May 232018

A glass of Ellis Island Casino and Brewery Root BeerLast week I was in Las Vegas! Yes, I was down there for work, cause I go places these days. I was staying at the Aria and had a very, very busy schedule with the company’s annual user conference, which included receptions, gala dinners, shows, and many technical sessions. Tuesday was our only free night and I already had my target, just a 30 minute walk (one Vegas strip block) away. I tried to gather up a merry band of travelers but could only grab one fine coworker to accompany me on my quest. Ellis Island Casino and Brewery is a little (in Vegas terms) hotel/casino/brewery a block off the strip that’s been operating for over 50 years. It’s got a far more old style feel then those massive casino resorts on the strip, and it’s way more affordable too, featuring lower minimum bet tables, free used decks of playing cards (presents for my kids), cheap eats, and of course, it’s own root beer (and other beers but I don’t care about those). They serve their root beer in nice 20 oz glasses as you can see.

The Body is mild, yet solid with a classic creamy flavor. There’s a little wintergreen but over all there’s nothing really distinct about it. The Bite is mild as well, without much spice. It has a nice smooth finish. The Head is short, but foamy and lingers. The Aftertaste is mild sassafras with a hint of wintergreen.

Yum! A solid, classic brew, though not quite Seal worthy, it’s better than average to be sure. The food there is amazing as well. I had a 50/50 burger. 50% Angus beef and 50% ground bacon, with 2 strips of bacon, and cheddar cheese on a pretzel bun. Sooooo good! One of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Their onion rings, calamari, and fish and chips (which my comrade ordered) were also on point. And the meal for two people plus tip was only $50. This place has won the “Best Cheap Eats” and I can see why. It’s not quite worth a pilgrimage just for the root beer, but taken all together, if you visit Vegas and not Ellis Island, you’re doing it wrong.

Three and a half kegs

The 50/50 burger with onion rings and a tall, cold glass of root beer. Soooo good!

The brew vats. Does anyone know what a “Tax Determination Tank” is?

Apr 042018

Last week I was in Sacramento for work, meeting with the local utility as I’m wont to do these days. Now if you’ve kept up with this blog, you’ll know that Sacramento is a city that has quite the storied past with me, though it’s been the first time I’ve been back there in around five years. On top of visiting relatives, I needed to hit up a brewery for root beer. Not any brewery would do, however, I was looking for River City Brewing Company, not to be confused with River City Root Beer or the other River City Root Beer. This brewery and I go way back, back to the first year of my gourmet root beer loving, before I even launched my site. I tried it when we were in Old Sacramento 20 years ago. I thought it was amazing. The next year when I had started the site, I was back and tried it again, but they put ice in it and it tasted not so good. So for 19 years I’ve been wondering, just how good is this root beer, really? The brewery has since moved, from the mall by Old Sac, to Carmichael, which was right by my hotel, making this even easier. This time I remembered to tell them no ice. I wasn’t going to repeat the mistake of 19 years ago.

The Body is sweet but not overly, and rich as well. There’s a little bit of vanilla complimenting a solid core that is well balanced. The Bite is very mild, there is really no discernible spice to it and the carbonation is low. The Head is short but foamy and lasts. The Aftertaste is a mild fruity sarsaparilla sort that doesn’t really do it for me, though it doesn’t really ruin it either.

This is a solid brew that almost pulls it off, not quite, but so close. It’s not as amazing as I remember my very first time being. I have had about 350 root beers since then which gives a bit more perspective. But, it’s still really good and has a uniqueness about it to be worth a visit if you’re in the area. I didn’t have time to try any of the food so I can’t comment, but if they cook like they brew, it won’t be disappointing.

Three and a half kegs

Feb 072018

A pint of The Granary Root BeerSo two weeks ago I was down in San Antonio for DistribuTECH 2018! And yes, that means I flew out just a few days after getting back from Chicago. I’m movin’ these days. That’s for sure. Devoted followers will remember that San Antonio is home to one of the best brews I know of, Schilo’s, so I was pleased with the knowledge that even if I didn’t get anything new, I was going to be getting something amazing. Nevertheless, when I hit the ground I started my searching and discovered The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, a brewery that does barbecue and makes their own root beer. So on my second night, after a wonderful team dinner at some Tex Mex (a must in San Antonio) I went a questing for my brew. I invited many of my colleagues but they all declined. Their loss, in my opinion, for delicious brews awaited! The Granary evidently has really delicious barbecue, but I had no appetite to try after dinner, just ordered my pint and got to reviewing.

The Body is sour and herbal with sweetness and strangeness. It doesn’t taste like a root beer at all. Also the strange flavor mixture isn’t good. The Bite is sharp with spicy sourness. The Head is nice. Decent height and staying power. The Aftertaste is bizarre and bitter.

Bletch! Gross! Not root beer. At best it can kind of be described as one of those herbal tea root beers, but it’s way off and nasty. I told the bar keeper “I’ve never had a root beer like this before” to which he responded that there’s no artificial anything, just roots and sweetener. I can agree with the “just roots and sweetener” no recipe, no trying to make it taste good, no research or care, just chuck some roots in a vat, boil them, add sugar, and serve. This is without a doubt the worst root beer I’ve had in a long time. So I guess my colleagues were right to stay away. San Antonio is an amazing city in that within 2 miles of each other is one of my top five all time favorite brews and one of the bottom five worst ever.

Half a root beer keg.

The bar of The Granary 'Cue and Brew. I needed a break from choking down that swill.

The bar of The Granary ‘Cue and Brew. I needed a break from choking down that swill.