Before there was Judge Judy, before there was Judge Joe Brown, there was Judge Wapner on The People’s Court. Judge Wapner was the original The People’s Court judge and the original reality courtroom show judge. From 1981 to 1993 Judge Wapner presided over 2, 340 half-hour segments. In my youth, I watched more than a few of those segments. If anyone deserves a root beer, it is Judge Wapner who, at the time of this review, is 96 years old. But how did he get a root beer? The unconfirmed rumor on the internet is that one of the Rocket Fizz big wigs is Judge Wapner’s nephew.
A root beer bearing Judge Wapner’s name should also bear his likeness. Judge Wapner Root Beer does just that. The label shows the Judge pointing at all potential root beer drinkers and declaring “I Sentence You to Drink my Root Beer!” I get that Judge Wapner wants to use legal lingo, but maybe the Judge could have used different wording. Rarely, if ever, is being sentenced to do something a good thing. If he has to use his judicial authority to sentence people to drink his root beer, how good can it be?
As it turns out, I would drink Judge Wapner Root Beer even if I hadn’t been sentenced to do so. Judge Wapner must love frothy, becasue his soda has a substantial head. The root beer is heavy on the molasses, piloncillo/panela/brown sugar loaf taste. From that, a nice creaminess briefly manifests itself. Then the taste turns slightly bitter. In the end, Judge Wapner Root Beer is worth a try, but I’m glad I haven’t been sentenced to drink it exclusively.
Rocky Mountain Soda harnesses the essence of the Rocky Mountains in its small batch, hand bottled root beer. Rocky Mountain Root Beer is made with carbonated Colorado water and sweetened with Rocky Mountain beet sugar. As far as I am aware, this is the first beet sugar root beer I have reviewed.
I really like Rocky Mountain Root Beer’s label. It celebrates the Rocky Mountains in a classy sepia tone. The focal point is a regal Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep surrounded by Rocky Mountain flora. The bottom of the label has an artistic seal depicting a steep mountain peak, and on the top of the label, the name of the soda stands out in bright gold lettering.
Unfortunately, the drink is not as memorable as Rocky Mountain Root Beer’s label. For starters, this soda is not very flavorful. It is almost as if instead of root beer, Rocky Mountain Root Beer is a carbonated water, lightly flavored with root beer. To the extent Rocky Mountain Root Beer does have flavor, it disappears almost immediately. It comes of as slightly yeasty, but not off-putting. Anyhow, that flavor quickly vanishes, along with any prolonged interest in the soda.
Apart from the information found on its bottle, little is known by me about Empire Bottling Works Root Beer. The company operates out of Bristol, Rhode Island, and was organized in 1930. However, Empire Bottling Works does not maintain a website. The exclusive distributor of Empire Bottle Works products in St. Louis maintains a facebook page here. That page has a number of pictures of “Empire Soda Girl” holding Empire Bottling Works beverages, but does not say much about the company. If I really cared enough, I could find out more information about Empire Bottling Works. Its telephone number is prominently, and uniquely, placed right in the middle of the label. I don’t care enough, but if anyone is interested Empire Bottling Works can be reached at 401- 253-7117.
As for the soda, Empire Bottling Works Root Beer would be much better if it had more flavor. As it stands, this soda is far too watery. It has slightly caramel and slightly malty tones. It is also light on sweetness. I wish there was more to say about Empire Bottling Works Root Beer, but in the end it is just a fairly dull and watery soda.
AJ Stephans is a New England company established in 1926. AJ Stephans is most well known for its ginger beer, which I have not yet tried. Its root beer is made with an interesting list of ingredients: pure carbonated water, cane sugar, flavor, caramel color, and sodium benzoate as a preservative. I am not an expert on the government standards for listing the ingredients for foods and beverages, but listing “flavor” as an ingredient seems a little broad. If flavor is an ingredient, shouldn’t pretty much every food and beverage have it listed as an ingredient? I mean, who wants to eat or drink something without flavor?
I can confirm that AJ Stephans Root Beer does in fact have flavor. It has a rich root beer flavor. It is sweet and deep, and just about everything you could want in a root beer. Unfortunately, AJ Stephans has another flavor, an aftertaste which may make you forget about the original root beer flavor. The aftertaste is slightly metallic. The more I had, the more it reminded me of the taste of blood. You know when you bite your tongue and get that blood taste in your mouth? That is similar to this aftertaste. Maybe there is a reason AJ Stephans does not expound on the ingredient “flavor.” Kind of disappointing after a good start.
Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages are the product of a family run New Hampshire business dating back to the Civil War. Conner Bottling Works was established in 1863 by William H. Conner when he started producing a tonic he called “Connermade”. Five generations of the Conner family have continued the Squamscot beverage tradition. The unique, and made up sounding, name Squamscot comes from a nearby New Hampshire river.
Squamscot Root Beer’s label is not flashy. Rather, it is a straight forward, informative label which highlights its long-established history in the soda business. For example, this 2014 label declares, “Celebrating 151 years!” Once you get past 150 years, every year should be celebrated. I sure know I would be proud if I lived past 150. The crown jewel of the bottle is the intertwined symbol made from the initials of Conner Bottling Works, found on the bottle cap.
With a 151 year old soda company you can end up with a soda having an ideal recipe which has stood the test of time, a soda which has had 151 years to make small improvements and evolve into a fantastic soda, or a soda which has held fast to its original recipe despite not being that great, and which has somehow avoided being discontinued over the years. Unfortunately, Squamscot Root Beer falls most squarely in the final category. Squamscot is not bad, it is just not significant as a root beer. Root beer should taste like root beer. You should not have to search for the root flavor. Squamscot Root Beer tastes like seltzer water slightly flavored with root beer. That’s fine is you are looking for a root beer flavored carbonated water, but not if you are expecting root beer. I feel like things just got a little intense.
Like many other well known root beer brands, ownership of Dad’s has changed hands several times , with its corporate headquarters moving from place to place. Dad’s was developed in the 1930s by Barney Berns and Ely Klapman in the basement of Klapman’s Chicago-area home. In 1939, Dad’s was granted its trademark, and by the late 1940s Dad’s was one of the most consumed brands of root beer in the United States. All rights to the Dad’s name and logo were sold to IC Industries in the 1970s. The Monarch Beverage Company of Atlanta (the current maker of Mason’s Old Fashioned Root Beer) acquired Dad’s from IC Industries of Chicago in 1986. Finally, in 2007 Dad’s Root Beer was purchased from Monarch, by Hedinger Brands, LLC and licensed to The Dad’s Root Beer Company, LLC. The company headquarters is now located in Jasper, Indiana.
Although it is remarkably simple, because its blue, yellow, and red label is so recognizable, it is synonymous with root beer.
The first thing I noticed about Dad’s is that it has a lot more carbonation than a typical soda. Dad’s has a herbal root beer flavor which is slightly bitter. However, the flavor is not very strong; a little weak for my tastes, but not what I would describe as watery. Although Dad’s claims to be “America’s Premium Root Beer,” I would not classify it as “premium.” Nevertheless, it is a perfectly fine root beer to sit back and enjoy with friends and family.
Stewart’s Root Beer began in 1924 with the opening of the first Stewart’s Root Beer stand in Mansfield, Ohio. Stewart’s was available exclusively in its root beer stands and drive-ins until 1990 when Cable Car Beverage Corporation obtained bottling rights and began bottling Stewart’s Root Beer for the first time. Later, Stewart’s was obtained by Cadbury Schweppes and is now a part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Not surprisingly, Stewart’s is now available everywhere. Perhaps the best thing about Stewart’s is that due to its broad distribution, it is much cheaper than other bottled root beers.
Stewart’s has a nice bottle presentation with its dark brown bottle, easily identifiable font atop an orange background, and the mandatory frothy root beer mug. For some reason, I love the “Since 1924” label on the neck of the bottle.
The root beer flavor is pretty good, but not very noteworthy. It has a classic root beer flavor without many frills. Stewart’s is not watery, and tastes like root beer. So, although there are better drinks out there, go ahead and grab one at a bargain price.
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.