Sep 212016

A pint of Rookie of the Year Root BeerThe second root beer of my Idaho road trip, and the last of the summer road trips. This is made by the Yakima Craft Brewing Company. It’s only 2 1/2 hours from my house but only open after 4 pm. This made it quite a pain to get as the several times in the past I’d driven through Yakima, it was earlier in the day. This time, I was coming back from Boise, so I figured as long as I slept in I’d be fine. But then the GPS was saying I’d arrive in Seattle at 3:30. Clearly I needed to slow down. So I stopped at every rest stop and even a museum and so we were able to arrive at the taproom around 4:30. I don’t know why this is called Rookie of the Year, I should have asked but I didn’t. I did learn that the root beer is brewed in the original copper kettle system that the brewery used when they first started. So that’s pretty cool. They even gave me a tour of the facility. The taproom itself is just that, a taproom, no food. But they do allow kids to come in so the family was able to share a pint of root beer while I reviewed mine in peace at the bar.

The Body is rich and creamy with lots of wintergreen; a little too much wintergreen. There’s also lots of vanilla in there. The Bite is solid with nice spiciness and carbonation while still having a smooth and rich finish. The Head is short and without much staying power, unfortunately. The Aftertaste is wintergreen and vanilla that ends a little bitter.

Pretty good. I wish the Head were better but this is a nice solid brew. It’s not quite a Seal of Approval, but better than the average and good enough to grab a growler or a keg for your party if you live down there.

Three and a half kegs

The copper brew kettle where the root beer is made.

The copper brew kettle where the root beer is made.

The Yakima Craft Brewing Company Taproom

The taproom. You wouldn’t know that it’s right by a bunch of fruit packing plants from this photo.

Sep 142016

A snifter of Cloud Nine Brewery Root BeerBack in August, after my previous road trip was over, a family reunion took place in Boise, ID. That meant another road trip which of course meant more root beers to find. My searching found two along my route. The first was Cloud Nine Brewery in Boise itself. I went Friday night with my sister, brother-in-law, and two of my younger brothers (I have a big family). It’s a nano-brewpub built in a little strip mall and has only been around since 2012. Nevertheless, it is rather highbrow as to their food and brews, using organic, locally sourced ingredients. The root beer itself comes in snifters, which is something I can get behind, as long as it’s amazing brew.

The Body is a light herbal tea type, with sarsaparilla, burdock, honey, and licorice featuring prominently. But they don’t mingle well and the whole flavor is medicinal and rather off. The Bite is pretty mild but the texture isn’t smooth, it’s kind of gritty. The Head is nice and frothy so props on that. The Aftertaste is both bitter and buttery. I like the buttery but not the bitter.

Well, it’s complex and interesting but they didn’t pull off a proper root beer. It’s rather a mess of herbs and roots that you wish were called something else. Oh well. The staff was very friendly and let me tour their brewing facilities to get some pictures. I just wish I could have left them with a good review.

2 out of 5 root beer kegs

The Cloud Nine Taps

The fancy taps.

Some of the brewing vats at Cloud Nine Brewery.

Some of the brewing vats at Cloud Nine Brewery.

Sep 072016

Virgil's Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer Bottle This was actually one of the first gourmet root beers that I ever heard about. At the time, I was around 15 and loved my Henry Weinhard’s. My older brother was talking one day about some amazing root beer and I thought he was talking about Henry’s but he said it was Virgil’s. But not the regular Virgil’s, the special Virgil’s in the spring top bottles. Sadly, he died before he was able to share a bottle with me, and though that led to me becoming the root beer connoisseur that I am today, I didn’t find that special Virgil’s until over 10 years later. I’d long since had the original Virgil’s before this but was not impressed at all. This one, though, promises a different, more special/nutmeg recipe that is imported from Bavaria evidently. I’m not sure why they want to stress that it’s from Bavaria. Last time I checked, all of the root beers that came from Europe were pretty nasty and last time I was in Germany, they didn’t even know what root beer was. So unless they’re talking about Bavaria, PA or something like that, it isn’t really a selling point.

This has a very complex Body that is creamy, sort of fruity, and not overly sweet. It lacks the essential sassafras flavor and comes across a little weak because of it. It has a nice Bite on account of the cinnamon and nutmeg but manages to keep it on the smooth side. The Head is a major drawback. It is weak and fizzes away quickly. The Aftertaste is a creamy and slightly fruity flavor with hints of honey. It lingers awhile and is not unpleasant.

This one is much better than the standard Virgil’s but the lack of sassafras flavor is significant and fruitiness is slightly out of place. Replace that fruitiness with the sassafras and give it a nice Head and it would be amazing. It says that it is a winner of the NASFT “Outstanding Beverage” Award. Though this an O.K. brew, I wouldn’t go that far. The spring top bottle is one of the coolest bottles I’ve ever seen though, and you can reuse them to make your own homemade brews too so it’s definitely worth having now and again. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs