Friday, January 28, 2011

Johnnie Ryan

I don't have a lot to say about this "Root Beer" and since none of it is good, that is probably best. The first observation of this brew comes before it is even opened. The bottle states nowhere on it that it is root beer. Only the cap indicates this to the perspective victim drinker. Only upon the bottle cap does it indicate that it is root beer. Which to me means that they put more energy into their other sodas than this one. Perhaps they should keep it that way and stick to a root beer free line of sodas.

Upon opening the bottle, nothing even resembling a root beer aroma came out. And as for taste; remember when you were a kid and you were on that little league team and after every game you could go over to the concession stand and get a free small soda? Good times huh? Nearly every concession stand I went to would put together a concoction that was not for the faint of heart. This was generally a shot of every fountain drink they had in one cup. This drink was aptly called the "suicide" or the "graveyard" or perhaps “swamp water,” “shipwreck,” “hurricane,” or “tornado" this list goes on and on. That is what Johnnie Ryan Rootbeer tasted like for me. Not all that bad, but not all that root beer either. It tasted like I got mostly cola and diet cola with a shot of house brand root beer from Sav-a-lot or Aldi or some other equally rated store.

The only thing true for this brew was it's name: "Johnnie" because that is where it belongs. I actually poured some of this out!

2 Frosty mugs: .5 for glass bottle and .5 for cane sugar and 1 because I'm nice.


Waialua - no reason to hula dance

Soda from the islands of Hawaii......Waialua Soda Works prides themselves with using the finest natural ingredients found on the island within their beverages. I admit that I was amazed to see "Hawaiian Vanilla Extract" on the label! They also use "Maui Natural White Cane Sugar" as one of the sweeteners to further flavor this alleged root beer with local flair. I can certainly appreciate the their effort to make their soda carry some of the local culinary culture. In fact it was my full hope that this brew would prove to be a merit to this particular culture.

I have always wanted to travel to Hawaii but my desire has been only a fraction of my wife's desire to go "Blue Hawaii" and never come back. So as I mentioned, it was my hope that in some way I could at least capture a small piece of that which my sweetheart and I long for... a taste of the island so to speak. What I was searching for began at the hula dancing label and quickly ended at the pop of the top. It took no time at all to know this was no Luau celebration but rather a matter for the 5-0.

It is certainly a crime in the continental states to make unsubstantial claims and I am sure that it is the same in Hawaii. Thus it should be considered that a crime has been committed, call those 5-0, because this is NO root beer. Despite the Hawaiian Vanilla and sugar, this brew isn't a vacationers paradise. No foam, very light color, the aroma reminded me of a bad cough medicine and the flavor..... it had me dancing, but not the hula!!!! The flavor is about as far away from root beer as I am from actually visiting Hawaii! It reminded me of a water-downed version of a cola that had been out dated for a year or two. Notice I said cola, the sad reality is that even for a cola it did not pan out well.

So all is not lost, to their merit they are using natural local cane sugar. This is always a plus! They do have a sweet hula dancing lady on the label that would make for a great tattoo if I wasn't married and if I was still in the Navy! The soda is in glass, always another big plus! They also go so far to use local vanilla extract, again another plus! The fact of the matter is they had much of the workings of a great brew. The problem is that they have no idea what root beer extract is, this isn't growing on the islands... if you know what I mean. But they offer many other flavored sodas which I am confident would fare much better... such as Pineapple flavor.... now that is a flavor that does grow on the islands!!! Although their brew is not worth a flight across the Pacific, I am willing to bet their other flavors are.. the good thing is that these sodas are sold in most Target stores.... so no air fare needed. Due to the disturbing flavor and lack of foam this brew rates very low however, the glass, cane sugar, hula lady and local vanilla bring it up to at least an honorable mention.... 2 Frosty Mugs.

Check out the other and far more appropriate island flavors at


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coming to a Fair near you... Chuck Wagon Root Beer

I have come to love local seasons of fairs and festivals in whatever part of the country I happen to live at a any given time. The season brings with it greasy fried foods, crafts from all around the world, entertainers that have fallen from the lime light, and a most recent discovery, Chuck Wagon Root Beer. To my utter amazement I discovered a covered wagon offering "Old Fashioned Soda" on tap, served in a tin cup. This was a Rootbeer brother's dream come true.... well that or a root beer rain storm.... anyways this was an amazing find!

The company actually sells the entire set-up, the wagon, the taps, the soda mix, the tin cups, the whole shebang for $11,000 start up and then you are on your way to a festival soda selling adventure.
I am very impressed with the business model but more importantly the product was exactly what I would hope for. When you buy the tin cup you get refills at a deep discount and trust me, you will want refills! The flavor is not like modern brews, it is certainly characteristic of the olde fashioned flair, but it is GOOD!!!

So if old fashioned soda and fairs are your thing, grab yourself a covered wagon and lets pour some brew!!!!

Check out Chuck Wagon Soda at


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Saranac (updated)

Man alive! if the standard has a hotter, perhaps easier sister, this is her and she is the one I am taking to prom! Saranac Rootbeer was a delight to drink. It went down smooth and had a head that last through the entire drinking. Ok, I gulped it down. But nevertheless, it was still clinging to the inside of the frosty boot. Even though I generally prefer a RB with an edge on it, I absolutely loved it and if you want my two cents, Saranac is better than the standard by more than a frosty mug. ( I rate A&W at 3 frosty mugs which is about a solid C.)

Saranac is smoother, richer than the standard, PLUS! Saranac comes in a glass bottle. This is considered a big plus by yours truly. Truth be told, the only time I ever like to drink a plastic root beer is if it has something unique to offer. (See the upcoming post from me and the new one from Adam about Golden Maple.) The only way Saranac could get better is if they used a natural sweetner. This is why I am proud to give Saranac 4. Frosty Mugs! This would totally be a 4.5, or even a 5Mugger if it weren't for that dang HFCS.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Golden Maple Root Beer - at least they didn't add cheese.

Golden Maple Root Beer by appearance is the one root beer that would not have what we mental health folks call “face validity”. It looks less like a root beer and more like that “other” beer. I spotted it out amongst the many other brews at Jungle Jim's. Yes by its looks alone one would swear that the guys at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee had simply placed one of their beers in a plastic bottle. Although I have never seen beer in plastic, I am sure it has been done. In this case however these guys jumped out of the box (or bottle so to speak) in a much different way. Not only did they make a root beer look like a pilsner beer but they also sweetened it with Wisconsin Maple Syrup. Now Wisconsin might be known for many things, cheese, the Packers, and the Dells but maple syrup is not typically on that list. In fact I did some quick digging around and as I suspected Vermont is by far the greatest producer of maple syrup in America. Behind Vermont, Maine comes in a very distant second place. So why Wisconsin syrup instead of Vermont syrup? A better question is why put it in root beer?

I remember this guy back in high school who painted his nails black, wore makeup, dressed in all dark clothes, and used white colored contacts. Nobody liked that guy, then he started dressing like that and they liked him even less. I mention this example because as I look back to that experience I can appreciate that this guy was simply trying to be noticed out of the crowd of so many other kids that nobody liked. Instead of just being another guy that no one knew he became the guy everyone knew, he was that guy with weird eyes that painted his nails and dressed in black. Although he never got a name he certainly got mentioned in every crowd. The jocks talked about him in terms of how far they could kick him across the football field. The geeks created theories about how he may have been a clone of some musician. The preppy kids started rumors that he was only passing because he had used the black arts to seduce the teachers into granting him perfect grades. The cheerleaders dared each other to ask him where he got his nails done. The stoners began asking around if they could score whatever he was “on”. And us other no named kids that no one liked watched in awe as one amongst us changed his stars and made it to the big leagues. Even if he didn’t get a name at least he got noticed. I had a clinical supervisor that once told me that the only thing worse than being talked about was to not be talked about at all. Us no named kids knew this very well. So what does this have to do with Golden Maple? This root beer is the painted nail, weird eyed, dressed in black brew of the root beer world.

If it looked like all other root beer and was sweetened like other brews I would have never noticed it. There is much that can be said about being easily identifiable from among your peers. I am very confident that if you lined up a dozen brews in clear glasses that I would easily be able to select Golden Maple without even a sniff much less a taste. “Yup, that one, the one that looks more like pee.” Not to say that it tastes like pee, but in looks it has all other brews beat in looking like fresh warm urine. So now that I have set the stage {chuckle, chuckle} let’s talk about how it tastes. First it is better than what I would expect urine to taste like. In fact it is quite good, smooth, foamy, and very sweet. The carbonation is very light and in many ways so too is the traditional root beer flavor. When compared to the standard I was hard pressed to identify the root beer extract amongst the very distinct flavor of maple syrup. Now this brew is also sweetened with cane sugar so with that double shot of sweetness you are certain to be over taken by all of this first. Eventually however, you will be introduced to the subtle and certain familiar flavor of our beloved American brew. Yes this is a root beer but yes this is like no other root beer you will ever enjoy and yes you will enjoy this root beer.

The reality is that despite being so different, that kid back in high school was one of the most courageous kids we had the privilege of passing in the halls. We made fun of him for his differences but in so doing we validated his presence, even his place amongst those whom we would never forget. Golden Maple may not be the best root beer you will ever taste but you will remember it long after you have tried the other hundreds of brews out there. For its courage to be different and for the smooth and gentle approach to reach root beer status, I grant 4 Frosty Mugs to Golden Maple, truly a brew I will never forget!!!


Friday, January 14, 2011

In the beginning . . .

since the dawn of time . . . well not quite, just since the advent of doubling this household of rootbeer, i’m compelled a little to clarify a few matters on my end. first of all, root beer is not a love of mine as it may be for my other brothers. this may be blasphemy around these parts (blog), but root beer is usually far from my mind.

after a hard workout, it’s not on my mind. but who am i kidding, i don’t really workout. shopping at the local grocery store, which i’m much more inclined to do, not thinking about that root beer thing. when sitting down with family or friends to get my grub on and the waitress starts to take our drink orders. . . you guessed it, not a thought for root beer. well unless someone else actually orders it.

so what am i doing here? hmmm that’s a good one. you ever had that annoying brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc., that you wonder how you could possibly be related to or where you can sit to avoid them at the family reunion picnic. that’s right i’m the one sitting on the far end of the table with my head down trying not to make eye contact. eventually you realize you can’t pick and choose your family, so you learn to say hi.

“Hi!” so here i am soon to be giving my two cents or a couple mugs about this whole beverage niche of root beer. there have been a few out there i can say i really like, and there might be others. just don’t order me a brew if we happen to be out for dinner. thank you

PS- i never said my other rootbeer brothers are annoying :)


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Home Brewing Aint Easy - Ask Swagger Root Beer

I have learned from my own experience that home brewing root beer is not easy. Even after obtaining many helpful and directing pointers from actual micro brewers, I had serious problems. For now I have placed those efforts on the back burner, I simply do not have the time needed for this pursuit. However, there is a guy named John who has made this pursuit his passion.

Swagger Root Beer has a catchy name and a brewer with a mischievous wit. John has stated that his real purpose in brewing his own root beer is for his own enjoyment and relaxation. He has blogged his adventures of home brewing since he began back in September. His posts are very informative and fun to read along as he enjoyed both success and failure throughout his efforts. He has even provided some steps for those just getting started in home brewing. The one important aspects of John's efforts that should be pointed out is that much of his effort in brewing root beer has been in from scratch. Yes, he is boiling roots my friends, from scratch!!!! This brew may not be for sale yet, but with that level of motivation I would not be surprised to see Swagger Root Beer on the shelf some day.

Check out Swagger Root Beer at

Tell John the Rootbeer Brothers sent ya.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Polar Classics Premium - A Brew with a Legacy

Polar Classics Premium Root Beer carries with it a great legacy and certain notoriety that we do not often see in the brews we review. Although Polar Beverages is not known for their root beer they are known for something else, being the largest independent soft drink bottler in America! Like most early bottlers they have risen from humble beginnings. Established in 1882 (as indicated on the bottle) in New England, the company's first products were ginger ale, seltzers, and imported water (long before Evian & Fiji). In 1901 Dennis Crowley acquired the company and it is in his family that it remains, four generations later. As times past and prohibition took grasp of our country the increased demands for soft drinks fostered an atmosphere where soft drink bottlers could make great headway. By the end of prohibition Polar was well on its way to become a classic in the beverage world. In the 1960's the company took efforts to expand its product line with multiple flavors of soft drinks. But it was in the 1990's when Polar Beverages extended its most bold move ever, to gain acquisition of the rights to manufacture and distribute many national brands of soda. These acquisitions included that of our standard A&W as well as Adirondack which also carries a root beer flavor. Three brews under one roof, now that is saying something about Polar Beverages!!!!

The brew... I acquired my sample during my quick trip east when I met with the Moxie Man. Upon popping the top a most inviting scent invited me into this clear long necked bottle displaying a white polar bear on it. The brew is dark and the foam was thick and it was far less carbonated than the standard. The flavor was subtle but distinct, it was lightly sweetened with cane sugar, and carried a very pleasant and smooth presence. It would certainly be a great brew to have while sitting next to a warm fire while snow was falling slowly outside your door. The image of a polar bear and that fact that I am knee deep in the Eastern Seaboard Winter Season all seemed to go hand and hand. This is definitely a brew I would recommend during this time of year.

So considering the history, the bottle, the polar bear, cane sugar, and that is Winter I award this New England brew 3.5 Frosty Mugs, the flavor was not as full as I prefer but otherwise certainly a step above the standard.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Abita, treasure from the Southland

So I figure this entry is not only a first glance at Abita Root Beer but also a first glance at Me as a reviewer. I take my Brew in a Frosted Mug which is shaped like a boot. It was given to me by my Granddad who is an 88 year old fella from SW Ohio. And has become over the last few years THE mug of choice when it comes to enjoying the experience of a fine sample of one of my favorite drinks. Matter of fact, Rootbeer is the only thing I ever drink from it!

I first saw Abita Rootbeer advertised on a patio umbrella outside of a bar in Mobile, Alabama after an inquiry inside, followed by a couple of short trips, I was able to hunt it down in the bottle to share with the other brothers. (The places I went only served it on tap). Worth the "work" I have to say!

Abita opens up with an easy aroma. Not to overbearing, and very subtle as Rootbeer goes. At first approach, it has a bit of a bite to it which is very reminiscent of Barq's. For some, this is a negative, Folks add things like vanilla to Rootbeer in order to make it creamy, play it down or smooth it out. However, this is a plus for me as I grew up on Barq's which is what the ol'Granddad used to drink, he being the one who introduced me to the magical elixir. Additionally, I gave up caffeine ages ago so I have not had a Barq's in a long time so this is a real treat!
Mug is brought to mind and it approaches Virgil's by way of it's sharpness without the requisite second drink to train the palate.

The head was pretty good; lasting more than 10 seconds in the frosty mug. Ice crystals which I love, formed almost immediately. The taste automatically gives you the impression that sugar instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was used. This is something that the bottle proudly proclaims as being "Pure Louisiana Cane Sugar".

Comparing it to the standard, I would pick one of these up given the choice. Again, I like the bite and this certainly has it. It also has cane sugar and comes in glass which are both bonuses.

With it's own unique style and flavor that welcomes you in with a nibble and leaves you with a good aftertaste (just like Louisiana), Abita is definitely the "freethinkers" Rootbeer. Therefore, I award Abita 4 Frosty Mugs and free rent in my fridge for awhile.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Ask Dr. Root Beer

Have you ever had a question about root beer that kept you up at night? I know I have, one example was what brand goes best with Bar-B-Q. This one haunted me for weeks. I would dream of all these brands of root beer chasing me with barbequed chicken and ribs and even brisket telling me to make a choice. Very scary, very, very scary!!! So anyways I found this guy on the web that has dedicated his life to answering questions like this. If I had only known, just think of all the sleep I would have not missed.

J. P. Gundrum is known as Dr. Root Beer (not to be confused with the Rootbeer family). He started his interest in our favorite beverage back in 1974 after purchasing a "Dad's Root Beer" advertisement sign. He has been collecting root beer memorabilia and root beer facts ever since.

His website is full of images of some of his root beer collection including stoneware bottles which packaged some of the very first brews back in the 1890's.

If you have a root beer question be sure to ask Dr. Root Beer!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Older Brothers Have Arrived!!!!

A bug guy, a shrink, a professor, & an eye doctor...... we are the Rootbeer Brothers!!!! We are so pleased to introduce our older brothers.

Mike is a university professor and Ray is an eye doctor, both have very differing views of our beloved root beer. Mike is a quirky intellectual who's love for root beer is based in his academic mindset. Ray's great wisdom excels his expectations of quality and taste to heights that most brews fall far short of ever reaching. Please welcome Mike and Ray as they add their commentary and critiques on the wonderful world of root beer here at RBB.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What is in store for 2011 at RBB?????

To our dear and kind root beer loving friends who have been with us from the beginning we extend our deepest thanks. Since 2007 when Jeff & I began blogging about our root beer adventures life for all of us has been so much smoother. So what next, glad you asked. The answer is MORE.

More root beer reviews, more root beer info, more root beer adventures of visiting with those living the dream (like The Moxie Man), and more importantly more brothers.
We will be introducing our 2 oldest brothers and including them in our little RBB effort. They too have an equal love of root beer but their love is less bias than ours. One brother is an eye doctor the other a university professor...... things are about to get real frosty around here, grab your mug, your'e going to need it!!!
By the way, did I mention that we will be going Kindle :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Year of Change... and more Root Beer

2011 is going to be our BIGGEST year yet!!!!

The Rootbeer Brothers are going to experience some growing pains that may just prove to be the greatest innovation in the world of root beer since the twist off cap..... "Pop a Top" my friends things are getting freaky :) -Adam