Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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 oz.er 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.

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