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!
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!
Barley Island, Root Beer, Libertarians