Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Squamscot Root Beer

The next root beer to be reviewed on this wonderful journey we are all now a part of comes to us from Newfields, NH. The Conner Bottling Works Co. is a family run company and has been around since 1863 producing a vast number of flavored sodas. The beverages have gone by the name Squamscot since 1930. I don't know what a squamscot is, but the obvious mental picture i immediately get is Sasquatch and the Jack Link's Beef Jerky commercials. And that inevitably leads me to my favorite mythological creature of all time, Manbearpig (who i have already talked about numerous times in this blog). Anyway, Squamscot really has nothing to do with Sasquatch or Manbearpig, but i was really surprised from the website as to exactly how many flavors they produce. They even have one called "yup". No idea what that's supposed to taste like. They also do a spruce beer, which i have tasted (from a different brand) and tastes like liquid vapo-rub. So i think yup could turn out to be very interesting.

This root beer comes in a clear glass bottle. The cap has kind of a cool little emblem of a CBW (for Conner Bottling Works) which also appears on the label, although you can't see it in this picture. Besides that, the label is pretty simple and plain. The Conner family prides the fact that they run their business the old fashioned way, and try to stick to an old fashioned style as much as possible. This is somewhat reflected in the label. It has a very narrow color scheme and cuts right to the chase with everything printed on it. Basically just the basics. And that's fine. I got no problem with that.

However, i do have somewhat of a problem with the taste. Maybe problem is the wrong word. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's a bit watery for me. Not much carbonation, nothing to make it really stand out. I've definitely had worse, but this is no ground breaking revolution. I figure they just like sticking to the old way of doing things. To applaud them, they use cane sugar, which isn't all that hard to find in a root beer these days, but if you like that kind of thing you can add Squamscot to your list of acceptable root beers. There isn't much of a root beer flavor in this. It's very faint. I mostly just taste sugar and water.

My official review is that Squamscot gets 5 (five) IBCs. The more i review, the more i find that the world is full of mediocre and lack-luster root beers. Unfortunately, i would have to put Squamscot into that category. Nothing against them. It's "perfectly adequate", but it seems most people like reading either my really highly rated or really lowly rated root beer reviews. So that makes for a lot of reviews that kind of just go by the wayside. From the site, it seems like they pride themselves on their ginger ale most of all. So if you're a fan of ginger ale, maybe give theirs a shot. The root beer you may want to pass on though given a better option is available.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Steelhead Root Beer

This is one i have been trying to track down for a long time. Steelhead Root Beer has been around since 1997. The Pop Shop here locally told me a long time ago that they expected to get some Steelhead in, but it never happened. So after months of checking in with the Pop Shop, i eventually went looking for it myself. I picked up a 6-pack of this stuff on my root beer trip to California this past summer. This was obtained from the Steelhead Brewery and Restaurant in Irvine, CA, which was a pretty nice get up from what i saw of it. There is also a brewery in Eugene, OR and Burlingame, CA. They brew this stuff on site, and i assume they distribute it locally but i searched around and eventually just went directly to the brewery to get it. These guys are pretty confident about their root beer too, because they put a link on their website to several private reviews of their root beer. I of course and not listed on there because i am just now reviewing it. Guess who is though... my root beer nemesis. They tout how he gave them a good rating. I think it was just to get his name on their site. Can anyone say, "publicity stunt"? Seems suspicious.

The label is pretty fancy and well decorated. There is a big picture of a Steelhead fish, which is similar to a trout but lives in the ocean. This is obviously where the brewery and root beer get their names. But the subtle intricacies of the label are what catches the eye. Notice the pin-striped background, like the nice tailored suit of a business man. The bright, vibrant logo catches the eye and doesn't crowd the label. It's well done. One thing that really caught my eye is this little strip on the right edge of the label though. It's a series of letters and numbers separated by lines. If you can't make it out in the picture, it says;

J F M A M J J A S O N D 3 4 5 6 7 A B C D E F G

Now, i have read all of Dan Brown's novels, almost all of which deal with symbology and secret messages. But i am not ashamed to admit i have no idea what this means. I can make out the name "Jason", but other than that i don't see much order outside of the sequence of numbers and alphabet from about half way on. If you want to take a stab at it and let me know what you think, i'll be happy to entertain your thoughts. Maybe i'm just a dummy. Most of that Dan Brown crap didn't really sink in anyway.

Let's talk taste. Steelhead is good. It was a bit lacking in carbonation for my likes, but it was good. Steelhead uses cane sugar, natural vanilla and honey flavors. I can taste all of these things, and they work well. In the end though, it just tastes like Thomas Kemper to me, except that i don't want to smoosh a kitten after i drink Steelhead. The honey is not overpowering, which is a good thing for me. I don't much care for honey in my root beer. I often think it just doesn't belong, like dreadlocks on white people. It's subtle enough that i don't mind it though. I like the vanilla, and there is maybe just a hint of anise/black licorice flavor in there. It's not a bad soda though. Not my number one pick, but good enough to enjoy a 6-pack without feeling like you wasted your money.

My official review is that Steelhead gets 6 (six) IBCs. That's not bad for a root beer, and i would almost give it a 7. Maybe if it had more carbonation. But 6 isn't bad. It's definitely better than middle of the road. I wouldn't mind eating at the restaurant sometime also. Perhaps on my next trip to California, i'll stop in for some dinner and see how the root beer goes with the food.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vess Root Beer

So my finals are over and i am officially done with another semester. That being the case, i feel like i need to do a little catch up on my reviews before the end of the year, so i hope to review a few more within the next couple days and finish out the year strong. This root beer came to me via a good friend who now lives in North Carolina. He came to visit for Thanksgiving and brought me an offering of several root beers from back east that i don't have access to here in Arizona. For repayment my wife and i took him out to dinner for mexican food where we all got food poisoning. So i figure we're even. Anyway, Vess is a company that has been around since 1916. They produce several flavors of soda from their factory in Maryland Heights, MO, which i am taking the liberty of assuming is a suburb of St. Louis. I didn't find an official website for Vess, so you'll have to refer to the source of all truth for questions or deeper research. From what i gather, this is a brand similar to the likes of Shasta and Big Fizz that mass produces this stuff and spams it across the nation to willing retailers. I could be wrong on that, but let's face it, i'm rarely wrong.

Richard (my friend from NC) was unable to find it in anything smaller than a 2 liter bottle, so he conveniently poured some into what suspiciously looks like a 20 oz Dr. Pepper bottle and pasted the label from the 2 liter on it. This is why it looks so ghetto in the picture above. I don't blame him for not wanting to fly a 2 liter across country though, so i am fine with the arrangement. As you can see, the label is mostly brown, orange, and white. The big Vess logo dominates the label, and there is a little decal of a root beer mug in the upper left corner. The label is similar to that of the companies i mentioned above (Shasta, Big Fizz, etc.) which is what leads me to believe this company is basically the same set up. Nothing exceptionally special about the label. It's rather bland, but to the point. No big deal really.

This root beer was flat when i drank it. I am not going to hold that against them though since i am sure most of that was due to being put in a 20 oz. bottle and flown in a suitcase across the country. As far as the taste goes, i am not all that impressed. It's fairly watery with a very sugary aftertaste. Sure, it tastes like root beer, but just barely. Also, it may just be a psychological thing, but i can almost taste the traces of Dr. Pepper in it. I would think Richard would have rinsed the bottle before making the transfer though. All in all though, i am not ready to give this thing a glowing endorsement. It is what it is, and what it is isn't worth much.

My official review is that Vess gets 4 (four) IBCs. I feel quite generous with this rating too. I was about to give it a 3, but i don't want to penalize the root beer for the lack of carbonation, and i feel like i would have enjoyed it at least a little bit more had it been carbonated. So i will let it slide with a 4. Not sure what this thing costs, but i am assuming it was fairly inexpensive. Probably about $1.50 for a 2 liter (again, i'm rarely wrong). Anyway, my advice is to save your $1.50 for something with a lot more substance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Point Root Beer

I really gotta stop using school as my excuse for slacking off on this blog, but it's true. I have been very busy this semester. The good news is that it's almost over. But more importantly, this post is going to be an exciting one for a few specific reasons. For starters, this is one of the root beers in the mural at the top of my blog. In fact, it is the only one i haven't reviewed at this point besides Pirate's Keg, which as far as i know if off the market completely. The website for Pirate's Keg says that it is served at the Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas, NV, but when i went there to get a bottle last year they told me this stuff had been discontinued for quite a while. So if anyone knows any different about Pirate's Keg, i would appreciate the tip. Otherwise, i will consider the mural above "reviewed". Secondly though, and i will say MOST importantly, this root beer is officially the 100TH ROOT BEER REVIEWED! Exciting, right? I know. Yes, it has taken me over two years to do, but that's not important. What's important is that it's an amazing accomplishment for anyone, but especially so because i did it. And i am sure my nemesis is sitting and thinking right now about how he has reviewed far more than me, which is technically true. However, he reviews everything from diet root beers to sarsaparillas to ginger beers. I stick strictly to root beers (as defined by me cuz i'm smart and go to college). So he has a larger pool to draw from. Whatever. Good for him, good for me. He's got is own thing going, and i have mine. (But for the record, my thing is way better.)

Well with that far-too-long introduction out of the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty of this 100th root beer to be reviewed by me. Point Root Beer is no stranger to a lot of people. It is made by the Steven's Point Brewing Co. in Steven's Point, WI and it's been around since 1857. In addition to several alcoholic brews, Point also makes a few other flavors of soda, including vanilla creme, orange creme, black cherry, and the like. According to the website, it's the 5th oldest continuously operating brewery still in existence. They definitely have the history to back them up.

The 12 oz. brown glass bottle carries a lot of prestige in it's label. Very professional and distinguished, as should be expected from a root beer this old and well established. There is a faded background picture of what looks the old brewery littered with people dressed in 1800's attire. They also have a picture of a bearded dude with a pointy head on the back of the label and on the cap named Nicholas C. Point. He looks like a conehead and on the cap he is saying, "pop my top!" (if i had a nickel...). The font is bold and prominent, and the label displays an award from the Beverage Tasting Institute, which i didn't even realize was an actual institution. I'm sure they've seen my work by now and will ask me to head the board soon. Too be honest though, i'm pretty busy as is. Not sure if i want another task on my plate. Suggestions from my loyal readers would be appreciated. I'd like to have a response for them before they contact me.

So how does the 100th root beer taste, you ask? Well, some of the ingredients they boast include pure cane sugar, natural vanilla, and honey, none of which are a real shock to anyone at this point (no pun intended). But what matters is how they all work together in just such a concoction. Well, to be honest, it's quite good. I like few of the root beers that boast a honey taste, but this one works. It's subtle enough to not make me murder a kitten, yet present enough to remind me what IBC must taste like after it's been processed through the human body. The recipe works well, which again must pay tribute to why these guys have been in business so long. I like it. And i think you should too.

My official review is that Point Root Beer gets 8 (eight) IBCs. I was originally thinking a 7, but then i thought, what the heck... it's good enough, right? And given the milestone occasion i am feeling generous. So i bumped it up to an 8 cuz it deserves it. So grab yourself a Point if you get a chance. They make a mighty fine brew.

Happy 100 to me!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Root Jack Root Beer

Hi everyone, and happy October. I chose to review this root beer this month because at first glance, with the orange decal on the bottle i assumed it was Halloween themed. Well, it turns out it's pirate themed, which is close enough since a lot of people dress like pirates for Halloween these days. That Johnny Depp is so hot right now... Anyway, Root Jack Root Beer is a different breed. It follows the trend of the energy drink, combining a root beer base with an energy drink kick, not unlike Bawls Guarana Root Beer that i reviewed a while back. The story on the website is a story of the fair pirate wench Astrea who created this brew to combat the effects of scurvy. The tale is full of adventure and pirate treachery, but i'll let you read it for yourself if you're interested. As far as how long this root beer has actually been around, what i gather from the website is that it has been around since about 2007 and is bottled in Osceola, IN, a fierce pirate port by all accounts. This is all well and good, but the thing i found of much more interest was an advertisement on the bottle as well as the website for something called Pirates, Vikings, & Knights II. Turns out it's an online video game, and i just so happen to love two things in life; root beer and video games (oh, and my wife). So naturally i was intrigued. Now i haven't played it yet, but from what i gather it's free to download and it's a first-person shooter (FPS) in the genre of old school Doom, or probably more accurately, Unreal Tournament (this game came out in 1999, so UT was probably the standard back then). You probably guessed it, but you can choose between Pirates, Vikings, and Knights to run around and murder each other online. I watched a video, and it seems decent and silly (for example, when the knight talks, it sounds muffled like his helmet is on). There are plenty of cliche phrases thrown around, including some classic Monty Python lines, but it could be fun for those of you interested in looking into it. I most likely will.

The 12 oz brown glass bottle has a good label. I am impressed with Root Jack in that they did a good job with an original logo and what not. The prominent display in the center of the label is a bosomy pirate lass who i can only assume is the notorious Astrea from the Root Jack Tale on the website. She's straddling a cannon in full pirate garb. The label is nearly all in orange on the front, based on the fact that this drink has orange flavoring and vitamin c (which is how it is able to combat scurvy). One thing i thought was interesting about the label is that it contains a warning saying that this drink is "not recommended for children, pregnant women, or those sensitive to caffeine". I assume that's just for legal reasons since it is considered an energy drink, but i still thought it was a funny little addition. All in all, i think it's well done.

As far as the taste, we know that it has an orange flavor, that it contains guarana, and that it's an energy drink masquerading as a root beer. How does that all measure up? Unfortunately not too favorably. It has decent carbonation, which is a plus, but i really don't taste any of the root beer flavor. I do get a very slight hint of the orange flavor, especially when i burp afterward, but overall it mostly just tastes like an energy drink (which i am not all that fond of to begin with). If i were to pin-point it for you, i would say that it tastes like how a craft store's fake flower and potpourri section smells. That's the image that comes to my mind with each drink i take. Or is it those really bad decorative soaps? Either way, i'm unable to shake it. It's unsettling and ultimately i don't like it. Too bad, cuz this one had a lot of potential.

My official review is that Root Jack gets 4 (four) IBCs. I don't want to rip on them too much cuz i think they had a decent idea, but ultimately i am not one for the energy drinks. It's not undrinkable, but i almost feel like i am being punished with each drink i take, like i am washing my own mouth out with soap. I even looked to give extra points cuz i thought the liquid itself might be orange colored, but it's simply the regular root beer color. Oh well, better luck next time guys. My suggestion would be focus more on making it taste like a root beer and less of an energy drink. But at least i can check out this new online video game. In fact, i think i'll do that now (instead of homework).

Jenn, don't be mad at me. And i love you. And root beer and video games.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

America's Choice Root Beer

I am gonna do a quick one for this root beer. It's called America's Choice Root Beer, and it's a brand owned by the A&P grocery store chain that is popular in the Midwest and on the east coast. I had to make a deal with my root beer nemesis to get my hands on this since we don't have A&P's here in Arizona, or any of the surrounding states to the best of my knowledge, but i actually have visited an A&P about 10 years ago in Brampton, ON, Canada. All i remember is that it was kinda expensive (and considering i was using Canadian dollars and the exchange rate was much more in our favor at the time, that's saying something). So much like any grocery store, they have their own brand of sodas. The source of all truth says that the brand was started in the 1990s, so i'll go with that. And i don't have much of a website, except this link for an online shopping and pickup service for a specific A&P in New Jersey. But other than that, i didn't do much research on this thing as it's a pretty unremarkable root beer.

As you can see, it's a 2 liter bottle with a brown label with little to no imagination. There is a root beer mug decal, not unlike several other labels i have seen on different brands. The America's Choice logo is posted at the top of the label, and the flavor is typed below in big, Helvetica print (p.s. i actually watched an entire documentary about the font type Helvetica, cuz i have that kind of time). Nothing else to it though. I find myself straining to come up with a way to describe this label, and i hate to strain, so i won't. Just see for yourself in the picture above.

Ok, i know i am blazing through this post like i have other things to do, but it's true... i have other things to do (namely, video games). But you might get the impression from this half hearted review that this stuff is no good. On the contrary, this stuff is quite good. How good? A&W good. The fact that it's unremarkable is due to the fact that it tastes just like A&W. And why the heck not, right? A&W is a good root beer. I said it with Parker's and i'll say it again; if you're gonna rip off a flavor, you might as well rip off a good one. So there you have it. I don't have much else to say about this root beer.

My official review is that America's Choice gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I gave Parker's a 7 because i gave A&W a 7, and i'm giving this one a 7 because i gave Parker's a 7. It is very inexpensive from the posting on the website i linked. Only $1 for a 2 liter. But again, it's not that i didn't enjoy the taste of this root beer, there was just no originality to win me over with. Oh well, in the end it still got a very good rating (as far as my rating system goes). Congrats America's Choice. I'm probably giving you more credit than you deserve.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wild Harvest Natural Root Beer

School has started for me again for a new semester, and my schedule is just as busy as ever. With all my down time this summer, i really didn't do much for root beer reviewing (other than mail ordering and traveling the continental U.S. to obtain new root beers). But i don't want to get behind now that school has started for me again. I picked up this little root beer at an Albertson's in Huntington Beach when my wife and i took our little weekend trip over to California. Wild Harvest is a natural root beer and falls into the category of those sweetened with real cane sugar. The company is kind of like an organic conglomerate of farmers, mostly in California, but from all over the U.S., Canada, and even internationally. I looked briefly through the site trying to find a date when and exact origin where the soda was created, but it's kind of hard to get that kind of cold data from the website (I did see that it is currently distributed from Eden Prairie, MN, for what it's worth). And for any further details... well, i will leave that investigative journalism to you fine folks, if you feel so inclined. These guys have an approach which is very similar to that of an interesting documentary my wife and i watched called Food, Inc. I don't get too caught up in that kind of stuff, but i will say it's interesting to think about if nothing else. It just seems so hard to eat healthy, but i think with the whole green movement and the global warming marketing scam going on that organic food is catching on in a big way. I'm telling you, going green sells.

I picked this root beer up in a 6-pack of cans. Not sure if it's packaged any other way, but i would highly doubt an opportunity to try this stuff from a glass bottle. No big deal though. I have my preferences, but i'll take what i can get. The Wild Harvest logo is accompanied by an image of a frothy mug of root beer and the typical natural/organic mumbo jumbo you can find pasted on a root beer label. Its design is not unlike several other labels of natural root beers i have seen. 365 Root Beer comes to mind, as well as Santa Cruz Organic. So it's nothing overly novel or exciting. I don't expect too much these days, though it's been a while since a root beer label really knocked my socks off.

Wild Harvest makes only 4 flavors of soda, root beer being one of them. And as far as taste is concerned, i gotta say... it's not too shabby. Not what i expected from an organic root beer. The fact that it's sweetened with cane sugar is a big step in the right direction. Unlike Zevia. Are you kidding me? That stuff tastes awful. And for those of you who left me comments on my Zevia post... i rarely do this ever, but i will respond briefly... Quit kidding yourself that it's "healthy". Try drinking natural fruit juice or purified water if you want healthy. I want good tasting root beer. If it's a ginger beer, call it a ginger beer (which i also like, and which Zevia tastes nothing like). But don't call whatever that crap is a good ol' fashioned root beer. What Wild Harvest has to offer was a surprisingly tasty root beer. The root beer flavor is fairly subtle, but still there. It also has a bit of a pepper aftertaste to it, which sounds weird, but think Dr. Pepper and you'll know what i mean. It really works quite well though. I have to say, it's definitely one of the best natural/organic root beers i've tried.

My official review is Wild Harvest gets 6 (six) IBCs. For a natural root beer, that's very good. I mean, let's be honest... it's not my first choice. Nowhere close. But i'll give credit where credit is due. If Wild Harvest operates the way they claim to, then they make a fine root beer product with the business model they have. It's not bad.

Oh, and hippie from Seattle... sorry to hear that you sold your soul to use the Internet and respond to my Zevia post. Heavens knows it must have killed you to up your carbon offset by consuming the electricity to power your computer. Zevia sucks. I RULE!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dr. McGillicuddy's Old-Fashioned Root Beer

I ordered this root beer along with several others from a website called sodapopswarehouse. This silly little root beer with a funny name comes with a bit of a funny personal story, but i don't really feel like sharing it with you. You'll have to ask me to tell you about it at another time. So anyway, Dr. McGillicuddy's root beer is one of the few things made by the company that isn't a hard liquor, specifically schnapps. How the fine doctor parlayed this into a line of root beer is beyond me. The doctor's name is given on the site as Dr. Aloysuis Percival McGillicuddy, born 1808, and from all accounts is a fictional character used only for marketing, joining the ranks of Tony the Tiger and Joe Camel. The company that makes Dr. McGillicuddy's was bought in 1870 by a man named Thomas H. Handy, but it is unclear when the good doctor began making root beer. Most of the site is devoted to the schnapps aspect of the company, which likely is their bread and butter. However, i feel it was kind of them to put out a root beer so that i might review it for the masses.

The brown 12 oz. glass bottle is nothing out of the ordinary. The clear sticker label is very basic also. Only one color is used, a kind of beige/cream color for the entire label. As you can see, lots of text with a few different font styles relays the message that this is indeed a root beer you are drinking. Overall though, it's quite lack luster and there is nothing fantastic about it.

However, what Dr. McGillicuddy's lacks in label innovation, he makes up for in taste. This is a GOOD root beer. Not the best, but it's one of those that pops out of a sea of ordinary to sweep you off your feet. My wife particularly enjoyed it, saying that it tastes like Delta in-flight airline cookies (which, if you've ever flown anywhere with my wife, you will know she thoroughly enjoys because she won't stop talking about them until the plane lands). My description isn't that specific, but i would say that it has a mellow, kind of underwhelming root beer flavor combined with some smooth vanilla and a touch of minty-ness for a fantastic aftertaste. It's not as carbonated as i usually like, but it's not too shabby. Overall, i would definitely say it's the best root beer made by a doctor, and there are quite a few doctors putting out root beers these days...

My official review is that Dr. McGillicuddy's gets 8 (eight) IBCs. In reality, it's probably more like a 7, but i let my wife influence me and talk me into at least giving it an 8. But regardless, it's a good root beer, and one i suggest you try if you're anywhere near a bottle.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wegman's Fountain Root Beer

This post has been long over due considering i have several root beers in my fridge to review. I don't even really have an excuse. Just that i was busy. So whatever... mind your own business. But anyway, i hope to keep this thing a little more up to date while i have some time off from school (less than a month before it starts again). So with that, let's get down to it... I did a bit of wheelin' and dealin' with my root beer nemesis to get my hands on this one. We did an east coast/west coast exchange program (although Phoenix isn't really considered the west coast). Wegmans, from what i can tell, is a grocery store based out of Rochester, NY and located in several states in the northeast. However, on the label this root beer claims to be a "product of Canada". I personally have never heard of Wegmans, but they make and sell Wegmans Fountain Root Beer. Not sure how long they have been making this stuff, but from general appearances, it's just another generic store brand root beer. Nothing to it. Or is there? Let's just find out.

This root beer came in a 2 liter bottle, but i can't image it would be hard to find this in a 12 oz can either. Anyway, the label has a wooden decal background, like that of a root beer barrel, if you will, and the Wegmans logo is pasted right across the front with a picture of a mug of root beer. Nothing outrageous about it. Modern, catchy, and perfectly adaquate. Not much else to say about it.

This stuff is a generic store brand, so it has nothing fancy or mysterious to it. It is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, contains several artificial flavors and preservatives, and is very well carbonated. However, it also manages to be gluten free, lactose free, caffeine free, and vegan approved. So if any of that stuff matters to you, then that's good to know. Why am i telling you this? Because the root beer tastes just like a root beer should. It's good. I would even say very good, in a very unoriginal and uninspiring way. It's sweet and has a great root beer flavor, and the high carbonation gives it quite a bite (sorry Barq's, but it's true). I even tried it with some ice cream and made a root beer float, not that this was suggested or recommended on the label, but more just because i had the ice cream in my freezer and i thought it might be good. Honestly though, it wasn't amazing. I think i just like the root beer more by itself.

My official review is that Wegmans Fountain Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. I'll admit, this review was probably fairly boring to read. I know there isn't much sparkle to this root beer, but it's a valiant effort. I like it quite a bit, but i couldn't justify giving it any higher than a 6. It's good though, and i would say very similar in taste to A&W, although A&W is much more creamy. Not bad though for what it is. You right coast weirdos probably already know all about this stuff, so i don't have to tell you about it, but anyone not familiar with it i would say it's worth trying out. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

JJ Lazlo's Real Draft Root Beer

Hello out there root beer lovers! You will be pleased to know that my much needed free time this summer has been spent hunting down more root beers to review and i currently have a good stash built up. It should last me a while, so don't fret little ones.

This root beer was luckily right here in my own backyard. I made a trip to the Pop Shop just to see if there might be something new, and i found this, JJ Lazlo's Real Draft Root Beer. You may not be able to tell from the picture, but the bottle is bigger than your standard fair. It's the same 22 oz bottle that Sonoran comes in. Coincidence? Not really. The hippie at the counter told me that the guy who brews Sonoran sold the recipe and started JJ Lazlo's, so it's brewed right here in the Valley of the Sun (that's Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs for all of you who may not be familiar). When i talked to Zach, one of the brew masters for Sonoran, he mentioned that they were working on something else. However, the brew master for JJ's is named Scott. Not sure what their relationship is to one another. But i give JJ's some props for their involvement with local schools here. There is a page on their website dedicated to fundraising. You can see pictures of root beer labels drawn by little kids. These labels were put on bottles of root beer and the money earned from the sales went to directly to the school. So that's neat. Well done. JJ's is also looking at making three more flavors of soda, but for now just the root beer is available. You can see details on the website if you really care.

As i already mentioned, the bottle is the same 22 oz bottle that Sonoran comes in. The label for this bottle of JJ Lazlo's was not made by a grade school kid. It looks to have been made on a computer, or at least drawn by hand and then scanned onto a computer and just printed off on sticker paper by any run of the mill ink jet color printer. I'm sure it saves money and i know the guy is just getting it started up, so it may change in the future. The Sonoran label is much more sleek and slick, so maybe it will go that route once Scott gets himself more established. As you can see in the picture, the label features a cool dude with his fedora pulled down low over his eyes. Kinda the old gangster vibe or something. Decent i suppose. I don't have any complaints really.

One of the other things that the hippie in the Pop Shop told me is that since these root beers were made by the same people, that they are almost exactly alike. First of all, my credo is "Nunquam Fides a Hippie", which is latin for, "Never Trust a Hippie". So i decided to put his little theory to the test and taste tested Sonoran and JJ Lazlo's side by side. And as i suspected, that hippie is a filthy liar. It is true they use a lot of the same ingredients (including cane sugar) and both don't have much carbonation, but they taste pretty distinctly different. The JJ Lazlo's label claims a smooth vanilla flavor, but i get more of a honey taste than vanilla, like a lighter version of Thomas Kemper's flavor. Sonoran is more sweet than JJ's, and i still maintain Sonoran tastes like smarties candies. They are both decently good, but taste quite different. One other thing the label of JJ Lazlo's mentions is that it is great over a scoop of ice cream. So my wife and i decided to put that claim to the test also and made a couple root beer floats with this stuff. And it's true, JJ's over ice cream = good, but i think that was mostly due to the ice cream. All in all though, it's a fairly good root beer.

My official review is that JJ Lazlo's gets 6 (six) IBCs. I like that it's made locally and that they work with schools. That's kind of a neat little project, and it indoctrinates kids at a young age of the splendor of root beer. So that's something i can get behind. But ultimately, i think i like Sonoran's flavor more. Just by a little bit though. I still have a hard time getting behind the honey flavor. And it's not over powering, but it's still pretty prominent. So since i gave Sonoran 7 IBCs, it only makes sense to give JJ Lazlo's 6 IBCs. That's still a decent rating though, and i say if you get a chance, grab some of this stuff. It's not bad.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Zevia Natural Ginger Root Beer

Just a brief update, i've made some good strides in obtaining some new root beers to review now that school is out for the summer and i have more time to devote to this important task. I had to order some online, plan to do some light traveling to a couple states to pick some up personally, and even made a few "deals with the devil", if you will. But the good news is that my supply will increase, which ultimately means that you, my gentile readers, will not have to wander through the root beer wasteland without some much needed guidance.

Anyway, Zevia comes from Seattle, WA and from the best i can gather, it started around 2009. Honestly, this root beer (if you can call it that) wasn't really worth doing all that much research on. Feel free to do it on your own if you really care to. Today's featured root beer was found at the local Whole Foods grocery store, which means it's another one of our wonderful "natural" root beers. Which means it's not good. Which means you shouldn't bother with it. Not much reason to keep reading this review now, is there? My bet is that you will anyway.

I picked up a 6-pack of this soda, which is unfortunate because it ran me about $6. Not the cheapest stuff out there. There are several flavors of Zevia distinguished by the color of the can. The label on each is identical (except for the name of the flavor of course). There is a bit drop of something on the label with a couple little leaves dotting the "i" in Zevia. The wavy parallel lines on the background of the label remind me of Max Headroom, which is either totally awesome or completely lame based upon your childhood memories of the TV show. But other than that, i don't really have much of an opinion about the label. It's fine i suppose. Nothing to write home about though.

Zevia's website focuses largely on educating people what stevia is, which is the plant Zevia gets its sweetener from. As a result, it does not contain sugar OR high fructose corn syrup. If you're truly interested in what stevia is, Zevia has a page on thier site dedicated to the topic. Feel free to browse it for yourself, but since i don't plan to ever drink this crap again, i am going to go ahead and not care what stevia is. Basically, Zevia tastes like nothing with an aftertaste of gross. It largely just tastes like soda water. The gross aftertaste i allude to is likely the crushed hopes and dreams of countless hippies in Seattle congregating to exact revenge on the masses. I don't taste root beer, i don't taste ginger; all i taste is dissatisfaction with my purchase.

My official review is that Zevia gets 2 (two) IBCs. Very disappointing, but then again, i kind of expected it being a natural soda and all. All i can say is that outside of going to school and reviewing root beers, i spend most of my time preparing for the zombie apocalypse, and that entails stocking up on quality root beer. Let's just say Zevia won't be in my bunker with 10 inch thick reinforced concrete walls.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oogave Root Beer

I got lucky on an errand i was running and stumbled across a new root beer to review. Oogave Root Beer hails from Denver, CO. Although it was created in 2005 by a guy named Esteban Anson, it wasn't bottled and distributed until January of 2009. If you care to read more about the conception and birth of this root beer, you can check out the website. It's not very interesting though (i.e. lack of explosions, saving kittens from burning building, etc.) I was at Whole Foods when i found it, which may give you an inclination as to what kind of root beer this is; the natural kind. I have a brother that lives in Denver now. He moved there from Flagstaff. So basically he just transferred from one hippie haven to another. They have definitely influenced him a lot over the past decade or so. I worry about him.

It comes in a clear glass bottle and the label is a clear sticker with a simple design on it. The name "oogave" is a variation of the word "agave", which is a plant native to the southwest that many of us who live in this region are very familiar with. So the label has a little decal of agave leaves above the oo in oogave, so it looks like a pair of eyes and a spikey haircut. Clever i suppose. Other than that, it's a pretty bland label. All the writing is in white and yellow text, and the rest of the label is just transparent. It's a new root beer in the bottling business though, so maybe the label with mature with time.

Addendum: I was actually just in the Pop Shop today and saw a case of Oogave with different labels. Much more grown up and sophisticated. Well done Esteban. However, the initial ranking remains the same. Sorry stupid.

I'll just remind you all that i am a fan of very very few natural root beers. This one doesn't quite make the cut either. It's not bad tasting and has moderate carbonation, but it doesn't even really taste like root beer. If i were to relate it to another natural root beer, i would say it's very close in taste to Dr. Tima's, which is heavy on the honey flavor. Although honey is not explicitly listed in the ingredients on the oogave label, the flavor does come across fairly strongly. From the story on the website, Esteban looked to use agave nectar as a replacement for processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I think the honey flavor may come from the agave nectar. But anyway, it is a healthier soda option for those of you concerned about that. In fact, it is certified organic, kosher, and vegan-approved, all of which make it that much less appealing. Again, the root beer flavor doesn't come across at all, but that's pretty typical of a lot of natural root beers.

My official review is that Oogave gets 3 (three) IBCs. Unless you're a dirty snaggletooth, i don't think you'll like this that much either. But there is still a market for those people out there who really love this kind of natural stuff. I can respect the fact that they don't want to put processed and chemically altered food into their bodies, but where i think they fall short is by lying to themselves and others by telling them products like this actually tastes just as good or better. You all know someone like this. And whether it's organic soda, or ice cream, or tofu, it's your duty to let them know they are simply wrong. Sorry, but it's true. Really though, I don't think you should bother with this root beer if you come across it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Margo's Bark Root Beer

I'm sitting at home after a long day of work and school contemplating my root beer future right now. This is the last one in the bullpen, kids. I have no other root beers on deck, and that is making me consider doing something against all my morals and better judgement. I may actually need to seek assistance from my root beer nemesis, which will most likely prove to be a terrible mistake. But i'm getting desperate at this point. To be continued...

On a side note, i am enjoying this root beer with some left over pizza from the renowned Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. It's a pretty amazing place. I won't get into the details (you can look at their website for those), but essentially, it was started and ran by one guy who does everything by hand with just a few other workers. He ran the place for years and used authentic recipes with ingredients he grew right there on the property. The food is good and the draw is huge. The doors open at 5:00 PM and a line starts forming literally around 3:00 PM. It's a small place with only a few tables, so you usually have to wait a while, but it's in a neat, quaint part of downtown Phoenix and it's a fun atmosphere and everything. My wife and i waited 2 & 1/2 hours to be seated, but it was a good time. I've been told that Oprah flies to Phoenix just to eat there. And no, i don't mean she's magical. She flies on an airplane just like everyone else.

Anyway, today's featured root beer is Margo's Bark root beer from Los Angeles, CA. The website is well put together, the whole operation looks relatively new. I haven't gotten an official date on when it started, but from all accounts, it seems like this stuff has only been around since about June of last year (2009, for all you time travelers). The story is pretty neat and the drive behind it is compelling too. Oscar, a 7-year-old boy in LA, made homemade root beer for a school science project and it turns out people liked it so much that the family decided to start bottling it. Oscar named his root beer Margo's Bark after the family dog. The dog was adopted after being abandoned, and the proceeds of the root beer sales go to help fund dog shelters. So that's a nice little story. This root beer also makes me think of a really awesome band my wife and i enjoy called Margo and the Nuclear So and So's. Seriously, they are good and put on a fantastic live show. Check them out.

The bottle is your standard 12 oz. glass bottle. The label is dark in color with the name of the root beer written in kid's writing (presumably by Oscar), and there is a picture of Margo on the label. I am not good with dog breeds, so looking at the picture i would have said Margo is most likely a rottweiler. But as it turns out, the website states that Margo is indeed a black lab-pit bull mix. And of course, there is again mention on the label that the proceeds from sales go to dog shelters. One other notable thing about the bottle is that it is one of the few that i have encountered without a twist off cap. I had to break out my complimentary http://www.sodasamuri.com/ bottle opener, which has turned out to be a serious piece of garbage.

As soon as i got the cap off, i was overwhelmed with the scent of rich molasses. And indeed, that's what the root beer's dominant flavor is. But i gotta say, this stuff isn't too bad. It doesn't taste too much like a gingersnap cookie, which was my problem with the last molasses flavored root beer i had. And i gotta give them credit for keeping a good amount of carbonation even after sitting in my fridge for several months now. Still, there isn't anything really knocking my socks off by this stuff. I am assuming the recipe has been refined from it's original 7-year-old inventor's attempts. I don't even know what it is missing or what it would take to take this stuff from good to great. But the fact remains that it can still be improved upon. Not bad though, not bad at all.

My official review is that Margo's Bark gets 6 (six) IBCs. For all you dog lovers out there, i think you could really get behind this stuff. It's good and it goes to a good cause. I am by no means in favor of neglecting animals or anything, but i don't get all crazy about dogs like a lot of people do. I've never been much of a pet person. Nonetheless, i can respect what these guys are doing. So grab a bottle and check this stuff out for yourself. It's decent.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Red Ribbon Root Beer

i hate to break it to you folks, but i am quickly running out of options. i am always on the lookout for new root beers to review, and i appreciate those of you who have offered suggestions. I will keep doing my best to bring you my reliable and honest opinion since you are desperately in need of it. It might be a bit slow for a while though. i don't have very many prospects on the horizon, as even mail ordering new brews is becoming harder for me. Anyway, enough of that. You came here for info on root beer, so let's get down to it. This root beer is called Red Ribbon Root Beer. It has been around since 1904 and hails from Natrona, PA. The name of the company is even Natrona Bottling. The website history section tells of a small company managed by the owner for several decades. I get the feeling they are struggling in their effort to fight the Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies of the world. But they seem to have pride in their work, and i suppose that's gotta be worth something. I think this needs to be brought up though... this picture is featured on their website, presumably from the days when the company was bought by it's current owner's brother in 1939. I don't know who the two men in the photo are, but all i can say is... it looks a little gay. Now, i don't have any problems with gay people, and to be as publicly open as these two were back then takes guts. Gays didn't exactly get preferential treatment back then. Maybe that's where the company gets all it's pride.

The bottle is simple, and so is the label, but i don't blame 'em. They are a small and presumably struggling company, so they gotta make this stuff on the cheap in order to make a profit. It's a simple clear glass bottle, and the label isn't anything fancy. Just the name of the root beer, a few different font types used, some pictures of root beer mugs, etc. Mind you, it at least has more imagination than Olde Rhode Island Root Beer. But suffice it to say, it covers the basics and that's all that needs to be done. No big deal, really.

The list of ingredients on the label are just a simple as the label itself. The root beer isn't bad. But just as the ingredients suggest, there isn't much to it. This root beer is sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS, and the taste reflects that. But even the root beer flavor itself is kind of weak. It's in there, but it's very subtle. At least this root beer isn't flat like most i have had from a clear glass bottle. So it deserves at least some credit for not falling into too much of the cliche.

My official review is that Red Ribbon gets 5 (five) IBCs. It's not a root beer i'd go out of my way for, but i feel like small companies like this deserve a break. So if you're in an area where this stuff is served and you'd like to give it a shot, i say what the heck. It's not like this stuff is gonna turn you gay, right?

Wait... this won't turn me gay, will it? Cuz i don't think my wife would like that.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hank's Root Beer

I am really bad at keeping up on these recently, but i am also a busy boy. However, this is a review that has needed to happen for a long time. The root beer on the docket today is Hank's Gourmet Root Beer, from Philadelphia, PA. Hank's has only been around since 1996, but the company that makes Hank's has been around for over 40 now. I knew a kid named Hank in grade school. He had a flat top. And glasses. And he was kinda over weight.
... Anyway, let's talk root beer.

I like the bottle. It's not typical and has a cool shape to it. I know that's not much of a description, but that's about as good as i can do. The label is cool too. It's kind of a metallic, gold color sticker that looks like an old coin that has been found and slightly polished up. I'd say to just look at the picture, but i realize it's kind of dark and may not do the bottle and label justice very well. But it passes the test as a respectable member of the memorable root beers club (which isn't a real club, but i think you get my point). By the way, i have a Chinese professor right now for one of my classes with a thick accent, and when he says the word "member", it sounds like "man bear". And that, of course, makes me think of Manbearpig. It's very distracting during lectures.

Now, i realize it seems like i have already been talking this thing up a lot, but i don't want to give anyone the impression that this is the greatest root beer in the world. However, it's still a really good root beer. Nothing really sets it apart much from the others though. It is well carbonated and has a solid root beer flavor with some good vanilla undertones. I'm not sure what it is that makes me think this stuff is so good though. Maybe it's the packaging, the solid taste, or the way it makes me think of a chubby, flat topped grade school boy (but not like in a sexual way or anything, cuz he's not sexy at all). Well whatever it is, it's working for me.

My official review is that Hank's gets 7 (seven) IBCs. For me, a 7 is a solid rating, and i have probably had plenty of other root beers just as good as Hank's that didn't get a 7. So what makes the difference? I couldn't tell you. It's just how it has to be i guess. Maybe you can try it and give me your opinion. Perhaps it will sway my decision.

But probably not...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Americana Root Beer

I had a bit of a bad bout with my computer recently but luckily i have a backup. So it's back to business as usual i suppose. New root beers are becoming harder and harder to come by. However, thanks to a site called Soda Pop Stop (not sure if i have already mentioned and/or linked it), i have several root beers on hand that i am trying to space out somewhat to preserve the long running status of this blog (over one year). This root beer is an old timey American classic, which is why it bears the name Americana. This drink is part of the Orca Beverage Inc. and hails from Mukilteo, WA. Orca also distributes several other brands of soda. Americana also comes in black cherry and honey lime ginger flavor, the later of which sounds like it would be delicious in a salsa with some tacos. Not sure if it translates that well though, but if you find the desire, i urge you to try it and let me know how it is.

The 12 oz. brown glass bottle is draped in a simple but bold label adorned with the American flag and some flagrant font. (Speaking of font, my wife and i rented a documentary called Helvetica, which is about the origin and application of this majestic font. I haven't seen it yet, but i am sure it's fantastic. Check it out today.) Simple colors of red, white, and blue act proudly yet somberly to convey the message that this root beer's patriotism is evident from start to finish. It's not over bearing, but it makes the point clear that this root beer would gladly die for it's country if the cause of freedom were in jeopardy. Noble, i suppose, but in the end, i think it just plays to the sentimentality of old people. But i digress.

Webster.com (one of my favorite websites) defines Americana as, "materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture; broadly: things typical of Amercia". So to me, if you name your root beer Americana, it had better taste like things prevalent in American culture, like apple pie, baseball, and wearing out your welcome. However, the thing is tastes like most to me is molasses. The bottle does say that Americana is made with pure cane sugar, but i wasn't expecting it to be a thick, dark molasses flavor permeating the experience. It's not unbearable, but i don't particularly care for the taste of molasses. My wife tells me that is tastes like a bad gingerbread cookie, the key ingredient in gingerbread being molasses (i would have thought it would be ginger, but whatever). The taste is fairly sharp and gives me no room to find anything else appealing about the root beer. And frankly, i don't know how molasses flavor is supposed to speak to the sentimentality of American culture, past or present. Of course, i am not very versed on the history of molasses in our country, so if any of you, my loyal readers, care to shed some light on this, i would be a willing student. But basically, i think Americana has missed the mark.

My official review is that Americana gets 4 (four) IBCs. It's not great, and with a name like Americana it's supposed to make me think of a better, simpler time. It doesn't though. It makes me think, "now what am i supposed to do to get this taste out of my mouth?" And i'm not a marketing expert or a research and development guru, but i am pretty sure a root beer wants people to want to drink more of it.

BTW... Someone should tell that to the Journey Root Beer guys, cuz that stuff is awful.