Oct 112017

A large cup of Roscoe's Root BeerSeal of ApprovalFor the past 37 years, Roscoe’s Root Beer and Ribs has been operating seasonally in Rochester Minnesota. Originally an A&W, the Rosses purchased it in 1982 and made it into their own root beer stand. Over the decades it’s become an iconic place with legendary food, such as their ribs, burgers, and jojos. But, this is their last fall. They’ve finally decided to call it quits, and since the little root beer stand is on their property, the idea of selling it is too much for them. Another iconic, unique, American root beer stand bites the dust. And so, even though I just moved in to a new house, and am very busy unpacking, I knew I had to make the hour and 40 minute trek down to Rochester this past Saturday, to try this brew that will be so sorely missed by the community. My wife asked if such a journey was really worth it. I said that if it would be worth it for anyone, then it would be me, someone who’s spent nearly 20 years searching for new root beers. Plus I haven’t done a root beer stand review in ages. It was pouring rain, but I would not be deterred. Root beer and ribs were ordered.

The Body is sweet and creamy with a classic root beer stand flavor and vanilla and spices shining through. The Bite is medium and finishes smooth, with the spices shining but not overpowering. The Head is tall and frothy, and it’s a shame they don’t have frosty glass mugs to really bring it out. The Aftertaste is a nice spiced vanilla that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Alas, what a fine brew. I only just met you, but I lament your passing as though we’d been friends for ages. The food was quite good as well, a family order of ribs with sides of baked beans and coleslaw really hitting the spot. It’s only open another week or two, if you’re in the area, you should get some while you can.

4 kegs

Roscoe's Root Beer and Ribs stand.

Roscoe’s Root Beer and Ribs stand.

The most important part of the menu.

The most important part of the menu.

What could be more American than this meal? Very delicious. I ate until I was stuffed.

What could be more American than this meal? Very delicious. I ate until I was stuffed.

Jun 192013

Hires Big H Root BeerI was visiting Salt Lake City to give a presentation on electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid and I had to drop by and check out the local root beer stand. Started in 1959 it was originally a Hires Drive-in, but after the owner died, they were forced to change the name so they added Big H to it since he only had a verbal agreement with Hires to use the name which wasn’t enforceable after none of the people involved in said verbal agreement were alive. Everything else is identical to how it was, including the root beer, so this is really one of the few Hires root beer stands left in the US. They have three in the area. Interestingly, they also make their own root beer concentrate, Hires Big H, which is a different recipe. Why they don’t sell both side by side is beyond me but whatever. It is the classic 1950’s diner with car service still available. They ask you to have your lights on if you’d like car service in the dedicated parking area. They serve the standard diner foods with signature burgers and a secret fry sauce. It’s pretty cool.

The Body is spicy and caramely with mild licorice hints. It isn’t very creamy, more of a dark flavor, but it isn’t overly strong so it’s quite refreshing. There’s an ok Bite from spices and carbonation. The Head is very tall when you ask for it that way but it fizzes down a little quicker than I prefer. The Aftertaste is a light spicy caramel with the fainest licorice tint to it. I really wish the whole thing were stronger.

This is a solid and refreshing brew but it doesn’t really have anything extra special to move me, and it’s a little weak for my tastes. But it’s good to get some Hires since my petition to get them to bottle it seems in vain. It does go well with their food. The fry sauce is yummy and their pastrami burger was amazing. The extra tall Head pushes it barely in to 3.5 territory, so it’ll probably be the low cutoff for that. The service was extra nice too, so I do recommend dropping by if you’re in the region.

Three and a half kegs

The Hires Big H Root Beer Stand in Salt Lake City

The Hires Big H Root Beer Stand in Salt Lake City

The inside of the Hires Big H diner

The inside of the diner

"Pastrami H" burger with fries and their secret fry sauce

“Pastrami H” burger with fries and their secret fry sauce

Jun 252012

So just after I decided to start reviewing root beer stand root beers (since I the Standards Committee of the International Association of Gourmet Root Beer (IAGRB) declared them gourmet) I found myself in Dearborn Michigan for another electric vehicle conference. The only root beer that I could locate in walking distance was the A&W stand. I was planning on doing my review of A&W either with the one near my parents house or the original stand in Lodi (near my grandma’s house if I ever got down there), but on day three of the conference, I felt I needed a root beer. I trekked to stand in a suit in 95 degree Michigan heat and ordered a nice frosty mug of root beer, just to drink, not review. As I was enjoying the infinite refills for only $1.90 the manager told me a bit more about their root beer and their stand. That they hand make their root beer in batches every morning for the freshest flavor. That they still use the original secret recipe, and that, unlike the bottled A&W, there are no preservatives. That means it is a different recipe and thus technically classifies it as a different root beer in my book according to the IAGRB Standards. They tap the syrup straight out of the vat and mix it with soda water in the fountain, definitely higher quality than your bag-in-the-box swill. Also the Dearborn A&W is very close to corporate (since all of the stands are currently owned by franchises and corporate only does the bottled sodas) and is used for training. It includes a conference room and an oversized kitchen. Wow, I didn’t even know any of that at the time. I vowed to return the next day with my camera in tow to give them a proper review. The next day also happened to be June 20, the Birthday of A&W so it seemed appropriate to have my review then.

The Body is sweet and full with creamy vanilla and a spicy caramel flavor accenting the core. It is almost candy-ish. The Bite is pretty mild but there’s a small kick from the carbonation and spices. I do like it smooth though so no harm there. The Head is medium height and frothy so it lasts a good while. The Aftertaste is creamy vanilla with caramel and spice hints.

So yum. I find nothing at all bad in this root beer and they’ve got a lot right. There is a reason that A&W stands still dot the land after all. The crisp fresh taste with the lack of preservatives really pushes it over the top whereas the bottled root beer fell a bit shorter. I’ve had better brews of course, much better, but this is delicious and well balanced. I give it the Seal of Approval (and a trip to the Wayback machine will reveal that I originally stated it was a 4 from the draft at the restaurants), though just barely. I’d say it’s the cutoff point. The food is pretty good too but nothing compared to the XXX Root Beer Drive-in.

A bacon cheese burger and fries with root beer. Pretty good.