Welcome to the Root Beer Rundown. Over the last few years, I've had a lot of fun drinking a lot of root beer and posting my root beer reviews for your reading pleasure. Use the tools on the right to see the complete history of my reviews, find all the brews within a given scoring range, or simply search for your favorite brew to see if it's one I've reviewed. I always like to hear what other root beer lovers like and dislike about different brews, so feel free to sound off in the comments of the reviews. I've also provided some links to a few other great root beer resources. Let me know if I've missed any so I can add them to the list. Enjoy the site!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rock Bottom Brewery

Who Made This Stuff?     Rock Bottom Brewery, San Diego, CA

Website:                            http://www.rockbottom.com/

Where’d It Come From?  San Diego, CA restaurant

Review Date:                    11/16/10

Commentary:  Imagine my joy when the hotel receptionist out here in San Diego handed me a map with a bunch of local restaurants on it and I noticed the Rock Bottom Brewery on the list!  Oh, happy day!  

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to dine at the Rock Bottom restaurant up in Long Beach and enjoy a fresh brewed root beer.  Much to my dismay, my root beer was served with ice in it.  Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.  Can you believe that?  A place that brews their own root beer and they served it with ice.  For shame.

This time, I specifically requested no ice in my brew.  I couldn't help but notice the look of  disappointment in the eyes of my waitress when I ordered. She was so sure that I was going to order one of their micro brews (or two, or three).  She could hear the sound of her tip shrinking as I ordered a beverage that cost much less than a beer and that would come with free refills.

I have to say that I was not impressed when the root beer was set before me.  It had no head on it whatsoever and had no distinct root beer aroma.  The first taste revealed a definite licorice emphasis.  The carbonation was good to start, but faded a bit too quickly for my liking.  There were some large bubbles in there initially. 

No one would ever accuse this root beer of being overly sweet.  Creamy is out of the question as well.  This brew has a slightly medicinal flavor.  Now, that's not always a bad thing.  I think it works here.  It was not what I was expecting, but hey, what do I know?

When the waitress brought a refill, this root beer redeemed itself a little bit.  The refill did have a bit of head on it and the carbonation was better.  This time around it had lost some of its medicinal edge.  That might have been due to the mahi tacos I was eating, though.  By the way, order the mahi tacos if you're ever there.  The pineapple salsa sounds weird, but it really works!

Okay, let's score this one.  Although this root beer arrived at my table with little or no head on it, I can't really be too tough on it for that.  I don't know how long it took the waitress to get it to my table after it had been poured.  As for the taste, I can't say that it is near the top of my list of favorite brews, but it's not at the bottom either.  Medicinal brews are just okay for me, dog.  I'll score this one as..............................................................72.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Renzy Roo Brew -- The Review!

Who Made This Stuff?     We did!

Website:                            You're looking at it.

Where’d It Come From?  My kitchen

Review Date:                    9/8/10
Commentary:  After 3 full days of fermentation/carbonation in the basement and a week in the fridge, it was finally time to test the latest edition of our homebrewed root beer, Renzy Roo Brew.

We were thrilled to see that the carbonation level was almost right on.  It produced a nice head when poured.  The head didn't stick around too long, but at least we were able to get a picture of it.  There was still some carbonation left in there while we were drinking it, but it could have used a little more.

The flavor was okay.  We detected some yeastiness, but it wasn't overpowering.  I think the sweetness level was about right.  However, I think the flavor wasn't quite strong enough.  It definitely had a solid wintergreen base.  We had added some vanilla to the brew, and I think that helped to cut the wintergreen a little.  I just think we need to use a little more root beer extract next time.  I may add more maltodextrin next time as well.

All in all, I am very pleased with this batch.  Considering the fact that our first two attempts were not too successful, I'd say we did really well this time.  It is definitely drinkable, has good carbonation, and the sweetness level was good.  We just need to add a little more flavor punch next time around.  I am happy about two things:  1) We don't have to pour the rest of the batch down the drain, and  2) We have identified a couple things we can work on for next time.

So, how will I score our own root beer?  Since we have room for improvement, I'll give it score of.....................................71.

Has anyone else out there tried to brew your own root beer?  How did it turn out?  Any tips you'd like to share?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Renzy Roo Brew -- 3rd Home Brew Attempt

We made another attempt at brewing our own root beer tonight.  This is our 3rd attempt at this.  The first time we tried it, the brew turned out just a little below "okay".  Something just wasn't right with it, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  We made a second attempt a few months later, and that one was just plain awful.  It didn't carbonate much at all, and tasted bad to boot.  We used different root beer extracts in the two batches, so that may have accounted for some of the difference in tastes.

So, it has been a couple years since we last brewed our root beer.  The main problem was that our garage refrigerator died about 18 months ago.  Without a garage fridge, we didn't have anywhere to store our brew since our kitchen fridge is always jam packed.  We now have a new fridge in the garage, so it was time to dig out the old recipes and try a new root beer extract.

This time, we went with Zatarain's extract.  I knew those folks made rice mixes, but I didn't know about the extracts.  I pulled out my notes from our first two attempts, and did a little research online to come up with a recipe to try this time around.  The extract bottle was for a 5 gallon batch, but that was more than we wanted to make.  The online research helped me determine how much extract and sugars I should use for our 2 gallon batch.  After a visit to our local home brew shop to pick up a few supplies (and a little advice from the store owner) and then a trip to the grocery store, we were ready to go.

Getting the supplies ready.

The brewmaster, hard at work!

Adding the activated yeast.

We did our best to keep things sanitized and do things at the right temperatures, in hopes of not messing up the carbonation and the flavor.  We'll know in a few days how things went.

One of the best things about this project, was that it was something my son and I could do together.  Besides having fun, he got a quick lesson on the magical powers of yeasts and another lesson on siphons and hydrostatics.

Our two gallon batch yielded 15 bottles.  Fourteen were the heavy glass, flip-top beer bottle type, and one was a plastic soda bottle.  The plastic bottle is our test bottle that we'll use to check the carbonation level in a couple days.  Once that bottle gets really hard, we'll know we've got enough carbonation.  Then we can move all the bottles to the fridge to kill the fermentation/carbonation process.  After a few days of chilling, we'll be able to sample the brew.  

Here is a close up of the finished product, including our custom label:

I'll let you know how it all turns out once we've had a chance to try some.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Has anyone else out there tried to brew their own root beer?  Any wild success stories or epic failures?  Any advice for a couple novices like us?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goose Island

Who Made This Stuff?     Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL

Website:                            www.gooseisland.com

Where’d It Come From?  Minneapolis, MN area grocery store

Review Date:                    8/27/10

Commentary:  I have tried this one before, but that was before the creation of the Root Beer Rundown (around here we refer to that time period as BRBR – Before Root Beer Rundown).  Back then, the label was very different.  When I noticed this one on the shelf at the store in the middle of our Root Beer Road Trip, I thought I had stumbled upon a completely new brew.  Alas, it was just a new label on one I had already tried.  Since I had not done a review of it, I decided to buy some.  I seem to remember thinking that Goose Island was a pretty good root beer.  Well, now I have to chance to drink some more and record my observations for all the world to know.  Here goes…

Hey, I remembered correctly.  This is some good stuff.  When I opened the bottle, I got a little whiff of wintergreen, but not too strong.  Smelled like a nice spicy root beer should.  It produced a decent head when poured.  The head was not enormous, but it was high enough to earn good marks.  It stuck around for a little while too.  In fact, after several sips, there is still a pleasant ring of foam around the edge of my glass. 

Great mouth feel on this one.  I can definitely tell it is made with real sugar.  Good carbonation here, too.  This brew is holding its fizz nicely. The bubbles are small, just the way I like ‘em.  There is a good bite in there – just about right.  The bite does not arrive until after you get a little creamy hit at first, though.   I am really enjoying this one.  Nice work, Goose Island!

I would gladly serve this root beer to my guests, and I recommend it to you.  I am glad that I have a couple bottles of this stuff left in the fridge.  I think I bought it in a four-pack.  As a Green Bay native, and die-hard Packer fan, it really pains me to admit that something good can come from Chicago.  However, in this case, I have no choice.  I will score this one as……………………………………………90. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black Bear Soda

Who Made This Stuff?  
Black Bear Bottling Group,
Oak Creek, WI
Website:   www.blackbearbeverages.com
Where’d It Come From?  Parks Cheese & Candy Shop, Crivitz, WI  
Review Date:   8/15/10
Commentary:  OK, let me just admit this up front… I do not have high hopes for this one.  I grabbed a couple bottles of this stuff while making a cheese run on our Root Beer Road Trip.  A cheese shop was about the last place I expected to find a new (to me) brand of root beer.  From the start, it has a few things working against it.  First, it is in a plastic bottle rather than glass.  Second, it has HFCS instead of sugar.  Finally, the name – Black Bear Root Beer Soda.  Did you catch that?  Soda.  My guess is that this is going to be a root beer flavored soda instead of an actual root beer.  Maybe I am jumping to conclusions here.  I could be wrong about all of this and it could be amazing.  After all, the bottle does state that you “Gotta love the bear!”  I guess that is why we do these reviews, huh?  Let’s find out, shall we?
Yup.  Right on the money.  When I opened the bottle, the first whiff smelled like a mass-produced, generic root beer.  It even smelled sweet.  No head whatsoever when poured.  This is very syrupy sweet.  Not a pleasant sweetness.  No creaminess here.  The carbonation seems to be disappearing in near-record time.  I don’t think I’ll finish this one.   Oh great.  What am I supposed to do with the second bottle?

Now, to be fair, the company website shows a different label for their plastic-bottled soda, and proclaims that it contains 100% real sugar.  Maybe they have changed their formula recently.  If I ever come across one of their new-label root beer sodas, I guess I could give them another shot.  The site also highlights their line of Caruso Legacy Gourmet Soda (in glass bottles!) that includes “Robusto Root Beer” among other flavors.  It even states that their root beer is an old Italian recipe.  Really?  I was not aware that Italians were known for their root beers.  I guess you learn something new every day.  I bet you are pretty happy with yourself for stopping by the Root Beer Rundown today, huh?

I will stop short of calling this a “bad” root beer.  I will stick with saying it just is not a good one.  I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this stuff to friends.  Sorry bear.  I guess I can still love you, but just not your root beer soda, right?

Well, in order to get this over with I guess I have to give this stuff a score.  Let's go with...........................................65.

Are there any Black Bear Soda lovers out there?  Has anyone tried their new formula or their gourmet line of sodas?

Monday, August 2, 2010


Who Made This Stuff?      Titletown Brewing Company,
                                            Green Bay, WI                  
Website:                             www.titletownbrewing.com                     
Where’d It Come From?   At the source – Titletown Brewing 
Review Date:                       8/2/10
Commentary:  Surprise!  It’s another Root Beer Road Trip brew.  Actually, I have been drinking this stuff for quite a while now, but I just have not taken the time to write a review.  Well, the wait is now officially over.
Whenever I make it back to the homeland, I always try to pick up some Sno-Cap.  Also, they serve this tasty stuff at the finish line of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon (which is a GREAT race, by the way).  I know it may not sound appealing, but after 26.2 miles a couple brats and a root beer actually taste pretty wonderful.

This is some good stuff – that is for sure.  It had a nice traditional root beer aroma when I first opened the bottle, and I picked up just a hint of wintergreen in there.  It produced a nice, frothy head when poured.  The head stuck around for a minute or so, which was nice.  I would prefer a little bit longer hang time, but I will take what I can get.  Ahhhh, the first sip is nice and creamy.

This is definitely some sweet stuff.  Good, for sure, but sweet.  It left a slight syrupy feel in my mouth after a few swigs.  My suspicions were confirmed by a quick check of the ingredient list.  There is some high fructose corn syrup in this one, but they are using sugar as well.  In fact, the sugar precedes the HFCS on the list.  Maybe that is while the syrupy feel was not too bad.  I wish they would go all the way with the sugar, though, and leave out the corn syrup.  Next time they ask my opinion, I will be sure to tell them.

The carbonation is just about spot on.  In fact, the carbonation level is still doing well as I pass the half-way point of my glass.  The bubbles are tiny, which I like.  I am picking up just a hint of a bite in here, but I think it is from the carbonation rather than the spices.  In case you had not noticed, I am enjoying this one.

Sno-Cap is definitely a keeper.  The last few sips have confirmed that this is one I would definitely serve and recommend to friends.  In my (feeble) mind, the only thing holding this one back is the HFCS in there. 

Whenever I see Sno-Cap on the menu in one of Green Bay’s local restaurants, I will be sure to order it.  I bought a 4-pack of bottles at the brewery when I was there, and I believe they sell it in growlers, too.  This is definitely worth the trip to Titletown Brewing to pick some up if you are ever in the area.  What? You were not planning to travel to Green Bay anytime soon?  Sorry – your loss.

One other note – I really like the label design on this one.  Unfortunately, it is a pretty wide design, so the photo does not do it justice.  Go get some yourself to see the whole design.

Like I said, this is a good one.  I think I will score it as……………………………………..87.

How about you?  Anyone out there tried Sno-Cap?  Have you enjoyed one at the finish line of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon?  Do you want to run the race now just based on my review of this brew?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Who Made This Stuff?    Millstream Brewing Company,
                                            Amana, IA
Website:                           www.millstreambrewing.com                   
Where’d It Come From?  Grocery store in Amana, IA
Review Date:                      7/25/10
Commentary:  Another Root Beer Road Trip find.  We actually did not find this one ourselves.  The Road Trip did not take us through Amana, IA, but some friends we were meeting up with in Des Moines passed through Amana on their way to our rendezvous.  They were kind enough to grab some for us on their way through.  Thanks, Killians!

Wow!  What a great head on this one.  It formed a huge head when I poured it, and it stuck around for quite a while.  I was able to get several photos of the brew and bottle together before it dissipated.  There is still a nice ring of foam on the top clinging to the glass even after a couple sips.  Well done, Millstream, well done.

This is a sweet one, for sure.  Very smooth.  Nice and creamy.  Vanilla is the last item on the ingredient list, but you can definitely taste it in this one.  When I first opened the bottle, I was greeted by a pleasant, traditional root beer aroma.  I could smell the vanilla in there, too.  This was a nice surprise, since several of the brews I have reviewed have hit me with licorice or wintergreen at first.  It is funny though, how the smell of this one has changed since it has been in the glass for a few minutes now.  I do not even detect any type of root beer aroma now.  The smell is not bad, but it is not distinctive either.  If I were blindfolded, I would be hard pressed to identify the smell as root beer at this point.

This one has a very slight bite.  If you blink you might miss it.  The carbonation is pretty light now, too, as I approach the bottom of the glass.  Maybe it worked too hard during the pour to produce that awesome head.  Timing is everything.  This one just peaked a little too soon in the carbonation department.  It could benefit from a few more bubbles at this point.

All in all, this is a nice brew.  I would definitely serve it to friends, or request one if I saw it on a menu.  It will not fill a slot near the top of my rankings, but it is a solid entry.  I think it deserves a score of………………………………………..80.

What do you think?  Have you tried a Millstream?  Anyone tried one of their other sodas?  Let’s hear it folks!

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's Your Pleasure?

Chilled? Frosted? Mug? Pint Glass? Straight from the bottle?

What is your preferred way to enjoy your root beer? I am very curious to hear about how others like to drink their favorite root beers, and why they like 'em that way.

I like to pour mine in a chilled pint glass, but that is just me. I do not own any decent mugs, so that makes my choice a little easier. Maybe I should invest in a few good mugs and give that a try. Then again, maybe I shouldn't mess with a good thing. I am not opposed to a frosted glass, but I often end up with just a chilled glass since I usually forget to put one in the fridge or freezer until just before I open a bottle of rooty, creamy goodness.

So, let's hear it. Do you put your glasses or mugs in the freezer or the refrigerator, or just take it straight out of the cabinet? Are you a mug or a glass person? Why? What size of glass or mug do you prefer? Out with it, people! Share your insights with the rest of us. Who knows, maybe you'll change a few minds or even have your mind changed in the process.

Also, what have you found to be the best way to produce a good head on your root beer when you pour it? Does pouring method even matter, or is it totally dependent on the brew?

One more question, and I hesitate to even ask it for fear of some of the responses -- do you (gasp!) put ice in your root beer? Boy, I sure hope not.

Leave a comment on this post with your thoughts, tips, hints, etc.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Iron Horse

Who Made This Stuff? Iron Horse Products, Edina, MN

Website: Could not find one!

Where’d It Come From? Grocery store in Minneapolis area

Review Date: 6/5/10

Commentary: This is another root beer picked up on our Root Beer Road Trip. A sweep of all the local grocery stores near our hotel in Minneapolis yielded several nice finds. I am looking forward to finally working my way through the root beer stash we accumulated.

I got a strong whiff of licorice when I first opened the bottle. When poured, the head was downright disappointing. It never really formed anything of substance and what was there disappeared pretty quickly. The first sip has a definite wintergreen taste. The carbonation is okay at the start of the glass, but I have feeling it is going to fade fast. It has a decent bite, not overpowering, but present at least. It is sweet, but the bite balances the sweetness a bit. A quick look at the ingredients list reveals the presence of high fructose corn syrup. I think it shows.

Okay, the carbonation is beginning to wane. There was never any significant accumulation of bubbles on the inside of the glass. The wintergreen taste is bit much for me.

On a positive note, I really like the label design with the old train engine image and the arch of train tracks over the top. With a name like “Iron Horse” you just have to believe there is a story there somewhere. Unfortunately, the label does not provide any clues to a story. The label does state that this is “Authentic Root Beer” and it is supposed to be “Just Like You Remember.” Ummm, nope, I do not think so. If I had remembered this, I would have remembered it as a root beer with great potential (due to a nifty name) that did not quite deliver.

As I approach the bottom of the glass, wishing for a little more carbonation, I just cannot bring myself to be sad about it. Honestly, I am really okay with being done with it. I do not think I will miss it. Now, this is not a truly bad root beer, but it is not a notably good one either. I would not make a special trip to the store for this stuff. Would I turn one down if offered to me? I guess that depends on my other options. I think I will score this one as…………………………………………..68.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Who Made This Stuff? Fitz’s Bottling Company

Website: www.fitzsrootbeer.com

Where’d It Come From? Fitz’s Bottling Company, St. Louis, MO

Review Date: 5/31/10

Commentary: This is one of the many brews we accumulated on our Root Beer Road Trip back in November. We stopped in at Fitz’s Bottling Company in St. Louis, MO and ate a great lunch in the restaurant and enjoyed a couple root beers on tap. This review is for the bottled root beer, though. I did not attempt to make any notes on the brew in my mug while eating lunch.

The first whiff had hints of licorice, but not too strong. The head dissipated almost immediately. I did not even have time to get the camera ready before it was gone. Lots of bubbles on the glass indicated lots of carbonation, maybe even too much just based on appearances. The first sip dispelled that myth. Carbonation was right on. A closer inspection of bubbles revealed that there were lots and lots of small bubbles (a good thing, in my book) rather than just a bunch of really big bubbles.

This is a sweet one, that is for sure. The sweetness is not a problem since they use the real stuff in here – cane sugar. There is no syrupy sensation in my mouth. Very smooth. I did not have a root beer float when we were in the restaurant, but I wish now that I had. This stuff would be great for floats.

I am half-way through the glass now, and the carbonation level is still just about right. It is just enough to give it a little tingle on the way down. I am not picking up a real strong bite in this. That is not a bad thing, though. I do like a bite in root beers, but only if it works with everything else in the brew. This one does not need a strong bite to make it good. This is not a complex brew. It is simply a straight-on, classic root beer taste. As I approach the bottom of the glass, the pleasant aroma of this one remains.

Before we get to score on this one, let me pause for a moment and make a recommendation. If you ever find yourself in St. Louis, it is worth a trip to see their bottling operation and eat in the restaurant. We all enjoyed our meal, and the best part was that we could watch the bottling operation from our table. You can get up an up close view of everything because they have some big windows right in front of the bottling line. Even though you are not actually in the room, you are only a couple feet away from the action.

Okay, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I think this is a good root beer. Like I said, I think it would make great floats. I may have to try that with one of the remaining bottles from the four-pack I bought. But enough about floats. I will give this one a score of……………………….85.