Tag Archives: Reviews

Brigham’s Brew

Brigham’s Brew

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Website: http://wasatchbeers.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Park City, Utah

Purchase Location: Gift from my wonderful mother

Brigham’s Brew is my second consecutive review of a root beer named for a famous American. Brigham Young was an early leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who, among other accomplishments, led a large migration to the West in the 1840’s, founded Salt Lake City, and was appointed the first governor of the Utah Territory. Brigham Young directed the settlement of many towns in Utah, as well as through the whole Southwest, started the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and presided over the construction of the iconic Salt Lake Temple, making him the perfect figurehead for a Utah based root beer.

Brigham’s Brew’s label features a sepia colored photograph of the 19th Century Mormon leader. The picture of Brigham Young displays a powerful and resolute man sporting a boss beard.

Full disclosure, I graduated from Brigham Young University which, like the root beer, was obviously named after Brigham Young. Naturally, I had a rooting interest (pun intended?) in Brigham’s Brew. Brigham’s Brew starts off with a dark herbal taste before opening up to a light, almost fruity ending with hints of vanilla. Brigham’s Brew contains yucca extract. I tend to like root beers with yucca extract a little less than other root beers. That trend held true here. As a result, while Brigham Young is worthy of having a root beer named for him, Brigham’s Brew is not a favorite.

Overall Score: 5 of 10.

Gene Autry Root Beer

Gene Autry Root Beer

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Website: http://rocketfizz.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Camarillo, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Firemans Brew Root Beer

Firemans Brew Root Beer

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Website: http://www.firemansbrew.com/ondutydrinks-root-beer

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Inyokern, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 8 of 10.

Reading Draft Birch Beer

Reading Draft Birch Beer

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Website: http://www.readingdraft.com/

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Reading, Pennsylvania

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 8 of 10.

Judge Wapner Root Beer

Judge Wapner Root Beer

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Website: http://rocketfizz.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar

Bottled at: Camarillo, California

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 5 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.

Johnnie Ryan Root Beer

Johnnie Ryan Root Beer

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Website: http://johnnieryan.com/

Sweetener: Cane Sugar (Sucre de Canne)

Bottled at: Niagara Falls, New York

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 8 of 10.

Avery’s Root Beer

Avery’s Root Beer

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Website: http://www.averysoda.com/

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Sweetener and Sugar

Bottled at: New Britain, Connecticut

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 6 of 10.

Rocky Mountain Root Beer

Rocky Mountain Root Beer

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Website: http://www.rockymountainsoda.com/flavors/

Sweetener: Rocky Mountain Beet Sugar

Bottled at: Denver, Colorado

Purchase Location: Rocket Fizz

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.

Overall Score: 5 of 10.

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.