This is the blog of Eric's Gourmet Root Beer site, one of the oldest root beer reviewing sites on the web and the only site to focus entirely on gourmet root beer. Eric has been reviewing gourmet root beers since 1998 but only recently added a blog. This blog will be updated with a new root beer review every Wednesday.
This past weekend I took a little weekend excursion with the family to see Duluth, MN. There’s lots of cool things up in Duluth and they’d never seen a great lake before. But let’s be honest, there were breweries up there and I needed to try root beer. Friday night dinner destination was Fitger’s Brewhouse. Fitger’s Brewing Company was at one point the oldest continuous operating brewery in the state of Minnesota, having been founded in 1859. However, in 1972, it fell victim to post war consolidation, and shuttered its doors. In 1995, the historic brewery building was converted into a mall with various shops and restaurants and Fitger’s Brewhouse, a small brewpub. In addition to a line of their own beers, they also make Driftwood Root Beer.
The Body is sweet and creamy and a bit minty. It has a classic sassafras flavor but not a lot of additional flavors. The Bite is mild. There’s not a lot of spice or fizz. It is nice and smooth though, which is good. There really isn’t much Head at all, despite their best efforts to get me some. The Aftertaste is light with some bitter hints.
It’s a decent brew, nothing special though. It could really use a lot more in every department, but it’s still good enough to go with the meal. The food there, however, was rather disappointing. I had an Elk burger and my wife got their smoked trout wrap, and neither of them were particularly great. Maybe it was a bad night, or we picked the wrong thing, but yeah, I came away feeling the whole thing was rather overpriced for the quality. Maybe just get the root beer if you must and eat somewhere else.
The Fitger’s Brewery Complex
The view from my table. I do like being surrounded by brew vats.
Half an elk burger and half a smoked trout wrap. It wasn’t bad, but like the root beer, not anything special.
I’m sure you’ve all been thinking, Eric, you never review growler root beers anymore, and you know what, you’re not the only one thinking that. The fine folks at Rocket Fizz, who never tire of creating new root beers and ways to package them seem to be thinking the same, so they released a new brew and a waxed sealed growler so someone like yours truly could come and do that type of review. Why thank you Rocketfizz. This is called Double Barrel Root Beer, which I guess is continuing their hunting theme introduced with the Dad-Gum-It!. Now the only problem with Rocket Fizz’s continued gifts to root beer reviewers is the lack of any of their shops in the state of Minnesota where I currently reside. Enter that great root beer collect Vince to save the day! He graciously sent me the growler in trade for some of my Canadian bounty. Thanks Vince, from the bottom of my heart.
The Body is rich and complex and dark. There’s some wintergreen and some other flavor I can’t place that doesn’t really ruin it but doesn’t quite work either. The Bite’s OK, but nothing extraordinary. Vanilla comes through in the Aftertaste and it’s really quite good.
On the whole it’s not my favorite flavor profile but isn’t really bad, per se. I was on the fence for 2.5 and 3 but hey it was Christmas time so I broke for 3, you know, as a Christmas present and all. I mean, it did compliment roasted chestnuts pretty well.
Reed’s Candy was started in 1893 by William and Eugene Reed in Chicago. They made butterscotch candy rolls at first and at one point in the early 1920s they were the largest manufacturer of butterscotch candy in the USA. Since nothing lasts forever, the brand fell in popularity and went bankrupt in the 1980s only to be resurrected two years later. They still produce four of their classic flavors today, including these root beer ones. These are different from your standard candy rolls (life savers) in that they are individually wrapped. They also aren’t flat discs, but bulge in the middle like discuses which I must say is a first for me.
It’s a sweet, standard tasting root beer candy. A little wintergreen is noticeable but it isn’t strong. It’s my favorite root beer candy profile, and tastes very similar to all of the other standard ones.
So yeah, it’s a yummy root beer hard candy. Much like the rest. I’m finding that there is significantly less diversity in flavor profiles of these candies as there is with actual root beers. So do I still recommend this? Yeah, it’s good. And if you really like that discus shape, like maybe you were a discus thrower or something, this might be just the perfect root beer candy for you.
Richardson Brands got their beginnings in the 1890s making pillow mints. Soft pillow mints. Which are not mints you put on your pillow, but are mints that look like pillows. Through the decades they’ve acquired other nostalgic sorts of candies including the original makers of these crystal sticks, Dryden & Palmer® Rock Candy. Which are of course, just rock candy on a stick rather than a string. But crystal stick sounds much cooler than rock candy anyhow so that’s why people want to market it thusly. At least I think. Anyways, I was at a candy shop and asked if they had any root beer candies and they had those so I got one to tell you all about. Also I really like rock candy as a concept, cause it’s cool how they make it. Though I’ve never been able to successfully do so myself, I guess it’s “easy” to make at home. Anyhow, on to my tasting.
The root beer flavor is mild, generic and very much like other root beer hard candies. It doesn’t have much of a wintergreen or licorice taste on it like some do, which I prefer. The texture is, rock candy. Very bumpy licking, strange crunching if you chew. It tastes good either way.
All considered, this is a fun treat. It’s different and the root beer taste is what you’d expect, nothing more nor less. I can recommend this one, if you’re in the mood for a rock candy that is, on a cool little wooded stick. I imagine the novelty of these things wears off after more than one every month or so.
I have some beef with CCR. For while they have some classics, they also wrote the song Lodi, where they maligned the birthplace of arguably the most iconic root beer in existence. I don’t care how bad the rest of the town may be. You can’t speak ill of the place where A&W was born. Yet, despite me often traveling to near Lodi, I’d never gone to the sacred birthplace of this amazing brew. So two weeks ago, when I was in Sacramento for work, I took an evening to drive the hour south to get a draft from its birthplace.
The original stand, built in 1919, is no longer there, sadly. Only a small plaque on the sidewalk marks the spot of the original stand. But nearby is a very old A&W Drive-in that still offers curbside service. It was to this drive in that I went for dinner and a brew. The inside is like a small A&W museum, with a display case full of artifacts and memorabilia, with more along the walls. They sell a lot of cool merch as well to their delicious food, of I bought a shirt and some mugs. Truly Lodi and their A&W Drive-in is a place to where every true root beer devotee must make pilgrimage. And so a new a new category to this blog must be added. Root Beer Pilgrimages. For there are many other such places that need to be visited and blogged about.
The display case of A&W relics
Wall displays are everywhere.
Picture of Roy Allen and old A&Ws
The merchandise display. I may have bought too much.
A while ago I was back in Cub Foods, getting some manner of groceries and I figured, hey, maybe there’s some new root beer frozen treat in the cooler. I don’t know why there would be. I doubt the stores change their stockings that frequently. Yet, there they were, more Kemps’ variety packs with a root beer in it. I don’t know why these are Pops Jr.’s. They look pretty regular sized to me. The same size as the float bars. Maybe a true pop are one of those double stick things and the juniors are single sticks? Would that mean the float bars were also juniors, even though they weren’t called that? I’m probably over thinking this.
It has a mild and generic root beer flavor that’s a little too weak yet still refreshing. There’s a minty hint to it as well which is nice, but you can only really notice that if you bite it, and if you have cold sensitivity on your teeth that could be a problem.
The flavor seems to be the same as their Float Bars recipe, which makes sense, but it’s stronger here as you don’t have the vanilla ice cream overpowering it. So in that respect I’ll say these are closer to the sort of root beer pop you’d want, but I still think it still falls short, and I don’t recommend it if looking for a root beer treat.
If you are easily triggered, you’re gonna probably want to skip this review. After all, this is gonna the most controversial review of all time (I hope). Snowflakes gonna run to their safe spaces at the mere mention of this review. Feast your eyes on that very un-2019 label. Yup the one and only Confederate Battle Flag. That can of worms just got opened, cause they went and put it on a root beer bottle. And once a new root beer comes into the world, I have to drink it and write about it. So here it is. Now, I gotta be honest. I have no love for this flag. I grew up in Washington State, and all I remember being taught about this was that they were rebels who tried to secede and we beat them. The first time I ever saw this flag in the wild it was as an early teen when I went to some Saturday night race track we had in our home town, and then I saw people wearing it. I honestly thought it was hilarious because, who wears the flag of the traitors, in the North? Lots of people evidently. I guess Southern Pride is a thing, though not one I’ve any first hand experience with, and this is their HERITAGE! Not hatred. Get over it. At least to them. But, there was that whole slavery thing and that flag means a very different thing to a lot of other people, as it was the battle standard of those fighting for the right to treat an entire race as mere chattel, which is about as repulsive as it gets, so yeah, as far as they are concerned, that flag is HATRED! (Don’t you love being white-man-splained about all of this as though it is something new?) Why some brewery in Florida wanted to put that on their label is anyone’s guess. Maybe they just liked to court the controversy, much like I’m doing by being blissfully neutral on such a charged subject. Anyways, I’m genuinely surprised this root beer is still for sale and won’t be surprised at all of outcry shuts them down. But what I care about much more than the label is the contents of the bottle, which is, after all, what a root beer should be judged by (says the guy who literally has categories for if the bottle is pretty and if it isn’t)
The Body is mild and generic. There’s a little hint of vanilla but nothing else really noteworthy. Just a middle of the road sort of flavor. The Bite is harsh from carbonation yet the Head is short and doesn’t last. There’s also not a lot of spiciness. The Aftertaste is faint vanilla that is gone quickly.
Well, that’s pretty meh. You’d think that with such a bold label there’d be a correspondingly bold choice of flavors. But there’s nothing really bad about this (other than a very controversial label), but nothing really great about it either. I give it a Drinkable rating, though honestly, I’d be hard pressed to find a place where it’s acceptable to drink it. Ummm, Confederate Monument removal protests? Probably not. Err.. Civil War battle reenactments? Yeah, that’s it. Some brewery in the North should make a Billy Yank root beer, and they could sell them both at Gettysburg and places like that. Yeah, I think that’s the only way to not risk getting attacked over drinking this utterly mediocre brew. See how it rates against other root beers.
As I mentioned previously, while perusing the frozen aisle in Cub Foods, I found the Kemps Float Bars I also found these Jonny Pops. Jonny Pops is one of those companies committed to simple, wholesome ingredients and what not, and there are very few listed here, one of which is organic root beer flavor. And real cream. Not ice cream, but cream. It’s interesting that this is called Root Beer Float and Cream. Like, root beer float is already creamy, that’s the float part. Adding extra cream seems … excessive? They are also rather expensive, which is to be expected from one of those premium brands, but also only have 3 in a box, which is just, really? I mean usually you’d expect at least a four-pack, which makes these extra expensive.
Boy is this creamy. I mean, it is just a vanilla cream flavor. Is there any root beer in there? I strain my taste buds to the limit. Yes, there’s a slightest hint of root beer, hidden deep beneath the rich cream. But, it’s hard to distinguish and I can’t tell much about it.
Yeah, too much cream. That said, these are delicious, but not root beer delicious. More like cream delicious. If you didn’t tell anyone they were root beer float and cream, they wouldn’t know. So I’m gonna say, pass on these. They’re pricey and fail to deliver on one of the advertised flavors, despite being yummy. Maybe try their other flavors.
Since it’s Easter week I thought I’d do a nice Easter candy post. And there are few Easter candies more iconic than the Peep. Those marshmallow sugar coated chicks (and rabbits) that always get Easter grass stuck to their sticky sides. They’re a really love ’em or hate ’em type of candy, and I love them. This year they made some special, limited edition flavors, including root beer float. Sadly, they were only available at Kroger and there are none of those near me at all. Thankfully Ebay exists and so I was able to acquire some.
It’s a peep, first and foremost, so it’s that sugar covered marshmallow flavor. The sugar has a decent root beer flavor, that mixes with the marshmallow to give the float effect. The root beer flavor is mild and generic, but no one would ever expect or even want a strong flavor in a peep. The fact that the sugary, marsmallowy confection has a distinct root beer flavor at all is enough for me.
So, I like them. They achieve the goal of retaining the experience of a standard Peep while augmenting it with a passable root beer float flavor. Which, I have found as I embark on this root beer product evaluating journey of mine, is harder to do than it would initially seem. So stuff your baskets full of these, because they won’t be around forever.
Back to the ice cream section for me! I decided to do another supermarket walk through, this time for Cub Foods, the next closest to my house. As expected there wasn’t really anything till I got to the frozen treats, and then I found these and one other type (post coming soon). These float bars are basically a popsicle shell covering vanilla ice cream, getting the whole soda float vibe. Of course root beer is the flagship flavor, but there’s also orange and grape. Now I’ve never heard of a grape float but I guess that’s a thing, maybe? I don’t really care though, I just needed the root beer. I don’t know if they sell this at all in non-variety packs. All that was in my local Cub was this.
The root beer popsicle part has a very generic and very weak flavor. You can barely make out that it’s root beer. The vanilla ice cream is nice and sweet, but completely overpowers the weaker root beer shell, so it is hardly a root beer float flavor that you get.
Yeah, um, no. I don’t like this at all. The root beer is weaker than those root beer pops, and those were pretty mild. These just fall flat. I don’t recommend them at all. If you want a root beer float bar, look somewhere else.