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.

Jun 082016

Bottle of Iron Horse Root BeerSeal of Approval I got this in late 1999 or early 2000. It was one of my first mail orders, and I had to order 12 of them since variety packs were not an option in those days. I picked it because it looks awesome with that train and metallic shine (which is really hard to capture in a picture with the flash on a white background). When I first tried it I was blown away like never before, I was standing when I took my first drink and I had to sit down. It was that good. I got on the phone and called a friend and told him I’d found the best root beer EVER, and I awarded my first 5 kegs. In the next year or so I had multiple cases and then I went on my mission to Madagascar, a great dry spell for me as it were. When I got back my parents had a case waiting, but as I drank it against Hank’s and Henry’s, it didn’t seem to taste as good as it once did. I figured I’d had a bad batch and over the years had it again and again, each time disappointed (and by that I mean not the greatest thing ever made). Finally I had the The Ultimate Root Beer Showdown and realized I needed to re-rate this.

This has a very sweet medium Body and a very nice Bite. There’s some cinnamon and other spices that really grab the tongue. There is also a lovely caramelized corn syrup flavor that is very unique. The Head is ok and medium frothy. The Aftertaste is of vanilla and spices.

It is still a really good root beer, but doesn’t hold up against the others like it used to. Maybe they changed the recipe, the ingredients and nutritional info are the same but who knows what could be different with the whole “natural and artificial flavor”. Maybe it’s me. Maybe all the cholera I had in Madagascar changed my tastes such that what had made this and only this amazing no longer does. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is still a fine brew to be had whenever possible, but not the greatest root beer in the world. Sorry and congrats at the same time I guess? See how it rates against other root beers.

4 kegs

May 042016

Bottle of Milligan's Island Awesome Root Beer This was the 10th root beer that I ever reviewed. After I had had my wonderful Hank’s experience I still had that $15 in my pocket earmarked for exotic root beers. So I hit the 1998 internet again in hopes to find a root beer that I could mail order with such limited funds. Since this was in the days before Google, I’m not sure how exactly I stumbled upon this, but it looked awesome and they’d sell me a 4-pack that was only about $15 with shipping (all the way from Connecticut). I’m glad I chose it since it’s now discontinued. This has a rather confusing label. The whole tropical island seems rather out of place for Connecticut and the whole “Fooling the Public since 1492” also befuddles me. The only thing I know of that happened in 1492 was Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas and I fail to see any connection to him in this root beer. Oh well, I’m fooled I suppose.

This was good. It had a wonderful Body. The Bite was good. The Aftertaste was pleasurable but the Head was awful. It would was not only small, but it would go flat in about a minute.

What a shame about the Head. That alone was enough to stop it from getting the Seal of Approval. It was the first root beer of many to suffer that fate. I even got an email from the company several years later apologizing for the poor Head and saying that normally it isn’t like that. I told them that I’d be glad to review it again if they sent me some more, but the root beer never came. And now the company is gone. I feel somewhat responsible for their demise. It’s a shame because it was pretty good. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs