Root Beers

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

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

Saranac Root Beer

saranacThis is probably the most amazing head I’ve ever seen on a root beer – it simply does not diminish after sitting several minutes.  To be quite truthful though – it doesn’t really impress me.  For example, I’m trying to get down to the amazing taste of the root beer itself and I’ve got to wade through 3 inches of some chemical induced foam.  Ahhh . . . it’s not all that bad, but just not all that impressive.

Early on in my root beer days . . . before the days of, (at that point I had,until I was jailed in Hungary and viciously had the web-site stolen) I tried Saranac and loved it.  Those early root beer days were the good ole days of Spike, Anthony and myself . . . sprinkled in were a few posts by Luke and the gourmet.

But in rebuilding my web-site, I couldn’t find the original Saranac review and that’s why I have to do it all over again.  Years ago, Saranac sent me a few brews for free, but this one I paid for myself . . . like the true and honest professor that I am.  But anyway, I loved Saranac back then and I still love it now.  Classic root beer taste, extremely creamy with a hint licorice and vanilla I think.  Because of some nostalgia I’m probably giving this a little better than I should, but it’s still a pretty good dang brew.

The Professor’s Grade:  A -

Oogave Root Beer

agaveI had my mother-in-law over, and being the health conscious woman that she is, I pulled out the Oogave Root Beer to share together.  She prefers diet soda over regular soda, but being that diet soda is getting a bad-rep lately, I thought this Oogave might be the ticket to drinking root beer, safely, healithy and responsibly.

You see, it only has all-natural ingredients, and is sweetened with only organic agave nectar.  It has a total of only 24 grams of sugar, with no diet ingredients added.  I actually really like root beers who try alternative methods of sweetening such as, honey, molasses, brown sugar and now agave nectar.  Sometimes these alternative methods of sweetening add something unique to the flavor – I’m not sure the agave adds anything to the flavor – but it’s cool nonetheless.

As suspected though, the flavor doesn’t quite match up with it’s superior counterparts.  That’s not to say it’s gross or anything . . . I would gladly drink this from time to time to forgo the obscene amount of sugar that’s found in other root beers.  But the root beer is pretty light on flavor.  It does have a sharp bite throughout the beginning to the end of the taste  . . . which gives this a nice distinctive difference.  It’s a little hard to place what this “bite” is, but it reminds me of a one-note sarsaparilla flavor.

On a side note, this is another Colorado soda and thus another opportunity for a factory tour.

The Professor’s Grade:  C




XXX Root Beer (Root Beer Stand)

xxx stand 2xxx stand 1

As I was on a business trip, in the great state of Washington, for my other job . . . let’s face it, being a Professor of Root Beerology is not a lucrative profession . . . I spotted the XXX Root Beer stand on one of those handy highway signs.  I whipped the car off the exit so fast, that it’s a miracle I’m even here writing this review.  But here I sit and by golly I am going to write this XXX review.

Honestly, stopping at root beer stands like this one is one of the little pleasures in life that I love so much.   I love how everything about this restaurant screamed Americana, 1950s and the way life used to be . . . from the huge barrel on the outside, to the cool paraphanilla and the rude and pushy (but in a sort of fun way) waitress that I ordered my XXX Root Beer from.

Unfortunately, I got my root beer in a Styrofoam cup with ice . . . but not even inferior service could ruin this root beer adventure!  The brew was really smooth and creamy with just a little carbonation . . . just the way I like it!  It had a real simple flavor with strong licorice overtones . . . nothing complex going on there.

Truth be told, it is probably not a spectacular root beer, but any store, drive-in or restaurant that is dedicated to root beer gets a nice bump up in the rating!

Professor’s Grade:  B +

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 -