Dec 06

Root Beer reviews: AJ Stephans

IMG_2519While many root beers strive to make a bold statement, sometimes to the point of being the blue-tuxedoed uncle at your best friend’s wedding, AJ Stephans is daring only in its restraint. It dials back the sweetness and doesn’t linger, living extremely in the moment, not like a brash teenage snowboarder but rather a delicate piccolo artist inhaling each note, otherwise rapidly forgotten. Lack of edge prevents it from reaching the top tier, but unpretentiousness prevents it from sinking to the bottom.

Sampling date: December 1, 2015

Ingredients: Pure carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, citric acid, sodium benzoate

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 175 calories, 0 grams fat, 44 grams sugar, 30 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Orange, Massachusetts

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer
4) Sparky’s Root Beer
5) AJ Stephans Root Beer
6) River City Root Beer
7) Cool Mountain Root Beer
8) Rat Bastard Root Beer 

Dec 04

Root beer reviews: Sparky’s

Sparky IMG_2499After a short 39-month hiatus, I’m pleased to return with the seventh in my series of root beer reviews.

Sparky’s Fresh Draft Root Beer is a line-drive base hit, nothing unconventional, nothing that would bring a crowd to its feet, but neither a routine grounder to the right side for an out. Its engine revs at the outset of each sip, coasting into a pinching sweetness that is more cocky than coy.

Sampling date: November 30, 2015

Ingredients: Carbonated filtered water, pure cane sugar, honey, natural and imitation flavorings, spices, sodium benzoate to preserve freshness, phosphoric acid and caramel color

Nutritional information: Not provided

Headquarters: Pacific Grove, California

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer
4) Sparky’s Root Beer
5) River City Root Beer
6) Cool Mountain Root Beer
7) Rat Bastard Root Beer

Aug 19

Root beer reviews: Rat Bastard

Rat Bastard Root Beer is a dull, lifeless brew that buzzes with the tasteless annoyance of a mosquito in a bug zapper. It needs to be gulped for the taste to have any sustain, but even that victory is short-lived. “Rat Bastard?” More like … well, no, it’s exactly like “rat bastard.”

Sampling date: August 13, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, molasses, citric acid, caramel color, caffeine, natural and artificial flavors, herbal blend (American, Siberian and Korean ginseng, jasmine , clove, dong quai – angelica, skullcap (Mud Dog weed); African Capsicum, ginko bilboa; gotu kola; goldenseal, echinacea, reishi and shitake and cordyceps), sodium benzoate

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 190 calories, 0 grams fat, 40 grams sugar, 65 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Gardena, California

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer
4) River City Root Beer
5) Cool Mountain Root Beer
6) Rat Bastard Root Beer 

Aug 01

Root beer reviews: Capt’n Eli’s

Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer has a smooth entry with a swift kick, offering a pleasing, smarm-free taste. It’s top-flight if you want a medium bite.

Sampling date: July 29, 2012

Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel coloring, natural and artificial flavors including wintergreen oil, anise, vanilla, spices, herbs, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative)

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 165 calories, 0 grams fat, 40 grams sugar, 35 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Portland, Maine

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer
4) River City Root Beer
5) Cool Mountain Root Beer

Jul 26

Root beer reviews: River City

River City Root Beer enters the palate neutral to slightly saccharine. It doesn’t taste of medicine, but it teeters close enough that the thought will cross your mind.  A latent, more sincere sweetness is its finishing touch, making the beverage vaguely seductive, like a first date you’re not sure you should call again. But in a pinch …

Sampling date: July 24, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, quillaia extract, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), potassium sorbate

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 180 calories, 0 grams fat, 46 grams sugar, 15 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Sacramento, California

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) River City Root Beer
4) Cool Mountain Root Beer

Jul 21

Root beer reviews: Cool Mountain

Cool Mountain Root Beer frontloads its bite with a carbonated sizzle that has a slight echo of Pop Rocks, followed by a rather slim aftertaste. It’s not bad and certainly inoffensive, but there isn’t an abundance of joy in it.

Sampling date: July 18, 2012

Ingredients: Filtered water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as a preservative

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 40 grams sugar, 15 milligrams sodium, 1 gram protein

Bottling location: Des Plaines, Illinois

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Cool Mountain Root Beer

 

Jul 19

Root beer reviews: Bulldog

Bulldog Root Beer hits your tongue thin but slick, with a nice sweetness and a nifty bite at the end. It’s quenching and gone in a hurry.

Sampling date: July 17, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, honey, maltodextrin, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate, real vanilla, phosphoric acid, salt

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 41 grams of sugar, 45 milligrams sodium

Bottling location: Mukilteo, Washington

Current rankings:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer

Jul 18

Root beer reviews: Route 66

With a $25 gift card to BevMo in hand, I decided to pursue a small but highly significant taste test of root beer. I bought several different brands and will be publishing reviews over the next few weeks. Here is the first:

* * *

Route 66 Root Beer has what I would call a classic non-mainstream taste – the sweet bite that you don’t get in an A&W or Mug. Goes down smoothly and unpretentiously, disappearing all too quickly.

Sampling date: July 14, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, real cane sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavorings, quillaia, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative)

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 28 grams of sugar

Bottling location: Lebanon, Missouri