Jan 082020

A pint of Red Wing Brewery Root Beer On New Year’s Day the weather was beautiful and it hadn’t snowed for a few days so I thought I’d take a scenic drive with the family. I figured something the drove along the Mississippi River would be nice, and I knew that in the city of Red Wing, there was a brewery that also made their own root beer. So after a nice drive on the Wisconsin side of the river, we found ourselves at the little Red Wing Brewery. The city of Red Wing actually has a storied past with breweries, but they all were closed by the 1950s. The Red Wing Brewery is the first to open there since 1951. Now the root beer is called Good Old Zimmie’s and this time I actually had the presence of mind to ask why it was called this. I was told that they looked through the long history of Red Wing beers and chose from those names. Good Old Zimmie’s was the name of some old brew. Go figure.

The Body is dark and spicy, yet isn’t full flavored. Wintergreen and clove stand out, but there’s a sort of emptiness after that. The Bite is spicy! Lot’s of clove and other spices. I wish it were a little smoother though. The Head is OK, medium height and foam. The Aftertaste is bitter wintergreen and a clove. It’s too bitter for me.

It’s not bad, it just quite enough. The balance is all off, and though it isn’t really unpleasant, it’s not something that I’d really want to drink again, even with the yummy pizzas they serve there. Tragic, I know. Alas. It’s a scenic little town, but skip this root beer.

2.5/5 Root Beer Kegs

Red Wing Brewery Brew Vats

The Red Wing Brewery Brew Vats

The Red Wing Brewery Taps

The Red Wing Brewery Taps. The root beer is the first in the series.

Jan 012020

Barq's Crafted Soda Root Beer Bottle Canadian Barq’s! That’s right, they make it different in Canada. I don’t know why, but they do. Not only do they only use pure cane sugar, but they use a little less sugar in total, and there’s less sodium. The nutritional information is therefore different, as the ingredients, slightly. And they even had the decency to call it something different, Crafted Soda. That’s not what we call it down here. So that means I can review it properly as it’s own brew. It even has a different logo. I found this in Toronto last year in a grocery store near my hotel. It caused quite a stir in the online root beer community, as no one knew about its existence. Maybe it’s something that came out recently? But the real questions, is it good, and does it taste the same as American Barq’s?

The Body has a rich creamy sassafras flavor with some nice vanilla surfacing after the initial contact and caramel notes. It’s a rather middle of the road, almost generic creamy root beer. The Bite is a little prickly from carbonation, but otherwise lacking in spices. It finishes moderately smooth. The Head is very tall but fizzes down a little too fast. The Aftertaste is vanilla with hints of caramel and the slightest bit of the sarsaparilla flavor you get in American Barq’s.

This is markedly different. I even went out and got a bottle of American Barq’s just to make sure. There’s more than just sugar substitution going on for this type of flavor difference. This is clearly, not your father’s Barq’s, but it’s better in my opinion, and earns an extra half a keg. Definitely worth trying if you can find it, just to see how different the same brand can be across a boarder. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

Dec 112019

A cup of Burly Beverages Real Deal Root Beer This past week I was back in Sacramento doing DERMS things cause that’s what I do, but I was also looking for some root beer cause that’s the other thing I do. My sites were set on Burly Beverages. They make craft from scratch sodas and mixers and only really sell syrups. However, they also have a tasting room with an old fashioned soda fountain where you can come in and get a cup or a growler fill. They close at 6 so I usually would miss them, but not this time! I called ahead, as they request, since sometimes they close early, but the owner, Gabriel was there and told me to come on down. He has a fine establishment and a great mission, to create quality sodas as they used to be, pre-prohibition, when they were more tonics with health benefits. He got his start making a smooth ginger beer and then added more flavors afterwards. After I explained my mission, he got into soda jerk mode and got me a nice cup of the Real Deal Root Beer to try while we talked about various root beer ingredients. In addition to the more traditional sarsaparilla, sassafras, vanilla, cinnamon, he also uses orange peel. I’ve only seen that before in Lockdown Brewing Company Rainbow Root Beer, which is also from the same area. Maybe it’s a Sacramento thing? But I digress. He gave me cup of brew, as well as the sarsaparilla, and a few other flavors to try.

The Body is mild and isn’t overly sweet, yet is very complex with flavors of birch, sassafras, vanilla, sarsaparilla and others mingling together to give a tangy, herbal drink that’s clean and refreshing. It isn’t your typical root beer flavor profile, though. The Bite is rather mild too, though there is some spices in there, they don’t feature prominently. The Head is rather small, which is typical for a soda fountain root beer. The Aftertaste is mild, herbal, sarsaparilla.

This I would classify as one of those carbonated herb tea type root beers. It’s one of the better ones and is a crisp, clean, refreshing drink. I’m sure it gives rosy cheeks even. However, it’s a little too far outside of the standard root beer flavor for me to rate any higher than a 2.5, sadly. The sarsaparilla, on the other hand, which has more molasses, sassafras, and some other spices, nails root beer rather well. It’s got a fuller body and a spicier bite, and tastes more like what you’d expect. If I’d done a blind taste test, I’d probably have said that the sarsaparilla was the root beer and vice versa. I’d probably give the sarsaparilla a 3.5 if it were marketed as a root beer, I still like sweeter brews but that’s me. Maybe Burly should just switch the labeling? Either way, they make some quality products and they’re some cool people. Especially if you like the more herbal, less sweet brews. And if you live in the Sacramento area, dropping by is a must as you need to experience true, raw craft sodas.

2.5/5 Root Beer Kegs

The Burly Beverages Soda Fountain

The Burly Beverages Soda Fountain.

Some of the Burly Beverages store.

Some of the Burly Beverages store. I love the old school apothecary vibe.