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

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.

Apr 302018

So some of my coworkers learned about my root beer infatuation, and went to look up where they could get some of the top brews. Last week one of them triumphantly announced that he’d found the best at a hardware store and bought a whole case of it. “Hank’s?” I asked. He replied yes, the one with the guy on the label. Guy on the label? Hanks doesn’t have a guy on the label, what was he talking about. The next day he brought me a four pack and sure enough, there was a guy on the label. Some hardware store guy. I had to figure out what was going on.

So I got in touch with my friends at Hank’s. Turns out around 20 years ago, when they were expanding into the mid west, they go in contact with Hardware Hank a chain headquartered in Plymouth, MN, where I currently live coincidentally . The Hardware Hank marketing guys liked the idea of a tie in soda, and have featured Hank’s Root Beer (and other flavors) in their stores ever since. It’s been a big hit when they have tent sales and other events and has been mutually beneficial for both brands. The year 2017 happened to be Hardware Hank’s 60th anniversary, so Hank’s Root Beer made a special neck label to celebrate for their loyal customer. Some three trailers were produced and were sold exclusively in the Hardware Hank stores during their anniversary sales events. There’s still some floating around it seems, which caused all the confusion with me and my coworker. If you’re a collector of root beer bottles, you may want to try and snag one while they still can be found, or if you just want to drink the best root beer ever, you may just want to drop by Hardware Hank.