Aug 292012

I’m not sure who Scott is, or more importantly perhaps, whose uncle he is. Maybe he’s Dad’s brother. When I first heard about this I refrained from rushing a mail order since it is sold in North Carolina and I often do business trips to Charlotte. Of course, once I knew it was there I didn’t go back to Charlotte for another 8 months. I had gone to Greenville, SC and Raleigh in those 8 months but I never seemed to be able to track it down. Therefore, when I found myself going back to Charlotte, getting this was my top priority (after accomplishing the business of course). This is an all natural brew that is 98% organic. I’m not sure which 2% of it isn’t though. Interestingly, one of its ingredients is “wood extract.” Huh, that’s a new one. I would stick it on my ingredients list except I don’t know what type of wood it is. It could be something good like sassafras, birch, maple, or something else along those lines, but it could also be cedar, oak, aspen, or maybe even something deadly like hemlock. Why not sagebrush? Or mahogany? I mean, there are hundreds of different types of wood out there. Maybe it’s a different wood in each batch. Who knows. Just as important as what’s in this root beer is what isn’t. They clearly spell out that this brew does not contain “Milk, egg, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy bean or gluten.” That’s a relief. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not been able to find a root beer that isn’t made with oysters or scallops. Or all the times I’ve tipped back a cold bottle of root beer to find that it’s really milk. If only all the root beers could be labeled thus my life would be easier for sure. So how is this woody and not clammy root beer?

It has a rather complex, but not full, Body with a prominent licorice and anise flavor as well as some cinnamon and vanilla. There’s some caramel flavor in there too. It sadly tastes a little watery, not much, but a little. There is a small cinnamon kick for a Bite which is kind of nice but still smooth, too smooth actually, as the carbonation is severely lacking. The Head is pitiful. There’s really nothing at all. Just a slight bubble up that doesn’t even cover the whole surface before it disappears. It makes the “two second Head” look good. The Aftertaste is vanilla with some cinnamon and licorice.

Interesting. The way the flavors mix you really need to sip it to see what’s going on. Every sip tastes a little different too. It is actually rather intriguing and unique, though not my favorite by any means. Also, the whole presentation needs some serious work. The Head and the carbonation level are atrocious. Even their own website, when showing a picture in a frosty mug, reveals that there is hardly a Head on this thing. I was really on the fence about how to rate this one. It has some major flaws but an interesting flavor. I think, if I were ever to go back to Charlotte, and I were at dinner, and the restaurant said they carried Uncle Scott’s, I’d get one with my meal, so it’s drinkable. See how it rates against other root beers.

Dec 282011

This is probably the most anticipated root beer I’ve ever drank. Ever since I began reviewing root beers in 1998, people would always ask what I thought of Barq’s. It is the main root beer pushed by Coca-Cola and is sold in McDonald’s restaurants, so everyone knows it. The problem though is that I only review glass bottle root beers and I could never find Barq’s in glass. I searched everywhere, throughout Washington State and all up the West Coast. I even scoured the internet, but alas, it was to no avail. I’d always have to shamefully admit that I’d never tried Barq’s, well at least not since I became The Root Beer Gourmet. I still kept up the search over the years, though I had mostly given it up as a lost cause. Then, a few months ago, I tried again. I searched and stumbled across an old discussion board where someone mentioned a market in New Orleans from which Barq’s in glass bottles could be obtained. I pounced. I quickly called the market where they confirmed that they carried Barq’s in glass bottles. I was overjoyed. At long last, it would be mine. “How much to ship it?” I asked. The reply caught me off guard, they wouldn’t ship it. No matter what I offered, the employee then hung up the phone. What? I wasn’t about to be thwarted so easily. But how. My options were few. Fly to New Orleans (I’ve never gone to such extremes for a root beer but maybe), wait until my travels take me to New Orleans (sooner or later I’ll go everywhere), wait until I have a friend go to New Orleans, or find someone there. Then I remembered, wasn’t my Grandmother born in New Orleans? Don’t I have relatives living there? As an aside, this grandmother was of French descent and I had visited France and the region from whence they came. I saw the house that the family lived in for generations and I even met the decedents of the family that stayed in France so this type of family history is rather important to me, it’s my heritage after all. Well that settled it. I was going to close the missing link in the Constantin (the French relatives) heritage of mine and get my Barq’s in the process. I called my dad who directed me to my aunt who put me in contact with my second cousin whom I’d never met, nor even really heard of growing up, named Cynthia. After several wonderfully informative calls about the family over there, she said she would drop by the store and send me a six pack. After what seemed an eternity, but was more like three weeks it finally arrived. One of the bottles was smashed in shipping but the other five were still in pristine condition. They’re pretty sweet looking bottles at that. They’ve got the same vintage style that they did 50 years ago, maybe even older. I bumped it to nearly the front of the root beer queue and finally, after 13 years of searching, was able to try Barq’s. So thank you Cynthia, you’re the greatest cousin anyone could ask for.

The Body is sweet with a very noticeable cola flavor accented by wintergreen, vanilla, and traces of more traditional root beer flavors. It is very different from most root beers I’ve tried. The Bite, for all of the old advertizing “What do you mean Barq’s has bite,” is actually pretty mild. There is a little spice hint and some carbonation tingle. However, the giant caveat with that comes from the fact that the Head is huge but not very frothy. It fizzes down very quickly but before it does it almost escapes the glass. They pack an awful lot of carbonation in it which would give it quite a harsh Bite if it weren’t poured, or at least poured more carefully than I do to evaluate the Head. The Aftertaste is vanilla with a dash of cola.

It is definitely different from the average root beer. I actually like it. It is very cola-ish which I would normally say would merit it a rather low rating for being too far out in the root beer spectrum. But, Barq’s is almost as old as Hires (still searching for that one in glass by the way), and older than classics like A&W and Dad’s, so I can hardly say that they don’t know what root beer should be like. However, it really doesn’t have anything to make it some great spectacular root beer other than the cola flavor, which I’ve already said isn’t normally a good thing. I think that I would certainly enjoy this with a burger and fries and if McDonald’s started serving it in glass bottles, I would drop by and get some (since I’m only a root beer connoisseur, not a burger one). See how it rates against other root beers.