Margo’s Dark Root Beer

MargosMy official Root Beer Boot Mug is on a ship, carefully packed in layers of bubble wrap, and thus I’m unable to continue with my normal method of reviewing brews.  A frozen State Farm Insurance mug will have to do.

To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about Margo’s Dark Root Beer, except that I expected this brew to disappoint.  Probably because the bottle is cool, the name is cool, the ingredients are cool . . . so it must disappoint . . . right?  That’s what 90% of the other cool root beers do.  But this root beer does not disappoint.  The molasses in this root beer gives it a heavy, dark undertone . . . and combining it with the evaporated cane juice makes it a little syrupy, but not too much so.  If there was one knock on this brew it would be that it is a little to sweet and syrupy.

The vanilla, clove, cassia and nutmeg combine to make a really nice flavor . . . something that Virgil’s, in my opinion, wasn’t able to do. The wintergreen is real nice as well . . . it compliments the brew instead of dominating it.

This is not only a good root beer, but I think it’s near the top!

The Professor’s Grade:  A -

Crooked Oak Root Beer

Crooked OakThis root beer bottle screams coolness and class.  It lists the production code, batch code and the specific approvers on the outside of the bottle.  Wow – It makes you feel sort of special just to have this bottle in the fridge . . . let alone pour it into the boot mug and sip away.

This brew had a massive head, but it dissipated so quickly that if you blinked you missed it.  FYI, I tried to miss it.

Unfortunately, they are not very descriptive in the ingredient department, so all that I know is that it has natural flavors.  This could be by design though, because they emphasize how important simplicity is to them.  These natural flavors give the brew a little bit of a sharp bite at the end of every sip . . . maybe a little bit of licorice and clovers . . . and maybe some other things as well.  I almost feel as if this root beer wants to be creamy, but the bite at the end of each sip stops the creaminess in it’s tracks.

I like this root beer a lot, but I feel like it lacks a depth that’s found in all of the “A” rated brews.  It’s a little too simple for my taste.  Some of my favorite flavors like vanilla and honey don’t seem to be present and at least not in the spotlight.

The Professor’s Grade:  B

Earp’s Original Sarsaparilla

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I really enjoyed this brew . . . but mostly because of the name and label.  I simply love the nostalgia and of course the connection to Wyatt Earp (although I really didn’t know much about him until reading the Wikipedia article – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyatt_Earp).

I must say that Wyatt Earp seemed like a simply fascinating individual.  This one line in the Wikipedia article sums up his life in a rather fortrite but interesting manner.  It says,

Earp lived a restless life. He was at different times in his life a constable, city policeman, county sheriff, teamster, buffalo hunter, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, brothel owner, pimp, miner, and boxing referee.

But as interesting as Wyatt Earp really was, this sarsaparilla was not quite as interesting.  This would be the perfect brew for a party . . . it is an interesting conversation starter . . . but it isn’t in the top group of brews.  The taste is not offensive by any means, it is just more of an average sarsaparilla – bland actually.

The Professor’s Grade:  C +

Fentimans Curiosity Cola

coke2Curiosity may have killed the cat, but Curiosity Cola resurrected the cola!  And with that being said, this is absolutely more of a cola than a root beer, despite some good root beer ingredients such as ginger root and juniper.  I am admittedly not a cola expert, or really a fan for that matter, but I love the quality of the other Fentiman’s products so I decided to give this a try, and I really like it!  The quality is immediately apparent . . . above and beyond the colas found on the supermarket shelves across.  I don’t really know how to compare it, like I would a root beer, but I can tell that there is quality in this brew.

I really do like the yeasty undertones in this brew, similar to the Bundaberg Root Beer I  tasted not too long ago.  If I remember correctly, the yeast taste was stronger in the Bundaberg than it is in the Fentimans, but similar nonetheless.

The bottom-line is that anything that combines fermentation, botanical and herbal items gives a level of sophistication that isn’t found in a 99 cent bottle of cola.

The Professor’s Grade:  B +

Reading Draft Blueberry Birch

blueberry birchLot’s of Reading brews that I haven’t tried yet, but I’ll mark the Reading Draft Blueberry Birch off my list.  To be honest, I love blueberries and I love birch beer, but I haven’t had an overwhelming desire to try this brew.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like a combination that goes together.

The “kool-aid” blue color of this birch beer is a big turnoff as is the food coloring flavor that is slightly noticeable.  All in all, it is not quite as bad as it could be – it’s flavor is mild, which in this case is a really good thing.  The carbonation is low, which in this case may not be such a good thing – a higher carbonation level might mask some of the flavor.

It doesn’t really taste like blueberries either, again it’s more of an artificial “kool-aid” “food-coloring” taste.  It’s not gross, but it’s simply something that you would drink at a birthday party for a six-year old . . . you know, the kind of birthday party with cupcakes, streamers and boogers that have been wiped on the couch by multiple, gross six year old boys.

Surprisingly, there is no nutritional information on the side of the bottle . . . maybe because they wanted to hide the extreme amount of sugar needed to make this soda . . .

The Professor’s Grade:  D+

Dominion Root Beer

Dominion Root BeerDominion Root Beer is apparently a Washington football fan.  Notice my “non-use” of the offensive team nickname.  And because of my ever-so-sensitive conscious, I’ve decided to refrain from using several teams nicknames including the team in Miami (due to the offensive nature towards aquatic animals), Denver (out of respect to horses worldwide) and the Dallas team (not all Americans are Cowboys and it’s particularly offensive to equate as such).  Regardless, Dominion was born and bred in the Washington D. C. area, and they still retain their affinity for Joe Gibbs and the Hogs long after they’ve moved to Delaware.

Back 20 years ago or so, Dominion Root Beer was one of the first specialty root beers I was exposed too – it helped create my life-long desire to be a Professor of Root Beer!  For that I am eternally grateful to Dominion.  Unfortunately, I’m not as keen on the taste today as I was back then.  I really do like root beers flavored with honey, but I don’t think this brew has much special going for it beyond the honey.  It had been a long time since I last tried this, and to be honest I was expecting a heck of a lot more!

There is a spicy bite at the end of each sip, but without that bite it would be like drinking colored water . . . minus the honey flavor that is.

This is still better than the A&Ws and the Mugs of the world . . . which is probably why I was so impressed 20 years ago, but after having a myriad of other root beers, this one falls a bit flat in the competition.

The Professor’s Grade:  C +

Ozark Mountain Root Beer – Branson Missouri

ozarkExistential Root Beer Question – Why does some Root Beer foam taste good and other Root Beer foam taste junky?  Ahhh . . . the world may never know.  Surprisingly, this is one of the good root beer foam brews.  But as you already know, I’m not big on root beer foam and I would never base a grade on foam.

This Root Beer achieves the difficult balance of a creamy first taste with a nice bite that comes a little later.  The after-taste feels sharp on the tongue and pleasing to the palette.  The sharp after-taste is an exceedingly simple sarsaparilla flavor.  And yet in it’s simplicity, it’s achieved what most other Root Beers fail to achieve – a unique and pleasing root beer flavor.

My wife noted that it tasted a little too sweet, but being that this whole bottle only has 30g of sugar, I remarked that the sweetness comes from the fact that this is sweetened with pure cane sugar instead of the processed high fructose stuff that many brews have.

Don’t ask me why the Ozark Mountain Root Beer is draped across the milk bottle . . . I don’t make the bottles pose, I just take the photo.

 

The Professor’s Grade:  B +

Bundaberg Root Beer

BundabergFrom time to time I’ll look at the root beer reviews of others and unequivocally Bundaberg Australian Root Beer was given bad reviews – by those to remain unnamed.  So, I went into this review with a little bit of a jaded tongue . . . but shame, shame shame on the professor.  I can just hear myself saying to myself, ,”You didn’t get tenure as a Root Beer Professor by letting the opinions of others influence your own root beer opinions!”

Based on my first paragraph, you’ve probably guessed it already, but I was pleasantly surprised by this Australian brew.  At first I thought this was a bit syrupy, and in fact I still think it’s a bit syrupy.  And in retrospect, this is more of a natural syrup, it’s flavored with molasses . . . which makes it more palatable of course.  And I also noted that the after-taste was a bit medicinal which was mixed with decidedly yeasty overtones.  But it was actually the medicinal flavor and the yeast that began to get me a little nostalgic.

Last semester I taught “Root Beer History 101,” and I distinctly remember lecturing my students on how Root Beer began as a medicine and how it originally got it’s carbonation with yeast.

Then it hit me – Bundaberg Root Beer is a throwback to yesteryear.  And I found out that the ingredients in this brew confirm that same fact – molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root , licorice root and vanilla bean are undoubtedly hearty ingredients that may have been used way back when.

It’s a little troubling that it took an Australian company to make a root beer like the good ole American Root Beer entrepreneurs used to make . . . but they did it, and they did it well.

Would I want to drink this root beer all the time?  No, but then again I rarely drink a root beer more than once no matter how good the brew is.

The Professor’s Grade:  B

Firemans Brews Root Beer

firemans brewI caught this root beer in the microwave of all places, but I’m thinking it was just inspecting all of the household’s electrical equipment . . . safety first!

Let me say that Saranac Root Beer has nothing on Fireman’s as it relates to head.  This is large, long-lasting and not particularly satisfying in any way.  But, I know that some connoisseurs consider this aspect to be important in a brew . . . so it’s at least worth a mention.

I like the distinctive flavor in this root beer – it’s different than the others.  Let me digress for a minute by saying, I never understood companies that took the effort to create a brand new root beer that ended up tasting like all the other average root beers on the market.  This is not that root beer.  This brew has a cool bottle design, cool story and is without a doubt a quality root beer.

And yet in saying that, it does taste strangely like another brew I’ve had in the past . . . Sparky’s.  I remember how excited I was to try Sparky’s when it first came out, and yet how disappointed I was in the flavor.  I think I’ve grown a little bit since then, because I’m not disappointed in Fireman’s, although it still seems like a one-note wintergreen flavor like Sparky’s was.  Now . . . I’m convinced there are other awesome flavors at work in this brew, but it’s hard to taste them, because the wintergreen flavor is so strong.  Because it’s been so long since I’ve had Sparky’s I should really do a “Battle of the Brews” between Sparky’s and Firemans just to see if I’m right in my analysis.

This is made with natural artesian spring water and pure cane sugar which is awesome.  The creaminess and carbonation is just right.  It’s just that wintergreen is not necessarily my favorite flavor to have showcased in a root beer.

The Professor’s Grade:  B

 

Jonnie Ryan Delcious Diet Root Beer

jonnieryandietI think it’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed a diet soda . . . I’m trying to stay away from these . . . really I am.  Nevertheless, the professor (there I go talking about myself in the third person again) has to do the dirty and dangerous work of reviewing all root beers . . . even the diet ones.  And to be quite honest, I get immense pleasure from sipping these brews, even the ones, like this one, that are filled with cancer causing ingredients like sucralose.  Dr. Oz had a interesting article on artificial sweeteners, and given that he was recently proven to be right, 100% of the time , I thought I’d give a link to that article.

I found this particular diet soda while in Virginia of all places . . . at a Wegman’s.  Now, I know I’m not the professor of Supermarkets (that title goes to my illustrious colleague – Professor Regan.  The back story is that Lesley begged to be an associate professor of root beer, but when I declined to give her tenure, BBC picked her up to do her current supermarket thing), but Wegman’s is the bomb . . . it is simply awesome.  I must have picked up 3-4 different brews while I was there, and Jonnie Ryan’s was one of them.

This diet brew has an extremely low carbonation content – and while I normally like it, this is pretty much non-existent.  It’s entirely possible I got a bad bottle, but I’ll act as if it was intended to be this way.

This has a slight “diet-taste,” as all diet root beers have, but it is much less offensive than most diet brews.  The flavor of root beer is not all that unique or different, but there is a interesting bite of flavor that maybe includes wintergreen and even a hint of licorice.  I could be “way-off” though, as that “diet-taste” seems to be getting stronger and stronger with each sip.  By the way . . . isn’t that how most diet sodas are . . . at first, they taste alright, but with each sip it gets worse and worse.

At any rate, this is still one of the better diet sodas  I’ve drank.

The Professor’s Grade:  C