cowboy/pioneer spirit on each label. It seems like a small local operation that caters to nearby regions.

The label is colorful and shows a picture of a bullrider being thrown from a bull. It looks like an actual photograph, or an adaptation of one. There are also some sheriff badges on the sides of the label with the company name and logo. It's a real wild west, open range, cattle rancher kind of deal. Makes me want to wrestle some livestock and dress up in wranglers. I'd look good.

I liked the taste of this root beer. It's not necessarily an original flavor, but it's good. It has a sharp, yet subtle wintergreen taste at the beginning and an aftertaste of homemade root beer, like what it tastes like when it's homemade with dry ice for carbination. It's a good flavor and a good all around root beer.

My official review is that Buckin' gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I can appreciate this root beer. It reminded me a bit of Teddy's, but not as much wintergreen flavor. And i'm not really into the whole cowboy/country music thing, but i think bullriding is definitely for men, and so is this root beer. It's a good one and i'd recommend it if you're near Jackson Hole (or the Soda Shop).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

AJ Stephan's Root Beer

AJ Stephan's was started in 1926 in Boston, MA. Their website includes a little logo of a cartoon dude holding a bottle of soda. Not sure why he didn't make it on to the bottle design also. This is another company that produces many different flavors of soda that are all good in their own way. I am particularly fond of their birch beer.

Looking at the bottle, again it's in a shorter, stout 12 oz. bottle. For some reason i favor these. I just like them more. Can't really put my finger on it. But anyway, the label has an old 40's or 50's retro feel to it, and the cartoon dude on their website looks like a typical business man of the day.

I dig the taste of this soda. It's a good, classic root beer flavor. No real flare or speciality, but it's good. Really good. Not just a middle of the road root beer. It's classic taste is elevated to a higher class. While it's just ordinary root beer, it's more than just ordinary root beer. I believe they call that a paradox. Or something to that effect.

My official review is that AJ Stephan's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I've been really impressed with the caliber of drinks these guys put out in all flavors, and their root beer is no different. These guys are good, so definitely grab some if you come across it.

Capt'n Eli's Root Beer

This is one my wife picked out for me. She likes the picture on the front, which we will get to. Capt'n Eli's is one of several products by Shipyard Brewing Co. It is situated in Portland, ME and has only been aroud since 1994. In addition to root beer, Shipyard makes and distributes several other flavors of soda as well as beers. It distributes to over 35 states, so you have a good chance of running into this stuff, although the Pop Shop was my first encounter with it.

It is bottled in a typical and regular 12 oz. bottle with a very colorful label. My wife was drawn to it by the picture on the front, which is one of the ways she decides which root beers i should review next. It is a picture of a young boy rowing a boat full of barrels, and there is a parrot on his shoulder. He looks like a typical long shoreman with the slicker and the hat. It kinda reminds me of the killer from that awful movie I Know What You Did Last Summer. That kid is probably sadistic, which is why my wife likes him. She's wierd, and she'll probably murder me some day, but at least i know it's coming.

As far as taste goes, i am not a fan. It's basically straight black licorice again. Not pleasant for me, as i really dislike that flavor. It tastes like a handful of Good n' Plenty, a candy i have hated since my childhood. It doesn't have any redeeming qualities for me. I simply don't like the flavor.

My official review is that Capt'n Eli's gets 2 (two) IBCs. I was thinking i might give it a 3 because it seems like it's trying so hard, but i flat out don't like it. If you like the taste of black licorice and Good n' Plenty, then you might want to check this stuff out. But if you have good sense like i do, you'll go for something that doesn't make you cringe when you drink it.

Dad's Root Beer

This is another fairly popular brand that can be picked up in a lot of different places. Dad's Root Beer was started in 1937 in Chicago, IL. Some background behind the name is that the brand was marketed as a "family" for a while. You could buy Dad's sizes in Papa, which was a full gallon, Mama was a quart, and Junior was 7 oz. or 10 oz*. It's a name that really recognizable. Always makes me think of #1 Dad T-shirts...
*i had to update this as my facts about the sizes were incorrect originally. Just trying to maintain some integrity. Richard, i hope you're proud. Now stop leaving comments and scaring away my readers.

It's a typical bottle in every way. The label is pretty stark and colorful. The website shows a much more updated looking design and decal, but it still remains true to the original color base and font.

When i tasted it, it immediately reminded me of Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer (see my previous posts for a review of JBDR). It has that same nutmegy taste, although it's not nearly as heavy as JBDR's. Again, it's a good flavor, but not one that i can drink a lot of at one time.

My official review is that Dad's gets 6 (six) IBCs. It's so similar to Jack Black's that i can't reasonably rate it higher or lower. It's not as rich, but it's still similar enough in taste. And although i like the taste, i can't handle much of it.

Sprecher Root Beer

The Sprecher Brewing Co. was established in Milwakee, WS in 1985. I took a year of German in high school, and "sprechen" means "to speak". So i was curious as to why this root beer bears the name Sprecher, but apparently the root beer has nothing to do with talking. It's just the last name of the guy who started the brewery. In any case, this is a fairly young root beer, only a little over 20 years old. Like several other breweries, Sprecher makes beers and other alcholic drinks as well as several other flavors of soda as well.

I kinda like the bottle. It's oversized, not your typical 12 oz. bottle. This one is 16 that's about as tall as a regular 12 oz., but it's a lot fatter. It has what looks like a cartoon crow or a raven on the front that reminds me of the ones in the Disney cartoon Dumbo. Not sure what the significance of this is, but Sprecher's regular beer products carry a much less animated version of the animal on their labels.

I've had Sprecher before, but had to get it again in order to review it. It's a good classic root beer. The label says that it is brewed with honey, and the taste is ever so subtle but noticeable. Other than that, it just has a regular root beer flavor with nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Not a bad little root beer too, and a good value with the oversized bottles.

My official review is that Sprecher gets 5 (five) IBCs. This is another one of the middle of the road/average root beers. It's good, it won't let you down, but it's not something i would make a special trip for. I am not sure how easy or hard it is to find as far as distribution goes, but if you have the chance it's not going to disappoint you to pick some up.

Dr. Brown's Root Beer

Dr. Brown's is a pretty common brand also, but i can't seem to find out where exactly it's produced. The source of all truth in the universe says that Dr. Brown's is made in the New York City region, and that's good enough for me (even though i question the distribution through Pepsi a little). But right on the bottle we can see that it's been around since 1869, so it has a rich history. Another point Wikipedia makes is that it commonly found in deli's, which is the one place i can for sure remember getting Dr. Brown's here in AZ. Dr. Brown's makes several different flavors, including a celery flavored soda. Not a fan, i'll just say that.

The bottle is a standard size, but it's clear, which i find is fairly uncommon for a root beer. Usually they are dark brown colored glass bottles. I don't think that makes a difference in the drink or anything, but it's worth noting in my opinion. The Label is also a clear sticker, but it has the logo in the center, some writing on the sides, etc. The picture in the middle is different for each flavor of drink, usually a scene of a building or park area with people, and are scenes of promenant locations in and around NYC. You can look here for more details on that cuz i don't really care to go into it. Unfortunately, the picture in this post is very blurry, and it's hard to make out which scene it is*. But if you see them in the store or online, you will see how the scene changes from flavor to flavor.
* i looked at a bottle of this when i went back to the Pop Shop and it appears to be a picture of an ice cream parlour in NYC. There are words on the bottom of the picture explaining what you're looking at, which is quite helpful when you think about it.

It has a decent taste. Nothing to write home about. It has a bit wintergreen to it and has an slight aftertaste like you just spit mouthwash. But it's not gross or unpleasant at all. I didn't mind Dr. Brown's, but it's kind of a middle of the road root beer as far as i'm concerned.

My official review is that Dr. Brown's gets 5 (five) IBCs. It certainly has staying power and is part of a rich tradition around the NYC area, but i wasn't too impressed with it over all. If it were my only option, i certainly wouldn't turn it down, but i also wouldn't go out of my way for it. Like i said, it's pretty common though and shouldn't be too hard to find if you're a fan specifically.