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

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


Zuberfizz Creamy Root Beer

root beer zuberfizzI must say that Zuberfizz is an interesting name for a root beer.  Most root beer drinkers (I assume) want an excellent brew that reminds them of yesteryear.  They want a unique brew yes, but they want something that reminds them of their youth.  In other words, classic!  Zuberfizz does say “classic” at the top of their bottle, and the company, “Durango Soda Company” screams classic, but unfortunately that’s all ruined by the name Zuberfizz.

It is slightly more carbonated than I would wish, but it is certainly not over-carbonated.  The slight over-carbonation is nice for a change though.    The brew claims that it is creamy, and I guess it is creamy, but creamy root beers are a dime a dozen these days and this doesn’t blow me away, not bad at all, it’s just that it doesn’t rock my world. 

This root beer tasting was a bit last minute, so unfortunately I just finished chewing a piece of minty gum.  Therefore, I’ll drink another bottle at another time for my official letter grade.

Glad I tried it over again, definitely a little better.  But it’s becoming harder and harder to find root beers that impress me.  This is certainly a nice root beer, but it doesn’t “zuberfizz” me away.


The Professor’s Grade:  B

Cicero Beverage Company Salted Caramel Root Beer

Salted Caramel Root BeerWait a minute . . . I am back in Maine at the ocean?  It’s that ocean, saltwater smell . . . ahhh it’s good to be back.  Nevermind, it’s just that salty root beer smell from the Cicero Beverage Co. called Salted Caramel Root Beer.  Hopefully it’s not as salty as a bouillon cube – the label says 130 mg or 5.5% of your recommended daily intake –  not too bad really.

The dominant flavor in this brew is not the salt (although that adds a nice compliment), but it’s the caramel.  It’s not so strong that it makes it unpleasant however.  Caramel is probably not my favorite root beer flavor, but this drink uses the caramel in a way that’s not all bad. I would have no problem offering this to someone, or if someone offered it to me I would drink it with no qualms.

Using a sweetener or flavoring like maple syrup, honey, molasses or caramel for a root beer is certainly a little risky, but Cicero does a nice job combining the caramel with the salt to make a different and half-decent root beer.

The only complaint that I have is that I bought this off of a humble grocery store shelf and upon further examination Anthony received his brew in a special sack, with paper shavings all within a pirate-esque wooden box.


The Professor’s Grade:  B

Natural Brew Draft Root Beer

naturalbrew2When I began reviewing root beers about ten years ago this was one of the first root beers I officially reviewed. At the time, I had accepted a professorship at a small school in Virginia.  Looking back it was really only the beginning of the root beer revolution.   Although a “Professor of Root Beer” sounds prestigious, it was originally met with much derision and skepticism.  As a society, we have certainly come a long way.

Enough with the trip down memory lane . . . for now anyway.

When I think of an all-natural root beer, Natural Brew is the gold standard!  This has been a part of the root beer curriculum for quite some time now – “Natural Root Beers – 101.”  Too many root beers end up tasting the same, but this has a unique flavor that sets it apart. I know that some people think it is nasty, but I could drink a lot of this brew. It is a very creamy beer which stems from the bourbon vanilla extract – and to me the wintergreen and the birch oil really stand out – but not in offensive “in your face” kind of way.

Other special ingredients include anise, sarsaparilla, and licorice root. It has a light root beer color, a small head, and a really (I mean really) light carbonation. It also keeps below the 40 g of sugar threshold (it weighs in at 39 g of sugar).

My youngest little professor said that she loves it and that it tastes super!! And I have to agree.  I really don’t know why I don’t rate this a little higher because I really like this brew.


The Professor’s Grade:  B

Lost Trail Root Beer

LostTrailLost Trail gets the dubious distinction of being the first root beer reviewed since the long haitus.  This is actually one root beer that I have never tried before. Got this at a really cool diner in Cambridge, MA that has a few different root beers that are not local. Can’t remember the name of the diner for this post, but it will come to me at some point.

I am really thirst right now and I practically have this 12 oz. brew drunk in about 2 gulps – so I will try my best. The head was real small and the carbonation was real light. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be this way or if the bottle was old. I actually prefer a lighter carbonation anyway. A very, very creamy root beer indeed.

Overall, this is a real enjoyable brew. Not really anything spectacular, but definitely something that I would drink again. There is one distinct flavor that comes through – I think it might be licorice or anise. Other than this flavor it is certainly not a complex root beer.

It is made with pure cane sugar which is always a plus and it only has 37 g of sugar for the whole bottle.

I do love the label and the root beer story from the journal of Joe Marshall back in 1848.   I’ll give it a few extra points for that.


The Professor’s Grade:   B

Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg

virgils, specialAhhhh . . . a Virgil’s that I actually like.  Where the regular Virgil’s falls short the special edition brew falls forward . . . I think?  Anyway, by the title of the root beer you’d think that the nutmeg is of a special variety in that it’s from Bavaria.  But low and behold the nutmeg is not from Bavaria, the well water is.  So a more accurate title would be “Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Well Water – it doesn’t quite hold the same sparkle though.

All of that aside, I think this brew is pretty good!  I like the fact that this has all natural ingredients, but the fantastic part is that these flavor actually blend together pretty well.  The combo of honey, licorice and vanilla give this beer a silky smooth, creamy feel.  The nutmeg (not from bavaria by the way), clove and cinnamon give a nice bite to finish each root beer swallow.

The particular bottle I drank from was a little flat, but I suspect that it’s because I allowed this to sit for quite a while.

Nice job Virgils . . . nice job.  Although, when you give a root beer a “5 word” title with one of the words being “special” than it better be pretty darn good.  And if you look at it that, you might be a bit disappointed.


The Professor’s Grade:  B