Pure Cane Sugar

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 -

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+

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

 

Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock

Fentimans DandelionEver since seeing this stuff on a Galco’s Soda Shop Youtube video (http://youtu.be/gPbh6Ru7VVM),  I knew I had to get my hands on this.  And from time to time I do review brews other than root beer, but just for argument sake . . . I would say that this Dandelion and Burdock brew is actually a root beer.  Consider some of the ingredients . . .

  • Fermented ginger root, dandelion root, burdock root and aniseed flavor.

That’s a whole lot of “root” going on not to be considered a root beer.

The fermented and ethanol flavors provide a strong but subtle backdrop to each and every sip of this botanically brewed soda.  If you’re not sure what botanical brewing is, in the spring of 2015 I will be offering an in-depth look in my ”Brewing 101″ class.  In the mean-time please check out Fentiman’s own explanation . . . which I must say is a slight bit lacking. According to their web-site,

Botanical brewing is a simple process involving herbs and plant roots. Thomas Fentiman’s original recipe involved milling ginger roots before tumbling them into copper steam jacketed pans and leaving them to bubble and simmer releasing all their flavour. The finest herbs, natural flavourings, sugar, brewer’s yeast and fresh spring water were then added to the liquid which was transferred into wooden vats where it was left to ferment.

The ginger, dandelion, burdock, pear juice and aniseed combine to make a really delicious mix, although I don’t find that each flavor is distinguishable on it’s own.  The overall brew (including the flavor) is very light, and the carbonation is very light.  The flavor is not all that different from a root beer and yet at the same time is unlike any other root beer I’ve tasted . . . does that even make sense??  Well, it makes sense to the professor, and that’s all that matters!

The Professor’s Grade:  A -

Caruso’s Legacy Robusto Root Beer

carusos root beerI absolutely love the label on Caruso’s Legacy Robusto Root Beer.  It screams legacy, tradition, patriotism . . . root beer that has been passed down generation from generation. And I think that this whole tradition thing is one of the best things going for Root Beer . . . it’s certainly not that fact that root beer and drugs seem to be an easy pair.

I also love to see a root beer that has a comparitevly low level of sugar.  Most root beers I’ve seen have around 40 grams of sugar per 12 oz. of tasty brews.  Caruso’s only has 30 grams of sugar for 12 oz.!  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty remarkable.  If anything, Caruso’s tastes pretty sweet and yet they were able to accomplish this by using only 30 grams of sugar.  If I could I would probably keep Caruso’s stocked in my fridge because of this fact alone.

Sadly there is really not much else going for this brew.  Granted, it’s a creamy brew with nice hints of vanilla, but that’s about it.  It’s really pretty standard overall – simply put it’s another run of the mill root beer. My co-professor also noted that there is a slightly bad after-taste that has started to appear after a few sips.

This brew started off with so much promise . . . awesome label and a low sugar content . . . but the taste falls a little flat.

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