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.
Bandit Beverages is a soda pop company in Northern Utah. They are focused on old fashioned soda flavors, especially IronPort. IronPort is a soda you can find in Utah, but mostly in soda fountains. They claim to be the only ones who sell bottled IronPort but I swear I’ve seen it bottled somewhere else. And yet, as I search the web (at the time of this writing) I can only find it at Bandit. But I don’t review IronPort so I don’t care that much. I do care about root beer, and no purveyor of old fashioned sodas would be complete if they didn’t have root beer, which Bandit does. They have six other flavors as well. I don’t know why they like bandits so much, but they do. Their tag lines are “Live your life on the run.” and “Drink like a bandit” They even say their website is run by “Bandit Beverage Bandits”. The label with the bull head silhouette makes me think they are going for old-timey Western six-shooter type bandits, which fits their flavor themes well.
The Body is rich and dark and spicy with vanilla and molasses flavors. There’s a lot of wintergreen as well but it’s a little bitter. The Bite is solid and spicy. Just like I like it. The Head is medium tall with average staying power. The Aftertaste is vanilla and wintergreen which is a little bitter.
Well, they nailed the classic old fashioned flavor alright. It reminds you of those old root beer barrel candies. I even gave a bottle to my parents and they thought the same. Overall it’ pretty good, yet a little too dark and bitter for my tastes. Would make a mean float, that’s for sure. See how it rates against other root beers.
So two weeks ago I was down in San Antonio for DistribuTECH 2018! And yes, that means I flew out just a few days after getting back from Chicago. I’m movin’ these days. That’s for sure. Devoted followers will remember that San Antonio is home to one of the best brews I know of, Schilo’s, so I was pleased with the knowledge that even if I didn’t get anything new, I was going to be getting something amazing. Nevertheless, when I hit the ground I started my searching and discovered The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, a brewery that does barbecue and makes their own root beer. So on my second night, after a wonderful team dinner at some Tex Mex (a must in San Antonio) I went a questing for my brew. I invited many of my colleagues but they all declined. Their loss, in my opinion, for delicious brews awaited! The Granary evidently has really delicious barbecue, but I had no appetite to try after dinner, just ordered my pint and got to reviewing.
The Body is sour and herbal with sweetness and strangeness. It doesn’t taste like a root beer at all. Also the strange flavor mixture isn’t good. The Bite is sharp with spicy sourness. The Head is nice. Decent height and staying power. The Aftertaste is bizarre and bitter.
Bletch! Gross! Not root beer. At best it can kind of be described as one of those herbal tea root beers, but it’s way off and nasty. I told the bar keeper “I’ve never had a root beer like this before” to which he responded that there’s no artificial anything, just roots and sweetener. I can agree with the “just roots and sweetener” no recipe, no trying to make it taste good, no research or care, just chuck some roots in a vat, boil them, add sugar, and serve. This is without a doubt the worst root beer I’ve had in a long time. So I guess my colleagues were right to stay away. San Antonio is an amazing city in that within 2 miles of each other is one of my top five all time favorite brews and one of the bottom five worst ever.
The bar of The Granary ‘Cue and Brew. I needed a break from choking down that swill.
On the last day of my Chicago trip our meetings ended early and we had a few hours so I jokingly suggested to my colleagues that we could get another root beer. They said if I could find another place we could go by, so I plowed into Google and quickly found Exit Strategy Brewing Company. It’s on the same street as Brown Cow, interestingly enough, though about eight blocks away. It was started only a couple of years ago and became the “exit strategy” of the owners who quit their “real jobs” to devote themselves to their true passion. That passion has also included their own root beer, which shows how seriously they really get behind the craft brewery movement. I mean, if you don’t have a root beer, you’re not really all in. They serve their root beers in glasses shaped like cans, which I absolutely adore. I just wish someone would take this one step further and make sealed glass cans that can open like a bottle. Take a type of root beer I won’t drink (canned), and make it proper (in glass).
The Body is sweet with caramel notes and a little vanilla. It’s on the mild side though the flavor profile is spot on. The Bite is very mild with low carbonation. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the low carbonation, it builds a mighty Head when poured which has a decent amount of staying power. The Aftertaste is a little dark, a little vanilla, and a little gone too quickly.
Not bad at all. I wish it were a little stronger and spicier and had more carbonation lingering after the Head, but it’s still a solid brew, not a Seal, but solid. It was a shame that I didn’t have time to get a meal there, as I’m sure their food would also be on point. My biggest complaint is that their sign is a rusty metal letters against a red brick building, so it was difficult to find it while staring right at it. But if you can find it, it’s worth dropping in.
The soda taps, they also make other flavors besides root beer.
The Exit Strategy Brewing Company vats. I wonder which one is for the root beer.
This past week I was in Chicago on a business trip doing my businesy things and meetings all day but as normal, I had root beer on my mind as soon as we were going back to the hotel and looking for dinner. Plus I’ve got that whole New Year’s resolution of 52 brews this year, since last year I fell a little behind, what with the move and all. My searching found the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, which makes all manner of tasty desserts and has an old fashioned soda fountain with their homemade pops, including root beer. I’ve long wondered about how to categorize old fashioned soda fountain root beers. I’ve seen the fountains before but none I’d visited had their own root beer. Now that I had one sitting before me, I have decided to make it its own category of gourmet root beer. Old Fashioned Fountain Root Beers. Yup. If you don’t know, at an old fashioned soda fountain they put the syrup in the glass and then mix with the soda water, sometimes they mix the carbonating chemicals, like phosphate in separately. So here’s the first of what hopes to be many a fountain and phosphate reviews.
The Body is minty and mild; sweet with some bitter hints to it. It’s also a rather generic flavor profile. The Bite is a little spicy with decent carbonation, but there is no Head at all, despite my telling them to make a lot. The Aftertaste is wintergreen that ends on bitter notes.
Not bad. It could be a little stronger and I really wish they could make a foamy Head on it. There’s no reason for it not to have one, just need to put a foaming agent in there. Though they focus more on their very elaborate root beer floats, so that may be why they purposely kept it not foamy. Well, It hurts them in the review, but I think they would probably have an amazing float, so if you’re out in the west side of Chicago, check this place out.
The Brown Cow’s Soda Fountain. I wish I had gotten better pictures of the rest of the parlor.
Frost Creek Beverage is from Texas has been around for over 15 years. They recently have turned their flavor expertise to craft sodas and make a line of seven flavors including their root beer. They use only triple filtered water and pure cane sugar, no HFCS. I was thrown off at first, since the label seems to be the same dimensions and materials as some of the private label stuff. Contacting the company revealed that the sodas are all their own formulae, but they are mixed and bottled by two different bottlers, depending on the region. That makes sense, a lot of guys do it that way. They’ve got a nice and simple, yet classic looking label, which I really like.
The Body is sweet and rich with creamy vanilla wrapped around a spicy sassafras core. There’s even a hint of wintergreen. The Bite is spicy, but not too much so. It finishes smooth too, so it’s about a perfect Bite. The Head is short, unfortunately, and doesn’t last long. But it isn’t too short and doesn’t fizz away too quickly. The Aftertaste is sweet vanilla; lovely, lovely vanilla.
This is a wonderful brew. I love that spicy and that smooth, sweet vanilla. I wish it were a bit foamier, but it’s still more than enough in all departments. I’m proud to give this one my Seal of Approval. See how it rates against other root beers.
Tractor Soda Company is a fairly new company out of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Like a lot of new entrants to the soda market, they are focusing on only organic and non-GMO ingredients with no HFCS. Somehow they even manage to use organic sassafras in this brew, which I thought was against some FDA rules. They demand everything is responsibly sourced as well to have minimal environmental impact. So much do they want to reduce their impact, that they’ve discontinued bottling in favor of only shipping syrups to various soda fountains. This is, actually, more environmentally friendly, but not as much fun for a root beer gourmet like myself who doesn’t do soda fountains. Luckily, after they had discontinued bottling, I found a couple at the Seattle Rocket Fizz store, and was able to grab four. Very lucky indeed.
The Body is rich and complex, with sassafras, birch, wintergreen, and other herbs mixing together for an elaborate take on the archetypal root beer flavor. Then aged vanilla surfaces to steal the show. It isn’t overly sweet though, and there’s a dark molasses flavor as well that’s a bit out of place. The Bite is near perfect with the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg and carbonation mixing together for a tasty burn. The Head is nice and tall and foamy. The Aftertaste is aged bourbon vanilla. I love that flavor.
Delicious! … and complex, and wonderful. This is a solid brew by any measure. I wish it were a little bit sweeter, and not so much molasses, but those are minor complaints on arguably the best organic brew I’ve had so far. What a shame they don’t bottle it anymore. Maybe someone near by will get it on draft. See how it rates against other root beers.
I have a friend who’s a wonderful person, but is absolutely horrible at sending me root beer. She moved to Ithaca, and didn’t send me the Ithaca Soda Company Root Beer despite my always asking. Then she moved to Minneapolis, where this is made, and didn’t send me any of it. But that’s okay, because she’s still awesome and I was able to find another fine fellow by the name of Caleb traded with me and got me some. I like the name, as I always wanted a tree fort. But I grew up in a desolate wasteland where trees were hard to come by. My parents planted a maple tree when I was eight or so, but I think only now has it reached climbing size. So no tree fort for me. This brew is one of those all natural types with lots of botanicals ingredients like chicory, spearmint, peppermint, and marigold. I’ve never had marigold in a root beer before. They have traditional spices flavorings as well, but really, marigold? It pours out an orange color. Makes me wonder if it’s one of those rare and strange herb tea root beers.
The Body is very herbal with ginger and honey and dominant flavors. There’s sarsaparilla as well as some slightly bitter flavors. It has a spicy Bite from clove and ginger and cinnamon, but it isn’t too strong. The Head is decent. The Aftertaste is honey and ginger.
Yup, another sweet carbonated herb tea. It makes sense considering if you Google “chicory herb tea” or “marigold herb tea” you’ll get a lot of hits but far fewer if you search “marigold root beer”. It’s one of the better ones of this genre, with the honey and ginger and cinnamon really shining, but when I want a root beer, I don’t want an herb tea. See how it rates against other root beers.
A few years back Polar changed their recipe slightly. No doubt it was in response to my not-quite-good-enough review. They also had the decency to change their name a bit so I could review it as a new root beer. Thank you Polar, now if only everyone else would follow suit. Gone are the ‘classics’ and the ‘premium’ in their name. Now it’s just Polar, just plain old ordinary Polar (which incidentally is the worst acronym for anything edible). Maybe plain old Polar, then it takes sides in that whole “soda” vs. “pop” war. They also made it significantly less dangerous, so there isn’t a warning on the label. But, how does it taste?
The Body is full and sweet. There’s rich and creamy vanilla and nice caramel hints. The Bite is spicy yet smooth, just how I like it. There is a most excellent Head on this. It’s so tall I can’t pour it all in my mug without letting it fizz down first. And it lasts forever. A sweet vanilla Aftertaste seals the deal for this one.
I am pleased. They fixed everything that was wrong with them before and have a superb brew for all. Maybe what was really wrong was the extra explosives they originally put in there to weaponize it and now that it’s gone, the flavor is improved. I’m not sure, but whatever they did, they did it right. So recommendation, drink it whenever you can find it. See how it rates against other root beers.
The color scheme of this root beer’s label makes for a difficult photo. Mostly black, then brown and glossy gold to reflect the flash. I’m sure some expert or even amateur photographers reading this right now know exactly what to do, but I don’t study photography, I study root beer. And I just use my wife’s digital camera with it’s “Intelligent Auto Adjust” setting. It usually works well enough. Twig’s is a brand with a long, and continuous history. It was started by a fellow named Hartwig, who decided his last name was just a bit too long for a soda label. His company had humble beginnings up in Shawano, Wisconsin in the 1950s. According to their website he’d sell a case of soda and use the money made to buy a loaf of bread for his family. Bread must have been a lot more expensive back then or a case of soda cost a lot less. Either way, he somehow was able to both grow the business and not starve, though he was forced to mix ingredients with an ax handle. He probably used that same ax to slice his bread. And so today you can still buy Twig’s. I don’t know if they use the ax handle in the plant, but they should, then they could write “Ax Crafted” on the label. That’d be so metal…
The Body is rather generic with a middle of the road flavor that’s a little creamy and has a hint of sarsaparilla like taste. The Bite is sharp but not from spice. The Head is ye olde “two-second-Head” unfortunately. The Aftertaste is pleasant enough, a little vanilla and some more of that sarsaparilla but it light overall.
This is an okay root beer, the biggest flaw is the Head. The flavor will probably not get many haters nor fanboys, but it’ll do in a pinch. See how it rates against other root beers.
Question, what do you do after a successful career as a NASCAR superstar? If you thought the answer would be, get my own root beer brand, you’d be wrong. Because what you do is you become a successful NASCAR team owner. But what about after that is over? Root beer? Nay! You get your own line of fried pork skins and country ham. But when you get bored with that, then root beer? No, moonshine! Legal moonshine (is that even a thing?). And then, only after that many lifetimes’ worth of accomplishments, can you settle down and make a root beer. Or at least that’s what Junior Johnson did. If you didn’t know who he was before, you pretty much know it all now. He joins the likes of Gene Autry and Judge Wapner in the celebrity root beer market but unlike them, doesn’t have Rocket Fizz make his brew.
The Body is rich and sweet and creamy with a lot of vanilla. It reminds me of a root beer float flavor actually. There’s also a strong bitter herbal presence that surfaces. There really isn’t much Bite to speak about, smooth and rich creaminess instead. The Head is excellent! It can’t be better. In fact, pour with care, because it’ll build too tall and never go away. And the Head tastes strong to the bitter herbs. The Aftertaste is that earthy herbal flavor with some vanilla.
This reminds me of someone taking a strong herbal root beer and adding a scoop of ice cream to it, letting it melt and then bottling it. It’s pretty good, but just a little too off. Especially the Head. Since the first and last drinks of the root beer are mostly the Head, the bitter herbalness is very intense, which I don’t like at all. It was those two extremes at the start and finish that just knock this out of the coveted four kegs. See how it rates against other root beers.
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