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!