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?




May 162018
 

WBC Root Beer BottleSeal of ApprovalWBC’s “root” is in Goose Island. If you’ve been following the root beer world closely these last few years, you’d know that it used to be called WBC Goose Island Root Beer, and long before that, there was merely Goose Island Root Beer, without any WBC. The first version was made by the Goose Island Brewery in starting in 1988 and lasted into the early 2000’s when I got a hold of it and gave it a slightly above average review. Sometime later WBC, the WIT Beverage Company (got to love nested acronyms) took over production of the root beer and changed the labels. This continued until late 2014 when Goose Island was dropped entirely. This was done for two reasons. Number one was that minors were supposedly sneaking Goose Island beer into the root beer carriers and fooling the tellers. And the supposed reason two is that the licensing agreement for the Goose Island name had expired and why bother renewing it. The bottle says that they have remained true to the original recipe which is never pasteurized and continue in a tradition of quality and innovation. Part of that innovation has been changing the recipe from the original, as a comparison of the late 90’s Goose Island that I tried and this bottle reveal slightly different ingredients and nutrition. Let’s see how innovative they really were.

The Body is sweet and full with creamy vanilla and a caramelized sugar flavor. The Bite is rather smooth but there is some spice in there, giving a nice little nip. The Head is nice and frothy, though it could be taller, it is sufficient. The Aftertaste is a light vanilla flavor with some spiced cane sugar that lasts the right amount of time.

No one aspect stands out as amazing, but taken all together this brew is high quality. So they have innovated properly, and earned an extra half a keg over the original. Nicely done. See how it rates against other root beers.

4 kegs




May 092018
 

Rileys_big Riley’s Brewing Company started as a home brewing hobby in a garage of a guy named Daniel. He came from a long line of home brewers and would have monthly gatherings with friends and family as he perfected his craft. But one day he left a fermenting carboy in the pantry which exploded and his wife had had enough. So he started his own brewery in Madera California, and it grew and grew, and he added sodas because why not, and he made a root beer, because he is a wise man of exquisite tastes who knows that if you have a brewery without a root beer you’re not doing it right. His root beer is handcrafted and uses a wonderful mixture of raw roots and spices and herbs and extracts and should probably be amazing if he mixed them on the right ratios.

The Body is not very sweet, but it’s rich and complex. Various root flavors mingle with vanilla, honey, molasses, and spices yet they don’t quite hit that perfect mix. It’s still quite good though. The Bite is nice and spicy. The Head is just, wow, so impressively tall, and it lingers too. The Aftertaste is vanilla and honey.

This is almost there, but just doesn’t quite do it for me despite all of the quality ingredients. It’s not sweet enough for one. I mean, despite cane sugar, honey, and molasses, it has around 25% less sugar than the average root beer, and unfortunately it shows. Add that to a not quite perfect mix, and you have a very near miss, but still a good effort. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs