Apr 182018

Thomas Kemper Root Beer BottleEvery now and then the makers of a root beer will feel that it’s time for a change. This could come from a desire to improve their product or perhaps to cut costs. When this occurs they seldom let the public know, and even less often do they change their name to sufficiently differentiate the pre and post change products. Thomas Kemper, for reasons I know not, has gone down this route. I’m not sure when it started, but I did notice that the bottle and label have changed significantly as of late. Indeed the ingredients are slightly different as are the nutritional values. And it’s lost the Pure Draft portion of its name. Implying of course that it is no longer pure nor draft, and instead it’s just a root beer. They do pepper the bottle with some little catch phrases like “Cane Sugar Soda” and “Small Batch” and my personal (ironically) favorite “Every Batch Made from Scratch”. Noticeably missing is “Original” since this no longer is the original Thomas Kemper Pure Draft Root Beer. I wonder if they improved it.

The Body has a noticeable honey flavor that’s a little fruity, which happens with some honeys. It tastes mildly of sassafras and there’s some vanilla in there as well. It’s nice but the flavors are not very strong. The Bite is more like a nibble with a smallest bit of spice. Yet, it isn’t really smooth. The Head is very tall and frothy as is should be, enough to get some bonus points. The Aftertaste is a light vanilla with some cane sugar and honey going on, but not nearly enough I’m afraid.

This one is rather bland unfortunately. Sweet but bland. It’s got some of the right flavors, but they aren’t nearly pronounced enough. While their Pure Draft was good but not quite there, this is rather ‘meh’. They should have stuck with the original, HFCS notwithstanding. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three kegs

Jan 272016

Thomas Kemper Root Beer Bottle One of the first five gourmet root beers I ever had. I can’t remember when I first saw it show up at Safeway, but it was after I had fallen in love with Henry’s yet before I became The Root Beer Gourmet that I am. I almost never got it since I had Henry’s (spoiler alert: I liked the Henry’s more), even though this was made with pure Washington honey. With my small sample size (four or five root beers at that point) I was wondering if all quality root beers would be named after somebody. Another special thing about this brew is that it was one of four brews in my blind taste test. You see, someone at my work said that all of my root beer preference was just hot air and I really couldn’t tell the difference. So I went home got a bottle of Henry’s, a bottle of this, a plastic bottle of A&W, and Safeway Select in a can and had my family administer the blind taste test. I correctly identified each root beer, and reported back to my coworker in the sort of taunts you’d expect from a 17 year old working on a farm.

A better than average brew but nothing spectacular. Nice Body, Bite, Head, and Aftertaste. Good on everything but not great on any of them.

And the sort of writing you’d expect from one of my earliest of early reviews. It was creamy with a nice honey flavor as well, but below Henry’s in all aspects. It’s plenty good all around and doesn’t really have any thing wrong with it, so it’s fine for floats and meals and what not. It just had the misfortune of being in the shadow of something greater. See how it rates against other root beers.

Three and a half kegs

Mar 212012

Back in September, as I was busy searching for new root beers, I discovered Thomas Kemper Purely Natural Root Beer on another reviewers blog. I was surprised, because I had never seen or even heard about this brew and Thomas Kemper is made in Portland, and can be found all over the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest in general. Nearly every grocery store and gas station carries it. I figured it must be so new that it hadn’t had time to proliferate through the region. I sent the company an email asking which retail outlets carried it, and kept my eye out as I traveled around. After a few months of not seeing it, I sent the company another email asking where I could find it. I got a response from the company president telling me that they had recently discontinued the purely natural line. What?? A gourmet root beer had been born and killed right under my nose before I ever knew it existed? Say it ain’t so! Then it occurred to me, that if it was just recently discontinued, there might still be some bottles floating around out there. I searched Amazon, Ebay, all of the specialty online stores that sell root beer. Nothing. Then I took my search back to a distributor, Real Soda. I noticed it was listed on their site, but so is Journey John Barleycorn and Dr. Tima, both of which are long since dead, but I emailed them nonetheless. To my great joy, they said they still had 11 cases. I quickly made arrangements and ordered a 12 pack, 8 bottles of this stuff and 2 bottles of two other varieties. Whew, that was too close.

The Body of this is weak in the normal root beer flavors but really strong in honey and fruity. I mean there is a very significant citrusy fruity flavor that comes in after the initial flavors and overpowers them. I think this can be blamed on the pectin they put in there for some reason. There isn’t really much Bite, a little carbonation tingle but a distinct lack of spices. The Head is excellent, tall and frothy, and is the one redeeming feature of the brew. The Aftertaste is a fruity honey flavor that lasts far too long. This flavor compounds so the more you drink the stronger it gets and the less you want to drink it.

For comparison, with the second bottle, I had a regular Thomas Kemper side as well, and this is worse in all categories. I mean, it isn’t even remotely like the regular Thomas Kemper. This stuff is really bad. What astounds me is that they start with cane sugar, honey, and maltodextrin, like Bulldog, and still manage to make it horrible. Why did they make it taste overwhelmingly fruity? I don’t know, but thankfully it has been discontinued so the masses can be spared its vileness. Perhaps that is the true reason for it’s demise. See how it rate against other root beers.