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.