Your favorite root beer review site was on a short hiatus, but returns today with this review of Firemans Brew Root Beer. As I began typing this review, I mistakenly thought the root beer was named Fireman’s Brew, as in the brew belonging to the fireman. It turns out, however, that there is no possession indicating apostrophe in the name of this brew.
The origin of this root beer is less confusing than its name. The idea for Firemans Brew came in December 2010 as two parched California firefighters managed a brush fire and dreamed about drinking a refreshing beverage. They first created created alcoholic beverages, but then added an “on duty” drink line, including root beer. Generously, Firemans Brew donates a portion of its profits to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
The label for Firemans Brew Root Beer is busy but appreciated, just like a hardworking firefighter. The background takes the form of the well-recognizable fireman shield, overlaid with the name of the root beer. The fireman shield is encircled by tiny flames and the phrases “Extinguish Your Thirst” and “Ignite The Party.” The label does a good job of tying firefighting and the root beer inspired by firefighting together.
The backstory to Firemans Brew is interesting because just as its line of drinks was inspired as its creators dreamt of refreshment, the one word that kept coming to my mind as I drank Firemans Brew Root Beer was “refreshing.” It has a very traditional taste, mixing vanilla and typical root beer spices. However, for some reason, I found Firemans Brew Root Beer’s refreshment value to be exceptional.
I finished writing my review for Reading Draft Birch Beer several days ago, and that review has disappeared to the land of lost work product. This is my best attempt to recreate what was likely an award winning review.
Many birch beers are one trick ponies. They show off the splendor of wintergreen, but have no depth, no other flavors. Reading Draft Birch Beer is no one trick pony. It does have that fresh wintergreen taste, but the wintergreen is just part of a rich and complex soda. Sweet caramel tones and and a deep and creamy herbal base enshroud the wintergreen, which peaks out from time to time. This is a soda with substance. It leaves you satisfied with a nice taste in your mouth. The flavor is similar to that of Reading Draft White Birch, but White Birch has a much stronger wintergreen flavor. Both are quality drinks. I might give the slight edge to Reading Draft Birch Beer.
In 1934, Coke abandoned its line of multi-flavored sodas to concentrate on its cola. Three brothers in the water business in Niagara Falls, New York saw a market opportunity and began producing several flavors of soda. The company grew to include a bar dispensing business which provided a system of dispensing soft drinks at restaurants and bars. The Johnnie Ryan website claims that to this day, 90% of bars and restaurants in the Niagara Falls vicinity have the Johnnie Ryan soft drink dispensing system.
Johnnie Ryan Root Beer has a unique presentation. Due to its geographical proximity to Ontario, Canada, Johnnie Ryan Root Beer is bilingual. Everything from its nutrition facts to bottle recycling information is found in English and French. I would not have guessed that the French would like root beer, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t. It is good to know that Root Beer translates to Racinette in French.
Johnnie Ryan Racinette is a more herbal root beer than those I have recently reviewed. I appreciated the full, deep flavor provided by the soda. It has a modest bite, but is not bitter. There was a nice balance of sweet and herbal. Without question, my favorite French labeled root beer.
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.
Reading Draft Soda makes 13 premium reserve sodas, many of which are eligible for review by Root Beer Respect. In addition to White Birch, I intend on reviewing Reading Draft Root Beer, Birch Beer, Blueberry Birch, Creamy Red Birch, and Sarsaparilla. With all due respect, I have no interest in Reading Draft Diet Root Beer. Reading Draft sodas have been handcrafted in Reading, Pennsylvania since 1921.
White birch beers are something of a new experience for me. Every brand I have tried has had a strong and fresh wintergreen flavor. True to form, Reading Draft White Birch has plenty of wintergreen. It tastes remarkably similar to Wint-O-Green Life Savers. However, unlike other white birch beers which offer nothing more than wintergreen flavor, Reading Draft White Birch is undergirded by a rich and creamy caramel flavor. This added dimension makes for a slightly more complex and superior white birch beer. Although I do not think I would like white birch beer on a daily basis, white birch beer, specifically Reading Draft White Birch, makes a welcome every now and then treat.
In my last review, found here, I discussed not prejudging a root beer by its label. In that case, the label and its reference to the root beer’s low sugar, organic, and vegan qualities led me to judge that the soda would be less than wonderful. It turned out that my prejudgment was correct. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when my prejudgment of Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer turned out to be completely wrong.
The drab and featureless green label of Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer made me suspect that little effort had been put into the soda, and that it would be bland. The label is so monotone, that it is difficult to read the ingredients or nutrition facts, they just blend in with the sea foam green background. However, like I said, the root beer is neither bland nor drab, nor monotone.
For starters, Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer is quite sweet. It has an almost syrupy sweetness. The root beer is full and rich. It has a hearty root flavor without having a strong bite. Instead, Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer is dark and creamy, and leaves you satisfied. Ozark Mountain Bottleworks Root Beer might be the root beer equivalent of a delicious, rich chocolate cake that satisfies your sweet tooth and that you can still taste minutes after finishing.
AJ Stephans Birch Beer is the third AJ Stephans soda to make an appearance here at Root Beer Respect. AJ Stephans Birch Beer has the same label set up as AJ Stephans Root Beer and AJ Stephans Sarsaparilla, with a simple display of the brand name and the type of soda. However, out of the tree labels, I like the color scheme of AJ Stephans Birch Beer the most. The crimson lettering stands out from the light tan background and the white base. Speaking of color, I am not sure what color the soda is, but before opening the bottle it looked clear through the dark brown bottle.
AJ Stephans Birch Beer has the icy cool flavor of Wrigley’s Winterfresh gum. The similarlty is uncanny. Winterfresh has an intense taste, so you may think AJ Stephans Birch Beer would be overpowering and abrasive. It is not. It somehow has the same flavor with a slightly toned down intensity. Even if not abrasive, you may ask yourself, “do I want to drink a soda that tastes like mint gum?” For me, in this case at least, the answer is a definite yes. AJ Stephans Birch Beer is one of the best birch beers I have experienced.
Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer is produced by Boylan Bottling, as is the first-rate Boylan Root Beer. Interestingly, while the creamy red birch beer is “Boylan’s” with an apostrophe denoting possession (as in the creamy red birch beer belonging to, or produced by, Boylan), the root been is merely “Boylan” Root Beer without an apostrophe. Boylan’s current website does not have any specific information about Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer, but other internet sources state the beverage was developed as an “entry level” birch beer intended for youthful customers. The soda has proved successful not only with its target market, but with anyone possessing undamaged taste buds.
The embossed Boylan’s bottle and simple label design demonstrate the best of a vintage soda look.
Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer starts off with a blast of carbonation. You have to wait for the carbonation to settle down before you can distinguish any flavors. The flavors that do emerge from the fog of carbonation are quite pleasing. First, you taste a birch flavor which provides a slight bite. However the real treat materializes just a moment later. It comes in the form of a rich, creamy red velvet and caramel flavor. This delicious blend does not quickly tail off, but remains strong as you savor its depth. This soda seemed to get better with every sip, and ended at a very high level.
Having already reviewed Sioux City Sarsaparilla and Sioux City Birch Beer, with this Sioux City Root Beer review I have completed the Sioux City root soda trifecta. As the Sioux City Root Beer label displays, this is the Sioux City soda distinguished Wild West sheriffs drink as they sit down to relax at the saloon. If Sioux City Root Beer is good enough refreshment for Wyatt Earp, it should be good enough for anyone. However, I was a little concerned that while Sioux City Sarsaparilla claims to be the “The Granddaddy of all Root Beers,” Sioux City Root Beer does not make any claims to greatness.
Sioux City Root Beer is just a more humble soda than its sarsaparilla brother. It is quite delicious, and I daresay superior to Sioux City Sarsaparilla. Sioux City Root Beer has a deep and hearty root flavor. This flavor is coupled with a smooth and sweet caramel flavor. The best part of Sioux City Root Beer is that its savor does not tail off, but remains strong and delicious all the way down. This is one soda that goes down nice and smooth.
First things first, Hank’s sodas have the best looking bottles around. From the embossed name “Hank’s” protruding from the base of the neck, to the ridges running along both the top and bottom of the body of the bottle, to the main label and the mini label on the neck of the bottle, Hank’s has a classy presentation which lets you know they take their root beer seriously and so should you. The label has the appearance of a thinly pressed gold, metal medallion. The label is the perfect look for an unquestionably premium root beer.
Hank’s was developed from an old Philadelphia root beer recipe, which is should carry some prestige, as the Hank’s website claims that Philadelphia is the birthplace of root beer. I have no idea what that claim is based on, but Philadelphia was the birthplace of the United States of America, so why not root beer as well? Although the recipe Hank’s is made from may be old, Hank’s is a relative newcomer to the root beer market. Hank’s Root Beer was introduced by Hank’s Beverage Company in 1996. Hank’s took off after finding success in Philadelphia restaurants, and is now available all over the country.
There is some overlap between root beer and cream soda genres. Hank’s straddles that line. Hank’s is a sweet and very creamy root beer. It has the vanilla tones you would expect from a cream soda, which blends with its cream soda flavor. Initially, I thought that Hank’s, although quite good, should be classified as a cream soda rather than a root beer. However, the cream soda flavor does give way to a caramel root beer finish. Regardless of whether Hank’s is more root beer or cream soda, it has both flavors and is quite tasty. I would recommend Hank’s to anyone, especially any cream soda lovers.