A&W is so synonymous with root beer that its website is http://www.rootbeer.com. Roy Allen (“A”) created his root beer in Lodi, California in 1919, and teamed up with Frank Wright (“W”) shortly thereafter. A&W’s success spread as the partnership opened soda stands in California and Houston. By 1924, Allen bought out Wright’s share of the business in order to set up a restaurant franchise. Allen’s business grew rapidly, from more than 170 locations in 1933, to more than 450 in 1950, to more than 2,000 in 1960. A&W restaurants were the only places A&W Root Beer was available until 1971, when it became available at grocery stores for the first time.
We are all familiar with A&W Root Beer in bottles and cans, but A&W Root Beer in a glass bottle has a special look to it. The label has an aged root beer barrel serving as the background to the well recognizable oval A&W logo. That label just looks right wrapped around a clear glass bottle displaying the dark brown root beer contained inside.
Being able to compare a well known root beer, available everywhere, that I have had a hundred times, like A&W to rare and unique gourmet sodas is a fun task. A&W Root Beer has always been one of my favorite root beer brands, and it holds up well to more distinguished root beers. The chief characteristics that make A&W Root Beer what it is,are its creamy smoothness and its sweet vanilla flavor. I also noticed that A&W Root Beer is heavily carbonated. That combination makes A&W Root Beer a barbecue and party favorite around the country. Drinking A&W Root Beer from a glass bottle is a treat everyone should experience.
Root beer has been at the center of two recent legal matters. First, in Alberta, Canada, a man carrying a bottle of root beer was approached by officers in an unmarked police van. The man was suspected of drinking liquor in a public place, in violation of Canada’s Liquor and Gaming Act. Police allege the man would not comply with demands to hand over the bottle or to give his name. They further claim the man “aggressively resisted arrest,” which led to his being tackled to the ground, choked, pepper sprayed, and handcuffed.
The not so happy root beer drinker asserted that he told officers he was merely drinking root beer, and even handed it over to police for inspection. Last week, he was once again less than cheerful when the officers involved in the incident were found not guilty of assault. This man has had a rough time, someone should offer him a frothy root beer. Just make sure he drinks it indoors. His full story can be read here and here.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, an Indiana couple was no match from the crime fighting skills of root beer. While a female customer at a Dollar General Store was paying for a two-liter container of root beer, her husband walked by the doughnut display. After the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man moved behind the clerk’s counter, announced “This is a robbery…,” and began grabbing cash from the register. The couple made off with $40, but left their root beer behind. The thieves were identified by fingerprints taken from the root beer container. As of January 8, 2016, the couple remained at large. Root beer vows not to rest until both individuals are apprehended. That news story can be read in more detail here.
Boylan Bottling has a natural line of sodas under the tag line “The Natural Kind.” Boylan’s use of the word “natural” makes this a perfect time for a lesson in root beer lexicon. “Organic” is a code word for awful. However, “natural” is a much more positive word, indicating a lack of artificial ingredients without the certainty of a bad taste. Boylan’s Natural Root Beer includes the following natural ingredients: cane sugar, pure essential oils of sweet birch, cinnamon, sassafras, and anise, and extracts of bourbon vanilla, yucca, and licorice. Even its caramel color comes from cane sugar. On paper, Boylan’s Natural Root Beer looks like a top notch root beer.
Boylan’s Natural Root Beer is also successful in its execution. It is a complex root beer. Its natural flavors blend together well to form a deep and rich root beer fusion. It has a profound, robust taste. If one individual ingredient does stand out, it is the cinnamon finish that wraps a bow around this quality all natural soda.
Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla is one of several root sodas made by the gourmet soda pop and candy shop mega-store Rocket Fizz. Its label shows a closeup head shot of a young boy (Tyler the Kid) in one of those old time wild west pictures tourists get in a Virginia City saloon. Putting the picture of a little boy on the label did not give me much confidence that Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla would be a hit. I figured this cutesy label was covering up a shoddy soda. That wasn’t the case.
Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla has a thick head. It also has a decent root flavor. Regrettably, I was distracted from the flavor by an apparent lack of carbonation. The soda was carbonated, and I could detect carbonation as it went down my throat, but on my tongue this sarsaparilla was flat. As a result, Tyler the Kid Sarsaparilla tasted syrupy, which diverted my attention from the base flavor of the soda. I do think if this soda had danced on my tongue a little, it would have been quite good. Either way, it was better than expected.
Reading Draft Sarsaparilla, like all Reading Draft sodas, is triple filtered to remove sediment and double carbon filtered to provide the purest taste. That means Reading Draft Sarsaparilla is quintuple filtered. All this is to say that Reading Draft strives for quality.
Unfortunately, despite the quintuple filtering, Reading Draft Sarsaparilla misses the mark. This soda does not have a traditional sarsaparilla flavor. Instead of a hearty root flavor, Reading Draft Sarsaparilla tastes like creamy syrup that is slightly off. This is one drink you can feel comfortable skipping.