Jun 282017

Big Rock Root Beer Bottle This was a find by my good friend and avid root beer collector Vince. He found it on a road trip somewhere in the south. I’d never even heard about it before. It’s made by Diamond Bear Brewing Company from Little Rock Arkansans. So this brew is the Big Rock of Little Rock? I approve of that joke. There’s also an image of a big rock on the label, though I have no idea if that’s a real place. It probably is. Maybe. I like the color scheme of the rest of the label too, all blue and white and whatnot. The brewery itself is pretty new, only coming on the scene in 2000. This root beer is kept pretty hush-hush as the only reference to it is the root beer float dessert on the alehouse menu. And yet they bottle it so I’m not sure what their marketing plan is with this. Maybe it’s to make the most amazing root beer in the world and have only the coolest people know about it. We’ll see.

The Body is sweet with a medium strength. There’s a sarsaparilla flavor with a little vanilla. It’s got a zippy little Bite to it. The Head is tall but lacks staying power. The Aftertaste is more vanilla sarsaparilla.

This kind of reminds me of Barq’s, but better. That makes sense it coming from the South and all. It’s pretty solid but nothing exceptional or fancy. Just a straight up root beer with frills. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

Jun 212017

Harmony Springs Root Beer BottleAwhile back I learned of this brand. They were established in 1908 by the Vanasse Bottling Works in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their website is devoid of details as to whether they’ve been in continuous operation since then or not. They do have a huge array of flavors, leading me to believe that they’ve been around awhile, but then again, I hadn’t heard of them, so maybe they weren’t. No matter, what’s important is that they’re here now. They’ve got a classic, old-timey look for their label, with course paper and all. A trio of fine gents are on the front, harmonizing in a fine play on the name of those clean and clear springs. Their website takes it further with “Composed by Nature, Tuned by Tradition”. After I first learned about it I think I called them in the mid fall to try and get brews before the winter freeze. I don’t know what they said or if I paid them or anything, but late winter two bottles of it showed up on my doorstep. An unexpected yet welcome surprise.

The Body is rather bland. There’s some anise and sarsaparilla and a bit of vanilla but none of the flavors are very intense. The Bite is rather weak, there’s some spice but not much. It is unbelievably rich and smooth and creamy like few brews I’ve ever had. The Head is excellent and tall, as good as any. The Aftertaste is a hint of vanilla and anise but still rather bland, not bad, but not exciting.

The taste here is nothing special, but that texture … It feels so nice in my mouth, like a warm bubble bath followed by drying off with mink fur and then flopping on a thick down mattress with silk sheets. Oh yeah … drink it occasionally just for that amazing texture. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

Jun 142017

Sunshine Bottle Works Root Beer BottleSeal of Approval So a few weeks ago I was contacted by the people at the Sunshine Bottle Works asking if I’d like to try their root beer. It is all natural, but they assured me it wasn’t like some of the nasty ones I’d try. And I said … of course I said yes. I’d say yes if they said they’d made the worst root beer in the world and wanted confirmation, or if they said it was the most generic thing out there. I always say yes to trying root beer. Sunshine Bottle Works started making craft sodas in 2014, with a desire to make sodas to match the modern lifestyle of the Central Coast. In talking with the owner, he thought that all natural root beers should be judged in their own category, since they it isn’t fair competing against artificial ingredients. I disagree. With the exception of safrole, all ingredients of root beer can be natural, and sassafras root extracts with the safrole removed are fine to use. It’s just more expensive. I’ve had plenty of amazing all natural root beers and plenty of artificial garbage. What you do with the ingredients and how you proportion them is far more important then whether they are all natural or not. And, if you do it right, the all natural ones should end up better. Real vanilla, honey, and spices can taste much better than the fake, if mixed at the proper ratios. So no, it’s perfectly fair to compare the natural to the not all naturals. And how did they do? You already saw the Seal up top, they nailed it.

It’s got a nice sweet, creamy body with wintergreen and birch notes. The Bite is a little sharp with spices but doesn’t finish as smooth as I prefer. The Head is nice and tall and foamy, just how I like it. The Aftertaste is a nice vanilla with some minty hints.

This is quite a fine brew, even when compared against those with the “unfair” advantage. They had nothing to worry about. Let this continue to be the lesson to you all. Great brews need more than just great ingredients, they need those ingredients to be expertly prepared, such preparation is in adequate supply at the Sunshine Bottle Works. Good job. See how it rates against other root beers.

4 kegs