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 www.professorrootbeer.com, (at that point I had www.rootbeerreview.com,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

 

 

 

Baron’s Natural Sassparilla

baronsI found this at the brand new Rocket Fizz that just opened in my local area.  I have 3-4 different speciality shops, which all sell unique root beers in my local area.  In a sense, I live in a mecca of sorts for root beer lovers like myself.  It’s important for me to take advantage of it while I can, since I’m moving to a place . . . that as far as I know . . . have no root beers available whatsoever.  But be that as it may . . .

Surprisingly, Baron’s is the absolute first sarsaparilla I’ve reviewed on this web-site, and it’s spelled “sassparilla” on the bottle . . . exactly like it sounds.  It also is devoid of the famous “boothill” that used to be on the front of every bottle.  The bottle also has “The Natural Way” written on the front and has pure cane sugar as one of the ingredients.  This leads me to believe that this is an entirely different brew than the “high-fructose” corn syrup stuff that is reviewed on other root beer blogs.  If anyone has information on whether their are two separate Baron’s brews, or if they changed their receipe, please let me know.

Saraparilla’s (similar to birch beers), tend to have a simpler flavor profile than the average root beer, and Baron’s is no different.  The wintergreen/medicinal quality flavor gives a little punch, and that’s about it.  But interestingly enough, it really works in this sarsaparilla.

The light carbonation, creaminess and punch or wintergreen makes this a sarsaparilla worth a cowboy riding a few miles to get a hold of.

The Professor’s Grade:  B +

Hammond’s All Natural Root Beer Candy Cane

all-nat-nutmeg-caneLI unwrapped this thick candy cane at Christmas, but only recently realized that it was a root beer flavored candy . . . boy, my family really knows me!

I didn’t expect anything great from this sweet treat, but upon closer inspection I found that it is gluten-free and all-natural.  Even the ever-so-light root beer coloring is all-natural with ingredients like Reed Beet, Red Cabbage, Paprika and Tumeric Powder.  In laymen terms . . . that’s pretty dang cool.

This is also made by a local Denver, Colorado company – Hammonds (http://www.hammondscandies.com/candy-types/all-natural-candies/all-natural-rootbeer-candy-cane) .  Note to self – they offer free factory tours – this might be a good field-trip to take my students during “Rootbeer Products 101″ this summer.

Needless to say, my three little professors thought this was amazing, but to be honest it is almost not deserving of a letter grade.  It’s not gross, bad or repulsive . . . it is just not that flavorful.  This is a neat thing to put in someone’s Christmas stocking and if there is someone who likes candy, but is health conscious . . . it is a great gift.  But without much root beer flavor, I can’t give this above a C.

The Professor’s Grade:  C

 

Flavorful, good, creamy . . . oh not creamy.  Tastes like root beer.

 

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 +

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 -

Great Value Diet Root Beer

great value root beerWhat does a Diet Root Beer have to do with a cornucopia of various vegetables?  Absolutely nothing, except for the fact that diet root beer appears to be very healthy.  A recent article says that diet soda trims your lifespan . . . I’m assuming that’s a good thing, sort of like trimming your waistline.

Oh well . . . on to the review.  I was surprised to see the Great Value Root Beers on the shelves of Walmart recently.  Why, you ask?  Walmart’s Root Beer Brand used to be Keg Root Beer, but now Great Value seems to be in vogue.  I found a straggling case of regular and diet Keg still on the shelf, but it was the last of a dying breed.  As far as I can tell it’s exactly the same soda with a different label.  But being that I never reviewed the diet version of Walmart’s Root Beer before, the change in label seems to be a moot point.

The Diet Great Value Root Beer is a very smooth brew with a medium to light head.  It’s got a heavy licorice . . . or is that anise . . . flavor that bulldozes through my tastebuds though.  The diet soda taste still sparkles throughout my mouth, but it’s actually not that bad for a diet brew.  I probably won’t drink through the whole 2 liter bottle, as I’m trying to watch my waistline and my lifespan, but at least I’ll enjoy this boot mug full of root beer.

The Professor’s Grade:  D +

Mug Root Beer

mug root beerI really like the root beers with dogs on the label.  I’m actually not a big dog fan . . . scooping up their poop, laying down on the couch and finding a big clump of dog hair, cleaning up dog puke on the carpet . . . you get the idea.  But when a dog is pictured on the label of a root beer it seems instantly better, i.e. Bulldog Root Beer.

Mug Root Beer is basically a generic root beer that is a little more well known and found in almost any supermarket I’ve ever visited.   The ingredient list is pretty comparable to other root beers with high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient.

The main flavor in this brew is licorice, and although some may find it a little overbearing, I actually like it for a change.  This root beer’s “one-trick pony” or should I say “one-trick dog” is the licorice and for the moment I am digging it.

My most important co-professor agreed with me wholeheartedly and even posed with the ole boot mug.

All of my education and my experience tell me that this root beer shouldn’t be rated above a “D,” but my taste buds so want to give this a “B.”

The Professor’s Grade:  B -

Lost Trail Diet Root Beer

Lost Trail Diet Root BeeerWhen does the head on a root beer last too long?  How about when after 5 minutes there is still 6 inches of foam that hasn’t dissappated at all!  It may sound like a good thing, but it sort of impairs the whole process of actually getting to the root beer itself.  Back in 2009 I reviewed the non-diet version of Lost Trail and I noted that there was virtually no head at all, so to have this sort of head in the diet version is quite peculiar.  I wonder if it’s something chemical . . . being diet and all.

The guy at my local soda store recommended this root beer as one of the best diet brews available.  He’s right in the sense that there is really no nasty diet aftertaste that has virtually been present in every other diet root beer.  The problem is there is virtually no taste at all.  It’s an extremely mild brew with nothing offensive at all and almost nothing to comment on.  Creamy yes, nasty diet aftertaste no, and anything distinctive whatsoever no.

Not a bad choice for a diet brew though, in fact it’s probably the best diet root beer I’ve reviewed thus far.

The Professor’s Grade:  C +