Aug 292018

Cup of Challenge Root Beer from The Root Beer HutThis past Saturday was the first weekend of the Minnesota State Fair! The Great Minnesota Get-Together! Since it’s my first time being a Minnesotan during the state fair … wait, can I be a Minnesotan? Like, I guess I’ll always be a Washingtonian, despite where my residency currently is … er … My first time living in Minnesota during the State Fair (that sounds more accurate), I had to go. Also, because I knew there was a root beer stand called The Root Beer Hut that makes their very own Challenge Root Beer, only available during the Fair. So I made a beeline to the Hut, through record crowds with root beer first and foremost on my mind, all other fair fun secondary. They serve their brew out of wonderful wooded barrel taps which is very cool. I lament the lack of frosty mugs, but for root beer stands such things can be forgiven.

The Body is very sweet with a fruity tinge that makes me think of brown sugar. It’s got that classic root beer stand flavor with less vanilla than normal. The Bite is pretty mild though spices are present and it has decent carbonation, yet, it isn’t very smooth. The Head is short and doesn’t last. The Aftertaste is a light vanilla with a fruity tinge.

It’s decent, but nothing special. It’s a fine fair drink, and is reasonably priced unlike many things you’ll find at fairs. After my review I found out that the same family runs another root beer stand at the fair, the Red Barn Root Beer which also serves their Challenge Root Beer. Root beer is actually quite a prominent feature of the fair, but I’ll get more into that in the next post.

Three kegs

The Root Beer Hut

The Root Beer Hut

The three root beer taps on the keg dispenser.

The three root beer taps on the keg dispenser.

The Challenge Root Beer Keg

The Challenge Root Beer Keg

My root beer being poured out

My root beer being poured out.

Jul 042018

A frosty mug of Ace Drive-In Root BeerBack in Chicago this past week with a rental car and no coworkers coming with me to dinner. This was a perfect time to venture further off the beaten path in search of root beer excellence. About 40 miles south west of Chicago lies the city of Joliet, which I think is still technically a suburb. There, one can find the tiny Ace Drive-In, owned and operated by the same person for the past 38 years. This place is a classic root beer stand in every sense of the word. They still have car service, which was the first time I’ve ever had the waitresses come to my window with a tray. They still make their root beer in house, poured from a tap and served in frosty mugs. They only take cash and they don’t give receipts. The whole place is beautiful and wonderful and a true blast from the past.

This has a classic creamy root beer Body but with only a little spice and nothing prominent to jump out at you. It’s well balanced, but seems a little lacking. There is a similar situation with the Bite, which is mild yet also not overly smooth. Some more spices could really improve this. It also has a decent Head, both in height and frothiness, but alas, it is a little shorter and fizzes away a little faster than ideal. Such it is with the Aftertaste as well, which gives but the slightest bit of vanilla to remind you of what it could be.

So the root beer is good, but I guess disappointing because everything else here was so amazing, I was hoping for a blow-me-away-amazing brew, instead of a solid standard type. I ordered a Chicago style hot dog and cheese fries and they were delicious. I should have ordered a second dog probably because it wasn’t huge. All and all, this is a great place, well worth the trip, even though the root beer on it’s own doesn’t quite merit it.

Three kegs

Pierson’s Ace Drive-In. A classic root beer stand in every sense of the word.

The menu on the wall. I would love to try it all.

A happy root beer reviewer, getting car service for the first time in his life. Yummy hot dog and cheese fries with a frosty mug of brew.

May 022018

Mug of Stewart's Drive-In Root BeerLast week I was traveling again. Again? You ask incredulously, do you just travel all the time, where were you? No, I don’t travel all the time. I went back to New Jersey, yes, my work there wasn’t finished, nor is it, but that’s another tale. In addition to meeting up with the one and only anthony and trading some bottles, I found another root beer to review, Stewart’s Drive-In in Franklin Park. Yes, I know, I’ve already reviewed Stewart’s (twice actually), but this is once again a different recipe, as the bottled Stewart’s has long since been sold to a major conglomerate. The Stewart’s root beer stands were started in the 1920’s, along with many others. This one’s been there since the 1960’s, a relic of a bygone era, serving up nostalgia, one frosty mug at a time. While some of the others have switched to paper cups, this one remains true to their frosty mugs. The stand even has it’s own well, so it’s water isn’t chlorinated.

The Body is a classic root beer stand taste, some creamy vanilla and spices and not overly strong. It’s nice and crisp too, with no unpleasantness. The Bite is good too from those aforementioned spices. The Head is tall and foamy and the Aftertaste is nice a and sweet, faint vanilla.

It’s solid and yummy, but, just, isn’t quite there. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with it, it could just use a little more. A little more spice, a little more vanilla, a little more Aftertaste, to push it over the edge. They got some great food there. I had a pizza burger, but, I think I would have been better off getting a dog. I’d already had pizza that day so after my first bite, I realized I wasn’t in the mood. The cheese fries were wonderful. So stop by and give this classic drive in a try. You won’t regret it.

Three and a half kegs

A pizza burger, cheese fries, and a frosty mug. Such bliss.

Such a cute little drive-in. They don’t make them like this anymore.