Death Valley Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Brown bottle with cream colored label that proclaims this root beer is “A taste of the old west.”

Ingredients: Indian Wells Artisan Spring water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, real vanilla, and citric acid

Smell: The strongest smell from the bottle is licorice with wintergreen coming in a close second. After being poured, the licorice becomes even stronger with a medicinal smell also coming through strongly

Carbonation: Low level of carbonation leaves this brew just a bit flat. Not terrible but it could use a bit more

Color: Nearly black

Head: Almost non-existent when being poured. Just a few bubbles and very little foam

Flavor: My first through when I tasted it was, “Cinnamon?” The traditional root beer elements are definitely present but the strangely medicinal cinnamon flavor is dominant. It is not bad but it seems a little over done and the I don’t really notice much of the vanilla mentioned in the ingredients

Conclusion: Death Valley Root Beer is probably not for everyone. That said, it is not terrible and is definitely worth trying. It is not one of my favorites but I appreciate that some might like a more medicinal root beer. Also, if you like beverages with a bit of cinnamon you should give this brew a try

RBR’s grade- C

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Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Brown bottle with a unique label design that trumpets “root beer” loud and clear

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn sweetener, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, acacia and quillaia extract

Smell: Strong wintergreen and mild licorice smell from the bottle. After being poured, the smell becomes very mild vanilla coming to the forefront

Carbonation: Low level of carbonation but just enough to avoid a flat mouthfeel. Definitely what I would call a smooth brew in terms of carbonation

Color: Dark amber

Head: Medium head that dissipates very quickly after being poured

Flavor: The flavor is a lot like the smell after being poured: quite mild. There is a slightly medicinal aftertaste but it is not overly strong. The flavor has some honey hints that add to the smoothness and also to the mild flavor as honey flavored root beers (in my experience) tend to have a more mild overall taste

Conclusion: Dorothy’s Isle of Pines Root Beer would be a great brew to try if you like a more mildly flavored beverage. The flavor and the smooth carbonation make this a good one to drink slowly and savor. It won’t be for everyone but the generally solid (if a bit weak) flavor should appeal to many. I’m not a big fan of the aftertaste of this brew but it is not strong enough to keep it from rising to a slightly above average rating for me.

RBR’s grade- C+

Carl’s BBQ Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Brown bottle with a label that prominently features the Texas flag

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, and sodium benzoate (preservative)

Smell: Strong licorice and wintergreen smells from the bottle. After being poured these two smells remain dominant but are a bit weaker

Carbonation: A pretty high level of carbonation on this brew. It has a good bite and a strong enough flavor that the even the high carbonation can’t mask it

Color: Dark brown

Head: Very short head but long lasting and quite foamy

Flavor: This tastes like a mainstream root beer done just a little better. The wintergreen and licorice are the strongest flavors and they need to be strong because otherwise they’d be hard to taste over the carbonation. No offensive aftertaste. Stout, unoffensive, and overall pretty good

Conclusion: Carl’s BBQ Old Fashioned Root Beet is a pretty good root beer. It is a little better than average in terms of flavor but don’t let that dissuade you from trying it if you are ever in Cypress, TX. I was not personally there but a friend picked up a bottle of the brew for me. I can’t speak for their food, but their root beer is tasty. The strong carbonation and flavor would probably go good with a plate of ribs. So this one comes in just a hair above average.

RBR’s grade- C+

Note- I usually let my wife finish the last bit of root beer when I’m done reviewing it. She really liked this one. She said it reminded her of Thomas Kemper Root Beer on tap. Take that as a valuable second opinion when you are considering this root beer

365 Every Day Value Root Beer (Whole Foods Brand)

Bottle and Label: A pretty generic looking brown can

Ingredients: Filtered Carbonated Water, cane sugar, natural root beer flavor, citric acid, caramel color (from cane sugar)

Smell: The smell from the can is very hard to discern. Mostly some licorice hints. The smell is still not very strong after being poured with licorice and wintergreen being dominant.

Carbonation: Medium-high level of carbonation gives this brew a pretty good bite

Color: Nearly black

Head: Very tall and very foamy. I had to stop pouring into my tall frosty mug or it would have overflowed on the table. It is also very long lasting.

Flavor: Pretty traditional but a little bit on the weak side (much like the smell). Licorice and wintergreen are the dominant flavors but the stout carbonation makes it hard to discern others. There is also a slightly bitter/medicinal aftertaste

Conclusion: I went to this brew really not sure what to expect. I mean, it’s a store brand and those aren’t typically equated with quality. That said, I was pleasantly surprised that 365 Root Beer is a passable and moderately enjoyable beverage. If you shop at Whole Foods a lot this brew might be worth a try and you could certainly do worse. Also, this would be a great choice for a float because of the very foamy head.

RBR’s Grade- C

Cooper’s Cave Ale Company Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Very classy blue and red label with a big dog on it that help this bottle stand out from the myriad of “brown-centric” labels out there

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, cane  sugar, artificial and natural flavors, sodium benzoate, citric acid, gum arabic, caramel color

Smell: The smell from the bottle is very weak and hard to discern. Once poured a licorice smell becomes a bit stronger but it is still very weak

Carbonation: Medium carbonation provides a nice bite from beginning to end. There’s a nice balance between carbonation and flavor

Color: Almost black

Head: Almost no head whatsoever

Flavor: Like the smell, the flavor is not very strong. However, it is pleasant. It has a smooth flavor with some nice vanilla hints. I also think it’s a little sweeter than average. It has a slightly medicinal aftertaste but it doesn’t detract from the overall flavor.

Conclusion: I tend to like my root beer’s to have a pretty robust flavor. Cooper’s Cave Ale Company Root Beer is not exactly robust. The flavor is good but it is just too weak for me. On top of that, the lack of smell really detracts from my enjoyment of the brew. Smell is a big part of enjoying root beer for me so if a brew has a weak or unpleasant smell it really knocks the whole experience down a few notches. That said, if you prefer a brew that is a bit more subtle this might be one you would like.

RBR’s Grade- C+

Tower Root Beer

Bottle and Label: The brown label and brown bottle blend together and make this one pretty hard to distinguish on cooler shelf full of other root beers

Ingredients: Pure Carbonated Water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness)

Smell: Strong, mostly medicinal smell from the bottle. When poured the dominant smell is licorice

Carbonation: High level of carbonation gives this brew a pretty hefty bite from the front to the back of the mouth. This is more in line with “mainstream” root beers like A&W than a pretty smooth brew like Weinhard’s

Color: Almost black

Head: Very tall. I couldn’t pour the entire bottle into my frosty mug without stopping. The foam dissipates quickly

Flavor: Strong licorice flavor is definitely dominant here. The high level of carbonation can make it hard to discern other flavors. There is also a persistent medicinal aftertaste that is not particularly enjoyable

Conclusion: Tower Root Beer is a root beer that has a strong smell and a strong flavor. Unfortunately, the flavor also comes with a pretty strong medicinal aftertaste and a large dose of carbonation that makes it impossible to discern any nuances in it. That said, if you like a root beer that could best be described as “robust,” you should probably give this one a shot.

RBR’s Grade- C

Kutztown Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Brown bottle with a nice blue label that looks well designed and has all the text in fonts and colors that are easy to read

Ingredients: Triple Filtered Carbonated Water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, sodium benzoate (a preservative), yucca extractives and acacia

Smell: Strong licorice smell from the bottle with a nice hint of vanilla

Carbonation: Low level of carbonation that offers very little bite and makes the brew seem a bit flat

Color: Dark brown color

Head: Just a few bubbles with absolutely no foam

Flavor:  Traditional root beer flavor with licorice and wintergreen being the strongest. Unfortunately, there is also a slightly medicinal aftertaste that spoils the enjoyment of the other flavors

Conclusion: Kutztown Root Beer does not get enough right to rise above the pack. In fact, it falls short in most categories. The biggest downside to this brew is the slightly off flavor. The medicinal taste was just enough to be distracting and to detract from the enjoyment of this root beer. It’s not bad enough to give a full thumb’s down, but by my taste buds it definitely ranks below average

RBR’s Grade- C-

 

Judge Wapner Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Unique label featuring the mug of a guy I assume to be Judge Wapner. Easy to spot on a shelf or in a cooler

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane sugar, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate

Smell: Mild wintergreen smell from the bottle with a nice hint of vanilla. Once poured the smell becomes somewhat bitter with more of a molasses vibe

Carbonation: Nicely balanced carbonation that provides a good bite without overpowering the flavor and without feeling flat

Color: Dark brown, almost black

Head: Medium head that is very fizzy and long lasting

Flavor: The flavor is mostly wintergreen and licorice. It is pretty inoffensive, but also nothing especially impressive. It also leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste

Conclusion: Judge Wapner Root Beer is the definition of an average brew. The average flavor and slightly unpleasant aftertaste are what keep this brew from moving ahead of the pack. That said, the foamy head would make this a fine choice for a root beer float. The vanilla in the float would also help smooth out the aftertaste. This would probably be a fine brew for most people and would work well with a meal since the flavor is not one that you will want to savor by itself.

RBR’s Grade- C

Dang! That’s Good Root Beer

Dang! That's Good Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Dark brown bottle with a nice, minimalist label. The label is simple, but effective and the bright orange circle makes it easy to spot on a crowded shelf

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Sweetener, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, and Sodium Benzoate (A Preservative)

Smell: Mild wintergreen smell from the bottle with some very light licorice hints that continues after being poured

Carbonation: Extremely light level of carbonation makes this brew very smooth but also a bit on the flat side. I didn’t notice much carbonation on my tongue and only really felt it as I started to swallow

Color: Very dark brown and nontransparent

Head: Nonexistent head when poured into a frosted mug

Flavor:  This brew has a smooth, sweet, and traditional flavor. It is very inoffensive and maybe even a little bland when compared to most brews. It has a just a bit of a syrupy texture but it is barely noticeable. The brew does not leave any bad aftertaste and is easy to come back to for another drink

Conclusion: Dang! That’s Good Root Beer is good, but it is certainly not great. I would say it is good on the same level as the best of the mainstream brands, A&W. It does not really have anything going for it to distinguish it from the pack, nor is it particularly bad so there is nothing about it to merit a below average rating. It is simply an average brew in just about every department. This would be an easy one to serve at a gathering because it has a flavor that people who typically just drink mainstream brands would like. This is one of those brews with a catchy name that suggests there might be something about it that is different, but ultimately it is just an average brew.

RBR’s Grade- C

Mason’s Keg Brewed Root Beer

Bottle and Label: A very unique short, clear bottle makes this brew stand out from the crowd. The simply colored label looks like something right out of a soda shop from days gone by

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate as a preservative, natural and artificial flavors

Smell: The brew has a very pleasing and traditional smell both from the bottle and when poured. This is one of the better smelling brews I have encountered in some time

Carbonation: Mason’s has a good amount of carbonation. It is on the higher end of the brews I have tried even bordering on something like Barq’s, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It means this brew does not have the smooth mouth feel of some, but it does have a refreshing bite as it goes down and it is not enough to detract from the flavor

Color: The color is very dark brown and almost looks black when viewed from some angles

Head: This brew has a short but consistent head all through the pour. After being poured, the foamy head lingers for a couple of minutes. The long lasting head is a nice feature of this brew and something that has been lacking in many root beers I have tried of late

Flavor: The flavor of Mason’s is definitely on the bitter side. It tastes like a very traditional root beer until the brew hits the back of the tongue. Once it gets to the back of the mouth there is a decidedly bitter flavor and aftertaste. It is not overpowering, but it is definitely there. Once I noticed the bitterness I had a hard time noticing anything else

Conclusion: Mason’s Keg Brewed Flavor Root Beer started out looking like a stellar brew. It has a unique bottle, a great smell, and a long lasting head. Unfortunately, it does not live up to those expectations in the all important “flavor” category. A root beer can do everything well, but if it does not have a good flavor it will not get high marks from me. Now, it is possible that people who like root beers that are less sweet and have a more bitter flavor will like this brew, but I like my root beers to taste smooth and not leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. That said, since this root beer does everything else well, it still merits a solid “C.”

RBR’s Grade- C