Sep 282016

Thunder Beast Black Label Root Beer Bottle This the fanciest root beer that I’ve encountered so far. It comes in a wine bottle (rumored to be recycled) with a cork and a wire cage. Then it’s all wrapped in gold foil on the top. Talk about classy. This is the premium offering of the most metal root beer brewers, Thunder Beast. It makes me extremely happy to see the root beer world head in this direction, as it means that we are finally getting the respect we deserve. My lovely wife gave this to me on Valentine’s Day because what could be more romantic? Now the actual reviewing of this is problematic. Thunder Beast Black Label is a seasonal root beer, using seasonal ingredients. Which means that it could be different every time. I could probably buy several bottles over the course of several years and average them out, but that gets expensive. So I’m just going to review my gift and leave it at that with the caveat that it could be better or worse depending on when you buy it.

The Body has nice honey and maple flavors but is missing something in its core. The Bite is mild, it’s a very smooth brew. The Head is practically perfect. The Aftertaste is vanilla and maple.

I like this more than the regular Thunder Beast, but not a lot more. I really want to love this stuff since it’s so fancy, but it just doesn’t quite have all it needs in the Body and Bite departments. Add some more sassafras and some spices and then they’ll have a brew worthy of the container. As it, though, it’s still worth getting for a special occasion or to put in a gift basket. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

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 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