Monday, January 30, 2006

He Shops And He Scoooores!

And score I did! I took a few extra minutes this weekend to drop into my local antique mall to see what might be there that was of interest to me. As usual it wasn't difficult. A few inexpensive cookbooks from the 40's and 50's (about $2 ea, on average) and the crowning score....a Berghoff 100th Anniversary mug in pristine condition for a price I considered a steal.

Given that the Berghoff will be closing it's doors come February 28th, 2006 it is a certainty that there shall never be a 120th Anniversary mug. That makes this acquisition special for me. I have never been to the Berghoff for a Root Beer, and now I never will sidle up to the bar and ask for a Berghoff Root Beer in one of their thick glass mugs and, as much as I dislike Chicago I wish I could have made it there to do just that.

Berghoff's has a line of bottled Root Beers and beer and I have seen no mention as to whether or not they will continue the bottling side of their business when they close the doors of the venerable old establishment. I currently have a 32 oz Berghoff's awaiting a good moment to quaff and review. And now I have the mug that it will reside in. A one of a kind, never to be seen again.

Next time, I may just have to pick up a couple of A&W mugs and the Frostop glass....and that oooold Hires bottle....

Friday, January 27, 2006

Prohibition Tested Hank's

Henry Weinhard's Root Beer bottle says: "Enjoy a truly great American Root Beer originally crafted by our master brewers during prohibition. This gourmet elixir, brewed with sassafras, vanilla and honey, proved to be a popular alternative for our beer-drinking loyalists.
Our tradition of providing only the highest quality beverages continues today in each bottle that bears our founder's name, brewmaster Henry Weinhard.
A gourmet Root Beer, hand-finished with only the freshest and highest quality ingredients."

What are those ingredients?

Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, vanilla extract, natural and artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), honey essence, acacia sassafras extract.

OK, let's get to it. I have a good news/bad news deal in this one. Good news? I like Weinhard's, this is a good Root Beer with an amazing head. Despite using high fructose corn syrup this brew is nice. Easy on the palate and quite tasty with a nice vanilla flavour enhanced by a very subtle honey undertone. It has a nice, full and creamy mouth feel and is drinkable. This is the one to use if you're a Root Beer Float fan! The head is the most amazing thing about Weinhard's. From the moment I poured it into my iced mug it developed this creamy and long lasting foamy head. There was still foam on this Root Beer when I finished the last drop. Amazing and so classically Root Beer! Kudos to the guys at Henry Weinhard's.

I also like their bottle cap blurbs. They add a nice touch to an already nice bottle and label.

Now for the bad news. This Root Beer could be so much better if they ditched the HFCS and replaced it with sugar. The HFCS is noticeable in this drink, for those who normally go in for the cane sugar sweetened brews. Weinhard's practically screams to be sweetened with cane sugar. That it is not sweetened naturally is a contradiction to their label marketing. It is not "gourmet", despite its great taste.

Somehow, I doubt Henry Weinhard used High Fructose Corn Syrup in his original. It uses, according to the label "acacia sassafras extract". Acacia and sassafras are two different things, each of which bring something different to the brew.

Slapping the gourmet label on something may allow you to get a higher price for your product but it does nothing for your products reputation. There are really too many artificial ingredients here for a true "gourmet" product as marketed on the label to hold true. That said, I’m going to have no trouble keeping a few bottles of this Root Beer in my refrigerator, it is a good brew and money well spent. I have had many Root Beers that cannot hold a candle to Henry's. It definitely gets a thumbs up.

Beyond this Henry Weinhard's is a good Root Beer and stands up against the many other brews currently on the market.

Carbonation: Nice and soft

Mouth Feel: Thick and creamy

Root Beer Flavour: Old Time flavour

Head: Amazing head. This should be the poster child for long lasting Root Beer Head. Honestly, it sets the standard!

Aftertaste: As with most good root beers it has a lasting aftertaste. Not cloying at all. Nice vanilla with a hint of honey

Aroma: Easily identifiable as Root Beer. Vanilla scent is not too overpowering.

Overall Taste: Nice balance of vanilla, honey taste and acacia, which is almost invisible.

On the Michael scale Henry's brew gets a guarded B- 6/10

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Welcome to the Jungle!

So, cabin fever finally sets in for the family last weekend and we decide that you can only sit around and play Civ IV or Splinter Cell so much before your brains turn to mush. I make the suggestion that we should go “somewhere”, specifically we should bail out of the Indianapolis area and do a road trip to Cincinnati and visit our favourite purveyor of fine foods and other comestibles such as, oh, I don’t know….Root Beer?

And therein lays the tail of our most recent foray to Jungle Jim's, the finestkind market for whatever you want in the Midwest. No, let me correct that, in the USA. I have never, in all my travels seen anything to compare with Jungle Jim’s. To call it a grocery store would be akin calling Costco a convenience store. Going to the Jungle isn’t shopping, it is an experience. Thank the gods I don’t live in Cincinnati, I’d never get anything done as I would spend my days wandering the aisles at Jim’s.

You are looking at 6 acres of inside space and, as I recall almost 79 acres planned, including the outside space and additional future features, including a tram. Their produce section alone is over 1 acre!
While the fresh, raw peanuts were of interest to me (I bought, boiled and devoured about 3 much for the low fat, low cholesteral thing for the past week) and the beer section was of intense interest to the wife, it was the soda section I longed to visit. One thing to note here, since I mentioned a Beer/Root Beer connection. I have come to the conclusion that companies which make beer should NOT make Root Beer. So far every beer I have tasted by a Root Beer maker sucks. And, in one case....*cough*...TommyKnockers....*cough*.....their beer is not good, ditto SeaDog. Here's Michael's Rule #3, "Stick with what you know!". Now, back to our blogging!

After collecting beer for my wife, some produce for us all and stunned wandering we made our way over to the Soda area. Heaven. While the Premium area is really one side of one aisle it is chock full of enough goodies to make a Root Beer and Soda lover dizzy with delight. Old favourites, classics like Kickapoo Joy Juice and Grape Nehi, relatively unknown regionals like Bennett's Big Bear and more. Down many of the international aisles you can find Soda's from foreign lands like Thumbs Up from India. On this particular jaunt I managed to get out with a host of new and old for my tasting pleasure and your blog review reading. Well, mostly for my tasting pleasure, (I hope, as I have been burned before!). While I usually keep only cane sugar drinks about for my pleasure and a few of these contain HFCS…who knows? One of them could actually be a gem and you never know till you taste them!

In coming posts you will get to see my haul, one by one. Berghoff's, Captain Ely's, Seadog, Dad's, Frostie, Thomas, Kemper, Big Bear, A.J. Stephens, Milligan's Island, Faygo, Sparky's and Henry Weinhard's. I also have quite a few non-Root Beer Soda's for my other blog, The Soda Pop Blog, (coming soon to an Internet near you!). These, along with a fair number of Root Beers already in my possession bode well for my tasting and blogging!

See ya shortly, kind readers! I have some refrigerating and drinking to do!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Boylan Update

For the all the surfers out there I want to give you the web address for Boylan. They have a really nice site, (incredibly hard to find if you were to just Google it) that is chock full of information and background on the company. This was and is a family owned business that was turned around by the descendants of the companies owners. Boylan's site is a nice place to navigate around and reflects the same quality as one finds in their sodas and Root Beers.
I did discover that their Natural line is a new addition and is likely in a location near you, (Wild Oats carries it) and heralds their entrance into the premium beverage market. All natural ingredients DO make the difference in their product. While I like both the vintage Bottling Works Brand and the Natural Brand, tha Natural will win out every single time in my book.

A big thumbs up to the folks at Boylan's!