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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