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 oz.er 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.