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!

Ingredients:
Carbonated Water
Sugar
Corn Sugar
Cinnamon
Yucca
Root Beer Extract
Quillalia
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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4 comments:

Glyph said...

As far as I am aware, there isn't a difference between "corn sugar" and "high fructose corn sugar". They are the same thing.

Also, "sugar" as listed is pretty vague.

Michael said...

Corn sugar is a normal brewing additive, a priming sugar derived from corn starch. Another name for it is Dextrose. While it is derived from the same base source as HFCS it is not a corn syrup and has none of negative properties associated with HFCS. They aren't the same.
Sugar, as opposed to Cane Sugar isn't vague at all. Cane sugar comes from sugar cane. "Sugar", as marketed in the US come from sugar beets and is more common than Cane Sugar.

Mike Kole said...

I'm surprised they don't use cane. It makes a real difference, for the better.

You definitely nailed my #1 complaint about Barley Island's root beer- it isn't creamy. It's a good and interesting flavor, but not creamy.

Michael said...

Vanilla is a primary lender in the creaminess category. You definitely notice when it's missing in that regard. I emailed the owner and they were pleased with their review and said they might be taking a look at their recipe. I hope so, it has potential.