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!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oogave Esteban's Root Beer

Who Made This Stuff?       Oogave Sodas, Denver, CO

Website:                            www.oogave.com

Where’d It Come From?   ???

Review Date:                     12/13/12

Commentary:  This one had had been lounging in the back of the fridge for a while now.  I was intrigued by it because it is sweetened with agave nectar instead of cane sugar or HFCS.  However, I was hesitant to try it for a long time just because I wasn't impressed with what I saw in the bottle.  It just looked weak.  This is a very light-colored root beer.  It almost looks like iced tea.

When I opened the bottle I got a little hint of licorice but nothing too strong.  It poured well, producing a decent, foamy head.  Even with the foam, it just looks weird in my glass since it is such a light brown.  The first taste was kinda medicinal.  No bite. Not great.  The carbonation is leaving town with haste.  Things are going downhill fast here.  

I don't really notice anything good in here as a result of the agave nectar.  Of course, I've never tried agave nectar before, so maybe that's the one thing that is making this a bad one and I just don't have the agave chops to recognize it.  Second, third, and subsequent sips are not improving.  This brew can't even claim to have smoothness or creaminess going for it.  Unfortunately, there isn't anything memorable in this one.  It does have enough root beer taste to make sure the drinker understands that this is, in fact, supposed to be a root beer, but that's about it.

Sorry Esteban, but I'm not even going to finish this one.  I definitely would not serve this one to friends.  I'm not sure what to do with the other one I still have in the fridge.  It breaks my heart to have to pour out an entire root beer, but I just might have to.  Blech.

Okay. Enough is enough.  I have no choice but to score this one as..................................................52.

What about you?  Have you tried this stuff?  Am I way off base here?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg

Who Made This Stuff?     Reed’s Inc.

Website:                            www.reedsinc.com/virgils

Where’d It Come From?   ???

Review Date:                     12/2/12

Commentary:  I have read several reviews of this very unique root beer and the reviews have been all over the board.  Some people loved it, others hated it.  I was glad to finally have the opportunity to try this one myself and see what all the fuss was about.  I'd been waiting a while to get to this one.  Would the wait be worth it?  Read on.

This one gets a bunch of style points right off the bat.  It has a cool swing-top ceramic lid (a la Grolsch), a label that has to be ripped in order to open the bottle, and of course it comes in a larger-than-normal bottle.  This one is a full 500 ml, just a hair over a pint. It may lose a point or two on price though.  Depending on where you find it, you'll probably drop $3-5 for this one.  A few more points are awarded for the back story.  According to the label, this root beer is imported from Bavaria and they use well water from the Bohemian Forest region.  Obviously, this root beer had to make quite a journey to get to my fridge.

When I opened it, it had a nice "pop" and a pleasant aroma.  It wasn't a particularly strong aroma, but I picked up a little licorice and cinnamon.  When poured, it formed a nice big head which, although it didn't hang around for a long time, didn't disappear immediately.  The second pour (remember, it's a big bottle) created another big head.

This has a complex flavor, not unlike it's cousin, the original Virgil's root beer.  What this one has going for it is its smoothness.  Much smoother than the standard Virgils, it is more to my liking.  It is creamy as well, but not over the top.  The label claims it is "so rich and creamy you'll swear it's made in Heaven."  I don't think I'd go that far, but it does earn the "rich and creamy" badge.

The ingredient list on this one is long, including anise, honey, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, wintergreen, cassia oil, sweet birch, and molasses.  That's a lot of stuff to cram into one brew.  I didn't pick up any of its namesake nutmeg.  All those ingredients result in a pretty complex flavor.  This is not your standard root beer.  As I mentioned, I think they did a better job blending the flavors on this one than they did in their original.

The sweetness level is very good.  They use real cane sugar and I think it shows.  With all the flavors in this one, I think it would make for a nice post-meal drink.  This is a very satisfying brew and I would definitely serve it to friends, although given its price I probably wouldn't serve it very often.

So, yes, the wait for this brew was worth it.  I'll score it as..........................................................89.

What about you?  Have you shelled out the big bucks for a bottle of this stuff?  Would you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Appalachian Brewing Company

Who Made This Stuff?    Appalachian Brewing Co., Harrisburg, PA

Website:                             www.abcbrew.com

Where’d It Come From?   Grocery store in Exton, PA

Review Date:                     11/28/12

Commentary:  This was another one of the brews we picked up on our summer family road trip while passing through PA.  It’s always fun to stumble on a new root beer when we’re traveling.  We bought a six pack but I never got to drink any of them, until now.  Fortunately, I had hidden one of the bottles from my son and his friends!

When I opened the bottle, I got a very nice, spicy aroma.  It wasn’t overpowering, but it was intriguing.  When poured, it did produce a small head that managed to stick around for just a little while, but again I was too slow with the camera to capture it.  This is a nice, dark brew.  The carbonation level in this one is just about spot on – nice small bubbles that managed to hang around all the way to the bottom of the glass, and I didn’t drink this one very fast.

It has a nice little bite to it, but nothing ferocious.  I really like the spicyness in there.  I liked this one from the start, but I enjoyed it more and more with each sip.  As I mentioned, I took my time working through this one so I could try to figure out the flavors in it.  I just looked at the label and noticed they used real sugar and honey in this.  I think that really comes through in the great flavor and mouth feel.  Did I mention the spices?  The best way I can describe it is that this root beer is giving just a little bit of a nod to his birch beer cousins without smacking you around with the wintergreen.  I would not consider this a creamy brew. 

I really liked this one.  I would definitely recommend it and serve it to friends.  If I ever find myself back up in that neck of the woods, I will seek it out again. 

I’ll give this one a score of ……………………….94.

Have you ever tried Appalachian?  Can it be found outside of PA?  According to their website, they also make a white birch and a ginger beer.  I’ll skip the ginger beer, but I may have to try their white birch.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer

Who Made This Stuff?      USA Beverage Distribution, LLC

Website:                             www.daretogodutch.com

Where’d It Come From?   Somewhere on the edge of Amish country, PA

Review Date:                    11/26/12

Commentary:  I picked up this birch beer at a convenience store in PA on our summer road trip.  It had been languishing in the back of the fridge since July.  I’m not a big fan of birch beers so I had been sort of putting this one off for a while.  I didn’t have high hopes for its carbonation level given the long time it had been sitting around in a plastic bottle.  I was pleasantly surprised.

When I opened the bottle, I picked up that distinct wintergreen aroma for which birch beers are known.  A quick pour into the chilled glass revealed that the brew had a reddish tint, as did the small head that made a brief appearance.  I wasn’t expecting that color, so I guess that was a nice little surprise.
This one has a nice little bite to it.  The carbonation level is just about right.  The bubbles are in the medium to large size, but they work with the flavor to produce that pleasant bite.  It definitely has the wintergreen taste.  I’m not a big fan of that taste.  I guess it’s not too overpowering in this one, though. I’m giving this one high marks in the carbonation department.  Even after a lengthy stay in my glass, the carbonation is sticking around.  I like that.  This one isn’t very creamy.

As I said, I’m not a big fan of birch beers but I think I’d actually serve this one to friends – maybe just to bring a little something different to the party.  According to the company’s website, this brew is also available in cans and glass bottles.  I think I’d serve the glass-bottled version to those friends.

I’ll score this one as…………………………………………..77

What do you think. Ever tried this one?  Do you consider root beers and birch beers interchangeable, or do you have a definite preference?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chowning's Tavern

Who Made This Stuff?     Old Dominion Brewing Co., Dover, DE

Website:                              www.olddominion.com

Where’d It Come From?    Picked up a by a friend

Review Date:                      11/24/12
Commentary:  I received this root beer from a friend who picked it up on a weekend road trip.  I can’t remember exactly where he got it, though.  I liked the artwork on the label (a drawing of Old Man Chowning, perhaps?) and saw that it was made by Old Dominion.  Those two things gave me high hopes for this brew:  1) a nice label that led me to believe some real thought went into its design, and 2) a pedigree of an actual brewery.

When I opened this bottle, it had a significant licorice and spice aroma. You may have noticed by now that I’m not a huge fan of the licorice thing, but the spice side of the aroma intrigued me.  When poured in the glass it did create a head, but it was mainly composed of large bubbles and is dissipated really quickly.  By the time I could get a photo, the head was pretty much gone.
The first sips told me this was not going to be a creamy brew.  The sweetness was there, but it wasn’t overpowering.  The fact that sugar and honey were on the ingredient list, instead of HFCS, earns it a few points.  I got a few nice spicey drinks from the glass.  Things went downhill from there.

This root beer had the potential to develop a nice bite.  Unfortunately, it could not live up to that potential.  The carbonation dissipated way too fast to work with the spices to help produce any bite.  Half-way through the glass, the aroma had disappeared completely.  Once the carbonation was mostly gone, this one did not have a pleasant taste at all and left a strong wintergreeny aftertaste.

Sorry folks.  I can’t give this one high marks.  I think I’ll go with…………………….63.

What about you?  Have you tried this one?  I understand that Old Dominion produces a few different root beers under different labels.  Have you tried any of Old Dominion’s root beers?