Friday, December 11, 2009

Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer

Do you know the Root Beer Lady? Well if not, this is your chance to get acquainted. Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer comes from Ely, MN. I stumbled upon this website while researching new root beers to review and ordered a 6 pack of the root beer to be mailed to my house. You can look over the website if you'd like to learn more about Dorothy Molter and her life living in a remote part of Northern Minnesota for the better part of a century. I'll just fill you in on the basics: a nurse by training, she was fond of making root beer for traveling tourists and campers/adventurers. She became such an attraction that she was dubbed "the Root Beer Lady", and now years after her passing her story, estate, and legacy have been turned into a museum and peddled to the masses via this website. You can get an illustrated story book about Dorothy, a video while she was still alive in her later years, her famous root beer, t-shirts, hats, magnets, root beer soap, and even root beer earrings. Honestly, the only thing that interested me was the root beer (one-track mind), but i am sure she was a lovely lady. Feel free to read more about her if you'd like though.

The bottles are typical, and the label is loaded with iconic imagery celebrating the life of Dorothy. Her face is plastered on the front and the rest of it is made to look back-woodsy and rugged-frontiery. The background of the label appears to be aspen bark, there is a picture of her cabin around the neck, and the label contains lots of info leading you back to the site that i linked. I had to order a 6 pack because that's the smallest units they sell, and with shipping it ended up being around $25. That's not cheap, but i am finding that most orders i put in for mail order root beer run about that much. I don't like spending that much, but i do it for you, my loyal readers. You're continued support is thanks enough, unless you feel like you want to send me some money to compensate. If so, let me know.

Though i give her props for being a root beer expert for several years, the current recipe that is sold via the website is simply nothing special. It reminds of some natural, organic root beers i have reviewed, although i don't think it is. I am sure it's mass produced now with few of the original processes still in place. It's not bad, but i don't really like it that much. I can't put my finger on it, but it tastes like a root beer i have tried before. But basically, it tastes kind of watered down, a touch too sweet, and lacking in carbonation. Plus, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterward. This one doesn't really jump out and grab me at all. Like Dorothy herself, this seems weak and frail to me.

My official review is that Dorothy's Isle of Pine's Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. My wife isn't a fan at all, which means i have 5 more bottles to drink by myself, and to be honest, i don't think i like it that much either. I might give them away as Christmas gifts or just bring them in to work and leave them in the lunch room like i did with the other hippie natural root beers i didn't want to finish drinking. So in short, if you find yourself in the area where she lived and want to check out her old stomping grounds, then grab a root beer. Otherwise, save your money.

Joe's BBQ Home Made Root Beer

I'm smack in the middle of finals right now, and it has not been kind to me. This semester has worn me out, and on top of it all i currently have a cold. It's miserable, but you're not here to listen to me whine, you're here for some root beer news. Well that's just what i have for you today. I have lived here in the Mesa/Gilbert/Phoenix area for a good portion of my life and it never occurred to me to review the home made root beer at Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert until i was there last night for a birthday gathering of a friend of mine (happy birthday Robbie). They have great food at reasonable prices, but more importantly, they have home made root beer. Joe's has been open since 1998, and although it doesn't say it on their site expressly, i am going go ahead and say they have been making their own root beer since their inception. That's the kind of creative power i reserve for my reviews; making up facts. It's probably true anyway, so deal with it. In addition to the root beer beverage, they also tote a root beer cake. My wife was eager to try it, but we were fairly disappointed when we discovered that it's just chocolate cake and doesn't taste like root beer at all. However, it did spark some ideas on making a genuine, delicious root beer cake that myself and a few associates of mine may need to perfect and flood the market with.

The picture i have depicting the soda is of a Joe's BBQ paper cup. Not that exciting i know, but it's the best i can do since i don't think they bottle and/or ship it anywhere. So in order to try it you must go down to the establishment itself. That shouldn't be a cause of distress though. As i mentioned before, the food is very good. Anyway, there is a cartoony guy on the orange cup who i will assume is Joe himself. The background is a road map of the great state of Arizona, or as it's known to anyone who lives here, God's country.

Home made root beer doesn't hold much appeal for me, and as much as i like Joe's food, his root beer leaves something to be desired. There is plenty of carbonation, so that's not the problem, but the flavor is just not that great. You know those bottle caps candies? The ones that taste like different sodas, like cola, cherry, etc.? Well this root beer basically tastes just like the root beer flavored bottle cap. The weird thing is that i like the root beer flavored bottle cap candy, but it doesn't translate well into an actual beverage. The flavor is very sharp for some reason and ultimately kind of a let down. It's not terrible by any means, but i think Joe should make some revisions to the recipe and come back with something a little more palatable.

My official review is that Joe's Real BBQ gets 5 (five) IBCs. That's being generous too. I like Joe's, so i don't want to slam his root beer, but it's really not that great. It's unfortunate. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it if you go down there. The rest of the dining experience more than makes up for the little bit that the root beer lacks. Plus, if you go on your birthday, you're meal is free, and that right there is some sweet action.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Fizz Root Beer

Hello all you out there in root beer internet land! I have another root beer to review for you today. This one i have known about for some time now and just recently got a hold of. It's called Big Fizz Root Beer. I found it on the Rite Aid website while looking for other root beers. Rite Aid is comparable to a Walgreens or CVS store. Unfortunately there are no Rite Aids in Arizona, the closest store being in California. Well as it turns out, my wife and i made a little trip with her extended family back in October to visit my wife's favorite place, or as i like to call it, "the gropiest place on Earth" on account of all the nefarious characters regularly groping your children there. Personally, i hate that place. It's the biggest exploitation of children since child labor. But once in a while i have to endure the torture of spending way to much money to be somewhere i absolutely hate in order to appease my wife's unhealthy Peter Pan fetish/obsession. SOOO... long story short, while we were in California we made a trip to the local Rite Aid and found a bottle of Big Fizz so i could review it. I am not sure if Big Fizz distributes exclusively through Rite Aid, but that's the impression that i get from the website. This mass marketed soda line comes in several flavors.

I picked up a 2 liter bottle of their root beer, and i am not sure if there is any other sizes or variations on packaging available. The bottle is a typical 2 liter plastic bottle. The label is very plain, lots of writing and text, with a limited color scheme. It's brown and white, with a little bit of yellow splashed in there for "flare". I don't know. Companies like this just want to throw something out there to get a small piece of the big pie, so the label doesn't have to be flashy or memorable. It just has to convey the message, which i suppose this one does just fine. There are some swirly designs in the background and carbonated bubbles coming off the word "Fizz", i guess to accentuate that this stuff if fizzy.

At least the root beer lives up to its name. It is indeed very fizzy. There is a lot of carbonation in this drink, which is fine by me. It's not enough to kill you or anything, but they don't hold back on it. Other than that, this root beer is completely forgettable. There is nothing very appealing about it. The root beer flavor is very watered down, which is too back because it's not a bad flavor. It also has a good aroma, but the taste fades so fast that you forget what it even tastes like right after you drink it. Even for the store brands, this one doesn't really make a mark, and being on the low end of the store brands is a sad place to be. It's not completely awful and is basically everything i expected it to be, but that still makes it a fundamentally bad root beer.

My official review is that Big Fizz Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. I would say it's a high 3 because i don't detest this stuff, but it is not good enough to earn a low 4, so i have to mark this one down as sub-par. I don't know how widely spread out Rite Aids are across our great nation, but chances are that unless you're in some podunk, one-hat town there are other options out there for you as far as root beer is concerned. And in those cases, i suggest you look somewhere else for a decent root beer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Napa Valley Root Beer

To start this review, i am obligated to give a "shout out" to my coworker Heather. Heather is a faithful reader and ardent follower of my work, and she was nice enough to lend a hand in finding a new root beer for me to review. She found this root beer at the local Big Lots for only $2 for a 4-pack. Quite a deal if you ask me. Anyway, she said she'd be happy to get me a pack to further my cause. So kudos to you Heather. Thanks for the helping hand, and let this be a lesson to the rest of you; when you help me you're really only helping yourself. Anyway, Napa Valley Soda Co. has been around since 1872, which puts it in the grandfather realm as far as root beers are concerned. Nappy Valley is of course in California and is famously known as wine country, but this soda is now distributed by Wet Planet, which has its headquarters in Rochester, NY. There are several fruity flavors, but it seems like they showcase the root beer (which any good soda company with good business sense should do).

This root beer comes in 12 oz. clear glass bottle. It's not necessarily a typical bottle though, it's a little different shaped. Kind of old fashionedy. Anyway, the sticker label is very colorful, complete with a rainbow hot air balloon and the flowery, hippie love child font (which i am not sure Microsoft is actually responsible for) spells out the name of the soda company over a spiraling galaxy like swirl. Probably influenced by the San Francisco hippy movement of the mid to late 1960's. I don't really care for the label, but in this case, i don't think that's what's most important.

I have long held that root beer in clear glass bottles is usually disappointing. Well up until now, every root beer in a clear glass bottle has backed that theory up. This root beer however flies in the face of all the presumptions i had about this. For starters, this root beer has a good amount of carbonation, something which is not common in clear glass bottle root beers. Most has little to no carbonation, but Napa Valley comes stocked with just the right amount. Second, the flavor is full and satisfying, while most other clear glass bottle root beers seem watered down and bland. The distinct full bodied root beer flavor and slight carmel undertones really impressed me. Granted, it's nothing earth shattering or completely new, but all that aside, it is a very refreshing and surprisingly good root beer. Both my wife and i thoroughly enjoyed it, and at $2 for a 4-pack, there's really no excuse why this stuff shouldn't get the approval of everyone else also.

My official review is that Napa Valley Root Beer gets 8 (eight) IBCs. This is a solid root beer, one i think has universal appeal. It's good, inexpensive, and refreshing. I am pleased with it, and i want to say thanks again to my coworker Heather for picking this one up for me. I'm adding it to my regulars list. I am not sure if Big Lots are located all across this great nation, but if you find yourself near one, you should stop in and pick up some of this stuff.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Journey Desert Sage Root Beer

Before i dive into this review (which is bound to be short), i just want to toot my own horn and say that i have officially been professionally reviewing root beers for one year now. Looking back, it's amazing and awe inspiring to see how many lives i've blessed with this important work i do. I appreciate all of the praise you, my loyal readers, shower upon me on a regular basis. So here's to another great year of root beer reviewing. Cheers!

So anyway, for the first review of my second official year, i'm pleased to announce that i tracked down one of the other two root beers created by the Journey soft drinks company. For a rundown on Journey, please see my Journey John Barleycorn post as it will save everyone time. The basics are that the company claims to make sodas from the best ingredients available. But from my review of John Barleycorn, the company has a lot more work to do. Even some of you, my faithful readers, put in some of your comments affirming my astute observation of a truly awful root beer (although, i will concede that one with a far inferior ability to mine could easily come to the same conclusion). Well i am sorry to say that this root beer is in the same wheelhouse.

The label on the 12 oz. bottle is basically just like that of John Barleycorn with a different color scheme. There is a soft green background to coincide with the Desert Sage name. I don't know if it's just a clever name or if they actually put Desert Sage in the drink, but if so i have something to say to the Journey company... STOP IT! This stuff is just as bad as John Barleycorn. It is completely flat, it doesn't taste like root beer at all, and it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth afterward. It tastes extremely similar to Route 66, almost like a rotten fruit flavor. It's awful. Don't waste your time with this company (again).

My official review is that Journey Desert Sage gets 1 (one) IBC. I don't know who in their right mind would think this company makes quality root beers. I haven't tried any of their other sodas, but i think any soda company worth its salt can be judged entirely from its root beer, and this company happens to have three root beers. So far, Journey has two strikes. That's enough for me to never want anything to do with them again, but i will continue my quest to track down the final Journey root beer. Don't hold your breath though.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pearson Bros. Root Beer

This is another one of the root beers i have recently ordered online. Before i get into the root beer, i want to give you the run down of Soda Samurai, the site i ordered this root beer from. I like the site because they have a decent root beer selection (as well as many other kinds of sodas), i can order the root beers individually instead of in packs or cases, the shipping isn't outrageous, and they even sent me this little bottle opener key chain, which will come in handy for those pesky non-twist tops. So kudos to you Soda Samurai. Check them out if you get a chance. They are decent.

Anyway, Pearson Bros. root beer is made in San Francisco, CA, and the reason i know that is because it says so on the bottle. Other than that, i found it hard to find much info about Pearson Bros. However, I did a bit of digging and investigative journalists everywhere should be proud of me for finding this website that quotes the creaters of Pearson Bros. Root Beer, Matt and Eric Pearson (and yes, they are actually brothers). This article in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper tells that the root beer has been around since 1996 and can be found mostly in the Bay Area. Aside from this, i can't find much else on Pearson Bros. But I guess there are a lot of famous Peasons out there, including the distrubutors of some well known but unappealing candy, and even a statistical genius of sorts. I actually knew some Pearsons growing up in Northern Arizona, and they seemed pretty successful as well. Must be something in the name. I guess it only makes statistical sense that the probability of a Pearson getting into the root beer business is much higher than a person with any other surname. Don't believe me? Take a look at this. I'm pretty sure it proves my point.

The bottle is a 12 oz. clear glass bottle and the label is very simple, but it stands out. Red really catches the eye, or at least my eye, which is what is important. It has a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it and big text of the name of the root beer, but not much else. It's very plain, but i like it. And unfortunately, that may be the only thing i like about it. Let's just start off by saying i am not sure what it is, but i have a prejudice against root beers in clear glass bottles. There are a few i have liked, but it's rare.

So what's wrong with Pearson Bros.? Let's start with the color. The clear glass bottles give away the fact that the color of the root beer isn't very rich or deep. It's very light brown in color and transparent enough for me to see right through it. Again, this is usually an indication to me that i am not going to like the root beer. I have reviewed enough of them to make this correlation. So if the color is off, the taste isn't going to be there either. This stuff is very bland. It has enough carbonation, but just barely. And the flavor is very watery and sugary. It doesn't linger and doesn't make an impression, much like many of the other light colored, clear glass bottle root beers (I'm looking at you Olde Brooklyn). But while it's nothing to write home about, it's not completely awful either. There just isn't anything about it that would make me want to travel to the Bay Area for more.

My official review is that Pearson Bros. gets 4 (four) IBCs. I've had worse, but i've also had much, much better. It doesn't stand out from many of the other root beers and seems like just another label with not much going on inside. So for those of you in the Bay Area who are looking for some good root beer, you will probably need to look else where. But to be completely honest, you're probably Chinese and don't drink root beer anyway. Hey, according to Pearson, it's a statistical fact.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Goose Island Root Beer

Hello my faithful readers. I apologize again for the length between my reviews, but it is getting harder to find root beers to review in my area, so i have to branch out. As a result, this is a very special review for two reasons. One, this is the root beer i was unable to try in Chicago due to it being out of stock in the grocery store. Two, this is one of the root beers i have ordered online in my first round of mail order root beering. I finally turned to ordering new root beers online and having them shipped to me here in Phoenix, and this isn't ideal for me because it's expensive and i usually have to order at least a six pack (some sites require i order a whole case). The site i ordered this root beer from is called Straub's. They do offer some samplers, but regardless of what you order, it has to at least be a six pack, and shipping isn't the cheapest. But i gotta do what i gotta do, and this is what the next phase of my root beer reviewing requires of me. So anyway, let's get to it, shall we?

Goose Island Root Beer is native to Chicago. The Goose Island Brewpub first opened it's doors in 1988 and focuses on brewing beers and hand crafted sodas. In addition to root beer, Goose Island makes 4 other flavors of soda. There are two locations where Goose Island now maintains brewpubs, both of which act as a restaurant where visitors can go and grab a bite to eat with their custom made brew of choice. From the website, they seem like pretty decent places to go for an evening meal. Maybe i'll have to check it out if my wife and i decide to get back to Chicago any time soon.

The bottle is a dark brown glass, 12 oz. bottle with a stick on label. I like the design on the bottle, and it's apparently pretty new. I was looking at other reviewers and seeing what one in particular said about Goose Island (which was a sham of a review if you ask a professional like me), and the old label is kinda corny and less desirable. This new label is simple, bold, clean, and neo-classic. I dig it. It's very straight forward and doesn't waste time. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you unreviewed root beers out there. Don't waste my time!

This root beer is made with 100% cane sugar. I am not one that usually gets hung up on this aspect of root beer anatomy, but i know there are a lot of people out there who do. So with that i will say that this is probably the best of the cane sugar root beers i have had. This stuff is really good. It reminds me a little of Stewart's, with just a tiny touch of carmel, good carbonation, and a great, smooth root beer flavor throughout. This stuff definitely delivers. Another notable cane sugar root beers is AJ Steven's, but there is something about it that really kinda turns me off to cane sugar. It's not bad, it's just... different. Like drinking the milk at the end of a bowl of Frosted Flakes. Kinda sludgy; i don't recommend it. But Goose Island does a great job of tasting like a great root beer should taste. In the end, it has a winning recipe. Maybe not on level with Iron Horse, but definitely up there with the Saranac crowd.

My official review is that Goose Island gets 8 (eight) IBCs. It's a good root beer, and one that i think Chicago should run with. Berghoff kinda steals the claim that it's Chicago's favorite, but time and time again i am not that impressed with it. But i think Goose Island has the right taste. It's decent, and unfortunately the only way i found of getting it was to go online. But if you're willing to go to those lengths for a good hand crafted root beer, this one is worth the shipping.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don't be alarmed...

Ok, this is just a quick little update that i thought was kinda funny. I was going through some old postings and just double checking links and things to update, and when i clicked on one of the reviews, i came up with this warning.

Just so you know, i am NOT trying to trick you into giving me your personal information. Rest assured, i am here to share my reliable root beer knowledge with you kind and gentle folks. More reviews are on the way, i promise. However, from now on i will require your social security numbers and bank accounts in order to access my blog. It's protocol. I'm sure you understand.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Judge Wapner Root Beer

I'll tell ya... every once in a while one of these things falls in your lap that just reinvents the whole game. I'll just preface this by saying I'm a fan of the Chuck Norris propaganda that has been floating around over the past few years, although it's a little played out by now. But i think this is the next man to break onto the scene of pseudo-celebrity turned pop culture icon: Judge Wapner. That's right, i said Wapner. For those of you who don't know who this mountain of a man is/was, he was the presiding star of a popular TV court room show for real life small claims trials. The People's Court ran throughout the entire decade of the 1980's and into the early 90's. This man is a pioneer. Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown had better be worshiping this guy's image every night before bed because they wouldn't even have a career without him. I've even heard that Wapner was so influential that even Dustin Hoffman would rearrange his whole schedule to make sure he watched the show. He would allegedly freak out if he couldn't watch it. He man... gotta watch Wapner... Although i could go on and on introducing this man who has made my childhood life seem just and fair, seeking justice for the wrongs of the small claims court universe, but i'll let the root beer do the rest of the talking. Judge Wapner Root Beer comes to us from Blue Dog Beverages. This root beer has been around since the dawn of time and has been waiting for the right person to come along to represent it fairly in a court of law. It appears to be more than just coincidence. Spoiler alert!: before i even tried this, i knew it would at least get 7 IBCs.

The only way to truly represent this 12 oz. glass bottle justly is to prominently display a gloriously terrifying portrait of the man who has struck so much fear into small claims evil-doers hearts. Judge Wapner's portrait carries so much credibility that you don't even need to write anything on the label. But what the heck, let's do it anyway. Aside from the name of the root beer, the judge declares with a booming voice, "I sentence you to drink my root beer!" That has to be the best punishment anyone could ever get. This label is so incredible that Wapner can use it as an official form of identification, even for airport security purposes. And if you ever get pulled over, be sure you have one of these babies riding shotgun so the cops know you can't be intimidated when the law is on your side.

But probably the best part of this whole charade is that this is actually a pretty good root beer. It tastes similar to Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer, but it's much more subtle on the flavor and has more carbonation for more of a bite. He probably wanted it to be that way so you can understand how it feels when he throws the book at you. Whether you're drinking his root beer or being sued by your neighbor, he wants you to understand what a privilege it is to have him presiding over your experience.

My official review is that Judge Wapner gets 8 (eight) IBCs. You can't run away from the law just like you can't run away from great taste. That's why i wouldn't dare give this thing any less of a rating. But in all seriousness, it's a good root beer, similar to many others, but the persona and the bite it packs pushes it above the rest. So go drink this root beer and then report back to your parole officer!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

River City Root Beer

Well, it looks like the Pop Shop pulled through for me again and got a new root beer for me to try. I am running low on options around the valley here and i have gotten several leads from people that i will probably need to go online for, but this is one i had not yet heard of. So a big thank you goes out to the Pop Shop for its continued service of bringing me new root beers. If you haven't gone to the Pop Shop yet, you should go. They are good people, even though they are a bunch of hippies. Anyway, let me get to the good stuff. River City Root Beer is produced by Blue Dog Beverages out of Sacramento, CA. It turns out a lot of sodas are produced by Blue Dog, including one of my favorite non-root beer sodas, Leninade (also available at the Pop Shop). If you haven't had one yet, go get one. They are awesome. But anyway, back to River City...

The dark brown 12 oz. bottle has a fairly intricate, yet plain label on it. The name of the root beer is written in an almost calligraphy style font that it reminiscent of the days of Mark Twain's stories of river boat adventures. In fact, there is a picture of a river boat depicted on the label. River City beacons you to hearken back to a simpler time and enjoy a root beer the way it was meant to be enjoyed. A nice sentiment and all of that, but i think i, like most people, can't really relate since Mark Twain passed away in 1910. I'm not sure my grandma was even born at that time. So maybe the aim of River City should be to have me hearken back to a simpler time when Back to the Future was still in the movie theaters and Legos were merely simple geometric shapes. That might be a little more my time frame.

River City isn't a bad root beer, but i think my biggest complaint is that it's completely flat. No carbonation. That seems to be a growing epidemic in root beers, and i don't like it. I'm not looking to have you kill me with carbonation, but i like a good amount of it. River City has none. Other than that, it has a good root beer flavor, a hint of carmel, and maybe just a touch of wintergreen. It's a good flavor, but the lack of carbonation kills it for me. If this is their idea of having me remember the yesteryears of the mid to late 1800's, then they can keep it.

My official review is that River City gets 6 (six) IBCs. That rating could feasibly go higher had the soda contained at least a fair degree of carbonation. Alas, the marketing team for River City has yet to contact me and ask my extremely valuable opinion. It's up to you, my loyal readers, to clamor for improvement from this root beer on the edge of excellence. If anyone of you knows anyone in touch with this or any of these root beer companies, have them check out this blog for the opinion of the masses. I'd be happy to offer them some tips on how to make their root beers spectacular (for a fee). In fact, i'll do one now just to demonstrate my willingness to help...

Henry Weinhard's... stop making root beer. You're welcome.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Super Chill Root Beer

Ugh... i've been in Chicago for the weekend for a wedding (congrats Tyler and Lauren) and just got back this morning. We caught an early flight and i don't sleep well on airplanes, so i am cranky and moody right now. My lovely wife says i am acting like i am menstruating, but i assure you that isn't possible seeing that i am all man. Anyway, i made it a point to go to a grocery store to find some local root beers. I was lucky in that i found one that i have not already reviewed, but unlucky in that it was out of stock. But now that i know it's out there, i am making preparations to obtain a sample. On the up side, the trip to the store wasn't a complete waste because i found this "gem" (p.s. quotation marks in this case suggest that i am being sarcastic). It's the store brand (i assume) for a grocery chain called Jewel Osco, or if you had the same first impression as me, a strung out hippie folk singer with crooked teeth working in a pharmacy. It's actually a pretty nice and clean store though, and there are several of them in the downtown Chicago area (which i was surprised to find to be a very clean and fun city). So just like any chain grocer, this store puts out its own store brand version of several flavors of soda. That being the case, i didn't have very high expectations going in.

I picked this stuff up in a 2 liter bottle, although it is also available in cans. The label has a modern advertising style to it, silver and brown colors with a kind of space age/computerized font. Personally, i think the name needs some work. Just sounds sloppy and dumb, but these guys are just out to make money by low balling the root beer market, not wow and impress anyone. Well guess what... mission accomplished.

This stuff is less than average in every way possible. Like i said, i don't know what i was expecting, because it's not meant to be a big seller. But to better paint the picture for you, i was drinking this stuff from a Styrofoam cup in line at the airport while i was waiting to go through the security checkpoint since i couldn't take it on the plane thanks to the new regulations for liquids and gels in quantities greater than 3 oz. It was warm, and i got down about a half a liter before i had to throw the whole thing away and make my way through the security checkpoint. These are not my ideal reviewing conditions, but sometimes i just gotta make do and suffer for my craft. It's hard to be gifted. Anyway, i will say that Super Chill has a very nice aroma, almost like that of A&W, so i was hoping for the best. But other than that, it was pretty disappointing. The standard root beer flavoring was fairly sweet and sugary and it came on quite strong and faded quickly. In the end, i was just chugging carbonated sugar in an airport security line.

My official review is that Super Chill gets 3 (three) IBCs. To be completely fair, i didn't really do due diligence in my research efforts for this root beer. I picked it up, barely drank it, and discarded it so i didn't miss my flight. But to be completely honest, i don't feel that i need to. Had it been good, i would have put more effort into it. But when you get to bed at 12:30 AM and have to wake up at 3:00 in order to catch a flight at 5:00, you do what you can to make it all work. In this case, a bad root beer made my job easy. So thanks Super Chill, i guess. Anyway, Chicago is a lovely city. If you end up visiting, go see the big silver bean and eat at Lou Malanati's, but don't bother hitting up the local Jewel Osco for some Super Chill.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brick Oven Old Fashioned Root Beer

Throughout my years as a root beer expert, i have made many associations around the country, and inevitably when i travel to Utah i am asked if i have reviewed the root beer made at and by the Brick Oven Pizza Restaurant in Provo. This restaurant has been part of Provo for the better part of the last century, or to be specific, since 1956. Back then it was known as Heaps of Pizza, but although the food is good, a "heap" of anything doesn't sound very delicious. Good call on the name change. The restaurant has a root beer factory in the basement where they have brewed their own root beer since the restaurant opened. Dinner guests can order it in a frosted mug, and according to the website, it is served free after 5:00 PM on Mondays with the purchase of a pizza. It has quite a reputation around the Utah Valley and people seem to really appreciate it up there. Plus, it is right next to the BYU campus, and the BYU mascot is named Cosmo the Cougar. It's fate that i review this root beer. So i made it a point to go back to the Brick Oven specifically to review the root beer when i last made a trip up to Utah. Unfortunately, i did not go on a Monday night, and when i went they weren't serving any from the tap in a frosty mug. Strike one. However, I was able to secure a couple of these 2 liter bottles.

This festive 2 liter bottle carries the restaurant logo and some basic information about the history of the place. It's eye catching and tasteful i suppose, but i felt like i didn't get the real experience of the root beer. I think anyone in their right mind would prefer the frosty mug to the 2 liter bottle shown here. But even with that in mind i tried not to hold it against the restaurant. Maybe it's so popular that they just simply ran out of root beer? Or maybe the factory workers had the day off and weren't brewing any root beer today? Who knows, but the real disappointment of the bottle was when i opened it. No carbonation escaping the now broken seal, no fizzy bubbles rising to the top. This root beer was flat. Strike two.

My fellow restaurant patrons and I poured the root beer over some ice (the fact that it was warm was not weighed against the root beer, it was merely circumstance) and began to taste this highly praised, highly anticipated root beer. The general consensus? Mediocre at best. I've already mentioned that it was flat (which the second bottle turned out to be as well), but other than that there was no wow, no kick, no spark of creativity in the flavor that would make me rave and rant and perpetuate the sterling reputation this thing already carries. To sum up the experience, i drank a less than average root beer. Strike three. I realize i'm being a bit harsh, and maybe i shouldn't be, but this stuff didn't live up to what everyone said about it. It simply tastes like root beer extract and sugar. It's not terrible, and aside from being completely flat, i didn't want to spit it out. But i also wasn't bowled over by it, and there are lots of other better choices, even in Utah Valley.

My official review is that Brick Oven Root Beer gets 4 (four) IBCs. The food at the restaurant was quite good and moderately priced, but the root beer doesn't live up to the hype. It's a shame too. I really wanted to like it. I even made a root beer float with it later when i got home (which you can order off the menu at the restaurant) and it was still unimpressive. [I hope that helps you Shasta.] So if you find yourself up in the Provo area, do yourself a favor and make the trip up to Hires Big H in Salt Lake. You can get a frosty mug of Hires with your meal, and i promise you that won't disappoint.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sonoran Root Beer

Wow... July has been a whirlwind, and all i can really say is that i know i have been missed and i am sorry for delaying my research notes for all of you. But i have a special treat for you today. Sonoran Root Beer is brewed right here in good ol' Phoenix, AZ (specifically, in Scottsdale) at the Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse. I was tipped off by a lady i work with named Merlyn. Suffice it to say, she's awesome. The brewery makes several types of unique beers for the restaurant as well as Sonoran Root Beer. The brewery used to also make another kind of root beer called Watt's root beer which is no longer in production. However, i actually talked to Zach, one of the brewmasters at Sonoran (cuz that's the kind of pull i have in the local root beer circles), and he told me that he just recently started rebottling Sonoran and that once he gets this thing going again that he has ideas for lots of other root beer recipes he wants to try out. Nice dude. I only talked to him on the phone, but after talking to him and having never seen him in real life, i'd have to say he probably looks strikingly similar to this. Or this. Or maybe this. Anyway, Sonoran can now be purchased at the Pop Shop as well as from the restaurant where the brewery is located.

Sonoran comes in 22 oz. brown glass bottles, so it's a little bit larger serving than you might be used to. The label feature's a cool, kickin' it cactus with sunglasses and a big mug of root beer. Living in the desert, you get your fair share of exposure to cactus of all temperaments, from happy, to angry, to paranoid. You just gotta roll with it really. But anyway, other than that, the label is quite simple. It uses a lot of bright colors and has the Sonoran Brewing Company brand proudly displayed, so there's really no mistaking it. The big bottle was nice so i could share with my wife, although i don't think she appreciated the root beer much since she was sick at the time. All she kept saying was, "i can't taste anything", at which point she was promptly cut off. So luckily i had plenty left over for the review.

The ingredients listed on the label show that this root beer is quite simple. It tastes like root beer, which is a good thing for a root beer to taste like, and has a blend of other flavors in it. The root beer is made with sonoran desert honey, vanilla, and artificial flavors, but in the end it all just tastes like smarties to me. There was another root beer i reviewed in my what is now ENORMOUS collection of documented root beer explorations, but i can't quite pinpoint which one it is. But the bottom line is that i liked it. It's quite sweet, but still very good. The root beer taste it starts with is kind of overshadowed by the sweet, candy aftertaste, but i didn't find it overpowering or unlikeable.

My official review is that Sonoran Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. It's a good root beer. I dig the 22 oz. bottles and i am excited to see if Zach follows through with some more concoctions for me to review/promote for him for free. I'm just hoping that once he makes it big, i'll be compensated on the back end. But do yourself a favor and swing by the Pop Shop and grab a bottle. It's decent stuff.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Frostie Vanilla Root Beer

I'm probably going to keep this post short. They have been running long recently, which i apologize for, and i am currently in summer school and inundated with homework at the moment. Besides, this is basically an extension of the previous review i did on Frostie Root Beer. Frostie has been around since about 1939 and is based in Temple, TX. The regular root beer is not too bad, but nothing particularly exciting. Most of what i have read about Frostie is that it isn't the same as it was back in the day. But anyway, they made another flavor of root beer which they've named Frostie Vanilla Root Beer, so obviously i had to try it.

The same Frostie label/bottle is used for the vanilla root beer, the only difference being the tan and creme colored back ground and the replacement of the mug of root beer with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a root beer float/sundae. Otherwise, we're dealing with the same cup of tea here (not that it contains tea; I'm not gonna fall for that again).

The name and color of this soda are a bit misleading, mainly because it should be cream colored and called cream soda. That's what this stuff is, Frostie Cream Soda. Now before we run into a big fiasco and start pointing the finger and assaulting my integrity (see last post on A&W Float for details), let me just say that 1) i am including this in my reviews because i can. So deal with it. And 2) there is nothing short of tasting this soda that would make me believe it was a cream soda. I mean, sure, i could read other reviews about it to see what other reviewers think, but starting this blog was based entirely on the fact that these other self appointed experts have no idea what they are talking about. Hence, i cannot trust them, and neither can you for that matter. So with that, i will just say, it's a good tasting cream soda. Lots of vanilla flavor and decent carbonation (which is important to me). It reminds me a lot of IBC Cream Soda, which is good and which i like, but it's not as good as IBC Root Beer. In fact, nothing is. Cream sodas are fine, but they lack the fascinating complexity of root beer, which is yet another reason i don't care to review them (on purpose).

My official review is that Frostie Vanilla Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's not bad for not being a real root beer. I don't begrudge it at all, i just wish it wasn't afraid to say what it really is. There's nothing wrong with being a cream soda. I just don't want one of my daughters to date one. Know your place cream soda. That's all i'm saying.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A&W Float

This one is not hard to find. I picked it up at the Pop Shop because i only had to buy one of them, but these are sold at a lot of the grocery stores in 4 or 6-packs (not sure which). The A&W Float is a drink that is part of a new line that is coming out of "float flavors". Only two flavors currently exists, but from the looks of the site, more should be soon to follow. The idea is that these flavors are combined with ice cream into an old timey float that you can enjoy on the go. Check out the site for info on the Sunkist Float, which i think would be good because it's like an orange creamsicle, the most sensual of frozen ice cream treats (in my opinion, which is the right opinion). I have seen this... for the lack of a better term, "root beer product" for a while now, but have been hesitant to review it. I am trying to maintain a site dedicated to reviewing only root beers, although i have already reviewed several i don't know if i would classify as root beer. It's interesting though, the timing of this post, because i was just about to explain how i don't review anything other than root beers when i got a request from my extremely huge fan-base to review a sarsaparilla. First of all, i don't usually interact with my fan-base. I prefer to be the all knowing, unseen genius in your eyes who chooses to disassociate myself from all of you because i am so much better than you (no offense, but it's true). So while i do appreciate comments and requests of this nature that show your loyalty, please don't expect responses to them. After all, i'm a busy guy. But as i said, that is interesting that this request should come at this time because i was just about to explain with this post how i went back and forth with this product for several months because i didn't know if it was technically a root beer. I finally decided to let it slide through because these decisions are at my discretion, and i like to treat my root beers like i am a bouncer at a club. If you're pretty enough or you slip me a few bucks under the table, i might just let you join the party. But on that note, i'm just gonna lay it down for all of you so you can know what to expect. I review root beers. Although they are close in nature, i do not review sarsaparillas, cream sodas, or diet root beers. I just want to keep the integrity of the blog, and anything that makes it onto this site has been highly scrutinized by me and found worthy to be reviewed, because to be completely honest, i don't get paid to do this (yet). I just don't want my amazing talent and fantastic discerning powers to go to waste is all. So i'm sorry, but i only do root beers. Does that make me a bad person? I mean, it's not like i blew up Megaton City or anything, and it's not that i don't like sarsaparillas and cream sodas, because i do. I just don't review them is all. I would direct anyone who's interested in sarsaparillas or creme sodas, or even diet root beers, to the Pop Shop. They have a very large selection.

This is kind of a funky bottle. It has a curvy and sensual bottle shape ("stop saying sensual"). The difference in shape only makes it an 11.5 oz. bottle instead of the typical 12 oz. The label is very fancy and colorful. I think they are trying for the old 50's style writing and advertising to give it an old fountain shop look. Lots of browns and tans, cream colors, etc. The A&W label is prominently displayed on what appears to be a sign you would see outside an old diner on the side of the road. This label definitely catches the eye, and i am sure most of you have seen this in grocery stores before because it almost jumps out at you.

I'll be honest... i don't really like this stuff. It's not bad, but it doesn't really taste like root beer at all. All i can taste is a pina colada. Weird, i know. And it's sweet. In fact, it's too sweet. Plus it is completely uncarbonated. It's almost like drinking a pina colada Sobe. There is a lot of text on the bottle, mostly the nutritional facts. There is a lot that goes into this thing, and it's not surprising that it only has a shelf life of 6 months. In other words, this is basically a step away from the "all natural" selection of root beers i just reviewed. Not sure what is in it that makes me think it's a pina colada, which is fine cuz i like pina coladas, just not in my root beer. Maybe it's the cream they use. Hmmm...

My official review is that A&W Float gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not at all what i expected, and i am kind of disappointed that i let it slide through to be classified as a "root beer". Technically, i think it would probably be more of a cream soda, which is what held me back from reviewing it in the first place. The girl at the register of the Pop Shop said she really likes the Sunkist Float a lot better than this one. So maybe i would suggest you get your hands on one of those instead, or even better, on an ice-cold, delicious, never disappointing IBC.

Addendum: *sigh*... i hate that i even have to try and defend myself on this seeing as i assumed it was amply explained in the body of the post, but i have recently come under fire regarding my decisions about what to classify as a root beer. Here is a quick list of guidelines i follow when choosing root beers to review:

1) It's my blog and i'm a freaking expert. That's why you come to my blog.

i told you it was a quick list.

Here's what you need to know... i review root beers. If it's on my blog, i have classified it as a root beer. The historical similarities between root beer and sarsaparilla? What, did you go to root beer college or something? You think my readers care about that kind of trivial nonsense when they're just looking for a decent root beer? Really? These people are sheep, and i am merely the shepherd directing them toward great taste and away from anything made by a hippie.

Look, i can see how this can get very lengthy. All i will say is that after months of deliberation i decided to let this one slide through because it carries the A&W name and those who drink it are made to believe it is made with A&W root beer (see We all know there are many ways to flavor a root beer (including using sarsaparilla), but if you call it a sarsaparilla, then to me it's not a root beer anymore (i have a pie chart that proves it). If there were no difference between the two drinks, i wouldn't like AJ Stephen's Root Beer and hate AJ Stephen's Sarsaparilla. And anyone who names their soda Hosmer Mountain Sarsaparilla Root Beer is clearly retarded. Stop trying to confuse people. Just pick one. (But just so you know, i would probably still review it).

And for the record, my name is Jonathan.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Steaz Organic Sparkling Green Tea Root Beer

Well, this will round out the natural/organic root beer run i made at Whole Foods, and this has to be by far the weirdest one i've encountered. Steaz is a brand or organic beverages from the Healthy Beverage Company of Newton, PA. They make a variety of different drinks in several flavors, all of which contain green tea. I don't know how long they've been around, but thanks to a little research on this site, i do know that the company was started by a couple guys named Eric Schnell and Steve Kessler. These two guys decided to name their drink "Steaz" because they combine "sodas" with "teas". They use a z because they think it looks stylish. I'll give you credit for being somewhat clever, though i don't think you exerted yourselves all that much. However, the name Steaz makes me think of "skeez", as in, "that guy is a total skeez", and that makes me think these guys are kinda shady. Another reason i think that is because they rave excessively about how much good in the world they are doing. I mean, these guys love to blow their own horn about how they donate to causes that benefit Sri Lanka, the Sudan, cancer survivors, paying fair wages to farmers, and reducing the carbon foot print. Sure, you can say they are all noble causes, and i am not disputing that. I am just saying that those who yell the loudest usually have something to hide. Could it be that what they really do all day is sit around in a shack smoking opium and listening to trance music? That seems more likely. You may be asking yourself, "what would ever give you that idea Cosmo?" Just take a look at their website. Seriously, i feel like i'm trapped in a bad Enigma video, or like i'm the first one to arrive at a cult recruitment meeting wondering where everyone else is and why my head suddenly is starting to feel funny.

The 12 oz. clear glass bottles of their "root beer" have a fairly basic, yet high end look to them. There is the brand logo itself printed above a row of overflowing root beer mugs. Although there is a lot of text involved just in writing the name, it doesn't look too busy and isn't off putting. So like i said, it's pretty basic, but it also looks quite professional. Apparently this stuff is pretty popular because they make enough money to sponser a fairly high end website, some decent marketing and packaging, and lots of cash to throw at charities.

As mentioned before, all the drinks made by Steaz contain green tea. That being the case, i don't think they should really call this stuff soda, or even root beer. It's tea. It looks like tea, it tastes like tea, and it even calls itself tea. Does it taste like root beer? Vaguely. And maybe the joke is on me and i just misunderstood, but this stuff isn't root beer. It's tea. Like Santa Cruz Organic, this stuff is also sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice. It also claims to be far better for you than soda. That's because it's parading as something it is not. Tea combined with soda? It's not soda. Not at all. Or maybe i was just confused when i bought it. I was expecting a tea infused soda. But what i got was a "root beer" flavored tea. And on that matter, let me just say that people have combined tea with other flavors to create raspberry tea, cinnimon tea, and even peppermint tea, which are all acceptable. But i have a suggestion for the tea industry in general; don't combine your tea with root beer. Just don't do it.

My official review is that Steaz Green Tea Root Beer gets 2 (two) IBCs. It's not that this stuff is terrible tasting. It's that it's not a root beer. And i don't particualy like tea, so that already counts me out. There is also a note on the bottle about natual settling that may occur for this drink. I found as i drank down to the bottom of the bottle, it becomes more and more tea flavored. Also, the colder it is, the better tasting it is (if any of you are still interested). They claim it's good for you, but i won't be buying it again, and i suggest you get yourself a real root beer also.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Santa Cruz Organic Root Beer

You must be getting tired of these natural root beers, but i only have a couple more to review. This one is called Santa Cruz Organic Root Beer. Santa Cruz Natural is a company dedicated to making several products, from fruit juices to peanut butter, using organic sources. The company is based in Chico, CA and has been around since the early 1970s. In addition to making products from all natural sources, Santa Cruz Organic is a big proponent of the green movement. I think up until now i have made myself fairly clear about my stance on hippies, but i rarely (if ever) mention anything about the green movement, which was started primarily by hippies (or more-so, the children of hippies). This might offend people, but i think we can all agree my influence in the root beer circles excuses my opinions that some may find offensive. Anyway, let's start this with a question. "Hey Cosmo, how do you feel about the green movement?" Well, i'll tell you. The green movement is a marketing scheme. The word "green" to me is synonymous with "expensive". Have you noticed that "green" products are usually more expensive than their "non-green" competitive counterparts? I thought going green was supposed to save money. Why does saving the Earth have to be so expensive? Seriously? And why has EVERYTHING turned green in the past three to five years? Because it's a marketing scheme, that's why. They guilt you into saving the planet by buying more expensive "green" products. I'm sick of green products. Now before you work yourself into a tizzy, let me make myself clear; I'm not saying you should go out and club a baby seal and pour oil all over it's dead body. I'm just saying get off my back if once in a while i like to unwind by dumping toxic waste on a pile of kittens. Hey, it's my prerogative. I'm an American!

Anyway, sorry about that. Let's talk about root beer some more. The can it came in has a very basic design. The color scheme is composed of green and white for all the soda flavors, and there is a picture of the plant of flavor of the soda somewhere on the can. The root beer has a picture of a couple old barrels of root beer made from real organic wood sources, or at least they should be or Santa Cruz is a dirty liar. The rest of the can is covered in text, mostly about being organic and natural and all of that. It's basic and simple, and i am impartial to it. It doesn't jump out at me and i am not repulsed by it. Not much else to say about it really.

My only other experience with a self proclaimed "organic" root beer ended very badly, so i was expecting the worst when i popped the top on this sucker. I was relieved to find that it's not as terrible as i was led to believe all organic root beers are, but it's still very typical tasting of a natural root beer. It has light carbonation and is sweetened with something called "organic evaporated cane juice", which actually has it's own website. The root beer taste is really quite subtle, and the after taste is basically non-existent. It almost reminds me of Olde Rhode Island Root Beer, in that the taste disappears after drinking it so quickly. Plus, it has a taste that reminds me of herbal tea. Basically all i end up really tasting in the end is the sugar and herbal tea taste. And the big kicker is that the root beer itself is actually clear. Yup, it's like the Crystal Pepsi of root beer.

My official review is that Santa Cruz Organic Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. Like i said, i am leaning more toward putting it in the same category as Olde Rhode Island, but being a natural/organic soda, i'm coming down on it a little harder than i did with ORI. It doesn't taste bad, but it's completely unimpressive. Plus, it's affiliation with the green movement isn't helping it's reputation any...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dr. Tima Honey Root Beer

I don't know how many people will be familiar with this stuff, but here is another root beer i picked up at Whole Foods. Dr. Tima Honey Soda comes in four flavors, including root beer. The company operates out of Beverly Hills, CA and has been around since 1973. Apparently this soda doesn't have a full operational website yet, but this "starter site" has been provided to get the very basics out of the way. I keep wanting to call it Dr. Tima's, but all the research i do on the label and the internet suggests the 's is not proper, at least in formal settings. Really, there's quite little about Dr. Tima himself. The source of all knowledge has no personal information about the man (or woman, let's not be biased here) and really the only solid info i can get from the label leaves me with countless more questions. Who is Dr. Tima? What is his field of medicine? How long has he been practicing? Should i just take it at face value and not assume Dr. Tima is an actual person/medical doctor, not unlike Dr. Pepper? Here is the info that forms my very compelling thesis:
1) Dr. Tima speaks to those who drink his soda in first person, suggesting that he is indeed a real person. And i think he might be Jewish since this stuff is Kosher.
2) Dr. Tima explicitly states that he has been "prescribing" all natural honey soda since 1973. The use of the word prescribing leads me to believe that he is a practicing medical doctor, but i can't for the life of me think of a doctor that would prescribe an all natural honey soda for any affliction, let alone a blanket sweep of every affliction as the statement suggests.
3) Really the only field of medicine i can settle a reasonable guess on would be nutrition. However, if Dr. Tima is a Nutritionist, he's not a very good one because he states clear as day on his label that you should drink all natural honey soda everyday. Now... i'm all for having a cold bottle of great root beer everyday, but i never claim that it's good for you (unless it's IBC). This all natural soda sweetened with honey instead of processed sugar may be better for you than normal soda, but i wouldn't go as far as to say it's fortified with essential vitamins and minerals or anything.
So my profile so far depicts Dr. Tima as a Jewish Nutritional Doctor living in Beverly Hills, CA and absolutely crazy about honey. I mean, this guy is in love with it. Anyway, i know this is getting long, but i feel it's important to know what we're dealing with here.

The soda comes in a typical 12 oz. clear glass bottle. The background of the label is a honeycomb pattern and there are several references to bees; a small picture of a bee, the tagline "A Bee in Every Bottle" below the brand name, and my personal favorite, the extremely cheesy promo statement with the line, "it's healthy and bee-licious!" It's kind of a busy label. There is a lot going on, but i'll give the good doctor some credit in that it's pretty fresh and professional looking. Looks like Dr. Tima's Jewish clientele can help him afford some decent advertising digs.

Since it's an all natural soda, it has no artificial flavors or colors. It uses all natural ingredients. Most of the time, that tells me that the soda is gonna be gross. But this stuff isn't too bad. Instead of cane sugar or processed sugar, the soda is sweetened with honey. I knew a lady who used to make cookies and ice cream and everything sweet using honey instead of sugar. It gave it a different taste, but it wasn't necessarily bad. But, as expected, everything had the hint of honey in it, which is the case with this root beer. However, the root beer itself has a somewhat complex taste to it. There is a nice creamy, smooth vanilla taste to start with, followed by some basic root beer flavoring, and followed up with honey. And even though i don't love honey, it's not terrible.

My official review is that Dr. Tima Honey Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. I don't love it, but i think it deserves a little more than a middle of the road score. I will say this though, this is a sipping root beer. It's not a chugging root beer, because with volume, the honey taste comes out exponentially until it just tastes like drinking straight honey. So just slow it down and enjoy it, that is, if you choose to shell out the $5+ for a four-pack. It ain't cheap, which i supposed is understandable. I mean, come on. ... the guy's a doctor.

**side note** i actually went and visited the Pop Shop today to look for new root beers and i saw they had a shipment of Dr. Tima in. So if you'd like to try it, i think this is your best option since you can buy individual bottles. You're welcome.

Death Valley Root Beer

The name of this root beer is initially pretty awesome, but further investigation shows that it's more based on geography that being hardcore. Anyway, Death Valley Root Beer is brewed by Indian Wells Brewing Co., which is primarily focused on brewing beers. There are however 4 flavors of soda under the Death Valley brand, root beer being one of them. Death Valley is of course part of the high desert of California near the Nevada border. The brewery however is not located in the township of Death Valley, but closer to the Bakersfield area in Inyokern, CA. Not sure how much of a draw the Death Valley region of California is, but for a name like that i expect the roads to be lined with skulls. Otherwise, you're just wasting my time.

It's clear from the label that they are going for the old west theme. I assume the old west era is intrinsically tied to Death Valley, seeing as if someone were to name that part of California these days, it would be something like Make Sure You're Hydrated Valley, which is kind of disappointing. I mean, i don't want to die if i were to go to Death Valley, but i at least want to be in danger of dying. Anyway, back to the root beer. It comes in a clear 12 oz. glass bottle and the label is made to look like a wanted sign from the old west, like this root beer is an outlaw and you're just the vigilante to track it down, rip it's top off, and drink it's insides (a traditional old western execution, i assure you). There is a picture of a stage coach being pulled by horses, not unlike the Wells Fargo logo. The rest of the label is just filled with the typical information root beers list on their labels, including a notice that there is a cash refund in California for recycling the bottle (for you thrifty hippies out there).

But getting down to brass tacks, it's really just a kinda regular old root beer. It has a fairly prominent black licorice flavor, very little carbonation (boo), and it's made with cane sugar. Other than that, it's kind of a regular old run of the mill root beer. Tastes like root beer extract with a little extra on the anise. It's by no means terrible, but has a long way to go if it wants to compete in the big leagues.

My official review is that Death Valley gets 4 (four) IBCs. I was turned off by the black licorice flavor and lack of carbonation. Otherwise i might have given it a 5. Again, if black licorice is your thing, then i say go for it. It's not overpowering or anything, but it's enough to notice and that's what counts. And for those of you who listen to my every word and whim, don't bother with this stuff. It's faily expensive to boot at about $5 for a four-pack, and you're just going to be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blue Sky Root Beer Encore

So i just reviewed a Blue Sky root beer, and i am sure some of you are confused. Let me just do a blanket sweep of the formalities and say that Blue Sky Sodas is a Santa Fe, NM based company that started in 1980 and recently moved operations to Southern California. They specialize in making "all natural" sodas. Nothing you didn't already know, right? Well this might be a little different than what you're used to (it certainly was for me). In addition to making "all natural" sodas, Blue Sky makes a line of "organic" sodas. Hence, Blue Sky Root Beer Encore. The difference? On appearances alone most would say nothing, and indeed it seems like this is kinda redundant. But according to the Blue Sky website, the "natural sodas" don't have any artificial ingredients in them, and the "organic sodas" contain organic ingredients? I can't quite make the distinction myself, and if there is a difference in the ingredients, it is quite subtle. I debated a long time in the store as to categorizing this as a diet soda or not. All the evidence points to the fact that this is the diet version of the Blue Sky Creamy Root Beer. But after categorizing what makes a soda "diet" (i.e. an artificial sweetener in place of sugar or high fructose corn syrup) and seeing clearly on the label below the brand name "sweetened with organic cane sugar", i made the professional judgement that this is simply another stab at soda from a company that likes to use organic ingredients. It's not uncommon for root beer companies to make more than one recipe of root beer. So i gave Blue Sky the benefit of the doubt.

The label is basically the same as the cans of the "natural sodas" with two major distinctive differences; 1) the color scheme is a white background, and 2) in big text above the brand name is the Certified Organic Soda seal, proving that this concoction did indeed come directly from Mother Nature. No one is allow to dispute this fact. It's a scientific fact, like gravity and white trash.

But here is where i get down on Blue Sky. Since you're all diligent blog followers, i'm sure you've all read the semi-glowing endorsement i gave Blue Sky for making a decent tasting "natural" root beer. But if their natural root beer is considered an acceptable and generally likable member of the root beer family, then their organic root beer is like the creepy uncle you don't trust around your kids. In other words, Root Beer Encore is bad. The name itself is unfortunate, as it indicates an applause filled clamor for more. But this stuff is just plain gross. Strike one, no (zero) carbonation. What's the point in calling it a soda if it doesn't have carbonation? Just cut to the chase and call it a juice. Strike two, it tastes terrible. The only semblance of root beer i can taste in it is the anise (black licorice) flavoring, which i am already not a huge fan of. I can't taste anything remotely close to organic cane sugar in it. It has the same rotten fruit taste Route 66 root beer has. Strike three, the aftertaste in my mouth could make the Holocaust look like summer camp. It's seriously a huge disservice to the human race. Have some mouthwash handy cuz you're breath is gonna be heinous for the next six to eight hours. In fact, you'd probably be better off just drinking the mouthwash instead of this garbage.

My official review is that Blue Sky Root Beer Encore get 1 (one) IBC. This root beer (if you dare call it that) lies somewhere on the scale between "i hate it" and "i'd rather kill and eat my entire family". To boot, this stuff is expensive. The only good thing i can say to Blue Sky for this is thanks for reminding me why i hate hippies so much (as if i would have forgotten any time soon).

Blue Sky Creamy Root Beer

I swear i can remember drinking this as a kid, but i can't put an exact instance of drinking one of these sodas with a frame of reference. However, it's not unlikely since Blue Sky Sodas have been around since 1980 (a year before my own birth). Hence, i have had opportunities my entire life to try Blue Sky Creamy Root Beer, or any of the other flavors they make. Blue Sky reminds me of Hansen's Sodas in the sense that they are "all natural". Of course, many sodas claim to be all natural, but what does that really mean? I don't have the time or desire to delve into that topic, but for all intents and purposes let's just say it means they are the star bellied sneetches of the soda world. Anyway, Blue Sky was initially a Santa Fe, NM based company but has recently moved operations to Southern California. This apparently pissed at least one guy off, as he tried to sue Blue Sky for false advertising, claiming to be a New Mexico based company but not manufactured or bottled anywhere in New Mexico. I guess it's a touchy subject.

I picked up a six-pack of cans. The cans have a particularly southwestern theme to them, further asserting its connection to New Mexico and infuriating NM natives in the process. Each of the flavors has the same basic color scheme with a different color tribal Indian border on top and bottom for different flavors. Other than that, they all have blue background with a scene of rolling mountains and Santa Fe style Adobe Housing which can be found in several parts of Phoenix. I never cared much for southwestern architecture, but it's quite popular among the affluent folks. You'd think that since they spend so much money on southwestern houses that they'd want to drive southwestern cars too.

Truth be told, this isn't a bad soda. It's not like most natural sodas in that it's not terrible. It is decently carbonated and doesn't taste like yard work. The cane sugar give it a nice sweet taste (imagine that, right?) and true to it's name, it is quite creamy with a hint of vanilla. Of course, it still tastes a bit like a natural soda should, but at least it's tolerable, if not flat out enjoyable.

My official review is that Blue Sky Creamy Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. It's a decent natural soda, and definitely better than Hansen's. I am not sure where else you can pick it up besides Whole Foods, but it's probably going to be just as expensive anywhere else (maybe not, since the Whole Foods hippies figure they can charge whatever they want in the name of going green). But anyway, if natural sodas are your thing, i would recommend you add this one to the list.

Addendum: I ran across the third installment in Blue Sky's root beer trilogy and grabbed a six pack, but after drinking it i decided it's so similar to the regular Creamy Root Beer that it didn't deserve it's own review. Just a brief mention. They tried to sneak one past me, but this stuff is basically just the same as the regular stuff, just with ginseng. There really is no discernible difference in taste. So if you see either of these root beers in your local grocery store, there is no need to sit and deliberate over which you should get. They have the same rating. Either will do.

Unless there is an IBC close by. Then the choice is clear.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

365 Root Beer

I got a hot tip from the internet on a good place to scope out some new root beers, and i was in need of it because i am running out of readily available new brands around here. But it just so happens that Whole Food carries several brands of sodas that fit the Whole Foods hippie agenda. My wife and i made a trip down there and hit the jackpot, picking up seven different new kinds of root beer, including this one. 365 Root Beer is part of the 365 Everyday Value brand that is exclusive to Whole Foods. Like Kroger, they make everything in the food arena. However, unlike Kroger, this stuff is not cheap. In fact, none of the root beers in Whole Foods are cheap. If it weren't for my unrelenting integrity and devotion to reviewing any and all root beers for you the consumer, i probably would have saved the money. So in advance, you're welcome.

I picked up a six-pack of cans of this soda for close to $4.00. All 365 soda labels have the same basic design, but different color schemes and pictures depicted for different flavors. The root beer label is a carmel, tan color with the brand logo and a depiction of a mug of root beer. It's just a regular can in all other regards. My opinion? Not that impressed. Your opinion? The same as mine. Trust me, we've seen better.

One of the conditions for being sold at Whole Foods is that the soda is all natural. It's made with cane sugar and no preservatives, along with a bunch of other hippie regulations. I swear that store is like the breeding ground for dreadlocks and snaggletooths, and i'm not convinced the smell in there is from the open containers of natural spices. Anyway, the root beer follows the taste guideline of the natural root beers. It's not terrible and it reminds me a lot of Hansen's, but it's not my favorite. It has a faint black licorice flavor and a fairly mellow/heavy root beer extract taste. I don't usually make mention of this, but it has fairly good head too, which i know some people make a big deal out of. I don't care one way or another, as long as the carbonation is good (it's decent for 365). But all in all, i'm not sure it's the right root beer for me. Or you, for that matter.

My official review is that 365 gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not great, which pains me because i have a six-pack of it and am cursed with not being able to throw anything out for fear of wasting. So i suppose i'll have to take it into work and see if anyone there wants to sample this crappy hippie elixir. It's expensive, unappealing, and worst of all, natural. Don't bother with this ones kids.

Fiesta Root Beer

In 1932, Eddie Basha had one goal in mind: create a grocery store with the cheapest food products available. Now, 77 years later, Basha's is proud to bring you Fiesta Root Beer. Fiesta makes several flavors that are sold at Basha's grocery stores across the Valley of the Sun (i couldn't find any links with any sort of mention of this soda line). It's distributed by a company here in Chandler, AZ. Other than that, i really don't have much to go on with this soda. The only other thing i can really say is that this stuff is really cheap. I picked this 2-liter bottle for 69 cents. Fiesta, of course, is Spanish for "party". I get the feeling this thing is supposed to be packed with fun; really really inexpensive fun.

The label on this 2-liter bottle is brown with white text and there are little party streamers and bits of confetti flying all over the place on the label. Super simple, fairly boring, extremely generic looking. From the looks of the label, you'd think i picked it up at Food City and not Basha's. "Root Beer" is also written in Spanish on the bottle. It reminds me of when i lived in Canada. Everything in the supermarket is written in English and French. And i have the same feelings about this packaging decision as i did about the Canadians way of doing it: annoying. But, whatever... you can't please everyone.

All i can really say about this root beer is that it lives up to it's name, or at least the Mexican part of it. It's rather "spicy". The only thing that would make the experience really hit home is if you got to drink it out of a pinata (my choice? a donkey). A colleague of mine says that the wintergreen really sticks out to him. I can't seem to taste wintergreen at all though. It kinda has the nutmeggy taste of Dad's, but it's not nearly as sweet and it's a lot more sharp. I can still taste the decent root beer undertone, but that's not the prevalent flavor. It's not unpleasant, but definitely hard to pinpoint exactly what it tastes like. I can't really say it's something i'd make a trip back to Basha's for though.

My official review is that Fiesta gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's not bad and it's a touch different from the ordinary, but there's a reason this stuff is so cheap. It's cuz it's just really thrown together without much thought or care. I have often wondered if there was a Mexican root beer. Maybe this is about as close as it gets. And with a name like that, they should promote it with the slogan "a party in every bottle!" Yeah, that's good. Maybe i should pitch that to them.
I wonder how you say that in Spanish...