Saturday, February 15, 2020

Bear Wizz Root Beer

Gonna round out my Albany, NY root beers now with this playful and whimsical drink. Bear Wizz Root Beer is brewed by the Adirondack Brewery (not to be confused with Adirondack Beverages Co.) in Lake George, NY. The brewery has been open since 1999, but I’m not certain this root beer has been in production that long. It’s another local concoction, but by a small independent brewer and not some nameless, faceless entity putting out garbage with the word root beer attached. The backstory is that a guy went to Europe after college, got hammered on some sweet lagers and ales over there, came back to the states and couldn’t find anything that compared, so he started brewing his own beers. Then after 19 years of home brewing he opened his own pub and brewery. It’s a tale as old as time kids. Now this lousy drunk and likely disappointment to his family is living the dream, getting tanked every day of his miserable life, and rakin in that sweet sweet cash while he does it. I say hats off to you man, you’ve done it. You’ve found a way to be both successful and perpetually drunk. Like I said, livin the dream. 
I picked up a 4-pack of brown glass bottles from the local Hannaford grocery store here in Latham, NY just outside Albany. The label is very colorful and evocative. There is an image of a large bear entangled in thick brush being swarmed by bees. It has a look of supreme surprise and a bit of panic on its face. The label itself is very matte and non-glossy, giving it a more homemade look. Overall I’m a fan of the label. Nice work guys. What I’m not a huge fan of is the name, Bear Wizz. It’s a bit too cheeky for me. Is the brewer trying to imply that this root beer tastes like the urine excreted from a bear? Dare I say, Bear Piss?! I don’t know and I ultimately don’t find it amusing. But I do enjoy saying it in the manner made popular by Stewie on Family Guy, “Bear Whizz”. 
The label says this is a classic creamy root beer and boasts about the foaminess you can come to expect. Neither of those descriptions proved to be accurate to me. I will say other ingredients on the label definitely do play into the flavor, namely honey, cane sugar, vanilla and anise. Mostly anise. It has a deep molasses taste for the base, the cane sugar for a nice sweet finish, and a hint of honey for some tone. Sounds good, right? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint but it’s just ok. This is definitely the boldest and most defined flavor of the 3 root beers I have tried here in Albany, but it didn’t have very stiff competition. It’s not that is has a bad flavor, it’s more of a flavor I’ve tasted before and wasn’t a fan. It reminds me of a muted Thomas Kemper or even an Abita. The honey really sells it, but it’s quite subtle. Again, no creaminess or foamy taste, and the base flavor just doesn’t do it for me. It just seems like this one, like so many others, is trying way too hard.
My official review is Bear W(h)izz Root Beer gets 6 (six) IBCs. It’s a reputable score. Maybe I’m feeling generous right now or that I need to balance out my last two bad scores. I’m just now realizing this root beer score is the sum of the two previous scores I gave to its associates. I assure you that was not intentional, not that any of you would or should care. But this stuff has its place in the root beer hierarchy and that place is right above the middle. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Adirondack Root Beer

It's a settled matter that the when flying the person in the middle seat gets use of the arm rests since they have the most undesirable seat. The window has a view and can use the wall of the fuselage for leaning against to sleep. The aisle gets quick access to the restroom, which is why i prefer it since i have a little baby bladder, and gets a bit more space to stretch their legs. That leaves the middle, trapped between these two happy travelers left to suffer with no conveniences afforded. Therefore, the least that can be done for this poor soul is to afford them the luxury of full use of both arm rests. As i stated, it's a settled matter.
But i came across a situation recently where i don't know the proper etiquette. Who gets the arm rest if there are only two seats in the aisle? The window and aisle seats still have their respective benefits, but there is no decorum that i'm aware of to dictate who has rights to enjoy the arm rest between them. I was in the aisle next to the guy by the window, but that guy hogged the arm rest and i didn't feel like i had grounds to scold him or demand my share of the arm rest. Someone help me out please.

So I probably wouldn’t be posting this one since i just posted yesterday except that I find myself in freezing cold Albany, NY for work and stumbled across a few regional root beers that I have to drink and review while here because I can’t bring them on a plane. So let’s get to it, shall we? Adirondack Root Beer is bottled by Adirondack Beverages Co., named after the majestic Adirondack Mountain range in northeastern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and even up into Canada (I think), which is named after a not so fancy and uncomfortable outdoor chair common among patio furniture sets and often made of wood or plastic. That’s right, the mountains are named after the chair, so there is no need to do any further googling. Just trust me. The company started way back in 1967 in Scotia, NY, was acquired and dismantled 9 years later in 1976, and apparently came back by popular demand (or so the website would have you believe) in 1980. They have been pumping out seltzers, bottled water, flavored water, and full sugar and diet sodas ever since to serve the New England region of the United States. I think it’s healthy for people and companies to be proud of their accomplishments and all, but these guys seem like they are a little too into themselves if you ask me. You’re just bottling soda people. Just relax a little.
And although I mentioned bottling, I actually got this in a 12 oz. aluminum can because that’s what was available to me at the local Hannaford Grocery Store here in Latham, NY (a suburb of Albany). The can is colored brown and cream, which are traditional root beer branding colors, but the label has a beautiful picturesque color image of a lake and some mountains and trees based on a real place here in the state. The website has a similar photo of the image on the can as well as many others showing the natural beauty of this area. Since I’ve been here for only 3 days and have only seen gloomy gray skies and temperatures in the low 30’s (talkin Fahrenheit here people), just looking at these images is a welcome respite from deep winter depression that seems to cripple people’s livelihood in this part of the country. And I know 30’s isn’t even that cold compared to a lot of places, but for a thin blooded Arizonan like myself it’s enough to make me hole up on a subpar Holiday Inn Express and type away on my computer about root beer of all subjects just to avoid from being outside in the cold. Anyway, that is all to say the label is decent. 
This root beer is flavored with high fructose corn syrup, which has been under attack for a while as an extremely unhealthy sweetener and a huge culprit in the obesity epidemic in this country. It’s almost rare to find these kind of root beers that are not flavored with pure cane sugar these days. But the fact that this one still holds on the high fructose corn syrup is only one or many unnatural and processed ingredients in this root beer. There’s nothing in this root beer to make it stand out. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s just barely even there really. The taste in total is so subtle that it’s hard to point out any of the flavor profiles. I guess it’s faintly root beer flavored, but it’s almost overwhelmingly flavored like nothing at all. It’s not even enough of a thing to be disappointing. I bought a 6 pack of this stuff and I don’t even want to finish this one I am drinking while writing this. I guess it’s refreshing, but it doesn’t really tickle my pleasure centers the way a good root beer should. Did that last thing I said sound creepy? Cuz even I felt uncomfortable typing it. 
My official review is Adirondack Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. This is a bit critical. Honestly it’s not a terrible soda. It’s just a nothing soda. And it’s not even unique that it’s nothing. There are plenty of bland root beers out there. I think most of the bad score from this one comes from the fact that I’ve been cold since I got here and I can’t seem to get warmed up no matter what I do. So I’m afraid I’m just gonna take it out on you Adirondack. The mountains look pretty, but that’s the only thing about Adirondack worth admiring (lookin at you chair).

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hannaford's Root Beer

Not long ago I visited my brother in Salt Lake City, UT. I went up there to do some snowboarding (a very nice Christmas gift from my wife). My brother and I did some night skiing and when we were done we stopped by a CafĂ© Rio, which is a chain restaurant popular in this region. While we were walking in, we witnesses a group of people coming out. It was clear one guy was shouting at the others. For sake of clarity, I will call this man Steve, though I don’t know his real name. He was badgering a man and his wife as they were walking out, and it was apparent that these people did not know each other previously. He was shouting things like,  “I can’t believe you’d park in a handicap spot!”  “You’re selfish and ungrateful!”  “That’s a $600 fine!”  “My mother is in a wheelchair!”, and the like.
The man kept replying to him the same way, “I’m not parked in a handicapped spot. I told you that in the restaurant. I don’t know why you’re yelling at me.” The man walked over to the handicapped spot which was empty, “see?” he said. “I’m not parked here.” Steve stormed up in front of a car that was parked in the cross hatched spot next to the handicapped spot to block off space for wheel chair loading, which is technically a part of the handicapped spot. “This is still the handicapped spot jerk. You can’t park here!” The man points to the car and says, “that’s not my car. THAT’S my car.” He then points the other direction to a car parked a few spaces away, clearly not in a handicapped spot. 
Now, mind you, my brother and I are not in any way participating or involved in this at all, we are merely observing, but from my view Steve has made a grave error. He has absolutely no footing to stand on and is clearly in the wrong. Had I found myself in Steve’s position, I would have said something to the effect of, “You know what, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I’m sorry I reacted this way. Have a nice evening.” Then I would have left. This is not what Steve does. This guy doubles down. HARD. “You told me this was your car! You’re a liar!” “I told you I drive a white Infinity, that one,” the man says pointing at the other car. His wife (I presume) says to Steve, “Shame on you. You need to apologize.” Steve blasts back, “I’m not apologizing to ANYONE…” and with that my brother and I walked into the restaurant and were out of earshot. I don’t know how this confrontation resolved, but I do know that Steve had no business being a social crusader and conducting the witch hunt the way he did. 
So knowing that, I’ll tell you my tour of root beers from the Albany, NY region continues with this gem, which, like Steve, shouldn’t even be in this conversation. Hannaford Root Beer is the house brand of a regional grocery store from Scarborough, ME called Hannaford’s. I… don’t know what else to say about this. It’s a local grocery store house brand. Should be sufficient enough to get the picture. Ummm… let’s see… the bottle says the store has been around since 1883, though I doubt the root beer has been in production that long. Uh… it was started by a couple brothers with the last name Hannaford. Oh, the name reminds me of Mike Hanford of The Birthday Boys fame. I believe he's from this region as well. And… yup, that’s it. I’m out of trivial and uninteresting facts. Moving on…
The store had this stocked in aluminum cans, 2 liter plastic bottle and in 12 oz glass bottles, which is what I ended up getting. I got a 4-pack of clear glass bottles with the black and white photo of a Hannaford’s storefront and a man sitting on a carriage with a team of horses pulling it. The image is overlaid with generic brown font that simply says “Root Beer”. It’s typical of a house root beer looking to cash in on soda drinkers’ desires for a delightful beverage. But beware here folks, because you’ll find no such respite here. 
This stuff is bad. It’s bitter. It’s thin. It’s losing its hair. Wait, those all describe me. Except the thin part. But anyway, this stuff is barely a soda, let alone a reputable root beer. It contains pure cane sugar, which is a shock seeing as how bitter the taste is. The ingredients also say it contains wintergreen, but there is no trace of it in the flavor. It just tastes like the bad taste you get in your mouth after you have eaten candy or something sugary. I get the feeling it makes your breath smell too, though there is no one here to confirm that for me. And despite being not a great root beer, I’ve drank 3 of the 4 in the pack I bought, so I must be super depressed right now or something.
My official review is Hannaford Root Beer gets 3 (three) IBCs. I don’t like it. It’s not even original in how bad it is. But I’m still giving it a 3 because I keep drinking it. I think I’m mostly just in a bad mood though because I am sitting in my hotel room, in my bed, under the covers and I am still wearing my jacket cuz I’m so cold and have been for the past 2 days now. Sorry if you’re taking the brunt of my bad attitude Hannaford, but this root beer aint gonna save you.