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!

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?