More Reviews Coming!

Hey all! I just wanted to give you a brief update as to why the reviews have slown to a trickle lately. My wife and I are expecting our first baby any day and the last month has been a crazy mix of doctor’s appointments and putting together baby furniture. I have a few more brews in the fridge that I still need to get to. I also promised a reader that I would get a review of IBC root beer up this week so be looking for that.

Once Jr. arrives the reviews will probably be slow coming for awhile. That said, keep referring friends to the site and check back whenever you need inspiration for a root beer to try. Summer is usually my busiest review time and this summer should be no different. Thanks for reading!

Do you Want IBC with Your Taco? Try Taco Bueno!

Last week I went with a friend to work to be a cameraman for him on a children’s program that he films. He offered to buy me lunch at Taco Bueno and I’m not one to turn down free food. Well, I ordered my meal and went to the fountain to get my drink. I usually find the root beer at these fountains to be at a level slightly above murky tap water. Imagine my surprise when the root beer on tap was IBC! Now, I’ve not yet done an official review of IBC. That is coming in the very near future.

That said, let me just say that the cup of IBC root beer I had that afternoon was particularly tasty. Maybe it was just because I have such low expectations of fountain root beer, but it was a nice treat nonetheless. I don’t know if every Taco Bueno has IBC on tap, but it might be worth seeing if there is one near where you live. The food isn’t bad and the offering of a solid root beer in the fountain selection insures that I will soon be back!

Root Beer Reviews for the Rest of Us Reader’s Choice Super Bowl!

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend I thought it would be a fitting time to do my reader’s choice awards! Here’s how it works:

1. A brew must have at least seven votes to be considered

2. The point value is as follows- A=5, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0

3. The points are the total of the votes received as of today

4. The winning brews get added to a special “reader’s choice” category on the blog to make them easy to find and to distinguish them from all the other brews

The winners are…

1. Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg- 15 Votes totaling 53 points

2. Boylan’s Root Beer– 10 Votes totaling 50 points

3. Sprecher Root Beer– 11 Votes totaling 42 points

4. Jack Black’s Dead Red Root Beer– 9 Votes totaling 38 points

5. A&W Root Beer– 10 Votes totaling 35 points

Special Honors

1. Boylan’s Root Beer– Out of it’s 10 votes, all of them were A’s!

Honorable Mention

Saint Arnold Root Beer– Out of it’s 5 votes, all of them were A’s!

So there you have it! The first Root Beer Reviews for the Rest of Us Reader’s Choice Awards! Be sure to try and get your hands on the winners and give them a try. Be sure to leave a vote and a comment on any brews you have tried so that your voice can be heard in the next Reader’s Choice Awards contest!

Thanks to everyone who has visited the blog. Keep checking back regularly and tell your friends about the blog too! There are many root beers yet to be tried and many reviews yet to be written!

Caleb

More Reviews Coming!

I apologize for the lack of reviews over the last couple of months. I am in the last semester of my graduate school program and it has been a very demanding couple of months. I’ll be graduating in about two weeks and I have several more root beers in the fridge waiting for their turn in the spotlight. Be sure to check back regularly in the next few weeks for the new reviews. Also, if anyone out there has a root beer related site they would like me to link to, leave me a comment and I’ll see about adding it to the links on this site. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to follow Root Beer Reviews on Twitter and also become a fan on Facebook and then tell your friends!

 

Caleb

The Soda Gallery- Dallas, TX

This morning, since my wife is gone for the weekend to help my sister-in-law move into college, I decided to make a day trip over to Dallas to visit the Soda Gallery. It was probably a month ago that I discovered their website and I immediately knew I needed to make it over there at some point. The Soda Gallery is about a 45 minute drive from where I live so it makes replenishing root beer supplies much easier than driving to Pop’s in Arcadia, OK (about 4 hours away).

It was nice to go on a Saturday morning because the traffic wasn’t bad and The Soda Gallery was practically empty. I snapped a few pictures that I post at the end of the blog. It’s a neat little place with a lot of vintage soda pop decor as well as a nice bit of local art. The friendly man working the front told me that they were having an art show that evening featuring local artist’s take on Star Wars, Star Wars costumes, and beverages provided by the Saint Arnold Brewery. It is really the opposite of Pop’s. Where Pop’s is appealing because of the unique and modern architecture, The Soda Gallery is appealing because of how vintage the shop feels. It is definitely a hip place to go if you are searching out a new brew to try.

All that to say, my mission this morning was a success. I came away with six new brews and a six pack of Henry Weinhard’s Black Cherry Cream Gourmet Soda (one of my favorite non-root beer beverages). It cost me a total of $27 which is not bad and is comparable to Pop’s which charges $2 per bottle of pop.

If you are ever in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are in need of some refreshment I highly recommend The Soda Gallery. It’s a unique place, with a cool environment, and a great selection of pops from all over.

Welcome to the Redesigned Site!

This afternoon I decided it was time to spice up my site a little bit. I changed my site template and made my first attempts at customizing the CSS code. I didn’t do too much beyond the basic layout of the template, but I made a few notable changes:

1. I added a background image. Now you know from the first moment you enter this site that it is about root beer.

2. I made the font bigger for the posts. The original template had painfully small font for the posts so I made it a little easier to read.

3. I adjusted the color of the header (blog title). Unfortunately, my background image makes it hard to find a suitable color so I had to settle. It’s not perfect, but at least you can tell what it says.

I hope you like the new layout!

LA Times- “Root Beer: The revival of an all-American”

I stumbled upon this interesting root beer related article in the LA Times from earlier this year. Here is the link to the full text and I will also post the text below. It has some interesting thoughts about the current state of root beer as well as some history of the beverage.

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From the Los Angeles Times

Root beer: The revival of an all-American

Thanks to old favorites, the wider availability of regional brands and a raft of novel brews, the fizzy brown soda is making a comeback. For ‘sasparilly’ fans, it’s a golden time to be alive and sippi

By Charles Perry

January 28, 2009

Root beer is back. That’s right, root beer — the dark brown stuff, cola’s elder brother, the foundation of that most perfect of soda fountain drinks: the root beer float.

Not too long ago, you were lucky to find more than a couple of brands of root beer anywhere. Today, if you look around, you can choose among old favorites, regional brands that have become available here and a raft of novel brews that expand the very definition of root beer. (For good or ill. When you add sage to your recipe, my friend, I just don’t think you’re really making a root beer anymore.)

The revival might have been spearheaded by craft brewers such as Abita, Gordon Biersch and Goose Island, which have taken to including root beer in their rosters. The brewery connection is quite natural. Root beer is descended from the home-brewed “small beers” that Americans were making in the 18th and 19th centuries with flavors such as ginger, sassafras and spruce. Once upon a time, spruce beer was so common that people regularly boiled the tips of spruce branches so they could have bottled extract on hand for quick use.

All the small beers were mild hot-weather drinks, typically fermented only 24 hours before bottling. Fizz, not booze, seems to have been the aim. The ginger beer recipe in “The Virginia Housewife” (1824) promises, “Cork it very well and it will sparkle like Champaigne [sic].” (Many old recipes added a spoonful of molasses to each bottle, like the dosage of sugar added to Champagne to encourage bubbles.) By 1845, some people were making an artificially carbonated beverage by mixing ice water and baking soda with a sassafras-molasses extract.

The name “root beer” was coined by Charles E. Hires, a Philadelphia druggist who introduced it to the world at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. He had conceived his concoction of ingredients as a root-based equivalent of an herbal tea, but he soon found that it worked better as a soda fountain drink.

Immediately, people all over started marketing their own root beers, and there came to be literally hundreds of brands. The classic root beer recipe was dominated by sarsaparilla, a tropical vine, and sassafras, the fragrant root of the same tree whose leaves give us the Cajun- Creole flavoring gumbo filé.

Hires had promoted his product as a non-alcoholic drink. As a result, sarsaparilla was considered such an innocent ingredient that, as late as the 1950s, the heroic new sheriff in a cowboy movie would walk into the local saloon and ask for a “sasparilly,” showing how pure and fearless he was. This would be the equivalent of going into a tough bar and asking for root beer.

However, sassafras is no longer considered innocent. In 1960, it was outlawed as a food additive because mega doses caused cancer in rats. Since then it has become even more illegal, because the flavoring element in sassafras, safrole, is used in making the illicit drug MDMA (Ecstasy).

So, it has been replaced by the leaves of an inconspicuous woodland plant called spotted wintergreen. Spotted wintergreen also has a more mellifluous name borrowed from the Cree language of Canada, pipsissewa.

There has never been a single recipe for root beer, so it is not at all unprecedented for modern makers to include vanilla or other spices.

Licorice is also a traditional ingredient, so you can’t fault people for experimenting with the similar flavor anise. A lot of sodas began including caffeine in the 20th century, so it’s natural that power-drink versions of root beer have sprouted up that throw in ginseng, kava or guarana.

On the other hand, a number of brands now advertise that they’re caffeine-free. And if you see quillaja listed among a root beer’s ingredients, it’s there to give a richer head of foam.

Jelly Belly’s: Root Beer

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Have you ever craved root beer when access to a bottle wasn’t practical?

Ever wanted a root beer you didn’t have to worry about losing its chill?

If this describes you, you should definitely try Jelly Belly’s root beer flavored jelly bean. It tastes surprisingly like the beverage and you can take it with you wherever you go!

Pop’s on Historic Route 66

On Saturday I had the privilege of taking a trip to one of the newest attractions on Route 66. It is a place called Pop’s located in Arcadia, Oklahoma.

On top of a great restaurant and all the regular convenience store amenities, Pop’s boasts over 400 flavors of different kinds of…pops.

Unfortunately, I was there within the first two weeks of its opening. It looked like everyone else within fifty miles was either there or had already been there. We waited nearly two hours for a table in order to eat in the restaurant. This also meant that they were sold out of every kind of root beer except the easy to find varieties.

Never fear though! I will definitely make a trip back to Pop’s with my wife’s allocated Root Beer allowance in hand so that I can further aid you in your search for the perfect root beer brew.

Here are a few pics of Pop’s. Be sure to check it out if you are ever in the neighborhood.
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Pop’s 2

Pop’s

Why Root Beer Reviews?

When I was a teenager, I was introduced to my first gourmet root beer. From that moment I realized that not all root beers are created equal. There is a vast difference in flavor, texture, and quality of ingredients when you compare the root beer you get from Taco Bell, McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart and a finely crafted gourmet brew.

In my travels I have found that there are many different root beers out there. Some come from local breweries, so unless you happen to be passing through a state with such a brewery you may never hear of some kinds of root beer. I have also found that in order to find the best root beers you often have to look beyond your local bix box grocery store and find the more upscale grocery stores. These more expensive stores are where I usually have the most luck finding new brews to try.

To sum it all up: root beer comes in so many different brews with so many subtly different flavors that having a source to turn to in order to pick the just the right one is very valuable.

One disclaimer: Reviewing root beer is very subjective. There are bound to be some brews that I give low marks that you will absolutely love. That is one reason why I chose a blogging medium so that you can give your feedback as well.

The only thing left now is for my reviews to start. This will be a gradual process, but as time goes on this blog will become the home to a growing number of root beer reviews which I hope you will find useful and informative.