Jun 262013
 

A frosty mug of Brick Oven Old Fashioned Root Beer I had finished giving my seminar talk at BYU and was driving back to the hotel before dinner. On the way I saw the Brick Oven pizza place. They have a big sign advertising their old fashioned (there it is again) draft root beer. I was curious, I almost turned in to investigate but then didn’t, then I saw another turn in to their parking lot and decided to check it out. When I was an undergrad here, so many years ago, I used to actually come by a lot. Their pizza is the best in Utah Valley, maybe even the whole state. I knew they sold their own root beer in two liter bottles and just figured their “draft” was some bag-in-box swill to go with plastic bottles. But, what the heck I had some time to kill. I walked in, dressed impeccably in my custom tailored suit and told the waiter I wanted to know about their root beer, how it was made. She called the manager so I figured I’d better properly introduce myself, from gourmetrootbeer.com. He then proceeded to take me on a tour of their labyrinth of kitchen and then lead me into the basement where their brew vats are. He showed warm, uncarbonated root beer in one of the vats (smelled delicious) and explained how they tap it straight from the vats to carbonator and then to the soda fountain along with their apple beer. They also bottle in plastic and prepare bag-in-box syrup for their satellite stores in other cities. But, here in Provo, it’s fresh draft root beer, as gourmet as it gets, made by hand with cane sugar. Wow! That took me by surprise. I cursed myself for not bringing my camera and vowed to return. The manager was cool with it but insisted I sample beforehand. I told him I didn’t really want to taste before an official review but I had their apple beer which was amazing. Later that evening, I was back, camera in hand. The other manager, who I’d met the first visit, greeted me and took me down so I could document Provo’s best kept gourmet root beer secret. Then he got me a 20 oz frosty mug and let me get down to work.

The Body has a nice sweet standard sort of root beer flavor that’s got some caramel notes to it and some spice. It’s a little lighter than I prefer. The spices and carbonation give it a sharp Bite but it finishes smoother. The Head is non-existent, which is something I’ve never seen before in a draft brew. Not even the two second Head, strange. The Aftertaste is the final vanishing traces of spiced caramel that’s gone a little too soon.

So what’s with the Head, he said that they actually put anti-foaming agents in it to stop the Head. The ingredients list doesn’t mention any anti-foamer but maybe he means they took out the foaming agents. Why? Because the customers complained about too much foam, saying that they weren’t getting enough root beer for their money. BLASPHEMY!!! Don’t those fools know there are infinite free refills? The Philistines! How could the customers be so uncouth?!? They’ve RUINED a gourmet ROOT BEER! For the love of root beer WHY? How? What madness could have driven them to this, this travesty of travesties? It’s a good tasting brew but with a Head, it could be so much more, more bouquet, more, foamy goodness. Alas, it is done. There is hope for the future though. They are looking at bottling it in glass, and assured me that they would make sure it foams. I look forward to that day of redemption. Until then, I can only give this a ‘drinkable’ rating.

Three kegs

The Brick Oven Soda Vats

The brewing vats where they make root beer and apple beer by hand.

Brick Oven restaurant

One of the many ‘rooms’ in the restaurant. It expanded into other buildings over time making a cool collection of exterior walls and interior rooms all encased under one roof.


May 222013
 

Mt. Angel Brewing Company Root Beer Bottle Mt. Angel Brewing Company is unique in that it is a soda brewery. They brew sodas and only sodas which can be purchased in either bottles or various keg sizes. Their original flavor was their Old Fashioned Root Beer though they’ve since expanded to unique flavors like Marionberry and Hazelnut as well as the more traditional Orange Cream. They’ve won several awards for their brew. They took the Silver Metal at 2012 National Open Root Beer Competition (a category of the National Open Beer Competition), where the Gold and Bronze went to Seal of Approval brews so I was excited to get this to say the least. Getting it was a bit of a pain even though it’s only about a 4 hour drive to their brewery. I didn’t want to mail order it at first, hoping I’d be down there for some reason or another, but eventually I got around to getting my two bottles. Their motto is “Venite et Gaudete” which is “Come and Rejoice” The motto seems to be on a seal of some sort which only appears on their labels, the website is quite mute on the subject.

The Body has a rich strong minty flavor with a hint of fruity. It isn’t really creamy and is a tad bitter and sticky. The Bite is pretty non-existent. There’s a little carbonation tingle and the slightest mint burn but really nothing. The Head is short, very short, but frothy. The Aftertaste is very minty and a little bitter and fruity.

So this root beer really reminds me of Ozark Mountain, minus the creamy vanilla and the beautiful Head. They even both have green labels. While the creamy minty brews are a favorite of mine, this only has the minty part of the equation. Then that hint of fruity detracts and the Head is poor. In fact on the second bottle I tried, the Head was non-existent but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and rated it with the Head from the first bottle, which was still really short. All in all, it’s a decent brew but not one of my favorites by any means. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three kegs


Jan 302013
 

I love my coworkers. They’re always willing to bring me back root beers from their trips. This one was brought back from Texas by my esteemed colleague Jimmy Jeff, who has family there and goes often. H-E-B is a grocery store chain in Texas and northern Mexico. The fact that they not only have their own root beer in glass bottles, but have one of the coolest and completely original bottles puts them in a class above almost any other grocery chain in existence in my opinion. An added bonus, if you like being bilingual, is that the label is also in Spanish, which sets this also in a class of its own since all other root beers I’ve encountered with bi-lingual labeling did so in French and English (to keep the Québécois happy). So they’ve got about everything going for them up to this point. How is the brew itself?

The Body has a rich medium sassafras flavor that is creamy with vanilla hints surfacing. There are nice caramel overtones as well. The Bite is well balanced between spice and carbonation while not being overly strong. The Head is tall and moderately frothy though it fizzes down faster than I prefer. The Aftertaste is a light vanilla and caramel flavor that turns slightly bitter at the end before vanishing. The bitterness doesn’t build though, so it doesn’t affect the rest of the brew the more you drink. It’s kind of like eating bread dipped in olive oil, the slight bitter notes at the end.

Yum. I like it. It’s got the right attributes and still has a unique flavor. Is it good enough for the Seal though? I was right on the line with this so I drank a third bottle (because I had one) and freezer chilled it to see if it gets better or worse in the frosty mug. I normally don’t need a third bottle, and usually don’t have one but this one was just so on the line between 3.5 and 4 I figured it could help. The head turned incredible and everything else was just as rich and developed as before. I was convinced. The Seal of Approval it is. I really want to go visit an H-E-B now. If this is the quality of their store brand root beer, I wonder what other treasures they’ve got there. See how it rates against other root beers.