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 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 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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Natalie said...

So sad. Chownings is my favorite root beer. Lots of childhood memories connected to that blessed drink. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I loved Chowning's and, as I read the bottle in hand, tell you there is NO high fructose corn syrup listed.
Is this a 'change' or a small error (since you did NOT buy a Chowning's)

Anonymous said...

I think you jumped to a conclusion or two in your zeal to slam this root beer; I have a bottle of Chowning's sitting right in front of me, and neither syrup nor high fructose corn syrup is listed on the label.

Triple-S said...

Sorry you don't like Dominion Root Beer. It has always been one of my favorites. I will have to search your reviews and see what you consider a good one. My wife and I found the Chowning's Tavern label last year and agreed that it was "right on par with Dominion Root Beer." I didn't find out until this weekend that they are one and the same. At least our tastes are consistent. I also have a photo of the label that I took this weekend and confirm that there is no corn syrup or HFCS listed. Additionally, it does list "vanilla."

Anonymous said...

My Bootle DOES contain HFCS

cgriff said...

I like Chowning's Tavern RB quite a bit. My bottle of Chownings lists carbonated water, sugar, honey, root beer extract 214, root beer extract 79-400, yucca, vanilla. There's no HFSC in here at all. I've not tried the other root beers made by Old Dominion, but I'd be surprised if they are *all* the same brew. Even if they are all the same, if they taste as good as Chownings I'd be pleased.