Jan 212015

A bottle of Windy City Soda Root BeerThis brew had been discontinued before I ever learned about it. I was left to mourn another root beer that would never be mine. Then the great Jon came a trading. He had several discontinued brands that were still in good condition. Being a true gentleman and ethical trading partner. He sent some right away without getting petty nor impatient over the details. This is another made in Chicago/themed after Chicago brew. I’ve been seeing those pop up a lot lately. I don’t know what it is about the city that inspires people to name things after it, but I dare say it is the most common city to be found on a root beer bottle. The label is rather plain, with brown hues and a skyline silhouette. It’s almost too plain. I could see this bottle blending into the background on a shelf with other brands.

The Body is sweet with some vanilla and caramel hints but is also a tad bland. The Bite is sharp and spicy. The Head is short yet frothy. The Aftertaste is very light vanilla. It’s pretty good and also refreshing.

Not a bad brew. But pretty generic in the not-a-bad-brew category. There really isn’t a lot to differentiate it from other root beers, plus it’s a tad bland. Maybe if it was completely fresh I would like it more, but I don’t think so. It is sad that they failed. There are worse brews that bear the Chicago name that are still going strong. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

Apr 242013

Steelhead Root Beer BottleSeal of ApprovalI’ve long passed up reviewing Steelhead because I thought it was identical to Bulldog Root Beer due to the fact that the website actually calls it their identical sister brand, which is a pretty good indicator that they are just relabeled. I prefer the Steelhead label though. It seems to take the classy look a level higher than Bulldog, plus they ditched the dogs and “The Original” thus escaping the cliches. Did I mention that I’m a sports fisher? I am and I have caught a few Steelhead in my day so that’s another plus. We need more fish themed root beers. So, during a root beer lull last year, I got curious and dug a little deeper. They aren’t bottled at the same location so I wondered if they would taste different like Cool Mountain and Chicago. So I bought some bottles and started side by side comparisons.

The Body is wonderful. Lots of honey, vanilla, and the other essential flavors. Sweet and creamy, the kind of flavor you could just snuggle up to if that were possible. The Bite is not much but sufficient. The whole thing has a very rich and smooth mouth feel from the maltodextrin. The Head is medium height and very foamy. It forms increasingly larger bubbles as it begins to fade and lasts a good while. The Aftertaste is of vanilla and honey and very pleasing though a little sticky.

If you go back you’ll notice that my description is nearly identical to Bulldog. Over several months of blind taste testing multiple batches of each, I could not tell them apart. The Head, however, is another story. The Steelhead has a superior Head, one that’s taller, lasts longer, and with a different consistency. While the Bulldog’s is short and frothy with small bubbles, the Steelhead’s is medium and foamy with larger bubbles that lingers several minutes longer. It’s enough to have it rank a little higher against its peers such that when presented with the choice between the two, I’ll take Steelhead every time. An email with the people at Orca Beverages (bottler of Bulldog) even confirms that the two recipes are slightly different and that the website is out of date. So they probably just toss a little extra foaming agent in the Steelhead. That works for me. See how it rates against other root beers.

4.5 Kegs

Feb 132013

Chicago Draft Style Root Beer First of all, I know it doesn’t say “Draft Style” on the bottle. However, their website, as well as several other websites that sell it, do call it “Draft Style” so I’ll go with that name. The label itself is pretty cool. I really like the whole skyline and the search lights. You can’t see it from the picture, but it’s also shiny and reflects light at certain angles. I had resisted getting this one for awhile because it shares a recipe with Cool Mountian Root Beer (which as of this posting I haven’t written a blog post on). However, after a (rather profitable) correspondence with Bill, the owner of both Chicago and Cool Mountain brands, I learned of the slight differences. It comes from the fact that they are not bottled at the same facility and thus the water and sugar used will have slightly different flavors. It’s still pushing the limits of a new root beer, I know, but I felt I had to give it a side by side comparison at least. Since didn’t want to buy a full case I snagged three bottles in a variety pack from Beverages Direct and then got a bottle of Cool Mountain. First I’d review Chicago on it’s own merits.

The Body is nice and full. It’s almost creamy but not really. I want to say there’s vanilla in there somewhere. There’s also the slightest hint of cola in a Barq’s-y sort of way. Bite is prickly from carbonation but not really spicy, neither is it smooth. The Head is very tall but fizzes down quickly. The Aftertaste is some vanilla and that very tiny cola-ish-ness that doesn’t really last long.

Not a bad root beer. Nothing overly special special, though not bad in any way. Then I did my side to side comparison with Cool Mountain. After half a bottle of each I swore there was a slight difference. I had my wife administer a blind taste test and 2/2 times I correctly identified the right root beer. It wasn’t up in the air either, as soon as I had tried the Chicago I definitively pronounced it so. From that I’d say that there is a >75% chance that they are different brews and so I’ll stick to it. The Cool Mountain also seemed a bit better than I remembered, but I don’t like to go back and change reviews. Plus, the differences weren’t that big so the Chicago gets the same keg rating even though it rates slightly higher. Anyways, not a bad root beer to get a keg of for your party if you live in Chicago. See how it rates against other root beers.