Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hansen's Creamy Root Beer

I got a hot tip from a cool friend (<-- come on, now that was clever) about a place to get some new root beers to review, so i went and investigated yesterday with my wife. Most people have heard of the soda brand Hansen's. It is known for several fruity concoctions of drinks made from real fruit juices with no preservatives, sodium, or caffeine. But i was a little surprised that they made a root beer. But it's true, root beer is just another flavor added to the extensive Hansen's line. Hansen's was started in the 1930's in Corona, CA. Hubert Hansen and his three sons started out by selling fruit juice to film studios and retailers in Southern California. Who might those three sons be? None other than the three members of the band Hansen. I know that might not seem possible, but seriously, these kids haven't aged a day since the 1930's. I swear the little one went to my high school and got busted for doing crystal meth. Maybe there really is something to this preservative free soda/fountain of youth thing.

I picked up a six-pack of cans as it was the only packaging available to me. The labels of all Hansen's drinks are always very colorful, full of scenes of nature and natural naturey stuff, obviously trying to play up the whole natural ingredients angle. The label has a lot going on, but not in an offensive way like Journey John Barleycorn. Just take a look at it yourself, cuz i don't really want to go into the details of it. Standard for a Hansen's label, minus being a root beer and not some fruit flavor.

Hansen's uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, but it doesn't really have the cane sugar taste. That's not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but all i can really say about the taste of Hansen's is mmmm-blah. Kinda boring. Nothing really special at all. I taste a tiny hint of anise at the beginning and a creamy vanilla after taste, but it's still not that amazing or incredible. Not that it's bad, it's just not something that really sticks out to me. Wintergreen is labeled on the ingredients, but i can't really taste it at all. Too bad Hansen's. You might have won me over.

My official review is that Hansen's gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's not bad at all, but it just falls into the middle-of-the-road variety of root beer because there is nothing special about it. I don't drink a lot of Hansen's products, but i'd recommend their other flavors if that's what you're into.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Parker's Genuine Root Beer

Does anyone remember Safeway Select sodas? They were sold at Safeway (go figure) and were extremely inexpensive. I remember the vending machines being 25 cents instead of 50 cents, so that was incentive enough to buy the soda, even though it wasn't that great. Well guess what... as far as i can tell, Safeway Select sodas have completely vanished from the market. It's a devastating loss i know, but it looks like Safeway has created a new line of "named" sodas to try and rebuild its image in the soft drink circles. So basically, this is just Safeway's new brand of root beer, and the good news is *spoiler alert!* it's a lot better than Safeway Select root beer. I hope i didn't give too much away there. Anyway, this was kinda hard to track down on the site, but it's helpful for all you calorie counters out there. And as you can see, it's still very inexpensive. And just another quick comment on the Safeway website, this store has lost HUGE amounts of credibility in my book. They sell IBC, but list it under "Interstate Brands Corporation" instead of "Independent Breweries Company". Come on Safeway, that's WAY off. This is why i didn't want to review store brand root beers in the first place. You're not devoted to the cause of root beer. I mean, that's not even close. Get with it Safeway. You're on notice.

I picked this up in the 2 liter bottle, although it's also available in cans. I didn't want to commit myself to a potentially bad root beer 12 times though, so the 2 liter bottle was the way to go for me (plus it was cheaper). The label reminds me of those old wood panel cars you see in 1960s surfer movies. It's pin striped with a couple different colors of brown and has a wooden background crest with the brand name plastered across in 1960's diner style font. Takes me back to my childhood... Ok, so not really. I was born in 1981, but i did see Back to the Future, and Michael J Fox went back to that time period so i could witness it second hand, so don't act like i don't know what i'm talking about. Geez... the things i have to put up with for being famous...

Well we already know Parker's has Safeway Select beat, but how does it measure up in the grand scheme of things? Surprisingly, Parker's holds its ground very well. It's a good root beer. Not really original, but good. I would even go as far as to say that since Safeway Select failed so badly that Safeway decided to get some pointers/steal the recipe from a successful company. So with that, may i introduce you to Parker's Root Beer, or as i call it, A&W 2. Yes, this stuff is basically just like A&W, which makes it good. I got no complaints with the taste, and it's a lot cheaper. What does that say for Safeway though? Well, we already know they don't really give a damn about root beer, they just want the money. But it wasn't a bad plan Safeway. You win this time.

My official review is that Parker's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. It's just as good as A&W, so i can't in good conscience give it less of a score. Safeway, you're a despicable store and a filthy charlatan of a root beer company. My hat is off to you.

And by the way... some things are better left in the past.

Deerfield Trading Company Old Fashioned Root Beer

This one may win the longest name ever award (between this one and Journey John Barleycorn i think, but JJB is garbage so it doesn't deserve any kind of positive accolades). Anyway, you know how i was saying there were two Walgreen's root beers? Well this is the second one. Deerfield produces sodas exclusively for Walgreens. The website on the bottle is just the Walgreens site, but i got on BevNet and found some information about the company (just a little). It looks like Deerfield is based out of Westmont, IL, but i am having a hard time tracking down much more info about this company, i.e. when it started and all that nonsense. However, i have learned that Deerfield makes several other flavors and apparently the Black Cherry is incredible (according to random web authors without as much credibility as me). So if that's your thing, give Black Cherry a shot. I however am just going to focus on the root beer.

Take a look at this bottle. I am impressed Deerfield. It's something out of the ordinary. Almost looks like it's the shape of a rocketship. Additionally, Deerfield goes for the 16 oz. bottle, so it's a little bigger than the regular bottles. The label isn't extremely enticing. It's just some writing and a semi-fany logo. It's not the worst thing i've ever seen, but it's not amazing (btw, this is probably the worst thing i've ever seen). So the coolness of the bottle is kind of counter-balanced by the less than cool label. Over all though, not a bad presentation.

One thing this soda company runs on is the fact that it does not use high fructose corn syrup in any of its drinks. However, it doesn't say anything about cane sugar. It just says "sugar". But i'm not really a stickler for this kind of thing. I'll just say you can definitely taste the sugar. And i know the question on everyone's mind, "but Cosmo, is it any good?" First of all, i'm flattered that you rely so heavily on my opinion since you can't seem to form your own. It's ok, that's what i'm here for. I mean, who wants to go out and invest a good $1+ into a terrible soda? Seriously, i've been ripped off more than once. So i will just go ahead and say this. Yes. It's a good soda. It's actually quite good. It has a really good taste. BUT... here's the catch. Is it a good root beer? Not really. It doesn't taste anything like root beer. It almost tastes fruity, like a banana strawberry smoothie or something. I mean, not exactly, but i keep drinking it and getting flash backs to chewing Hubba Bubba and BubbleYum in assorted fruity flavors. I can taste a very slight hint of anise at the beginning, but it just tastes really sugary and, well... fruity to me. Nothing else really resembles root beer. So for that, i can't in good conscience put it in the ranks of the great root beers of the world.

My official review is that Deerfield gets 5 (five) IBCs. It almost got a 4, but like i said above, it's a good tasting soda. It just tastes nothing like root beer. My wife even agrees with me on this. She likes it a lot, but doesn't think it should be rated high as a root beer. And that's from an amateur. So again, if you find yourself in Walgreens, give it a shot. Maybe you could chew some Bubblicious while you're drinking it for added flavor. However, from the sounds of the web-chatter, Black Cherry is where it's at. So maybe that's the way to go when dealing with this company.

Addendum 8/18/2012: i was tipped off to a couple new root beers that could be found at Walgreen's, but it turns out that Walgreen's just renamed both the root beers they distribute. This one was renamed Good & Delish root beer. My wife said i should try and pull a fast one on all my loyal readers and just review them as if they were new and original. That's because she thinks you're all stupid. Silly wife. I figured i wouldn't insult you like that and just pass on the info. The rating is unaffected by this change. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Walgreens Frosty Root Beer

So i've run into a bit of a dilemma... My loyal readers know better than anyone that the regularity of my reviews has fallen behind over the past few months. The reason for this is three fold; 1) i am currently enrolled in school full time and work full time, so i am rarely home to start with. 2) i am running out of resources as far as new root beers to try that are distributed in my area. 3) Jenn got me a PS3 for Christmas, and let's just say the little time i have to play gets priority over a lot of things (much to my wife's dismay). So with all these factors weighing on my conscience, i have decided to do something i originally said i wasn't going to do... i will allow reviews for store brand root beers (such as this one, Walgreens Root Beer). I didn't want to do this because these stores don't devote themselves to root beers, or even soda. They just try and carve out a piece of the pie with a crappy root beer. But i figure crappy or not, they are root beers, so i'll include them. Anyway... Everyone knows what Walgreens is. It's a drugstore/convenience store/everything store that's all over the U.S. Not my first stop when i want to grab a drink. When i looked on the site for a link to the root beer, i found Dad's flavored throat lozenges and a root beer flavored child laxative, which sadly i will not be reviewing. But it turns out they actually sell two distinct root beers in addition to a lot of the common ones. And by distinct, i mean they are made specifically for and distributed through Walgreens. I will review the other one also, but let's look at the Walgreens brand right now, shall we?

It is sold in a 20 oz. plastic bottle not unlike those root beers found in gas stations. The label is extremely plain and just screams cheap and generic. I don't feel very inspired by it and it doesn't give me much hope, which as we all know is the principle purpose of a root beer label. It's just brown with some writing on it. Boo. It's the kind of label that you say has a great personality. Don't worry little root beer label, someone out there will love you...

Going in with low expectations isn't a bad thing cuz the only place to go from there is up. It's not a bad tasting root beer. It actually reminds me a lot of another root beer, and i want to say AJ Stephens. There is just something about it that tastes kinda weird. It's not the initial taste, and i don't think it's the after taste. i think it's the in-the-middle taste. Just has a weird... something... to it. Other than that, it's fine. Decent root beer flavor and good carbonation.

My official review is that Walgreens Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. My wife seems to like it quite a bit and insisted that i give it at least a 6, but then i insisted that she not give me input until she cooks me dinner. We have an understanding; i write the reviews and she makes me food, and neither of us can tell the other how to do their job. Needless to say, she never gets to give me input. Works for us. Anyway, a 5 is more than i was expecting this root beer to achieve. So if you find yourself in Walgreens, go ahead and give it a shot i guess, but don't make a special trip or anything. Unless you need some laxative.

P.S. Jenn's cousin Tyler thinks the PS3 looks like a George Foreman Grill. I'll just say i can't disagree with him.

Addendum 8/18/2012: i was tipped off to a couple new root beers that could be found at Walgreen's, but it turns out that Walgreen's just renamed both the root beers they distribute. This one was renamed Nice! root beer. My wife said i should try and pull a fast one on all my loyal readers and just review them as if they were new and original. That's because she thinks you're all stupid. Silly wife. I figured i wouldn't insult you like that and just pass on the info. The rating is unaffected by this change. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Briar's Premium Root Beer

As i mentioned before, the Pop Shop gets different root beers in from time to time. I decided to go check it out for some root beers i have not reviewed yet and was rewarded with finding this bottle of Briar's Root Beer. Briar's, which has no connection to Breyer's, has been around since 1937 and was started in Fords, NJ. They make soda's in 11 different flavors and distribute them all over the U.S., although you kind of have to look for it. A kind of neat section of their website it devoted to Briar's Sightings, which features pictures of people in different parts of the world wearing Briar's shirts or drinking Briar's. Kind of a cheap way of gaining global acclaim, but hey... i don't have a problem with that. But it makes me think that i need to start doing that with IBC, a root beer that truly deserves that kind of global exposure. So i just may start doing that. Stay tuned.

The bottle is your typical 12 oz. clear glass bottle. The sticker label is very simple. A brown/tan back ground (different colors for different flavors), the Briar's name with three star's above it, and the year. It's extremely basic. Normally i am alright with simple and basic labels, but this one seems a bit too basic for me. Kinda don't like it. It's probably just prejudice at this point because i have no other reason not to like it. But i just don't like it. Maybe it's my German blood that makes me hate it...

To be completely honest, when i picked this bottle up i immediately thought it would be like Olde Brooklyn Root Beer. It has the same kind of color, bottle, label, etc. I could tell it would have little to no carbonation (it had none), that it would be similar in taste (brown sugary, with a touch of carmel), and that i wouldn't really like it (which i didn't). It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and i don't mean that figuratively. It's just not great. I actually think it's better than Olde Brooklyn, but it's just shades of better. Really quite unimpressive.

My official review is that Briar's gets 3 (three) IBCs. I thought it was fitting that Briar's put three stars above its name on the label considering it only gets three IBCs. And like it said, it's better than Olde Brooklyn, but not better enough to get a whole star more. So although i don't deal with half IBC ratings, i would say realistically that Briar's might get a three and a half. Skip this stuff and go for something a little more flavorful and appealing. And if you see someone with a Briar's shirt on taking a picture in a foreign country or somewhere to send in to Briar's, punch them in the face. Even if it's a kid. Shame on you Briar's, hiding behind kids.

Moab Brewery Root Beer

For those of you who don't know, i spent my senior year of high school in Moab, UT. That being the case, i have several friends from there. I don't go back that often, although Moab is actually a really fun place (to visit). But i went back last weekend to go to a good friend of mine's wedding reception. While there, i figured i would have to try the famous Moab Brewery Root Beer. The Moab Brewery is a restaurant and brewery in Moab that focuses mainly on brewing beers to serve there exclusively. In addition, they make a root beer, which i had actually never had during the time that i lived there in high school. I had eaten in the restaurant before (which is quite good), but this was long before my offical professional root beer reviewing days. In fact, i didn't even know they brewed their own root beer. But it was suggested by some of my friends and loyal review readers, so it only seemed natural to do so.

The brewery sells refillable 1/2 gallon glass jugs with a twisty cap. It has the Moab Brewery logo printed across the front, a cross between tradional Native American rock art that can be found around Moab and local, touristy type stuff that draws people to come to Moab in the first place. We borrowed a jug and filled it up for $5, which wasn't bad an plenty enough to serve to my wife and me and about six of my friends.

The taste consensus was pretty universal... this stuff isn't very impressive. It reminded me a lot of Shasta Root Beer. There wasn't much flavor, moderate carbonation, and it didn't really taste like anything. Big Bryon aka Papa Walston, a Moab resident for several decades, informed us that the root beer from Moab Brewery has it's highs and lows. Some batches are really good and some aren't very impressive. Well unfortunately, we caught the root beer on a bad weekend.

My official review is that Moab Brewery Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. On the recommendation of Big Bryon, i would be willing to give this root beer another shot (also because i have a fondness for Moab and it kinda pains me a little to rank the root beer brewed there so low). But as of right now, i would say for sure go eat at the Moab Brewery, but try something other than the root beer. It just wasn't cutting it this time.