Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trader Joe's Vintage Root Beer

This one has been on my radar a long time, but i seriously could never track it down. I think a lot of people are going to be familiar with this though. Trader Joe's is a chain of grocery stores located in several states across the nation which pride themselves on being small, dealing with local farmers and grocers, and being utterly overrun with hippies at all times. It's somewhat similar to Whole Foods, but not as big or expensive or pretentious. They make a line of their own sodas, which includes a root beer. It is, of course, naturally sweetened and made with natural ingredients. It's even vegan, if you care about that kind of thing (cuz i don't). I have gone into several Trader Joe's locations from time to time over the years looking for this one, but it was always out of stock or not on the shelves. At one time i thought it might be discontinued, but i kept seeing mentions of it. I finally found a store with some root beer stocked, so i picked up a 4-pack. It's not a bad store if you can tolerate the shiftless hippie employees and patrons. I once dated a girl who was a vegetarian yoga instructor border lining on being a full blown hippie, except she was very clean and not a vagrant or a burnout. It was a bit of a moral dilemma for me. Needless to say, it didn't work out even though i still think highly of her. She was the one who introduced me to Trader Joe's. But i honestly have never shopped there much. All that was just to say i'm not opposed to the place, but it's not my first choice either.

They went with the 12 oz. clear glass bottles which are typical of a lot of the natural root beers. The label doesn't inspire much, but it's not terrible either. The color scheme lacks originality, but the design and font are lively enough and save the label from utter drabness. This came in a 4-pack, and it was about $4, so it's not the cheapest stuff around, but it's not expensive either. For your money, the best deal is still a sixer of IBC on sale for around $2.50. And last i checked, stupid Henry Weinhard's is around $7 for a 6-pack. Are you insane Henry? Oh wait, we've already established that you are, you tyrannous ne'er-do-well. But i digress.

My wife has told me that she really enjoys this stuff. And i have to say, for a natural root beer, it's easily one of the best i've had. Maybe even the best. It has good carbonation and a good root beer flavor with a hint of vanilla aftertaste (one of the flavors listed as an ingredient). Other listed flavors include anise, wintergreen, and birch. I can taste maybe a hint of wintergreen, but i don't really get the other flavors. It's sweetened with cane sugar, which makes it pretty sweet too. It's fairly watery, but i find it compliments the salty taste of a plate of nachos (a staple of my diet). So... i guess all i can say is... nice job vegans. You did a decent job on this one. 

My official review is that Trader Joe's Vintage Root Beer gets 7 (seven) IBCs. I have to say, it's a borderline 7. I wrestled with giving it a 6, which i think it wholly deserves. But it's better than a plain old 6, especially considering it's a natural root beer. So i am letting it squeak by with a 7. It's decent stuff. Really. Just another reason to consider Trader Joe's an alright place to shop. Grab some if you get the chance. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mercury Root Beer

I want to get into this one, but before i do i need to say that i got this root beer from a site called the Root Beer Store. It's another good mail order root beer site that someone (i think Eric) directed me to. I alluded in my last post (Freaky Dog Rooffbeer) that this was the next one i was going to review. Mercury Root Beer is brewed by the Mercury Brewing Co. The website on the bottle ( leads to a dead end, which you would know from reading the Freaky Dog post. You would also know that by googling Mercury Brewing, you can reach this site, which is the site for the brewery that brews Mercury Root Beer and has been operating out of Ipswich, MA since 1991. Other than being a town in Massachusetts, Ipswich is also a popular football club (aka soccer team) over in England. I'm not really a professional sports fan in any sense of the word, so someone over there please correct me if i'm wrong, but i don't think i am. I think i've overheard enough soccer talk in my life to get some of the basics. But the point is, i think Mercury Brewing and Ipswich Brewing must be one and the same. Not sure if it was a take over type situation or a shared labor agreement, but i have to think they are working together for more reasons that just this one. But we'll get to that later.

The typical 12 oz. clear glass bottle is adorned with a generic color schemed label with the main focus being on the fact that this soda is a root beer, and the name of the company is below as a secondary consideration. So instead of being Mercury Root Beer, i should probably have labeled this post "Root Beer! ... (oh yeah, that's made by Mercury Brewing Co.)". Nothing on the label really stands out from the bland background except the little depiction of the Roman God of Messengers, Mercury himself (or Apollo if you subscribe more to the Greek mythological god naming protocol). Mercury can be seen drinking from a mug wearing his distinctive winged hat. Traditionally he is depicted wearing winged sandals to symbolize his speed, but the label only has him shown from the shoulders up. Kind of a bad call if you ask me Mercury/Ipswich Brewing Co. Instead of the giant "root beer" font on the label, maybe you should have shown a better image of Mercury in all his glory. Hey, even a picture of the planet Mercury would have been better. All the planets of course taking their names from Roman gods, Mercury was so named for being the innermost planet with proximity closest to the Sun, giving it the shortest orbital cycle. Indeed, Mercury's swiftness is displayed by completing an orbit once every 88 days, which means it circles the Sun a little more than 4 times every Earth Year. But while its eccentric orbital path may be the shortest distance of all the planets in the solar system, Mercury has one of the slowest rotational speeds, completing roughly three Mercurian days every two orbits. It has been documented for centuries via telescopic Earth observations, but was only visited via satellite during the mid 1970's Mariner Probe missions and recently at the end of the last decade via the Messenger flyby to study Mercury's core and magnetic field. Fascinating stuff. I mean, come on Mercury Brewing... i think you really dropped the ball on this label.

Outside the obvious connections between the websites listed on both the Freaky Dog Rooffbeer and Mercury Root Beer labels, one of the main reasons i wanted to try this one right after Freaky Dog (and quickly after) was to do a taste test between the two. Now, it wasn't side-by-side comparison, but i just reviewed Freaky Dog yesterday and i have to say... i think they are the same root beer. I think the same liquid is bottled in two separately labeled bottles and sold under separate distribution channels. A true side-by-side test would help me confirm my suspicion, but for the time being i am going to say that they taste identical.  It's not uncommon for one root beer to taste like another, but when both companies list the same brewery/website and then that website leads to a dead end and the only common link is a third unmentioned-on-the-label brewery, i gotta stop and think these crazy kids are trying to cover their tracks or something. Seems kinda fishy what these two companies are up to.

My official review is that Mercury Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. Now i know what you're thinking... "Yo Cosmo, why would you give this a lower rating than Freaky Dog if they tasted identical? How can that one be better than this one bro? I mean, i know you're like super awesome and probably like real good lookin' and stuff. I mean, i aint never seen you and i'm not gay or nothin'. Like, i mean, i like girls and stuff. So ya know... just sayin'. But how could you do that bro?" My answer, dear reader, is this... because i can. In fact, i just did. It's not just the taste that sells the review. It's the whole package. And the Freaky Dog package is better than the Mercury Package. Need i say more? I do? Well... i'm not going to.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Freaky Dog Rooffbeer

 Ok, tracking down the correct website for this one took a little extra work (and i emphasize "little" cuz really i'm just sitting at a computer and typing and clicking), but i finally tracked down the right one. Freaky Dog Rooffbeer (clever) is bottled by Drinx Unlimited Inc., but is somehow associated with Mercury Brewing Company. Both companies' websites are on the label. Typing in will send you here. Not much help. Google searching Mercury Brewing lead me here (after clicking on the sodas page). I didn't see Freaky Dog Rooffbeer on this site, but i did see Mercury Root Beer, which i have at home and in light of all this i will probably review that one next. So i will talk more about that page/company in my next post. Typing in took me here, which brought me much closer to my final destination. All i had to do was click on the icon in the top left corner and we finally get to the correct website for Freaky Dog Rooffbeer. So making sense of the whole thing i found out that brothers Tom and Jim Magli grew up in Connecticut with a father in the soda business. They too went into the beverage distribution business for a while before starting their own distribution company (Drinx Unlimited). So that explains that. I am still not certain how they are associated with Mercury Brewing, but i will go so far as to say they probably contract Mercury to brew their root beer. Don't really care to do further research though cuz that's not really what you, my loyal readers, really care about. The name Freaky Dog comes from a little beagle rescue dog Jim and his wife adopted and named Eddie (aka Little Eddie). The site gives some details about the crazy antics of this destructive/kleptomaniac dog of theirs that they just love to death. I like animals in general, including dogs, but i've never been big on pets, so this didn't tug at my heart strings like it might with some of you dog lovers out there. But if you care to read up on Little Eddie and see some videos of him (i presume they are of him), you can check out the website for yourselves. It's set up to be a fun site. The home page has a little animation at the top of Eddie walking down a sidewalk. I'd suggest hovering you mouse over him for a moment for a little thrill and then disappointment in yourself that you actually wasted you time by listening to my suggestion.

Tom and Jim's website stress the fact that all 16 fun flavors of their sodas are bottled in clear 12 oz. glass bottles so you can see the soda. That was a big thing for these guys when they were kids. The Freaky Dog label depicts a cartoon version of Little Eddie with a menacing look in his eyes and a very toothy grin. The font is big and catchy, and these two components dominate the label. There really isn't anything else on it other than the nutritional facts and some website details hidden off on the sides. It's a nice enough label. I don't hate it. Not super elaborate, but these guys weren't just phoning it in either.
One thing that i noticed different about the bottle is the level they fill it to. Without going back to do the research personally, i'm going to go out on a limb and say every other root beer i have reviewed is filled to or near the "normal" level, allowing a little room between the liquid and the cap for whatever reason. I think this is the only one i have tried so far that has the bottle filled to the "not normal" level. Not sure if this was a one-off goof or standard practice for the boys over at Drinx Unlimited. Being in a clear glass bottle it's easy to see this distinctly, but i really didn't give it much thought until i twisted off the cap and gave it the smell test before drinking it. I couldn't help but think that the liquid was a lot closer to my nose than normal (because when i do my smell test, i stick my nose inside the bottle neck as far as i can to get a good seal). That's not a bad thing, it's just a stupid observation i made. Not a big benefit or detriment for this root beer's rating at all, but something to consider.

I expected this one to have kind of a bland taste like many of the others i have had recently. I was surprised at my first drink though and thought it was really good and had a different kick to it. It was kind of peppery (like a Dr. Pepper) and had a mix of root beer candy barrel and cane sugar sweetness flavor. But the longer i drank it, the less unique i thought it was. By the end, it had slid back into the mediocre taste slot that is common among many root beers. The carbonation is decent and it's not as "thin" flavored as most, but it can be a bit watery. Still, i have to say it's better than a lot of root beers out there. But just barely.

My official review is that Freaky Dog Rooffbeer (still clever) gets 6 (six) IBCs. I think it's a cut above mediocre, but not quite ready for the big leagues (i threw that one in for Tom and Jim cuz the website says they are big baseball fans).  Nice label, amusing name, cute back story, but just kind of a decent taste that's not too bad. Valiant work though guys, keep it up. Grab some if you have the chance. But if you're looking for root beer candy barrels, there is really only one option.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Avery's Root Beer

This is another root beer i got in a not-so-recent shipment from the Soda Emporium. Avery's is another retro soda brand from long ago that produces a wide variety of flavors. It's named after Sherman F. Avery, the guy who started brewing it in his barn in 1904 in New Britain, CT. There is a picture of him as well as his barn on the website if you're interested in taking a look. Home delivery was a big part of his business, and apparently citizens of New Britain and surrounding areas can still get sodas delivered to their homes over 100 years later. I would suggest taking a look at the website and browsing around. The company seems to be really involved in the community and gives the opportunity for people to come in and make their own sodas. I am not kidding about the wide variety of flavors. The selection reminds me of the vastness of Jones Soda flavors. There is even a line of flavors called "Gross Sodas" which were inspired by kids coming in and making their own sodas. Customers can even design their own labels for fun or special occasions or whatever. Not necessarily new ideas as i have seen these options before (i.e. in my Surf City Root Beer review from Brewbakers in San Diego), but I like how Avery's gives its customers opportunities to get involved.

All the sodas on the website are bottled in 12 oz. clear glass bottles like the one in the picture above. The Avery's logo dominates the top of the label with the slogan "Always ask for Avery's". The label has a very retro look and feel to it. I doubt it has changed much if at all from the time Sherman started bottling his drinks. It's very simple but eye catching. It has a fresh look to it. Not my favorite label ever, but definitely a step above a lot of the competition. You'll also notice that it doesn't actually say "root beer" anywhere on the label because it's the same one they use on all their drinks. I guess that's their way of keepin' it real or something.

The root beer is flavored with pure cane sugar making it fairly sweet, but the overall flavor is a little thin and watery. This is common of many clear glass bottle root beers i have tried, and i have yet to make a valid connection as to why. So i kinda wasn't expecting much on the taste. It's definitely not terrible, but it doesn't knock my socks off either.

My official review is that Avery's Root Beer gets 5 (five) IBCs. I like a lot about the company and its a decent root beer. That doesn't make it one of my favorites though. It just kinda falls in the middle like so many others. I don't mind it at all, but nothing about the flavor really stands out to me. Unfortunately this leaves Avery's with a mediocre rating. But if you're dying to try one, i don't think you'd be wasting your time. I just have better root beers to be drinking is all.