Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jones Soda Switching To Cane

Imagine my surprise to see that Jones Soda Company is ditching High Fructose Corn Syrup in favour of Pure Cane Sugar, according to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Kudos to the folks at Jones for taking a step in the direction of flavour and product wholesomeness.

Jones Soda Co., looking for a marketing advantage, is making the switch to pure cane sugar from high fructose corn syrup as a soda sweetener.

"It's better for you, it's better-tasting and, overall, it's better for the environment," Peter van Stolk, the company's chief executive officer, said Tuesday.


Seattle-based Jones, which makes root beer, cream soda and quirky drinks with flavors such as turkey and gravy, will sell 12-ounce canned sodas with pure cane sugar after Jan. 1. All of the company's products will make the switch by mid-2007, van Stolk said.


Hopefully we will see many more Soda and Root Beer manufacturers taking the same decision and getting rid of that nasty sweetener. I was planning on reviewing Jones' Root Beer here, but I think I'll wait until they make the New Year switch to Cane and then contrast their old product with the new. I have never been especially enamoured with Jones' products, due primarily to their use of HFCS and the mediocrity of their flavours. Now, I'm looking forward to tasting their new offerings. Stay tuned!

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Eat And Drink At Joe's

I recently went over to a reasonably local butcher shop called Joe's Butcher Shop, in Carmel, Indiana to see what they were all about. The owner, Joe Lazzara had contacted me some time back about Root Beers and Soda for his beautiful one of a kind vintage vending machine so I thought I'd take some time to jot over there and see what he had to offer.

Well, lo' and behold I walked into a fine establishment that had a great deal to offer. Cases loaded up with beautiful cuts of meat, fish and poultry, cheeses, spices and everything a foodie could want in a neighbourhood shop. Joe's even offers the venerable pieces of meat known in this area as "Atlas Tenderloins" which are extremely affordable beef tenderloins ($6.99/lb as I write this). The gem of my visit, tho was what awaited me just inside the door to the shop. A rack filled with bubbly goodness and a single six pack of Abita Root Beer on the top shelf. Yummy!

I spent some time talking with Joe about this and that and got a look at his 7-Up vending machine prototype (sweet!) and finally left with that single pack of Abita and some natural casing hot dogs that were well appreciated by the family! I've since been back to Joe's (sadly, he was out of Abita) for some holiday meat purchases and have plans to continue going back, (especially if he gets some more Abita back in). Maybe someday soo Joe will be able to fill that machine of his with some premium Soda and Root Beer and his customers will be afforded another venerable tradition, a cold Soda and a chat around the cases. If you're in the Carmel, Indiana area and want to see what a real butcher shop is then stop in at Joe's! Tell him the Root Beer Man sent ya!

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"The Way Of The Warrior"- A Root Beer Related Interlude

My family and I attended a Halloween party last weekend and one of the guests happened to be a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While talking with him he told me that his favourite episode was one which featured a mention of Root Beer and an exchange between two of the characters, (Quark and Garak). Being the Root Beer Man I had to make the effort to find this episode and the exchange and here it is. From the Season 4 episode "The Way of the Warrior".
[Garak takes a drink of root beer]
Quark: What do you think?
Elim Garak: It's vile.
Quark: I know. It's so bubbly and cloying and happy.
Elim Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: And you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it.
Elim Garak: It's insidious.
Quark: Just like the Federation.
For fans of Root Beer it should be noted that Star Trek:Deep Space Nine has a number of references to our favourite bubbly nectar.

Quark: Care for a root beer metaphor?
Garak: What's that?
Quark: You take a scoop of metaphor and pour root beer on it. It's good if you like root beer, or, metaphorically, the Federation.
Garak: I don't like those, but I do like metaphors. I never metaphor I didn't like.
Quark: Good. No room for metaphobes around here.
Or this gem:
Worf: There is an ancient Klingon proverb that says, "You cannot loosen a man's tongue with root beer."
One cannot help but like a show where there are a bunch of Root Beer references!

Next up, some long overdue reviews.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thomas Kemper Root Beer

Thomas Kemper makes a variety of Sodas and does a reasonable job across the board. Their Root Beer is no exception, it's a reasonable brew that by and large does what it sets out to. Thomas Kemper Root Beer is a Washington staple sweetened with honey and High Fructose Corn Syrup. That's unfortunate, as the HFCS comes through as the sweetest part and the honey ends up being the primary flavouring, much to the detriment of the Root Beer flavouring that should be predominant.

Kemper's starts out with a nice, sweet vanilla scent and a long lasting head and everything after that is a matter of ups and downs. The carbonation is nice and adds just a hint of bite to the creamy mouthfeel. The Root Beer flavour is where things start to go wrong since the honey in the brew tends to overwhelm most of the Root Beer flavour. What there is of the flavour would best be described as draftish. The aftertaste of Kemper is a mixture of HFCS sweetness and a honey taste that make for a cloying experience.

In the end Thomas Kemper Root Beer ends up being about the honey and not the Root Beer and that's a sad thing.

Carbonated Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Pure Honey
Natural and Artificial Flavors
Sodium Benzoate
Phosphoric Acid
Pure Vanilla Extract
Natural Sassafras Extract
Caramel Color

Aroma: Sweet vanilla scent
Head: Nice, big, long lasting head
Carbonation: Average
Mouthfeel: Creamy with a touch of carbonation bite
Root Beer Flavour: Draft-ish style flavour overwhelmed by the honey taste
Sweetness: HFCS sweetness flavoured with the taste of honey
Aftertaste: Cloying sweetness with honey flavour
Overall: Too much honey flavour with HFCS as a foundation, the Root Beer flavour gets lost in the mix.

Thomas Kemper Root Beer gets a 5/10 or a C.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Barrel Brothers Root Beer

Every so often you come across something that has a catchy label or name. So it is with Barrel Brothers, a product from the makers of Apple Beer. The label art and name are catchy, no doubt about it and the Root Beer itself isn't bad. It has a wicked nice head to it that sticks around for quite some time. A nice aroma of vanilla with a draft Root Beer tone. The unfortunate aspect of this brew comes from the use of HFCS and some rather oddball ingredients. It has ascorbic acid in it as well as calcium lactate..perhaps that accounts for the creaminess. There's a lot of un-Root Beer-ish stuff in here, but this Root Beer still manages to be decent, despite the odd aftertastes and dry quality. If you're offered one - take it - but don't drive long distances or pay lots of money to get one. Barrel Brothers is a decent Root Beer and the head is just fantastic, but there's just nothing that stands out other than the label and that's just not enough to carry it through.


Carbonated Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Natural and Artificial Flavors
Caramel Color
Yucca Extract
Phosphoric Acid
Sodium Benzoate
Potassium Zorbate
Ascorbic Acid
Calcium Lactate

Aroma: Old Style Draft with some Vanilla
Head: Wicked Nice Head! Creamy and long lasting!
Carbonation: A soft and understated carbonation.
Root Beer Flavour: Sweet and draft-ish. There is a dry quality to this brew.
Mouthfeel: Really creamy in the mouth feel. Nice!
Sweetness: Distinctive HFCS sweetness. It lingers in the aftertaste.
Aftertaste: Lingering HFCS aftertaste with a hint of Root Beer flavour. Mostly sweetness, tho.
Overall: Not bad, not great. Just a strange Root Beer with some oddity to it due to the added ingredients. The Apple Beer folks should know that ascorbic acid is a no-no, tho.

I give Barrel Brothers a 5/10 or a C.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Worlds Worst "Root Beer"

Yes, you read right. This review is for the Worlds Worst "Root Beer". Now, bear in mind that Root Beer is in quotation marks . The product I am talking about here is an attempt at something approaching a Root Beer by the brewers of Samuel Adams called 1790 Root Beer Brew. This brew is part of a 4-pack collection of their Brewer Patriot Collection. Calling this a Root Beer is an insult to every Root Beer ever made, hard or soft.

This "Root Beer"- I hesitate to even use those words in connection with this stuff- has nothing to recommend it to Root Beer or Beer lovers. The only thing you can readily ID in the aroma is Molasses and a hint of wintergreen. The smell is reminiscent of a 4-H sheep barn, where the smell of Molasses soaked feed mixes with the smell of various ruminants. It's rather unpleasant to tell you the truth.

It has a serious head that is yellowish over a light amber body and is carbonated decently. Being a "beer" there's no sweetness to the recipe. The flavour...well, the flavour is truly unique in the drink world. It tastes like an ashtray. An old, beer soaked ashtray. This stuff is nasty and the brewmaster in charge of formulating this stuff should be ashamed of themselves and they certainly should never have put the words Root Beer on the label. It's nasty by any sane standard. By Beer Drinker standards it is wretched. My resident home brewer and Beer connoisseur, (my wife, for whom the 4-pack was purchased) tasted this one pronounced it the worlds worst Beer as well.

Caramelized Sugar

Aroma: Molasses and sheep barn
Head: Big, yellow.
Mouthfeel: Decent for a beer
Carbonation: Decent carbonation
Root Beer Flavour: None. Some molasses and wintergreen.
Sweetness: None
Overall: Nasty. This stuff tastes like an old, overfilled ashtray filled with bad beer.
Aftertaste: See above. It lingers.

Samuel Adams 1790 Root Beer Brew gets a nasty 0/10 and F-.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Soft Core Root Beer

This past weekend the family and I decided to go out for Sunday dinner and the destination of choice this weekend was a bit farther away than usual. We took a road trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to visit the Triple XXX Family Restaurant. Not only is it an old fashioned neighbourhood establishment, it is the only Triple XXX Root Beer stand I have ever seen. Sitting beside the campus of Purdue University it is a unique diner, to say the least and harkens back to a different era in Root Beer and Road Food.

My wife and I both had the Bert Burger, (1/4 pound of ground sirloin, topped with bacon, lettuce and tomato) with onion rings on the side. Even tho they were out of mayo and had only Miracle Whip (something we refuse to eat on our sandwiches) these burgers stood the test well! They were worth the 120 mile round trip! The bacon was tasty, the bun was soft, lettuce crisp and onion rings were just right. Maaan....I'm getting hungry just thinking about this burger. The diner fare at Triple XXX is something you rarely see or experience any more. It was an old fashioned burger experience worth the money!

Now...for the Root Beer, since that's what I really went there for, as if you didn't know! It was served up to me and the kids, (momma doesn't do Root Beer) in frosty mugs and made a nice head as it was poured by our waitress. The bubbly elixir has a nice, easily identifiable old fashioned draft scent that is a pleasure to smell. The taste? That too is a pleasure. It has the soft carbonation that you expect from a draft Root Beer and there are hints of anise or licorice in the background. The aftertaste is just sweetness with some lingering draft elements. It is fairly obvious from the taste, (and the label of the 4 bottles of Triple XXX I purchased, too) that this brew is sweetened with HFCS. While Triple XXX would be vastly improved by using sugar it is not a loser because of its lack. I was immediately reminded of Henry Weinhard's when I first tasted this Root Beer and even more so when I opened a cold bottle on the trip home. I'd love to see Triple XXX embrace an all sugar sweetening path for their brew, but I am not going to turn one of these down because they use HFCS with, or instead of sugar. Triple XXX is a tasty Root Beer!

Carbonated Water
Sugar and/or High Fructose Corn Sweetner (yep, that's how it's spelled on the label)
Caramel Color
Sodium Benzoate
Citric Acid
Natural and Artificial Flavorings

Aroma: Old style Draft.
Head: Nice, likely to be gone by the time it reaches you if you have multiple orders like I did.
Carbonation: Soft as you'd expect with a Draft, but there's enough to add a hint of bite.
Root Beer Flavour: Old fashioned Draft flavour with hints of anise or licorice and a sugary caramel tone.
Mouthfeel: Creamy, just the way a Root Beer should be!
Sweetness: Triple XXX is just right in the sweetness department with their Draft brew. It has a sugared taste, so I will go out on a limb and say that there is likely a mix of HFCS and sugar in the Draft version. It is not as noticeable in the bottled version.
Aftertaste: Just a nice aftertaste of sweetness and Root Beer flavouring. Nothing cloying about it.
Overall: Triple XXX from the tap is great and a super compliment to the diner food they serve. It was worth the trip and worth the price of a few extra bottles. I am glad I went there and look forward to going back at some point!

Triple XXX Root Beer gets an 6.5/10 or a B!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

From One Comes Many

What do you call a Root Beer that gets brewed up, slapped in a bottle and then has a bunch of different labels slapped on it? You call it Dominion, Monticello, Lighthouse, Chowning's Tavern and who knows what else. This Root Beer is definitely over extended in the label area as well as the flavour area.

I picked up a six-pack of Dominion in a Charlottesville, VA Giant on the way to the Outer Banks, I also picked up a bottle of Monticello the same day at the gift shop at Monticello. I found the Lighthouse at the BP in Avon, NC and the Chownings (which I didn't bother to buy) at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati. I couldn't tell you how many others there might be out there. While I commend the folks at Old Dominion Brewing Company for their marketing zeal, it makes you wonder....you can't be everything to everybody, no matter how hard you try.

For a Root Beer that's marketed as heavily as this one Dominion really isn't as good as it could be. The flavour is all over the map in a way that some people would call "complex". I call it muddled and confused, at best.

From the start you are hit with the confusion. The aroma is akin to what we identify as draft, but with heavy spice, nutmeg/licorice and a hint of vanilla with some honey. Despite Dominions assertions on their website their Root Beer has a head which dissipates quickly. The carbonation isn't bad, but it doesn't add enough bite to the brew. Dominion does have a decent mouth feel about it, which is a plus for them. As for the sweeteners...it has sugar and honey, so why does it need corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup? Answer: It doesn't. Overall I have to say that just because a brewery can make a Root Beer doesn't mean that they should. Dominion isn't a bad Root Beer, but it has quite a journey ahead of it to be a good one. Its creators need to refine their formula and decide what they want it to be, a premium drink or mass produced swill. This Root Beer, and by extensionthe other versions with different labels is a confusion of flavours.

Carbonated Water
Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Natural and Artificial Flavor Extracts
Sodium Benzoate
Citric Acid

Aroma: Draft-ish, spice, maybe some nutmeg/licorice and a hint of vanilla
Head: Dissipates quickly, not long lasting.
Carbonation: Decent. It adds a bit of bite. Unfortunately the rest of the brew doesn't hold up.
Root Beer Flavour: Licorice, honey and perhaps some clove. Honestly, it's hard to tell.
Mouthfeel: Dominion has a decent mouth feel about. Better than many of the Root Beers out there.
Sweetness: Again, we are dealing with confusion. Use sugar, use HFCS, honey, corn syrup, whatever...just don't use all of them! Dominion becomes cloyingly sweet and one of the key elements is messed up because someone saw the need to use 4 different sweeteners, two of which bring nothing to the game. The HFCS taste is not good in combination with the others.
Aftertaste: An unpleasant, cloying HFCS and honey aftertaste.
Overall: Dominion isn't a great or even good Root Beer. It's confused and has entirely too much going on in all departments and this makes for a not so good Root Beer. It needs some serious work.

Dominion (and all the other labels) get a 3.5/10 or an D-.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Comrade In Taste

I recently heard from a kindred soul named Brian Pipa. Brian runs a site called Candy Addict. This man is to candy what I aspire to be where Root Beer is concerned. A while back Brian ran across TRBB and let me know about a new product that was coming out, Haribo Gummi Root Beer barrels. Brian tasted and posted a review on these candies at Candy Addict and it doesn't bode well for Root Beer fans. Apparently they are lemony and that covers up the Root Beer taste. A sad day for us Root Beer lovers. Fortunately there are a few other things out there like A&W Root Beer Barrels, Root Beer Jelly Belly's and a few other things and we have Brian to let us know when and if something else Root Beer flavoured comes down the pike! Candy Addict now has a permanent link over in the FoRB section, go see what Brian has that's sweet to eat! Hmmm...chocolate....

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Frostie The Snow Job

Once again I have taken a Root Beer from my youth and subjected it to the mug and found it wanting.
Frostie Root Beer, once a truly popular brand and now the "property" of Leading Edge Brands is not what it used to be. I was really hoping that there was a chance Frostie might have retained a semblance of their original formulation. Alas, it was not to be.

This version of Frostie bear little resemblance to the original. While it isn't a bad Root Beer it isn't a great one, either. The head dissipates fairly fast, as it does in most mass produced Root Beers and the sweet, vanilla scent is simply a teaser. The carbonation seems to be the major player in this brew, since that's the stand out component of the taste. It has bite, but little flavour for that bite to enhance. The mouthfeel is better than some but, unfortunately there's not a lot of flavour to complement it. Despite having a couple of good components Frostie falls down on the job.

Aroma: A sweet vanilla scent.
Carbonation: Lots of bite.
Head: Not long lasting, but better than some.
Root Beer Flavour: A very light Root Beer Flavour. Vanilla and Sweetness. Not enough Root Beer Flavour to suit me.
Sweetness: Lots of sweetness and a definite HFCS flavour that isn't covered by the Root Beer.
Aftertaste: Vanilla and HFCS.
Overall Taste: Frostie is lacking in a real Root Beer taste. The reliance on vanilla and the carbonation does nothing to set it apart from many of the mass produced soft drinks. If Leading Edge really wishes to earn the moniker then I'd suggest a return to Frosties original formula and a switch to Sugar.

Frostie Root Beer gets a 4/5 or a D.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tasting The Barley

Every now and again I get out and meet with other like minded people at someplace local where we talk about rebellion politics or just things in general. Last evening was just such a night and my fellow Libertarians got together for an evening of comradery at the Barley Island Brewing Company. While my fellows availed themselves of the various brews and food available to those inclined to imbibe, I ordered up my usual Root Beer, prepared the camera and my trusty Palm and got down to business.

I've had Barley Island before and, as brew pub Root Beers go it's not bad, (this is "not bad" in Chef's language which doesn't quite translate to non-Chef folks, sorry). I placed my order with our waitress, instructing her that I did not wish ice and would like a frosty glass if available (they aren't, sad to say) and sat back to enjoy an evening of conspiracy, politics and talk. And, need I say it? Root Beer.

Barley Island Root Beer, despite the lack of a frosty glass is served up nice and cold and that's a good thing. As micro-brewed Root Beers go it is a decent brew with a spiciness that is accentuated by the fine bubbled carbonation (they use forced carbonation for their Root Beer). It has a licorice flavour that is in the forefront and tends to dominate even into the aftertaste and a nice hint of cinnamon. There is also a "dry" quality to the brew that I have notice with a few other microbrewed Root Beers on occasion (my own included), this is most likely due to the extracts used, is my guess. The sweetness of their Root Beer is just about right, it doesn't overwhelm the taste as some others do.

I was fortunate that I got to talk with their brew master as I was on my way out and ask him about their technique for brewing Root Beer. Barley Island uses an extract as their base and adds a few other ingredients that lend to its unique flavour. One thing you won't find in their brew, oddly enough is vanilla. They do use sugar and corn sugar and avoid HFCS which is a good thing in my book, but they don't use Cane Sugar, which I would really like to see, as well as a hint of vanilla. Like any microbrewed drink, Barley Island Root Beer is an ongoing and evolving Root Beer. Perhaps the next time will see some tweaking to the formula in a continued search for the perfect Root Beer!

Carbonated Water
Corn Sugar
Root Beer Extract
Others I am sure

Aroma: Light and Spicy
Carbonation: Fine bubbles, not a lot of bite.
Head: Non Existent, this part needs some work!
Mouth Feel: Not creamy, more of a Soda like feel. This is where the vanilla would help out.
Root Beer Flavour: A Spicy and unique flavour. It stands on its own.
Sweetness: A nice balance. Not overly sweet.
Aftertaste: Spice and licorice.
Overall Taste: Barley Island is unique in its own manner. The licorice taste from the extract can be upfront but overall it's a nice Root Beer which I would like to see evolve a bit more.

Barley Island Root Beer gets a 5.5/10!

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Taste Of Louisiana

Abita is one of many Root Beers I have been wanting to try for quite some time and I got the chance while we were at the Outer Banks. I ran across Abita as a single bottle at a place called the Barefoot Gourmet in Nags Head, NC and grabbed it up, (along with a few other yet to be drunk and reviewed beverages). Imagine my surprise when I later came across some six-packs of Abita at the Village Grocery in Avon, NC. Yes, I bought some more! (Hint to Root Beer and Soda lovers: The Outer Banks is crawling with a variety of carbonated beverages. Take advantage of it should you get down that way).

Abita, a Louisiana Company known for their Beers has brewed a Cane Sugar sweetened Root Beer that anyone would be glad to have in their fridge and offer to their friends. This is good stuff, folks! The people who brewed this are not shy about letting you know how they sweetened it, the cane plant on the label is there to let you know and the label proudly sports "Made with pure Louisiana Cane Sugar" under Abita Root Beer.

I feel the opposite of ripped off with Abita! This is a good Root Beer and I am glad to have it in the fridge! Man, will I be sorry when the last one's gone! This is an opportunity to "put a little South in ya mouth!" that shouldn't be passed up!

Carbonated Water
Cane Sugar
Caramel Color
Root Beer Flavor
Phosphoric Acid

No Additives
No Preservatives

Aroma: Draft and cane
Head: None to speak of. Soda like. Here and gone.
Carbonation: Nice.
Mouth Feel: Medium. Not too creamy , but not thin, either. Decent.
Root Beer Flavour: Nice Root Beer flavour. Hints of liquorice, sassafras and vanilla.
Sweetness: Nice Cane Sugar Sweetness. Not cloying.
Aftertaste: Vanilla and Cane
Overall Taste: Excellent. Glad I bought a six pack of this one!

Score: 7.5/10

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Way Things Used To Be

One of the first stops on our summer vacation was at the Frostop Root Beer Stand in Huntington, West Virginia. We had managed to get to the place at opening time, (10AM) on our way to a late breakfast down the road and the carhops (all guys) were more than happy to take my order even at this early hour. While I was getting a couple of pictures of the place and the menu my wife managed to get my attention just long enough to inform me that the carhop was in the process of putting ice in my Root Beer. I managed to catch him and let him know that I wanted no ice diluting my Root Beer, he corrected the problem and I got my Root Beer in a To Go cup.
Despite the fact that this Root Beer wasn't served in a frosty mug it was a great way to start out the day. I couldn't tell you what the ingredients were, as there was no listing for them on the cup. What I can tell you, though is that this Root Beer isn't bad. It has a decidedly Draft Root Beer aroma and flavour. A creamy mouth feel accentuated by a strong caramel and vanilla taste. Like many true Draft Root Beers, the fountain Frostop has a very weak carbonation and no head to speak of. Honestly, it's hard to say that I missed them, in this case. The caramel and Root Beer flavour that permeates this brew make it a truly unique representation of a time which is almost gone.

Add to this the fact that they throw this Root Beer together on the spot, serve it via carhop and are a still functioning Root Beer Stand and Frostop manages to score big with me! This is old fashioned Root Beer and it makes no apologies for being what it is. This is not some mass produced, overly ambitious swill. It's just an old fashioned, iconic Root Beer dinosaur of a better time and it works extremely well. If you get the chance to stop in at this place for a brew, do it! You'll have no regrets. At some point I'll have to get a bottle of Frostop and see if it compares to the Drive-In version.

Aroma: Old Fashioned Draft Style Aroma. Vanilla stands out.
Carbonation: There's not a lot of carbonation here and I'm not sure that this particular Root Beer needs it.
Mouth Feel: Creamy, thick and nice. Just what you might expect from an old fashioned Root Beer.
Root Beer Flavour: Frostop's flavour is easily identifiable as Old Fashioned Draft Style. Lots of vanilla and a delicious caramel taste. Some companies could learn a lot from this brew!
Sweetness: This brew is sweet, just at the edge of almost too sweet. Enjoyable.
Head: None to speak of.
Aftertaste: Caramel and a sugary taste. While I cannot say with any certainty whether they use Cane Sugar or not it is certainly reminiscent of Cane. It is good, though!
Overall Taste: This Root Beer stands on its own for flavour and the taste is just fine in my book. It is not a very complex brew but it stands out from the run of the mill. Its taste is great, even in a Styrofoam cup.

Frostop Root Beer from the Drive Inn at 1449 Hal Greer Blvd in Huntington, West Virginia gets a 7/10. Make sure to drop by there if you're in the area, it will be worth the trip! Next time I'll make a point of eating there, too!

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He's Baaack!

Yep. I am indeed back after a brief hiatus which included a trip to the East Coast for a family vacation and a chance to restock my Root Beer collection! I think I have managed to gather together a few new Root Beers and some Soda's for the Soda Pop Blog. I managed to find some new items and some oldie but goodies. I even managed to find the one Root Beer that has quite a few different labels! So, let's get on with the show! It's good to be back!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

The good folks at Real Soda have made a habit out of resurrecting old standards in the Soda and Root Beer world and making them the way they should be made. Dad's Classic Draft Root Beer, another label owned by the Monarch Beverage Company and licensed to Real Soda is one of those classics. Dad's Root Beer has been around since 1937 and has stood the test of time, even going through some sweetener changes along the way. The folks at Real Soda have made a point of making sure that Dad's was returned to its original form and sweetened with sugar, rather than HFCS, unlike some other recent reiterations. That was a good decision on their part as the sugar adds an extra dimension to an already complex flavour.

Dad's has the easily identifiable aroma of a draft style Root Beer and and sports a soft vanilla undertone. While this brew has no head to speak of the carbonation is just right and adds to the flavour. Dad's Root Beer is a sweet Root Beer, pushing the limits of just how much sweetness is enough. The Cane Sugar adds a strong taste to this well crafted brew and doesn't detract from the other flavours that are present. There are subtle hints of licorice, wintergreen and, (I won't swear to this!) perhaps nutmeg. There is almost a suggestion of fruitiness to the flavour of Dad's. The mouthfeel is not as thick as I might normally like but it is not Soda thin as some brews are, it strikes a decent balance.

Overall Dad's is a good Root Beer, even tho the taste takes a bit of getting used to. This is not a run of the mill flavour in Draft Root Beers, but I wouldn't expect something that's been around for almost 70 years to be a run of the mill Root Beer. While Dad's Root Beer won't be classed as my favourite I'll never have a real issue with revisiting this brew!

Carbonated Water
Caramel Color
Natural and Artificial Flavors
Sodium Benzoate
Citric Acid

Carbonation: Dad's has a decent amount of carbonation and it enhances the Root Beer.
Head: Not enough to matter and it dissipates quickly.
Aroma: A nice Draft Root Beer scent with some vanilla
Mouthfeel: Not bad. Not as creamy as I might have liked but not bad.
Root Beer Flavour: There's definitely a Root Beer flavour here but it is a complex flavour. Hints of wintergreen and vanilla fight it out with other ingredients. I am pretty sure there is some nutmeg in this brew, since it has a slight "medicinal" quality, rather than a spicy quality. It's not bad, tho. Just different.
Aftertaste: This is where the sugar really pushes the envelope because the cane taste sticks around and coats your tongue. It's not a bad thing but it could be almost too much for some people. Not me, though.
Overall: Dad's is a pretty decent Root Beer and between the bottle and the cane sugar used to sweeten it make for a good beverage. It doesn't disappoint but it does puzzle the tastebuds.

Dad's Classic Draft Root Beer gets a 6/10 or a B-

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Natural Does Not Mean Good

After decades of direct experience with that axiom I must say that it holds true. Some things labeled "natural" are quite good, while many others using that label are not tasty at all. This is the case with Natural Brew Hand Crafted Root Beer. It falls into my "not good" category. The label states that it is a "complex flavor of sweet birch, licorice root, sarsaparilla, cinnamon, clove, anise and wintergreen." Complexity does not necessarily make for a tasty beverage and in this case it certainly held true for me. The taste which we normally identify as Root Beer, specifically "Draft" Root Beer, which Natural Brew claims to be is almost totally lacking here. The flavours of sarsaparilla, licorice and the other ingredients combine to make a taste which is not pleasant, in my opinion.

The brewers of Natural brew make a note to tell the consumer that they add pure vanilla to their product...unfortunately that vanilla, like any Root Beer flavour it may have possessed is lost amidst the jumble of the other mismatched flavours in the Brew. While I am certain that this drink has many fans out there, otherwise they would not continue to make it, I am never going to be one of those folks. Sorry.

One the props side, tho Natural Brew does have a nice head, decent mouthfeel and nice carbonation. The cloying quality of the aftertaste tends to put me off, as well. Since this brew comes from the Smucker Company I can feel comfortable in saying that this is more mass produced swill. And not very good swill at that. It's a bad use of ingredients.

Sparkling Filtered Water
Evaporated Cane Juice
Natural Flavors
Caramel Color
Vanilla Extract
Phosphoric Acid
Licorice Root and Sarsaparilla Root Extracts

Carbonation: Fine with a bit of a bite
Mouth Feel: A bit of creaminess
Root Beer Flavour: Not even remotely. What small hint of Draft Root Beer Flavour that exists is covered up the hodgepodge of flavours from the other ingredients. Too much sarsaparilla, as well.
Aroma: It smells like it tastes. There's no easily identifiable Root Beer scent here.
Head: Natural Brew has a nice head. That's a mark in the plus column.
Aftertaste: A cloying sweetness that just lasts for entirely too long a period.
Overall: Unpleasant to my taste buds and not something I plan on revisiting any time soon. This is not a good Root Beer.

Natural Brew gets a 2/10 an F

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Friday, May 19, 2006

A Root Beer Related Interlude

Every so often a Root Beer interlude comes to mind and today offers one of those moments. While puttering about, listening to my youngest sing "Wake Up" while banging on a Chinese drum, I had a Root Beer moment flashback to a long ago summer when my family and I were living in Gulfport, Mississippi, prior to departure for an overseas assignment. We had an apartment in Orange Grove, just north of Interstate 10, in the same complex my Aunt Linda, (known as Aunt Dodo, due to my inability to speak well as a toddler) and her family. That was a pretty good summer, especially having my favourite high strung Aunt around. (Note to Yankees: Ya'll don't have Aunts like we Southerners do. Ours make a lifetime habit out of threatening to whoop someone's butt for messing with family. It even happens now and again. And they never stop drinking coffee. Ahhh...family!)

That was a good summer for me. The sun always seemed to shine, it never became too oppressively hot and Barq's Root Beer lined my pockets with money. Not tons of money, but it certainly kept me in Icee's, comic books and the occasional movie. How did Barq's Root Beer manage to do that for me? Simple. There was a bit of a building boom in Orange Grove at that time, a bank here, a building there and what have you. Since it was Mississippi and summertime it was inevitable that the work crews would have to have a few bottles of Soda during the day and most of them had a Barq's. Or two. When their workday was done I would make may way around the sites and gather up the bottles left behind or tossed hither and yon and take them over to my friendly neighbourhood 7-11 and cash them in. At a nickel a pop, I managed to do pretty well for myself.

There was the occasional Coke, Dr. Pepper or 7-Up bottle, but the vast majority of those bottles were Barq's. I did this virtually every day, up until we left for our overseas destination and I cannot help but think that Barq's, the ones I drank and the empties I collected made for a great summer. That was the last time I ever lived in Gulfport, but it certainly wasn't the last time I went back.

We made it a habit to visit the Gulf Coast for the past decade or so and we managed to do it last year, just before Hurricane Katrina wrought its devastation on my old home. On our way back north we stopped in at a roadside stand in Orange Grove to procure a unique Southern delicacy, some delicious boiled peanuts, (I would have liked to have found a tamale stand somewhere, but that fine old Southern Mississippi tradition is, unfortunately long gone in most places. For those who aren't familiar with it tamale stands were once more common than McDonalds in Mississippi!). We had already taken the time to drive slowly by the place I used to live, the bank they were building is there, finally completed. But that 7-11 which had sheltered me on those hot summer days was gone. The apartments still stand, looking much as they did way back then even if their age is showing. Despite time and the ravages of storms you can still count on one thing, tho. On that slice of the Gulf Coast you'll always be able to get a Barq's Root Beer and it'll be in an ice cold glass bottle. Some things, thankfully never change.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

The Night Chicago Died

That was February 28th, 2006, the night the venerable Chicago culinary institution called The Berghoff closed its doors for the final time. While I never got to eat there, I did get a chance to enjoy one of their Root Beers last night and this afternoon. For over 50 years the Berghoff name has been attached to their Root Beer which, despite the restaurants closure is still being produced. That's a good thing, too!

The last Chicago Root Beer I tried was not very good, but Berghoff's has managed to win back some respect for their city, (altho, I am never going to like Chicago Style Pizza, no matter what). While I could conceivably still enjoy a cold draft mug of their brew at the Berghoff located in O'Hare International Airport, I don't believe that I'd like to submit to a TSA body cavity search for a mug of Root Beer. I will have to content myself with finding and drinking the occasional bottle of this nice Draft style Root Beer and make my own hand carved sandwich.

My Berghoff's acquisition was a 32 ounce screw-top bottle of Draft Style, cane sugared goodness. Chilled and served in my trust frosted Berghoff 100th Anniversary mug this elixir was a nice change from run of the mill Root Beers that seem to dominate the market, (you know who you are, people!). The first thing to hit you is the nice Draft Style aroma laced with a cane sugar scent. Then you pour it and get to see a nice head on it for the short time it's there. Then the tasting comes and you get the carbonation, a soft bite of bubbles and the flavour we all easily identify as Draft Root Beer, enhanced by the predominant taste of Cane Sugar.

While I caught a very occasional slight taste of anise, the taste which rules this Root Beer is that of Cane Sugar. The Root Beer flavouring is light, as is to be expected of Draft Style, but it still leaves no doubt that you are drinking a Root Beer. The aftertaste that Berghoff Root Beer leaves is that of Cane Sugar. Nice and clean with none of the cloying quality you often get with High Fructose Corn Syrup. This Root Beer is yummy! As another Chicago icon would say, "Berghoff Root Beer gets a thumbs up!".

Carbonated Water
Pure Cane Sugar
Caramel Color
Sodium Benzoate
Natural Flavor
Citric Acid

Carbonation: A medium carbonation. Just what you'd expect in a Draft Style Root Beer
Mouth Feel: Not a creamy feel. Just right for a bottled Draft Style.
Root Beer Flavour: Light Draft Style flavour. I picked up hints of anise every now and again. Nice.
Aroma: Cane Sugar and a light Root Beer scent
Head: Decent. Not long lasting, tho.
Aftertaste: Cane Sugar goodness that hangs on the tongue. Niiiice.
Over All: A delightful Cane Sugar and Root Beer flavour that doesn't disappoint.

Berghoff Root Beer gets a 7/10 or a B+

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Big Bear, Big Taste

This is the time of year where it becomes difficult to find a spare moment to write about my beloved brew. Yard work, kids and repairs. Did I mention yardwork? Well, I finally got the time and I had a Root Beer in the fridge ready and willing to give it up for the cause, Bennett's Big Bear Root Beer.

This is an odd Root Beer that uses molasses as a dominating flavour and manages to make it work. I've tried a couple of other brews that used molasses and didn't care for them at all, but Bennett's changes that for me. As a good Southerner I actually do like the flavour of molasses in many things. It's the original American sweetener and is used much too infrequently these days . Big Bear manages to make good use of the flavour, even if it overshadows the Root Beer extract they used.

This was a nice Root Beer, despite the HFCS and I can easily see why B. Scott Bennett developed this particular Root Beer for use as a Float Brew for his Los Angeles Farmers Market Ice Cream store, it would go well paired with a scoop of vanilla. From what I can gather, that's what Big Bear was created to do and it likely does it well, (I didn't have any ice cream around or I'd give you a definitive answer to that one!). On its own, tho it still stands as a drinkable Root Beer.

Filtered Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Root Beer Extract
Sodium Benzoate

Carbonation: Nice carbonation that adds bite.
Mouth Feel:Not too creamy.
Root Beer Flavour: The flavour of Big Bear is old style draft when it's not overwhelmed by molasses.
Aroma: Molasses and light old style draft Root Beer smell.
Head:Nice head.
Aftertaste: Need I say it? It has a molasses aftertaste. Nice.
Overall Taste: Molasses dominated Root Beer in this one and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Root Beer flavour is hiding in the background but it is there. Overall this brew has a nice flavour and I won't turn one down if offered!

Bennett's Big Bear Root Beer gets a 6.5/10 or a B

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No Go For Faygo

Under certain circumstances I might say something like, "How the mighty have fallen" where Faygo Root Beer Soda is concerned, but that's not going to happen. I can remember Faygo products from my youth and, back then they were the equivalent generic Soda. Despite new packaging and marketing, not too much has changed over the decades.

I pulled out my 16 ounce bottle of Faygo, (obtained from the holy shopping mecca of Jungle Jims) and had high hopes that this longtime brand would offer me some nostalgic good taste. Fate, apparently had other plans for my taste buds this night.

In the halcyon days of my youth I lived in a number of places and Quonset Point, Rhode Island was one of them. As a military family we bought what the local stores offered but more often than not we shopped at the base commissary and were stuck with whatever the DoD decided was fine for us. While there was never a shortage of Coke, Pepsi or 7-Up products we did get two other brands. Shasta and Faygo. Now Shasta, (which I have not seen in years!) had a Root Beer that we liked, so we often bought their products. Faygo was another story and now I can see why.

After pouring this Root Beer Soda into my trusty, iced mug I was presented with my first concern, the head...or lack thereof. The head on this drink disappeared almost as fast as it formed. This was my first clue that this was a Soda and not a Root Beer. The aroma had some vanilla qualities and a Draft Root Beer scent that wasn't unpleasant, so I plunged into the tasting. The carbonation was biting but there was nothing for it to enhance. The flavour could best be described as Root Beer-ish, it's nothing to get excited about. This is a Root Beer Flavoured Soda , not a Root Beer. There was no mouth feel at all here, none of the qualities one normally associates with a true Root Beer. There's also an unpleasant aftertaste from their extract and the High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's a dry, almost metallic sort of taste, not a good thing.

At least Faygo labels this product correctly. It is a Root Beer Soda and not a Root Beer.

Carbonated Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Caramel Color
Potassium Benzoate
Citric Acid
Natural and Artificial Flavour
Gum Acacia

Carbonation: Soda style carbonation. Fast and biting.
Mouth Feel: None to speak of. It has the consistency of bubbly water.
Root Beer Flavour: Root Beer-ish, but not great. There's nothing here to write home about.
Head: Nonexistent. What there is dissipates almost as fast as it forms.
Aftertaste: Unpleasant. A dry, almost metallic taste that I have noticed in some drinks with HFCS and lower quality Root Beer extracts.
Aroma: A Draft Style aroma with vanilla.
Overall Taste: Not that great. As my wife is wont to say, "Mass produced swill". This is a Soda masquerading as a Root Beer and doing a poor job of it.

Faygo Root Beer Soda gets a 2/10 or big fat F.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Just Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale...

And what a tale it is. After my debacle of a Soda tasting with Thums Up Soda I needed something to set my mind at ease and reassure me that all was, indeed right with the world. Searching through my available chilled Root Beers I selected one that I had been wanting to try for the last week. I reached in and took out my sole bottle of "Milligan's Island Awesome Root Beer", my trusty mug and sat down with no small amount of trepidation.

Things began well for me when, upon decanting this interesting brew I was rewarded with a truly nice head. This Root Beer could give Henry Weinhard's a run for the money in the head category! Frothy, long lasting and aromatic, it brings a nice quality that too many modern brews lack.

The folks at Milligan's did a good job on carbonation, too. It adds just the right amount of bite to the brew that the spiciness is accentuated in a pleasant manner. Combine this with the creaminess of the mouth feel and the initial old style draft flavour and you have a winner!

It is easy to find yourself almost literally devouring this brew in search of the flavours. I have yet to find any Root Beer which had a spiciness that used cloves in the same way that Milligan's does. It's not a common, upfront flavouring for Root Beer by any means, but it seems to work well. The cloves don't dominate in any fashion other than in the immediate, non-lingering aftertaste. It surprising and pleasant. I thought I also detected a hint of ginger and possibly some nutmeg in there, too.

After tasting and reviewing I took a trip over to the Milligan's website and was pleased to see that they have the right spirit for Rooties! A fun little site for fans of their product and a sure sign that they don't take things too seriously.

Carbonated Water
Cane Sugar or High Fructose Corn Sweetener
Caramel Color
Natural & Artificial Flavors
Citric Acid and Sodium Benzoate

Carbonation: Nice. Accentuates the spiciness and adds bite.
Mouth Feel: Creamy with a decent amount of body.
Root Beer Flavour: More reminiscent of "draft style" bottled brews.
Head: Great head. Comes on strong and lasts quite awhile.
Aftertaste: A clove taste in the initial aftertaste. It fades quickly to a vanilla taste.
Aroma: Vanilla with just a hint of the spiciness.
Overall Taste: Yummy. It could do with a more pronounced cane sugar taste, which I just couldn't discern. But, overall this Root Beer is very drinkable!

Milligan's Island gets a 7/10 or a B+

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

What's A Fan To Do?

It seems as if someone is always trying to suck all the joy and livability out of life and the things we love and today is no different, my friends. Many of you may have already seen the headlines in numerous news outlets concerning the presence of benzene in Soft Drinks. As usual there will be many different versions of the tale, as the spinmeisters and their news organisations take the information and rewrite it to suit their particular agenda.

So, what is a fan of Root Beer and Soda to do? Well, first things first....

That's the key now, isn't it? That and wait for some seriously solid numbers and data, which are sorely lacking in this matter. The Environmental Working Group, the folks who are doing the loudest yelling on this issue have some data available that tends to support their claim that benzene could form in drinks under certain conditions. They cite studies from the UK that tend to point towards the formation of benzene in some drinks towards the end of shelf life. Without seeing the data from which they drew their numbers I am unwilling to say whether they have a case or not.

Here's what I do know from reading up on this matter. Benzene may form in some drinks under certain conditions. If a drink contains ascorbic acid and a benzoate (Sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate) and is stored at warm temperatures for long periods of time then benzene MAY form due to the combination of chemicals, time and heat. I also know that this story is being spun. The headlines from all over are saying the benzene is to be found in "soft drinks" and, judging from what I have managed to read on this, the drinks with the highest levels appear to be Juice Drinks, not Sodas and the like.

After taking a look through my treasure trove of Sodas and Root Beers, I can rest easy. Most contain a benzoate, but none contained ascorbic acid. Do not confuse citric acid and phosphoric acid for ascorbic acid...they are different and there is no evidence that either of those two acids add any risk for benzene formation. It's all good!

The British have managed to do as they often do and they gave in to panic and yanked products from store shelves. I would say you should take note of their list of items removed. See a commonality amongst them? Yep. They are, by and large drinks containing ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), mostly in the form of juices. Not Sodas, folks...Fruit Juices and Fruit based drinks. Once again we are seeing panic mongering, agenda driven people maligning Sodas. All I can see from this is that Fruit Drinks may well be hazardous to your health, (I never did trust that Sunny-D stuff).

The industry went out of their way years ago and did a good deal of reformulation to specifically address this issue when it first reared its ugly head in the early 90's. While I have little trust in the FDA and question their motives on almost any given issue this is one time when I will look at the available data and lean towards trusting them and the beverage companies.

So, don't run out and throw your Root Beers, Sodas and the like in the garbage. Refrigerate them, keep them from prolonged exposure to heat and enjoy them at the peak of freshness. Oh, and avoid Fruit Juices....they're apparently really bad for you according to these folks. I think I need a Root Beer and maybe a Soda, too.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Man's Best Friend

Well, once again I was in need of something good, so I popped a bottle of Sea Dog Root Beer into the fridge and set aside my anticipation till it and my mug chilled. Sea Dog Root Beer comes to us from Pugsley Brewing LLC, Portland Maine but, the reality is that Sea Dog Root Beer is made by Shipyard Brewing, the same fine folks that brought us Capt'n Eli's, the Finestkind Root Beer around! Contract brewing can be a confusing thing but, in this case I don't care. It just doesn't matter who takes the credit for Sea Dog.

The brewers of Sea Dog have made a really nice brew. Not as good as Capt'n Eli's mind you, but a good brew. The first thing that struck me about Sea Dog was the nice cane sugar scent with vanilla undertones. That's a sure sign of good things to come in my book and I wasn't disappointed in the least. The head on Sea Dog was also a nice surprise, as it lasted a lot longer than many other brews on the market. The carbonation in this brew adds a necessary bite that isn't brought by the ingredients, it's pleasant.

The heart of Sea Dog is in the Old Style Flavour, dominated by the cane sugar taste. It's a light Root Beer flavour that is really drinkable, it's hard to say anything much better than that. I enjoyed this brew and that's a testament to the consistency and care that its brewers maintain. Good work, folks!

Cane Sugar
Caramel Coloring
Natural & Artificial Flavors including Wintergreen Oil, Anise and Vanilla
Citric Acid
Sodium Benzoate

Carbonation: Good. Adds a bite to the brew.
Mouth Feel: Nice. Not too thin.
Root Beer Flavour: Old Style, not heavily "Root Beer" or spicy, tho.
Head: Great head, lasts long enough to be a pleasing addition
Aftertaste: Cane and vanilla
Aroma: Nice cane scent with vanilla. You can smell a light herbal scent, as well.
Overall Taste: Nice cane sugar and vanilla taste with a light root beer flavour. Every other flavour is light, understated even.

Barney the Sea Dog's signature Root Beer gets an 8/10!

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Family Affair

Sometimes you need a bit of goodness in your life to counteract all the little things that add up and bring you down. Not something great, just something pretty good. That's what brought me to Sparky's yesterday. I just wanted something pretty good....and I got it. The folks at Knox Brewing, a small family run business in Pacific Grove, California brew up Sparky's as a regional beverage. I was lucky enough to come across one of their 22 ounce bottles during my last foray to Jungle Jim's and I must say that I wasn't disappointed that I bought this brew. The Knox family have turned out a pretty good Root Beer, and that speaks well of them and the folks in their region, who have supported them by consuming enough of their product to make it a profitable enough business that I can manage to obtain a bottle in the Midwest.

Most folks are going to want to share one of these 22 ouncers with someone else, but not me. I sat back with my frosty mug and consumed the whole thing and have no regrets about it at all. Kevin and Carol Knox, (their names are even signed on the label) have managed to turn out a nice Root Beer. Like many Root Beers that are "Draft" style, it has a soft carbonation, in some brews this is a good thing and in some...not so good. It does seems to work well for Sparky's, tho. The taste of cane, honey and spices combine really well. While it doesn't list it I will hazard a guess that they have used some birch flavouring in their Root Beer, as well since it lacks a serious jolt of sassafras flavour. But, that's OK, too...it works in this case and the mellow flavour is nice.

If you get the chance to buy a Sparky's, go for it. You won't be disappointed.

Ingredients: Carbonated Filtered Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Honey, Natural and Artificial flavorings, Spices, Sodium Benzoate, Phosphoric Acid and Caramel Color.

Carbonation: Softly carbonated. Just about right, initially. But it loses the carbonation bite really fast.
Mouth Feel: Not creamy but not too thin.
Root Beer Flavour: Old Time draft style taste. Nicely spicy. Honey and cane sugar throughout.
Head: Sparky's has a head that dissipates fast.
Aftertaste: Nice cane sugar aftertaste with a hint of honey.
Aroma: Old Style Draft aroma. Light vanilla scent. A bit of spiciness.
Overall Taste: Sparky's has a nice all around taste. The spiciness combines well with the cane sugar and honey

Score: 6.5/10

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Blog Tag...And I'm It.

I've been tagged -twice-by the same person! The perils of having more than one blog, I guess! On the upside, though that’s proof positive that someone's reading them!

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Dish Washer
2. Chef
3. Overseas Government Contractor
4. Computer and Technology Sales and Support

Four Movies I can watch over and over
1. The Princess Bride
2. Serenity
3. Buckaroo Banzai-Across The Eighth Dimension
4. To Kill A Mockingbird

Four Places I've lived
1. Cairo, (That's Egypt, not the Peoples Repbublik of Illinois)
2. Beijing
3. Tel-Aviv
4. Pretoria, South Africa and a dozen more.

Four TV shows I love
1. Battlestar Galactica (the new series)
2: Firefly
3. Red Dwarf
4. Kitchen Confidential (cancelled) and Anthony Bourdain-No Reservations

Four highly regarded and recommended TV shows I haven't seen (much of)
1. 24
2. House
3. The Shield
4. CSI

Four places I've vacationed
1. Gulfport, MS
2. Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
3. Mahogany Flats, Death Valley, CA
4. New Orleans

Four of my favorite dishes
1. Creamed Chipped Beef On Toast
2. Barbecue
3. Sushi
4. New England Clam Chowder (made with Quahogs)

Four sites I visit daily
1. Liberty Filter
2. Kn@ppster
3. Sunni and The Conspirators
4. Kole Hard Facts

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Cairo
2. Hong Kong
3. Lake Cumberland, KY
4. The Smokey Mountains

Four new bloggers I'm tagging:
1. Mike Kole at Kole Hard Facts
2. Captain Corruption
3. The Barq'sMan
4. Honestly, I can't think of anyone who hasn't already been tagged.....

Why answer this thing? Seems like fun and it affords me the opportunity to give an insight into who I am, without a long and probably boring biography...except for the getting shot at parts...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Even Ex-Presidents Know That Cane Sugar Is The Way To Go!

Yep. Bill Clinton, the oversexed poster-child for the Left-Side of the Boot On Your Neck Party knows that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a major cause of what's wrong in the American diet.

He described the changing composition of the American diet and of food itself, and how the body metabolizes fructose, a soft-drink sweetener, differently and more destructively than cane or beet sugar.

Unfortunately, he and his fellow politicians will muddy the waters even more by getting involved because they will want to do something. It was doing something that got us into this sorry mess of having HFCS in everything on the market, even supposed "health foods" are often HFCS laden calorie bombs. As I have written before on the High Fructose Corn Syrup debacle, I know that there IS a solution. Get government out of the way, get rid of subsidies for corn and HFCS, quit protecting cane sugar and artificially inflating the prices via protectionism. Government interference has made it prohibitive to use natural sweeteners in foods and drinks. That's why a standard soda will cost you $.50 and a premium, cane sugar sweetened drink can cost you up to $2.00.

What Bill didn't bother to cop to was that government was probably the major culprit in the crisis du jour, now that tsunami relief is passe'. By interfering in the free market and subsidising corn and corn sweetners the government paved the road which has led to any obesity problem that might exist in this country. Go in your pantry and take a look at what you have that contains HFCS. You might be surprised, I know I am. Peanut butters, fat free and low fat mayos, beans, ketchup, "healthy foods" and low fat foods along with Root Beers and Sodas.

So, thank you Mr. Clinton for bringing this to the notice of your political peers. Now, if you really want them to do something....then urge them to undo what has already been done to us. Then we can get back to enjoying our Root Beers and Sodas the way they were originally formulated and enjoy better health as a side effect.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ram: A Sheepish Kinda Root Beer

Some Root Beers exceed expectations and some aspire to be something they aren't, while others just never really manage to figure out what they want to be and embrace mediocrity as their norm. The latter description applies to the Root Beer brewed by the Ram Restaurant and Brewery in Fishers, Indiana and, unfortunately to the food, as well.

This past weekend my family and I managed to make it into The Ram after a previous attempt failed due to the large, early crowds. One of the main reasons I wanted to check the place out was their Big Horn "Soda" Root Beer and my wife wanted to see if their beer was any good...she's a Chemist who home brews, plus it was Friday night and the Man In Brown doesn't cook on Fridays. I almost wish I had stayed home and called out for pizza. It would have been a lot cheaper.

We didn't have to wait for a seat and the service was fairly good. During the ordering process I mentioned that I wanted a Root Beer and was informed that it was flat. That was a shame, since it was the real reason I bothered to show up. When I asked if they had any which was bottled, (as they advertise on their website) I was told they fill growlers...but, the Root Beer was flat and they were waiting for more. "No bottles?" Nope. But maybe they had tapped another keg of Root Beer that wasn't flat.

You can see where this is going? I have never had to work so hard to get a Root Beer at any place I've been to. It was like pulling teeth. Finally, it showed it up with my meal...in a non-frosted glass. Grrrrr...a minor enough faux pas on their part, entirely forgivable in most circumstances, except my wife got one with her beer...a beer she had to ask for twice.

So, I'm finally drinking my Big Horn "Soda" Root Beer and paying attention to it and....I'm not impressed. It had a nice aroma, a nice head, biting carbonation, slight sweetness, unremarkable flavour and no real body. It was...OK. Not bad, not great, it was just OK. Much like the food. Mediocre.

I ordered what was purported to be a "Kobe" Wagyu Beef Burger, a premium imported Japanese beef. One would think you would let a premium ingredient speak for itself and use nothing to detract from it. Nope. Not at The Ram. The burger, (cooked to perfection at medium rare) was slathered in an overly sweet and cloying "bourbon glaze". Even scraping it off didn't rid the meat of the taste of this artificial tasting glaze. Why anyone would ever think to cover a premium meat with something that covered the taste, rather than enhancing the flavour is beyond me. The rest of the family had Fish and Chips and Mini-Corn Dogs. It was exactly what you could have expected, more mediocre fare.

Am I sorry I went to The Ram? Nope. If I hadn't gone I would not have been exposed to their bill of fare and wouldn't know what to expect if I were to return. Now, I know. I probably won't be going back, since there are so many other places in my area which I have either not tried or are on my good food list. Despite a professional and open kitchen The Ram failed to deliver when the chips were down.

PS: My wife? She brews better beer. While I'm not a drinker, I am a taster and hers has better attributes than theirs.

Big Horn "Soda" Root Beer

Ingredients: A Secret

Aroma: Nice and light, nothing that really screams Old Time Root Beer, but easily identifiable.

Carbonation: A fine bubble with a biting edge to it. Nice.

Mouth Feel: Kind of watery, nothing distinguishing.

Root Beer Flavour: So-so. A bit of spicyness, but...again, mediocre.

Sweetness: Lightly sweet, the sugar came out when the Root Beer warmed up.

Head: A nice head. Ringed the glass for quite awhile.

Aftertaste: Very lightly sugary with no Root Beer flavour aftertaste.

Overall Taste: Not bad, not great. Mediocre. You can get better mass produced Root Beer in a bottle.

Score: A mediocre 4/10