Monthly Archives: September 2015

AJ Stephans Birch Beer

AJ Stephans Birch Beer

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Website: http://www.ajstephans.com/AJStephans/pages/flavors.htm

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Fall River, Massachusetts

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

AJ Stephans Birch Beer is the third AJ Stephans soda to make an appearance here at Root Beer Respect.  AJ Stephans Birch Beer has the same label set up as AJ Stephans Root Beer and AJ Stephans Sarsaparilla, with a simple display of the brand name and the type of soda.  However, out of the tree labels, I like the color scheme of AJ Stephans Birch Beer the most.  The crimson lettering stands out from the light tan background and the white base.  Speaking of color, I am not sure what color the soda is, but before opening the bottle it looked clear through the dark brown bottle.

AJ Stephans Birch Beer has the icy cool flavor of Wrigley’s Winterfresh gum.  The similarlty is uncanny.  Winterfresh has an intense taste, so you may think AJ Stephans Birch Beer would be overpowering and abrasive.  It is not.  It somehow has the same flavor with a slightly toned down intensity.  Even if not abrasive, you may ask yourself, “do I want to drink a soda that tastes like mint gum?”  For me, in this case at least, the answer is a definite yes.  AJ Stephans Birch Beer is one of the best birch beers I have experienced.

Overall Score: 8 of 10.

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Squamscot Birch Beer

Squamscot Birch Beer

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Website: http://www.nhsoda.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Newfields, New Hampshire

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Fun fact about Squamscot Birch Beer, of the 22 Squamscot soda flavors, Squamscot Birch Beer is first alphabetically.   Squamscot’s website refers to its birch beer as “[a] spin off of Root Beer, (an old timer’s drink).”  The birch beer used for this review, like the root beer used in my Squamscot Root Beer review, comes from the 151st anniversary collection of Squamscot.

The first ingredient listed on Squamscot Birch Beer’s label is “lightly carbonated water.” Squamscot Birch Beer is lightly carbonated.  Too lightly carbonated.  It also has a strong wintergreen smell.  Although the drink also tastes of wintergreen, the wintergreen flavor is mild compared to the smell.  Squamscot Birch Beer also has a slightly bitter birch flavor.  However, both the birch flavor and the wintergreen take a back seat to the predominant flavor, or lack of flavor.  As odd as it may sound, Squamscot Birch Beer tastes mostly like freshness.  Sure, wintergreen can taste fresh, but this did not taste like wintergreen freshness.  Rather, it tasted strongly of simple freshness, with a little wintergreen mixed in.  Although there is nothing wrong with freshness, other flavors make better tasting soda.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Tower Root Beer

Tower Root Beer

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Website: https://www.towerrootbeer.com/

Sweetener: 100% Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Boston, Massachusetts

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Tower Root Beer was established in Somerville, Massachusetts back in 1914 by Italian immigrants.  The family business continued through the 1970’s, after which time production of Tower Root Beer stopped.  After a 30-year absence, Tower Root Beer was reintroduced to the New England region.

The name Tower Root Beer comes from the Prospect Hill Tower, a monument to Prospect Hill, which has historical significance in both the American Revolution and the Civil War.  When the founder of Prospect Hill Bottling and Soda Water Co. went to register the new company with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, the clerk suggested that a shorter name be used, and asked about the location of the business, “Isn’t that where the Tower is?”  With that, the name Tower stuck.  A small drawing of the tower is found front and center on the root beer label.

Tower Root Beer is a subtle drink.  Its flavor is good, but largely nondescript.  Tower has a mellow root beer vibe that finishes with a sweet, honey kiss.  Although not bursting with flavor, Tower Root Beer is quite good and certainly worth a try.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Jones Soda Root Beer

Jones Soda Root Beer

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Website: https://www.jonessoda.com/

Sweetener: Inverted Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Seattle, Washington

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Jones Soda was created in Vancouver, BC in 1995.  It was launched with the idea of incorporating random photographs onto its bottles using shots taken by one of its photographer founders.  Soon, however,  consumers began submitting their own photos, which Jones started placing on its bottles.  The photo on my bottle, photo # 1335141 taken by Robin Barker from Amarillo, Texas, looks up from below two wetsuit wearing snorkelers. If you have photo that makes the cut, it could be on the label of Jones Soda Root Beer.

In addition to its unique photo labels, Jones Soda’s caps “offer pearls of wisdom, advice, or simple daily pick me ups.”  My cap informed me, “You will be honored.”  I look forward to that.

Jones Soda is sweetened with inverted cane sugar.  Having no idea what that meant, I started doing a little research.  My research took me to an entry in an old Encyclopedia Brittanica on brewing.  I still don’t exactly understand what inverted cane sugar is, but a very abbreviated explanation is that it is a physical blend of the simple sugars fructose and glucose.  We are not going to get any more scientific on this post than that.

Although Jones Soda Root Beer has unique labeling features, the soda does not quite live up to its packaging.  Jones Soda Root Beer has something of a bitter bite.  The soda initially comes off as slightly stale and just a little off.  Its taste ends on a different note, however, as a very sweet and creamy root beer.  Jones has some good things going for it, but fails to pull it all together.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer

Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer

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Website: https://www.boylanbottling.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Teterboro, New Jersey

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer is produced by Boylan Bottling, as is the first-rate Boylan Root Beer.  Interestingly,  while the creamy red birch beer is “Boylan’s” with an apostrophe denoting possession (as in the creamy red birch beer belonging to, or produced by, Boylan), the root been is merely “Boylan” Root Beer without an apostrophe.  Boylan’s current website does not have any specific information about Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer, but other internet sources state the beverage was developed as an “entry level” birch beer intended for youthful customers.  The soda has proved successful not only with its target market, but with anyone possessing undamaged taste buds.

The embossed Boylan’s bottle and simple label design demonstrate the best of a vintage soda look.

Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer starts off with a blast of carbonation.  You have to wait for the carbonation to settle down before you can distinguish any flavors.  The flavors that do emerge from the fog of carbonation are quite pleasing.  First, you taste a birch flavor which provides a slight bite.  However the real treat materializes just a moment later.  It comes in the form of a rich, creamy red velvet and caramel flavor.  This delicious blend does not quickly tail off, but remains strong as you savor its depth.  This soda seemed to get better with every sip, and ended at a very high level.

Overall Score: 8 of 10.

Filbert’s Old Time Draft Root Beer

Filbert’s Old Time Draft Root Beer

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Website: http://www.filbertsrootbeer.com/

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Bottled at: Chicago, Illinois

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

In the early 1900s George Filbert delivered ice and bottles of milk by horse-drawn wagon in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, together with his wife and son.  During Prohibition, George’s son Charlie created a root beer recipe which the family manufactured in half barrels and distributed to local restaurants and taverns.  Today, the Filbert family continues to manufacture root beer from the same Chicago neighborhood.

The Filbert’s Old Time Draft Root Beer label has a family feel.  It displays one of the vintage Filbert’s root beer barrels filling a stein with frothy, homemade draft root beer.

Filbert’s Old Time Draft Root Beer is an average root beer.  It has a sweet syrup flavor with molasses tones.  The flavor is fine enough.  Unfortunately, however, the flavor is not long lasting.  Worse still, once the flavor fades, Filbert’s leaves you with a dry mouth.  Drinking soda should not leave you feeling parched.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.