Category Archives: 7 out of 10

Rocket Fizz Root Beer Float

Rocket Fizz Root Beer Float

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Website: http://rocketfizz.com/

Sweetener: Sugar

Bottled at: Camarillo, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shops, LLC was founded in 2007.  Within five years, Rocket Fizz had become the largest and fastest growing soda and candy shop franchise brand in the U.S.  Its stores, which are now found all across the country, carry thousands of bottled sodas and a large variety candy.  A visit to a Rocket Fizz store is a treat for your sweet tooth.

The label for Rocket Fizz Root Beer Float walks a fine line between looking slightly cheap and generic but at the same time, really cool.  The label has an over-sized version of the Rocket Fizz logo, which shows a young boy riding a rocket that has circled the earth, holding a bottle of soda.  Unfortunately, it appear s the boy is holding a grape soda instead of a root beer or birch beer.  Without question, however, the best part of the label is its shimmering metallic look.

I had a little trepidation about downing Rocket Fizz Root Beer Float.  A root beer float soda sounded gimmicky.  Sure, root beer floats are great, but how do you harness that creamy, frothy goodness in a bottled soda.  I expected the soda to be a total miss.  Had I been blindfolded, I don’t think I would have guessed this was root beer float flavored soda.  However, the flavor is good.  Rocket Fizz Root Beer Float has a typical root beer feel with an added kick of sweetness.  It tastes almost like bubble gum, which does not sound appetizing, but works well.  As a result, even if the soda doesn’t succeed in replicating a root beer float, it is successful as a soda.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

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A&W Root Beer

A&W Root Beer

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Website: http://www.rootbeer.com/

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Bottled at: Plano, Texas

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Death Valley Root Beer

Death Valley Root Beer

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Website: http://www.mojavered.com/beers-view/root-beer/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Inyokern, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

On a recent drive from Reno, Nevada to Los Angeles, California I passed a lone building on the side of the road in the middle of the Mojave Desert with an Indian Wells Brewing Company sign.  I thought, “this can’t be the where the Indian Wells Brewing Company is located can it?”  Well it is.  Why is the Indian Wells Brewing Company situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range far from civilization?  That is the site of the Indian Wells Spring, source of the pure artesian spring water used to make Death Valley Root Beer.

The Indian Wells Spring is a California historic site.  Accordingly to the historical marker found there, after five days of travel from the Argus Range, the Manly-Jayhawker parties of 1849 found their first water at the Indian Wells waterhole.  Death Valley Root Beer embraces the history of the Indian Wells Spring with its slogan, “A Taste of the Old West,” and its label depicting a Nineteenth Century stagecoach traveling through the rough and barren Mojave Desert.

Death Valley Root Beer is not flashy, but is a solid blue collar root beer.  It has a good herbal base with a hint of vanilla.  It has a mild bite and its flavor has staying power.  Death Valley Root Beer is a fine anytime root beer.  I imagine it is especially tasty on a warm Inyokern, California afternoon.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Thomas Kemper Root Beer

Thomas Kemper Root Beer

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Website: http://thomaskemper.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Portland, Oregon

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Root beer was the first soda flavor created by the Thomas Kemper Soda Company.  It was introduced at an Oktoberfest celebration in 1990.  This relative newcomer to the gourmet root beer scene was reformulated in 2008 to include pure cane sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup. Impressively, in 1996 prior to the root beer reformulation, Thomas Kemper Root Beer made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the world’s largest root beer float, a 2,166.5 gallon float.

Thomas Kemper is a model of a simple, but quality root beer label.  There is not one specific reason the label works, but the color combination, the banner emblazoned with the name Thomas Kemper, and the general design just work together.  The highlight of the bottle is its cap, which displays a honey bee from which Thomas Kemper acquires its pure Northwest honey.

Thomas Kemper Root Beer has a light and fresh feel.  There is a slight root beer bite, as well as caramel and honey tones.  Thomas Kemper Root Beer is also sweet.  However, its sweetness and flavor combination do not result in a heavy root beer.  Rather, like I said, it is tasty light and fresh root beer.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla

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Website: http://jacksonholesoda.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Jackson, Wyoming

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

There is not a ton of information available about Jackson Hole Soda.  For example, the “JHS History” page on Jackson Hole Soda’s website does not say anything about the history of Jackson Hole Soda.  The short paragraph on that page under the heading  “Where we come from and who we are” ignores that topic altogether, explaining instead that Jackson Hole Sodas are delicious, refreshing, and varied.

Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla has an Old West look.  The label shows a black and white photo of two 19th century women, likely outlaws Marge Cassidy and the Sundance Girl, holding fishing gear and three recently caught fish that in all probability they stole at gunpoint from an impoverished father of ten children, who was trying to obtain supper for his underfed and famished family.  Those were the breaks in the Wild West, but at least that father was able to return home to his starving family and drown his sorrows in a mug of fine home-brewed Sarsaparilla.

Snake River Sarsaparilla tastes like a cola-root beer hybrid.  It took me a minute to put my finger on the cola, but there it was, mixing with an herbal root flavor.  I am not a big cola fan, but this mixture was just right for a good Old West sarsaparilla.  I can only hope that poor father who failed to bring home sustenance for his family enjoyed a sarsaparilla this good.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Boylan’s Original Birch Beer

Boylan’s Original Birch Beer

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Website: https://www.boylanbottling.com/product/original-birch-beer/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Teterboro, New Jersey

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

The original 1891 soda created by pharmacist William Boylan in his Paterson, New Jersey, apothecary was Boylan’s Birch Beer.  Boylan sold individual cups of Boylan’s Birch from a barrel in the back of a wagon.  Today, Boylan’s Original Birch Beer is available in dark brown glass bottles embossed with the year 1891, which serve as the standard by which all other premium root beer brand bottles are measured.

Boylan’s website describes its birch beer as “[d]istinctively minty and sharp, with strong notes of sweet birch and wintergreen oil.”  That description is pretty spot on.  Boylan’s Birch Beer has a light and fresh wintergreen mint flavor, under-girded by a dark and robust birch.  There is not much more to say, other than this is a good tasting beverage.

Overall Score: 7 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.

Gale’s Root Beer

Gale’s Root Beer

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Website: http://www.galegand.com/cookbooks-soda/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Riverwoods, Illinois 

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Gale Gand is a woman who wears many hats.  She is a pastry chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality, mother, and root beer maker.  Years ago, Gale was working in England and had no access to root beer.  She got a little brown terrier and named him Rootie, but she had to wait until her return to the United States to enjoy a cold root beer.  Not only did Gale drink root beer upon her return, she also started making root beer to sell in her restaurants.

Rootie is featured on the Gale’s Root Beer label alongside a young girl, likely a young Gale or Gale’s daughter.  The girl is holding a bottle of root beer while withstanding a gale (see the fun word play?).  The label has the feel of a homemade labor of love, not of a mass produced soda.

Gale’s Root Beer is made with cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla extract.  Of those three ingredients, the cinnamon had the most pronounced flavor.  The cinnamon was not overwhelming, but mixed well with the tasty root beer base.  My one complaint about Gale’s Root Beer is that neither the cinnamon nor the root beer flavors were long lasting.  They dissipated too quickly.  Still, I enjoyed Gale’s Root Beer.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla

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Website: ?????

Sweetener: Fructose

Bottled at: Glendora, California

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is a mystery drink.  It has no website, and I am not exactly sure where the soda is made.  In a barely readable microscopic font, the label states that Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is distributed by Specialty Bevarages, Inc. of Glendora, California, but the birthplace of the soda is not disclosed.  The mystery theme continues with the ingredients for Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla.  Its sweetener is fructose.  Sugar cane derived fructose?  Sugar beet derived fructose?  Corn derived fructose?  It is a mystery.

Even the taste of Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla is something of an enigma.  It is a light and refreshing drink, but is it a sarsaparilla?  I recognized three different soda flavors in Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla.  First, the crisp, fresh taste of ginger ale came to the fore.  Later, the predominant flavor was cola.  All along, there was a hint of sarsaparilla, but it certainly was not strong or the main flavor.  So is it a sarsaparilla?  I guess a soda with a hint of sarsaparilla can claim to be sarsaparilla.  The important thing is that despite the mysteries of Barons Boothill Sarsaparilla, it tastes pretty good.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.

Hank’s Birch Beer

Hank’s Birch Beer

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Website: http://www.hanksbeverages.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Trevose, Pennsylvania

Purchase Location: Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

We recently reviewed Hank’s Premium Root Beer here.  Hank’s Root Beer received high marks for both taste and bottle design.  Hank’s Birch Beer has the same design, and whether their glass vessel holds root beer, birch beer, or antifreeze, it does a dang good job of selling its product.  Hank’s describes birch beer as a “traditional northeast favorite [which] is becoming a popular flavor throughout many parts of the nation.”  That is certainly true in my west coast habitation.

Hank’s Birch Beer is a red birch beer.  I don’t actually recall looking at the color, but Red # 40 is an ingredient.  Hank’s touts its birch beer as “similar to root beer, but crisper and more robust, with a ‘kick’ of wintergreen flavor.”  Hank’s is not joking about the kick.  This soda is one big minty kick to the face.  I don’t know if wintergreen is a strong enough description.  Hank’s has an intense peppermint-esque quality.  That flavor tapers off slightly to a sweet, creamy ending, but this is mostly a mint experience.  My daughter thoroughly loved the flavor.  I enjoyed it, but would have liked a deeper contrast at the end, transitioning from the mint to a creamier or stronger herbal root flavor.  If you like mint then this is certainly the drink for you.

Overall Score: 7 of 10.