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.
Normally, before each root beer I taste test I become excited, thinking, “this might be an absolutely delectable drink.” That thought did not cross my mind prior to tasting Oogavé Root Beer. Instead I thought, “this is likely going to be terrible.” I know it is wrong to judge a book by its cover or a root beer by the fact that it has organic agave nectar instead of cane sugar or that it proudly announces it is gluten-free, low-glycemic, and vegan. However, I have not found sodas touting their healthy properties to be very pleasing to the palate. Nevertheless, despite my trepidation about Oogavé, I tried to keep an open mind going into the review.
Oogavé is very proud about its use of agave as a principal ingredient. The label shows reflective gold carbonation bubbles rising up around a group of agave leaves. It is because of those agave leaves, and the fact that Oogavé is sweetened by agave nectar, that the company’s website boasts, “We have yet to find a traditional soda that has less sugar than Oogavé.”
To some degree having less sugar is a positive. Unfortunately in this case, the result of less sugar was a very inadequately sweetened soda. Instead of sweet soda, Oogavé Root Beer came off as bitter. It also left my mouth feeling dry. Contrary to claims on its website that Oogavé Root Beer has a “classic root beer flavor … reminiscent of the good old days,” Oogavé does not have a traditional root beer flavor, but tastes of agave. The agave flavor is not long lasting, which is a good thing, because it does not taste great. Sadly, the agave flavor is replaced only with bitterness and a dry mouth. Perhaps sometimes you can judge a root beer by its label.
The Pop Shoppe Root Beer is my first soda brought to us from our good friend from the north, Canada. The Pop Shoppe began selling soda from London, Ontario, Canada in 1969. A circular sticker on the neck of its root beer announces, “Canada’s Original Since 1969.” I do not know what “Canada’s Original” means, as I would be very surprised if 1969 was the first year that root beer was ever produced in Canada. Nevertheless, when The Pop Shoppe began, it avoided using traditional retail channels, opting instead for selling its soda through franchised outlets and its own stores in refillable bottles.
Before long, The Pop Shoppe was selling 30 different sodas throughout Canada and 12 flavors in the United States. Unfortunately, The Pop Shoppe’s sales soon came crashing back to earth, and by 1983 the company ceased operations. 21 years later, The Pop Shop was brought back to life, this time using traditional retail distribution. All of this information is available at http://www.thepopshoppe.com/about/, a website which is unnecessarily frustrating. To get the whole history summarized above, you have to click on to 32 pages. Unless you have a lot of free time, I suggest you just trust my summary rather than reading it for yourself on The Pop Shoppe site.
The Pop Shoppe Root Beer has a kiddie feel to it, complete with a smiling anthropomorphic root beer mug. A playful, childlike appearance is not a bad thing for a root beer. Another positive for The Pop Shoppe Root Beer is its head. It is full, frothy, and substantial. One of the best I have encountered. Unfortunately, that is where the positive attributes end. It has been some time since I have had a bad root beer. This is a bad root beer. I had trouble convincing my daughters to have more than one sip. It is a yeasty mess. It was not so terrible that I could not drink it. I mean, it did not burn my throat or taste like gasoline, it just was not very good. All I can say is that it tasted like slightly root beer flavored liquid yeast. You want some?
I am breaking my own rule. Generally, this website is dedicated to reviewing only root beverages from glass bottles. However, I thought an exception should be made for a soda making its way to me all the way from China. I should be accommodating to my international guest, shouldn’t I? My sister recently spent some time teaching English in China, and was kind enough to bring this soda home for me.
Sarsi is a sarsaparilla soft drink available in most Asian countries. Sarsae is a brand of sarsi, the most popular sarsi drink in Hong Kong. Sarsae is made by the A.S. Watson Group, which is the largest health and beauty retail group in Hong Kong. It has over 11,000 stores worldwide, and serves over 27 million customers per week.
Sarsae has a distinct flavor from sarsaparilla found in the U.S. It has a a deep brown sugar and molasses flavor. The flavor reminded me a lot of the concentrated and unrefined clump of sugar known in Mexico as piloncillo (I just learned that piloncillo is called panela in English). I am not a huge fan of piloncillo, and I was not a huge fan of Sarsae. Sarsae has very little carbonation and its deep, dark flavor is slightly bitter. I found myself hesitant to take large sips of Sarsae. I ended up not finishing the drink. It was not terrible, but I would be more than happy to never drink it again.
Rat Bastard Root Beer is an irreverent offering from Real Soda. I could not find much information about Rat Bastard. The website http://www.skeleteens.com found on the bottle cap is no longer in use.
Rat Bastard’s bottle is focused on proclaiming offensive language and broadcasting crude, suggestive double meanings. Previous iterations of the Rat Bastard label used even more offensive language than the bottle used for this review. Could Rat Bastard’s disagreeable presentation be overlooked if the root beer itself was agreeable? Absolutely! Is Rat Bastard Root Beer agreeable? No! It is perhaps as distasteful as its label.
Rat Bastard Root Beer has a harsh bite. It effectively stuns the inside of your mouth. My daughter recommended that I warn root beer drinkers that if you drink Rat Bastard Root Beer “your taste buds might die.” The harsh bite got worse as I continued to drink. I noticed that my mouth was becoming dry as I drank. Perhaps the unconventional herbal blend of American, Siberian & Korean Ginseng, Jasmine, Clove, Dong Quai – Angelica; Skullcap (Mud Dog Weed), African Capsicum, Ginko Biloba, Gutu Kola, Goldenseal, Echinacea, Reishi & Shitake & Cordyceps was damaging my salivary glands. Perhaps I am exaggerating. In any event, I would not recommend this brew as it is not very good.