Monthly Archives: August 2014

Mason’s Root Beer

Mason’s Root Beer

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Website: None I can find

Sweetener: Sugar

Bottled at: Atlanta, Georgia

Purchase Location: Raley’s Supermarket

Mason’s is distributed by Real Soda and bottled under the authority of Monarch Company, Inc. out of Atlanta. Monarch Company, Inc. has a website highlighting its energy drinks, juices, and sodas, but Mason’s Root Beer is not mentioned anywhere. There is a Mason’s Root Beer Drive-In in Washington, Indiana that has been in business since 1951 and proudly displays the Mason’s Root Beer logo on its business sign. I am not sure if Mason’s originated in Indiana, but the root beer and the drive-in obviously share some relationship.

Mason’s has a no-nonsense label that looks like it has not changed since the 1950’s. The aged yellow label depicts a root beer barrel laying on its side with the words “Keg Brewed Flavor” printed on top. Mason’s does not claim to actually be keg brewed. Yet, somehow, they have harnessed that keg brew flavor.

Mason’s keg brewed flavor is hearty and nutty. It is a fairly traditional flavor, along the lines of a Dad’s Root Beer, but a bit stronger, initially. It is a good, rooty flavor. Unfortunately, much like Dog n Suds Root Beer, the flavor just does not last. I want my root beer to linger on my palate, reminding me of the magnificent flavor sensations I have just experienced. No lingering is had here, but, when present, the flavor is enjoyable.

Overall Score: 5 of 10.

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Sioux City Sarsaparilla

Sioux City Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://www.whiterockbeverages.com/SiouxCity.cfm

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at:  Whitestone, NY

Purchase Location: Raley’s Supermarket

Sioux City Sarsaparilla is a soda with an Old West vibe.  Instead of a paper label, the dark brown bottle has the image of a cowboy walking through the swinging doors of a Wild West saloon printed right on it.  The words “SIOUX CITY” are embossed at the bottom of the neck of the bottle.  Although Sioux City also sells a root beer soda, Sioux City Sarsaparilla claims to be “The Granddaddy of all Root Beers.”   I checked to make sure Sioux City Root Beer does not make the same claim.  It does not.  So, if you are looking for “The Granddaddy of all Root Beers” DO NOT DRINK SIOUX CITY ROOT BEER!  Drink Sioux City Sarsaparilla.

This sarsaparilla has a soft flavor.  No strong flavors or bite here.  The most prominent flavor is a light and smooth wintergreen.  The wintergreen becomes recognizable just after the initial root beer flavor reaches your tongue, and lingers after all other tangs have dissipated.  The wintergreen is pleasant, but I wish the soda had more complexity, more flavors, and more bite.  If you just want a mild, smooth wintergreen soda, this may be the drink for you.  For me, although the flavor was good, I was looking for more.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Hippo Size Burley Birch Beer

Hippo Size Burley Birch Beer
 
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Website: http://www.orcabeverage.com/storefront/retro_soda_pop/Hippo_birch_beer.html

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Mukilteo, Washington

Purchase Location: Cost Plus World Market

Hippo Size Burley Birch Beer is both a wonderful and confusing beverage.  This is just one of the many retro soda offerings manufactured and bottled by Orca Beverages.  The birch beer comes in a stout bottle with a green label depicting a hippopotamus yawning, screaming, singing, or opening his mouth as wide as possible to guzzle down some birch beer (I do not know which, as I am not a hippo expert).  The label explains that Hippo Size beverages have been around since 1927, and makes the succinct promise “Small Bottle, BIG Taste.”
 
Being a West Coast boy, this is my first birch beer.  However, I am not sure my confusion regarding this drink has anything to do with my left coast geographical location.  You see, although the ingredients include white birch extract, the soda is a dark red color.  My confusion was soon forgotten upon my first sip of soda.  It is rich, smooth, soothing, dark, creamy and wonderful.  Despite its dark flavor, there is no harshness or recognizable bite to this soda.  It is simply pleasing to the last drop.  This may be the most wonderful birch beer in the world.  I will, of course, be reviewing other birch beers to see if that is the case.  Hippo Size absolutely delivers on its promise of “Small Bottle, BIG Taste.”  If I had more birch beer experience to compare this to, I might give it an even higher score.  For now:

 
Overall Score: 8 of 10. 

Tommyknockers Root Beer

Tommyknockers Root Beer

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Website: http://www.tommyknocker.com/Root_Beer_Soda.html

Sweetener: Cane Sugar, Aged Organic Vanilla, and Pure Maple Syrup

Bottled at: Idaho Springs, Colorado

Purchase Location: Total Wine & More

Tommyknockers comes to us from the small mining town (pop. 1,717 as of the 2010 census) of Idaho Springs Colorado.   Tommyknocker Brewing was established 1859 to cater to miners during the Colorado gold rush, and has since continuously produced its root beer.  This brand represents a cool aspect of the gourmet root beer market, that a small, regional brewer can thrive making and distributing its unique soda across the country.  The name Tommyknockers comes from a mythical elf-like creature who was said to live in the cracks of mines and show minors were they could find gold deposits.
Tommyknockers’ bottle depicts an aged and bearded Colorado minor holding a frosty mug of root beer.  The label boasts of its creation date of 1859 and tells the myth of the Tommyknocker.
Tommyknockers is made from all natural indredients and contains no GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  The root beer has a dark, rich flavor with a very discernable maple savor.  There is a lot going on with the blending of different flavors, resulting in a pleasant overall root beer.  It is not my favorite taste, but it is good.  I must say that I respect the uniqueness of this root beer and I enjoy the distinctive play between the cane sugar, vanilla, and maple syrup flavors.  The world is a better place thanks to the existence of this root beer and I am a more experienced, well rounded, and overall better person for having tasted it.  Give it a try if you want a one of a kind experience.
Overall Score: 6 of 10. 

Bundaberg Root Beer

Bundaberg Root Beer
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Sweetener: Cane Sugar
Obtained at Costco
Bundaberg Root Beer is Austrailian root beer.  Does Australia have any other root beer brands?  Who knows?
Bundaberg comes in a “stubby” bottle with a kangaroo on the label and a pull tab top.  Nearly perfect so far.  The initial taste of the root beer improves the experience.  Cane sugar, molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, and vanilla bean combine to deliver a delicious licorice flavor.
Now it is time for a root beer flashback.  My only attempt to make homemade root beer took place in college with my friend Jacob.  We made several attempts to make root beer using yeast to carbonate the soda.  A 3 liter bottle from one batch was aging in my dark bedroom closet when it suddenly exploded, covering everything in sticky liquid.  But even worse, and much to our dismay, our homemade root beer was never successful because it always tasted too yeasty.
Flash forward to my Bundaburg tasting.  All of the sudden I recognize a strong yeast flavor.  It overcomes the licorice taste and any other good qualities possessed by Bundaberg.  Unfortunately, like my homemade root beer, this yeasty soda is irredeemable.
Overall Score: 2 of 10.

Barrel Brothers Root Beer

Barrel Brothers Root Beer

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Website: None

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Obtained at Raley’s Supermarket

From the makers of the quality soda offering Apple Beer, comes Barrel Brothers Root Beer.  Apple Beer remains the headline product for Apple Beer Corp. out of Salt Lake City, Utah.  I could not find any mention of their root beer on their website.

The root beer bottle has a nice design.  The bottle is dark brown and the label depicts, presumably, the Barrel Brothers; a slim mustachioed man, and a large happy man dressed in barrels, enjoying their frothy brew.  The bottle has an old time feel and lets you know that root beer is fun.

Barrel Brothers brands itself as a “creamy vanilla” root beer, and it does not disappoint.  It is creamy and smooth with just the right amount of sweetness.  If you are looking for a root beer with bite or a hard licorice flavor, this is not the root beer you are looking for.  However, if you are looking for a smooth vanilla root beer with a solid taste, this is a good choice.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.