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.