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.