Orvon Grover Autry, better known as Gene Autry, also known as “The Singing Cowboy,” was an All-American musician and television and movie star. His heyday spanned three decades, running from the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s. By all accounts, Gene Autry was a much beloved cowboy superstar. However, I have to think that Gene Autry’s fan base is old, shrinking, and likely not an ideal group to target for root beer marketing. On the other hand, maybe Gene Autry is so synonymous with cowboys and the west that he is the ideal, timeless mascot.
The label for Gene Autry Root Beer shows a young Gene Autry attired in a western shirt emblazoned with Old Glory. Standing next to him is his faithful horse and sidekick from radio, television, and film, Champion. To top it all off, Gene Autry’s name is spelled out in cursive with a cowboy’s lasso rope.
Coming into this review, I had some trepidation that Gene Autry Root Beer would be terrible, nothing more than a gimmick. In reality, it is an adequate root beer. It has a dark flavor, without any specific spices standing out. On the back end, vanilla becomes more pronounced. All of this is delivered with just enough carbonation. Gene Autry Root Beer is not as fantastic as Gene Autry was a cowboy, but it is worth a drink.
If you every go to Avery’s Bottling Works, in addition to touring the soda factory, you can invent your own soda in their mixing room. Whatever soda you invent is likely to be bottled in the same clear glass bottles used for Avery’s Root Beer, with the same simple, blue and white “Always Ask for Avery’s” label. You may wonder how your new soda concoction is sweetened. Well, Avery’s website lists pure cane sugar as the sweetening ingredient in its root beer. However, the ingredient list on the root beer bottle cap identifies sweeteners “high fructose corn sweetener and sugar.” So there is no telling how your special Avery’s soda may be sweetened.
As for Avery’s Root Beer, it is a middle of the road root beer. Nothing about the soda is outstanding, but it does just enough to get the job done. It has very little carbonation and has a syrupy sweetness. Its flavor is mild and creamy with a hint of honey. A soda like this is nothing to write home about, but is certainly worth drinking.
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.
Sherman F. Avery began making soda in a red barn in New Britain, Connecticut during the summer of 1904. He delivered his Avery’s Sodas by way of a horse pulled wagon. Today, Avery’s Beverages are still made in small batches in that same New Britain, Connecticut red barn. Avery’s Beverages has quite a repertoire of sodas, with 25 classic flavors, 8 diet flavors, 6 specialty and seasonal flavors, and 8 “Totally Gross Sodas.”
Avery Sarsaparilla has an old time two-tone label. The label does not specify the flavor of the soda. Instead, the type of soda is identified on the bottle cap. Later, when looking for the list of ingredients, I realized the ingredients were also found on the cap and not the label (as for the nutrition facts, they were not on the label or the bottle cap). This allows Avery to use the same label for all of its sodas. Only the bottle caps differ from flavor to flavor.
Avery Sarsaparilla is light in color and in flavor. Its color is that of a light colored cream soda. Its taste is that of a mild root beer mixed with ginger ale. The flavor is good, although not as strong as I would like, but lasts just a brief moment. Avery Sarsaparilla is also highly carbonated. It bubbled all the way down my throat, feeling like little carbonation bubbles were sticking to my throat. It was a unique carbonation feeling. In the end Avery Sarsaparilla was good, but lacked a little flavor.
Sprecher Root Beer is one root beer I have really been looking forward to tasting. After much anticipation, we reviewed Sprecher’s 30th Anniversary Honey Root Beer, but were left less than impressed. However, I still had high hopes for the original Sprecher Root Beer.
Sprecher Root Beer has a good root beer look. From the root beer barrel look of the label, to the embossed bottle, to the German font displaying the title of the company, to the Sprecher crow mascot holding a root beer mug and a root beer bottle, Sprecher Root Beer gets high marks for its presentation. That’s without even mentioning that Sprecher Root beer comes in a robust 16 oz. bottle, delivering 4 oz. more than the typical bottled root beer.
I was more than pleased upon downing my first mouthful of Sprecher Root Beer. It had just the rich mixture of root goodness and caramel and vanilla smoothness. I was immediately ready to declare Sprecher an elite root beer. My next sip was more of the same, smooth and satisfying; near perfection. However, after this sip I noted a slight aftertaste. Each subsequent sip brought a more pronounced aftertaste. Unfortunately, the aftertaste was the same disagreeable soapy flavor that pervaded Sprecher Honey Root Beer. In the end, all I could taste was the offensive aftertaste. In a spirit of fairness, we decided to step back from the root beer and revisit it with a fresh pair of eyes (actually taste buds). On our return several day later, the first few sips were splendid. Unfortunately, it could not last. The soapy flavor returned.
This soda went from great to bad. I suppose if you are only interested in drinking two sips at a time, this might be the perfect soda for you. I am probably being too generous, but because Sprecher Root Beer did show a short glimpse of greatness, I give it a 6.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Brown’s is a New York soda company with a long history. The brand was created in 1869 and sold its tonic in New York delicatessens and door to door in Jewish neighborhoods. Nearly two decades later, in 1886, the company began bottling its soda. Dr. Brown’s has made a celery flavored drink since the company’s inception. Initially it was called Dr. Brown’s Celery Tonic. Today the soda, which I would never have guessed existed, is sold as Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray.
Dr. Brown’s Root Beer is made with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. I am unsure whether I taste-tested an all sugar version, an all HFCS version, or a mixture of the two. I do find the and/or ingredient listing to be interesting. As I imagine it, Dr. Brown’s had a big pile of sugar that it mixed into its root beer batches until the pile ran low. The root beer brewers looked around and found some containers of corn syrup. Happy that they didn’t have to drive to the local grocery store to buy more sugar, they dumped the corn syrup in the pot and added an “and/or” to the label.
Dr. Brown’s Root Beer is a middle of the road soda. It is good enough, but not outstanding. It has a typical, although slightly mild root beer taste. There is nothing off-putting about Dr. Brown’s, but no element of the soda really stands out either. You can probably count on Dr. Brown’s not to offend anyone at a friendly gathering. However, if you are looking to impress with a top of the line root beer, there are certainly better drinks out there.
Long before there was a Berghoff Root Beer there was Berghoff Beer. It was initially brewed in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1887 by four German immigrant brothers. Several Years later, Berghoff Beer was sold at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, thereby expanding its market. During World War I, as anti German sentiment grew in the U.S., the brothers wisely changed their company slogan from “A Real German Brew” to “A Real Honest Brew.” Their honest brew was shelved for a time during prohibition. During prohibition, Berghoff began offering a draft style soft drink known as “Bergo,” which tasted similar to root beer. After the repeal of prohibition, Berghoff stopped making Bergo, but introduced Berghoff Root Beer in its place.
Berghoff Root Beer hits you right out of the gate with an blast of carbonation. As the carbonation settles, a series of flavors manifest themselves. The first is an herbal root flavor. That is followed by a blend of flavors that are difficult to individually identify. Somewhere in the middle of this jumble of flavors is a somewhat metallic flavor. Not a terrible, ruin the soda metallic flavor, but a still a flavor I could do without. Finally, Berghoff Root Beer ends on much more pleasant sweet caramel note. Berghoff has high points and low points, making it a middle of the road root beer.