Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baumeister Root Beer

Sorry folks. I know it's been a while, but i am running out of resources for new root beers. I did however find this at the Pop Shop. Baumeister Root Beer is bottled by Lakeshore Bottling Co. in Green Bay, WS and was created in 1907 by a guy with a funny name, Heine Baumeister. So that's exciting i suppose. Baumeister also makes a few other flavors, such as cherry, cream, and orange, but it seems like that's about as far as they go. So they keep it simple, which isn't a bad thing. They seem to be very proud that they've made it over 100 years as a business. Well good for you Baumeister. Normally people as old as you are put in rest homes so they can be ignored and forgotten, but you're just hangin' in there.

The typical 12 oz. bottle has a fairly plain label to it. It's the color of brown packaging paper with big white font of the root beer's name, and there is a root beer keg and a picture of a light house on it. I think that's kind of odd to have on a root beer from Wisconsin. I mean, i know they are on the shore of Lake Michigan and are bottled by Lakeshore Bottling, but are there really light houses in Green Bay? Is that necessary? I see light houses on root beer labels for root beers from the great state of Maine all the time, and i don't have a problem with that. I mean, come on, Maine doesn't have a lot going for it. It has to be proud of something, and i suppose lighthouses are acceptable. But when i think Green Bay (or Wisconsin for that matter), i don't think light houses. It just seems like a non sequitur to me. I'm deducting points for incongruency (<-- a="" div="" don="" even="" i="" s="" t="" that="" think="" word="">

As far as taste is concerned, Baumeister doesn't have much going on. It's not bad, and certainly better then some of the other root beers i have tried recently (i'm looking at you Journey John Barleycorn), but there is nothing special to it. It's particularly sweet. I can taste the root beer flavoring in it, but it's very sugary. I almost expected it to be made with cane sugar, but the ingredients say it is made with "high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar". So whatever they are doing, they might want to back off a bit. Everything else was fine though. It had nice carbonation and it wasn't a bad root beer. It could just be better in my opinion (which is clearly the only opinion that counts, or else you wouldn't be reading this).

My official review is that Baumeister gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's just another one of those middle of the road root beers. Kinda like how Wisconsin is a middle of the road state. Or like how Green Bay is a middle of the road football team. Or how Lake Michigan is full of dead bodies (it's probably true, if you think about it). But anyway, if you want to try this root beer, there's nothing wrong with it. But it has a long way to go if it wants to measure up to IBC.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Natural Brew Draft Root Beer

I found this one in a Fry's grocery store on New Year's Eve, but am just now getting around to reviewing it. I was with my friend from Buffalo at the time who had tried it and he said it wasn't bad. His wife didn't feel the same way and thought it was terrible. But either way, i figured i needed to review it for the masses. Natural Brew makes a few other flavors of soda, including ginger ale. I'm not sure when it started being produced as there isn't much about it on the internet, including the source of all truth. And although i couldn't find a site for Natural Brew itself, the source of all truth told me that it is bottled through Smucker Quality Beverages (the same Smucker's who make jams and jellies). SQB also distributes several other beverages under the Smucker's name, including After the Fall, which is the company that Mark Panely used to run before he started that atrocity known as Journey Food and Beverage Co. and began pumping out that disgusting excuse for a root beer. But anyway, this is about Natural Brew, not that other garbage.

It comes in a stout 12 oz. glass bottle in a 4-pack. Not buying it at the Pop Shop means i don't have the luxury of just buying them one at a time. The label has a color scheme using Earthy colors and shows a serene looking landscape consisting of a set of rolling hills/mountains in the background with a babbling mountain spring in the foreground. It's like something right off an Arrowhead Water label (maybe someone should alert them that their logo is being plagiarized). There is a lot of text along the sides of the label arguing the benefits of natural ingredients, etc. This seems to be common of all root beers that use natural ingredients. No big surprise there i guess.

Being a root beer that utilizes natural ingredients, i was already expecting a certain taste. And based on the mixed reviews of Dick and his wife, i was already thinking this was going to be another bad natural root beer. But i really didn't mind it. It was typical in the way of natural root beers in that it has a base flavor of black licorice and less carbonation than normal, but it also has a heavy clove taste to it and a mild vanilla aftertaste. I'll be honest, it wasn't bad. Probably one of the better natural root beers i have tried. But still not one of my favorites overall.

My official review is that Natural Brew gets 5 (five) IBCs. I really wouldn't mind drinking it again. I don't know how much i would go out of my way though, because it's kind of expensive. It was just under $5 for a 4-pack, which when you think about it isn't that much per bottle. But when you can get IBC for less than $5 for a 6-pack, it's an easy decision based on price alone. However, i will say i was relieved that i wasn't compelled to dump the other three bottles down the drain. This stuff isn't amazing, but it's not terrible. If you like the natural ingredient root beers, i think this one might be your best bet so far.

Howie's Premium Root Beer

I stumbled upon this root beer on a recent trip up to Utah to visit some of my wife's family for her grandpa's 80th birthday. They live in a little town called Nephi about 40 miles south of Provo, and we found this in the local grocery store (only available to us in 2 liter bottles). Howie's root beer was created by a guy named Howard Tanner in Orem, UT in 1989. Most of the info i could get is from the story printed on the bottle. Apparently Howard started a restaurant in Orem called The Squat and Gobble, which later changed it's name to Howie's when the root beer grew in popularity. This root beer was created to serve specifically at Howie's. I was curious about the restaurant and couldn't find a website for it on the internet. Apparently i am not the only one who was curious because i found this post on a BYU news blog. This was nice because it did all the research i didn't care much to do myself by clarifying that Howie's has indeed shut down. The root beer is still available through local retailers in Utah Valley.

I would like to try and get this in a 12 oz. glass bottle, but the 2 liter bottle is what is featured and is standard in every sense. The label kind of reminds me of a pizzeria. It has a beige/tan background with checkerboard boarders at the top and bottom, and the logo is a big frothy mug of root beer with Howie's name plastered across the front in big cursive font. Fine by me for a label. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too cheap and unappealing either.

But let me let you in on a little secret... man is this stuff good. I liked it A LOT. It was a serious treat, a real gem of a find. The label describes it as smooth, creamy, and mellow. I would add amazing to that. The first thing i noticed when i poured myself a glass was a heavy wintergreen scent which took me by surprise. I don't usually do a smell test on root beers, but it was overwhelming (in a good way). So i was expecting a nice wintergreen flavor, but it's only a very subtle after taste. It has a great root beer flavor with a mellow, creamy vanilla base, and then the slight hint of wintergreen to follow up. Wow... this stuff is really good. My wife seems to think it's not as good as i think, but if anyone agreed with her they would be looking at her blog right now and not mine. Plus, she's a girl, and girls don't know anything about root beer. Or fun.

My official review is the Howie's gets 9 (nine) IBCs. This might cause a rift in my marriage, but i really think Howie's deserves it. It was very impressive, and very inexpensive (i think it was something like $1.23 for a 2 liter). Let's just say i will definitely be picking up more of this stuff on my next trip up to Utah, and i would highly recommend you do the same.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Journey John Barleycorn Root Beer

This one was found tucked away in the Pop Shop and quickly caught my eye. It has a crazy design on the label, but we'll get to that in a bit. Journey John Barleycorn Root Beer is part of the Journey Food and Beverage Company. They actually make several flavors of soda, including two other root beers. The story is that the company was started by a guy named Mark Panely. It is situated in Putney, VT, but i can't seem to find a date of when it started. The site mentions how Mark has worked in the industry since 1979, but i am thinking Journey started around the mid to late 90's. Apparently he was riding on his bike cross-country and had a vision about how people should "journey" for the best ingredients and recipes to use in brewing, or some garbage like that. Well whatever, sounds like a bunch of hippie nonsense to me, though i respect him as a fellow cyclist. That's right, i'm a cyclist now. Got a problem with that? Didn't think so.

The bottle is pretty standard, 12 oz. dark brown glass. The label, as i mentioned before, is what caught my eye. It has a lot of browns, greens, and yellows, some metallic colors, and a crazy looking barrel thing with a face and a moustache. The writing reminds me of Star Wars, epic and cosmic, desperately trying to catch my attention. There is a lot of text on the label cuz they have a lot of info to throw at you. I would have preferred it to explain what the cryptic and psychedelic image is supposed to mean. The cap even has a big question mark on it, maybe asking you if you're sure you really want to drink this stuff. I get the feeling like this is going to be an Alice in Wonderland experience, or maybe the famous blue pill, red pill decision. Apparently all the sodas have different images on them, each as perplexing. The site mentions that Mark Panley comments on the labels. "If you think it’s just a soda with a crazy picture of a dragon on it, then you just don’t get it." Guess what Mark, you nailed it. I don't get it. And if i can be completely honest, it reminds me of poop. Yeah, i said it, and it's true. The color scheme, the texture of the barrel in the illustration, even the name "barleycorn" (to spell it out for those who don't get that, it's because sometimes when you poop, there's corn in it). Sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone or anything. What am i saying? I don't care.

Mark strived to make this a "historic brew" from Scottish and Irish brewing traditions. It includes malt, which to me doesn't seem like a good decision. I am not sure if Bundaberg uses malt too, but these two taste very very simlar. I guess what i am getting at is that this stuff is not good at all. It has zero, as in, absolutely no carbonation. I don't like the taste at all. Three words on the label describe it as nutty, malty, and foamy. The three words they should have used were nasty, acrid (link requested by my wife), and flat. I don't think it's good or original or worth going out of your way for. I actually broke one of my own "rules", in that i usually make it a point to drink the entire bottle of the root beer i am drinking to get more than just a first impression of it. Well i couldn't do it with this one. I seriously only drank about a fourth of it and poured the rest down the drain. It's awful. Just plain awful.

My official review is the JJBC gets 1 (one) IBC. As i mentioned above, Journey makes two other root beers which i have not found yet, and i would just as soon skip them if i weren't so dedicated to my cause of bringing you relevant and pertinent information regarding root beer. What i do is important to a lot of people. So i suppose i will have to track those two down and try them as well. But as for you, don't bother tracking this one down, and i wouldn't recommend looking up the other two until i give you my expert opinion on the subject.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Triple XXX Root Beer

This is another root beer with a family restaurant background, which i am finding is a popular way to start making root beer. Triple XXX Bottling Company was started in 1895 in Galveston, TX. It's been around for a long time and has seen a lot of action. Not necessarily the kind of action you might find in the terrible Vin Diesel movie Triple XXX, but action none the less. For those of you not too familiar with the geography of Texas, Galveston is located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This means it is susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms. One interesting note i pulled off their site was that the company basically made themselves a hurricane-proof fortress in which to brew and bottle beverages. Well, maybe it was just a wall, but i like to think of it as a fortress. Anyway, after a number of set backs in Galveston with the hurricanes and Prohibition and what not, Triple XXX eventually was purchased by Dr. Pepper and production was moved to Houston, TX where they are currently headquartered. It's not all that far from Galveston though, so i am sure they maintain operations in Galveston.

The typical 12 oz. bottle is adorned with a simple, yet bold label of brown, metallic red, and yellow. I like the simplicity of it. Not much going on, but it doesn't really need it. It caught my eye in the store. Then again, i seek these things out, so maybe that's a bit slanted. Another point of interest was that on the website it mentioned that despite the demand for retail bottles, Triple XXX is only available through restaurants and food outlets as a fountain drink right now. Perhaps this has recently changed, and i'm glad it did.

The tag line on the bottle says, "tastes like root beer used to taste". Recently it seems like i am less kind to the "old time" root beers, because they just over complicate things with the flavors and ingredients and being all natural and all that garbage. But i was pleasantly surprised by this root beer. It's quite good and has a simple and straight forward taste. To be completely honest, i think it basically taste's exactly like Stewart's, and that's not a bad thing. I like Stewart's, ergo, i like Triple XXX. It has that great, classic root beer taste with a smooth carmel finish. It was a pleasure to drink and it complimented my meal (a plate of homemade nachos, which is a staple in my diet) quite nicely.

My official review is that Triple XXX gets 7 (seven) IBCs. It's a lot less easy to find than Stewart's is, but i think i might try and drink them side by side to try and distinguish between them. Maybe like a blind taste test. Come to think of it, that might be interesting to do with all the root beers i have tried thus far. Hmm...

Sorry, i got side tracked there. Anyway, it's a good one and i recommend it if you can find it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hire's Root Beer

Ok, first to all my loyal readers, Happy New Year! I apologize for being so bad at updating this thing, but now that the Holidays are over i can use my extensive knowledge and incredible foresight and wisdom to focus on the important task of rating root beers so you all know what's good and what's garbage. So with that, let's look at this next root beer. Most people out west will probably know about this little root beer, although it was quite hard for me to find. Hires Root Beer was created by a guy named Charles Elmer Hires in 1866 in Philadelphia, PA. This root beer is arguably the grandfather of modern root beer, and more so, spawned the birth of the name "root beer" for this delectable drink. Hires is now owned by the Dr. Pepper company and Hires has claim to being the longest continuously produced soft drink in U.S. history. A guy named Don Hale started a drive-in restaurant in Salt Lake City, UT in 1959. Hires is the featured drink at this all American drive-in, Hires Big H. There are only three locations of the restaurant, all of which are in the Greater Salt Lake Area. You used to be able to find 20 oz. plastic bottles of their root beer in gas stations and grocery stores all over the place. I grew up going up to Utah in the winters to ski and snowboard and visit family, so Hires is no stranger to me. The food at the drive in is quite good, reasonably priced, and a throw back to the 50's diner style of eating out. I actually just went up to Salt Lake this past weekend to do some snowboarding with my brother Trent (who i might add is a commercial and movie star and is quite famous) and i told him we needed to make it a point to go to Hires Big H so i could get a bottle of their root beer and review it. I also had a tall frosty mug of their root beer with my meal, which is the ideal way to drink root beer in my opinion.

As i mentioned above, you used to be able to find Hires Root Beer in gas stations and grocery stores all over the west, but it is hard to come by now. When i asked them at the diner if they sold bottles of their root beer, they told me it is actually brewed in Tucson, AZ which is just a few hours south of me here in Phoenix, but really not worth visiting (not even for Hires). Anyway, they told me it is shipped up to them in gallon jugs. Kind of strange, but i asked if i could buy a gallon jug, and they said sure. What i didn't realize is that it came in a plain milk jug with no label. So i had to kind of jimmy-rig this thing and i printed off their logo on the computer and taped it on the gallon jug. This is the featured picture in this blog post. I know it looks ghetto, but it's the best i can do.

Hires has a great taste to it. It's that classic root beer flavor followed with just a hint of a vanilla cream flavor, which makes me certain this is a good root beer to have with ice cream and make a root beer float with. The gallon had lost it's carbonation by the time i got it home and drank it, but it has a good amount of carbonation and it's smooth and creamy (to use a cliche root beer review term). It's a shame it's so hard to find now because this stuff is very good.

My official review is that Hires gets 8 (eight) IBCs. I was originally thinking a 7, but the fact that it's harder to find makes this one a little more special. I searched several gas stations and grocery stores while in Utah this weekend and couldn't find any trace of this delicious root beer. So if you by chance find some, i highly recommend you pick it up. It's worth it. Maybe you can still buy it in Tucson. It might be worth driving down there for...

Oh wait, i forgot. It's Tucson. Never mind, i can just get it in a frosty mug in Salt Lake.