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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2016, the US Postal Service is releasing a series of stamps commemorating soda fountain favorites. The set includes stamps of a double-scoop ice cream cone, an egg cream (a chocolate beverage devoid of both egg and cream that I have never before heard of), a banana split, a hot fudge sundae, and, of course, a root beer float. What a tasty way to send a letter.
More information about the new soda fountain stamps can be found here.
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.
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.
Root beer has been at the center of two recent legal matters. First, in Alberta, Canada, a man carrying a bottle of root beer was approached by officers in an unmarked police van. The man was suspected of drinking liquor in a public place, in violation of Canada’s Liquor and Gaming Act. Police allege the man would not comply with demands to hand over the bottle or to give his name. They further claim the man “aggressively resisted arrest,” which led to his being tackled to the ground, choked, pepper sprayed, and handcuffed.
The not so happy root beer drinker asserted that he told officers he was merely drinking root beer, and even handed it over to police for inspection. Last week, he was once again less than cheerful when the officers involved in the incident were found not guilty of assault. This man has had a rough time, someone should offer him a frothy root beer. Just make sure he drinks it indoors. His full story can be read here and here.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, an Indiana couple was no match from the crime fighting skills of root beer. While a female customer at a Dollar General Store was paying for a two-liter container of root beer, her husband walked by the doughnut display. After the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man moved behind the clerk’s counter, announced “This is a robbery…,” and began grabbing cash from the register. The couple made off with $40, but left their root beer behind. The thieves were identified by fingerprints taken from the root beer container. As of January 8, 2016, the couple remained at large. Root beer vows not to rest until both individuals are apprehended. That news story can be read in more detail here.
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.
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.