Friday, July 29, 2011

Barq's - getting bit never tasted so good!!

I love my brew in a glass bottle, not sure why but it always seems that my day goes better when my daily dose of root beer was poured from glass. It is a very rare occasion for Barq'sFamous Olde Tyme Root Beer to be found in glass so when I discovered these bottles I grabbed them fast!!!! As most of our fans will know, Barq's is typically the "Silver Bullet" of root beer, being sold in a silver can usually by the 12-pack. You may also see it sold from the fountain in nearly every McDonald's restaurant in America..... which sums to about 15,000 locations!! This was a brew that played a big role in my early childhood, if it wasn't at the local McDonald's I was grabbing some at the convenience store. There wasn't much to do in my small town in the Arizona desert so drinking root beer was a common highlight. Later in life when I began discovering the wide world of root beer, Barq's took a back seat in my life, making room for the vast brands of root beer that never found their way to my hometown. It wasn't until I lived in Missouri that I revisited Barq's with a whole new perspective.

I was enjoying a local rural multi-county fair when I spotted many fair-goers walking around with small plastic jugs filled with a brown carbonated beverage. I immediately identified this beverage as root beer. I was then on a mission to find the source of these small jugs of frothy goodness. It wasn't long before I found a very busy stand with a sign that simply stated "Little Brown Jug"!! These guys were peddling their little half gallon jugs filled with root beer for $4 per jug. I quickly inquired the young people behind the counter as to what root beer they were serving.... they looked puzzled. It was as if I had asked what color the sky was...... they paused and then simply stated "Barq's" as if motioning that there was no other root beer brand at all..... Barq's for $4 per gallon...... SERIOUSLY!!!!! I could not believe that people were lining up and paying for the very same root beer they could have paid a buck for a 2 liter at the gas station just down the road. That day I learned that sometimes, its not just about the brew in the bottle, sometimes its about the bottle, or jug in this situation.

In the case of Barq's regardless if the brew is flowing out of a silver can, a vintage clear bottle, or the fountain at Ronald's place, it carries a very clear distinction from other brew. This most important difference is the iconic "Bite" that this brew delivers at every sip. That bite is no mistake, back in the late 1890's Edward Barq developed his formula of root beer and wanted something very "different".... this he achieved. By adding caffeine he not only got a different flavor than other brew but he also achieved what has come to distinguish this brew from all other brew, "Barq's has Bite"! The addition of caffeine continues to be a very uncommon ingredient in root beer brands across the country. In many ways I personally have come to consider Barq's the "hard" root beer because of this additional ingredient.

After that initial bite, this brew which is moderately sweetened, provides a very solid foundation of root beer extract that carries a distinct hint of cola. I am not sure how else to describe that flavor, but its that flavor that store brand cola has, not like Coke or Pepsi, but simple run of the mill cola. With that said this cola flavor is subtle but its in there. Since my days in Missouri I have come to love this cola brew. Maybe it could be just a caffeine dependence forming but I am not ready to admit that I have a problem. I like to think of Barq's as the "hard" standard, its a solid foundational brew that happens to have a bite that could keep you awake during that cramming session the night before finals. When compared to the Standard there are more similarities than differences. I almost wonder if I had the de-caf version of Barq's that they sell in Utah if it would be really difficult to tell them apart. I think that the caffeine makes all the difference in this brew. I give the brew 3 Frosty Mugs because in so many ways it outlines a standard for those who need a little more kick with their root beer.

to learn more about Barq's check out

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Charles Hires to Celebrate 160th Birthday.... notes about the Father of Root Beer

On August 19th we will celebrate the 160th birthday of root beer's beloved Charles E. Hires, the Philadelphia Pharmacist turned soft drink icon. At age 25 he began selling his root beer powdered concentrate from his Philly drug store, in small pouches, for a quarter. The concentrate would brew up 5 gallons of Hires Root Beer but despite this value, the initial response was dismal. He was encouraged to present his new product in the 1st Worlds Fair located right in his own city of Philadelphia. The rest became history as Charles and his root beer established their place in Americana forever!!

As we remember the Father of Root Beer might we at RBB suggest that you take some time to extend a proper salute. Grab your favorite brew, pop that top, and drink to the foam!!!! We are certain that this is how Hires would like it, American's drinking root beer all across the country!!!!

Happy Birthday Charles!!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moxie Elixir "Root Beer" or Not???

Another gift from brother Adam, Moxie claims that the brew isn’t a rootbeer. I believe the word is “STOUT” and after my taste test I agree. My first pour into a frosty mug showed a heavy head of foam. Subsequent pours were not so heavy. The aroma was that of a medicine of sorts with just a hint of rootbeer extract or as the bottle says, gentian root . My gargle test was what made me believe that Moxie wasn’t a rootbeer. It has a bitter bite-like flavor that I don’t particularly favor. I understand that Moxie doesn’t like to be called a rootbeer but the ingredient of genetian root extracts in the brew qualify it as a “rootbeer”. Compared the base A&W, Moxie rates 3 Frosty Mugs. This is my first “Stout” brew so the taste is rough compared to regular rootbeer and the fact that they have a cool long neck glass bottle with a cool name that means courage and daring. They have to have courage to brew this as I believe you’d have to be daring to want to purposely drink it. Just kidding. You have to have some testosterone to appreciate the flavor.

I did do some research to find they do make this in a can if you prefer. It sells for about $6-7 a six pack. I bit pricey in my opinion. According to Wikipedia, the Moxie brand was purchased in 1966 by the Monarch Beverage Company of Atlanta. In 2007 Monarch sold it to its current owner, Cornucopia Beverages Inc. of Bedford, New Hampshire, which is owned by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England, a subsidiary of the Kirin Brewery Company, based in Tokyo.
Happy drinking of this brew I wish you all. It’s a niche brew and most will turn their nose up at it. My rating once again, 3 Frosty Mugs, (As a stout rootbeer).


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Natural Brew: Revisited at Capitol KOA Campground

When "Team Natural Brew" contacted me a couple months ago and asked if I would provide a "fresh review" for their all natural root beer I was honored! I remember when Jeff and I first visited this brew when I found it in the health food section of thelocal grocery store. My first thoughts were not positive. As you may have discovered from my reviews I unlike many of my Brothers, am not very concerned with issues of health. I like a root beer to taste GOOD... period!!! I certainly can appreciate efforts to use natural ingredients but this should never compromise taste!! So as you can imagine my initial thoughts about an "all natural" root beer quickly fell to this concern.... the taste.

So back in July of 2007 I reviewed Natural Brew and to my utter astonishment it was GREAT!!!!!!! Check out my original review
Natural Brew Draft Root Beer: The Tree Huggin' Companion As I approached this re-review I wanted to bring something more into my experience with this fine crafted natural root beer. As I thought about it the notion that I should drink it in the woods came to mind. It just so happened that I was in the middle of planning a camping trip with my family to Washington D.C. ...... I know what you are thinking.... camping.... in DC???? It is a very long and awesome story about when I asked my amazing wife to marry me 12 years ago, we along with many friends spent Independence Day in DC and camped at the local Capitol KOA campground. So to mark our engage-aversary we wanted to return to the very same campground..... well at least I did.. my wife would have preferred the Merriott! But my wife humored me and we planned our return. So I packed along a few bottles of Natural Brew which was sent to me from "Team Natural Brew" out in California along with a couple cans of the Standard and we headed out for the campground.

As I remembered, the campground was a very relaxing, outdoorsy, environment, lots of quiet, in amongst the whispering Maryland trees. They had a very modern and fun playground for the kids, an in-ground pool, an oversized chess game, a ping pong table, and the typical KOA A-frame camp office/store. The staff were all dressed in their bright yellow polo shirts and were as warm and friendly as I had remembered. This my friends was the perfect setting to re-visit Natural Brew!

There is a very certain difference between the standard and Natural Brew Draft Root Beer... besides the ingredients. As I mentioned I am not one to point out all the healthy frills, but yes Natural Brew has them all. Cane juice, various roots and oils, no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives..... blah blah blah :) I am camping after all .... lets not over do it!! Clearly these guys wanted to brew up some natural root beer.... they named it Natural Brew... how obvious could their efforts be? The differences that I am most interested in however is in the taste.

As I sat on the damp moss covered picnic table at my campsite and sampled back and forth from the dark amber bottle to the wooden keg looking can that sat in front of me my heart grew light and my tongue danced like it was celebrating in a harvest festival. The standard carries a very distinct yet singular flavor of creamy root beer goodness. Natural Brew however delivers a cornucopia of flavors, each very unique, distinguishable, and some how perfectly blended to create a creamy wonderland of root beer meadows. It is very difficult to fully explain the multi-flavor experience found in this 12 oz bottle but my taste buds absolutely felt synchronicity with my environment. My mind felt at ease as my belly filled with this dynamic root beer that was micro-crafted to perfection with a campfire in mind and hotdogs warming on the end of a stick.

This Brew is lightly carbonated, full bodied, delivers a moderate head, and packs a perfect portion of sweetness. This root beer goes down so smooth that for me one bottle was not enough. It seemed to be gone way too fast. As I happily popped the top of the second bottle I remembered that in my first review I had compared this root beer to the stout root beer Moxie. And in so many ways I realized that this Brew is also a "stout" root beer. It has a flavor that the faint of heart may shy away from. The fact of the matter is that with all that flavor, with all those distinct and profound roots and oils, this root beer may be on the lower end of the "stout" brews but none the less Natural Brew IS a STOUT ROOT BEER!!!!

The thing about stout brew that many do not understand is that it is all about the deep and memorable flavor. When you think of dark chocolate you think of a distinct and profound flavor. That is the nature of a stout, profound and distinct, for better or worse. Those who have drank Moxie know what I am talking about, they either love it or they hate it! The same results I expect will also come of this stout root beer. You will either love it or you will hate it..... I Love It!!! As in my previous post I grant this "stout" Natural Brew 4 Frosty Mugs..... even if it is for the health nuts!!


check out Natural Brew Draft Root Beer at:

Check out Capitol KOA Campground at:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Up High, Down Low: A Double Barreled Review

Hello, my name is Joe. Adam introduced me here a few weeks ago as the newest Root Beer Bro and let me tell you, I am stoked. Stoked to be part of a virtual panel of fine beverage aficionados. Not too stoked, though, cuz that's dangerous (see The Onion's report on the dangers of getting stoked here, but be warned there is some R-rated language).

My wife will testify that I have long been a fan of specialty soft drinks and home brews. Birch beer, apple beer, ginger beer. Fruity this and cola that. But I will allow that root beer is the king. Beloved by children and adults, widely produced and widely available, root beer is an American icon. In fact, maybe in a future post I'll talk about how much some people from other countries seem to dislike root beer. To which I say: bahh.

Before he wandered off to another continent, Brother Mike stopped by my humble abode with a cooler full of curiously tasty brews. This liquid lunch was my initiation into root beer brotherhood, almost a hazing, really. We took notes, ooohed and ahhhed, ranted and raved. We played chicken with our pancreases, but ultimately stopped before passing out. And from that experience comes my first official review for The Rootbeer Brothers: a kickstart double review highlighting one of my favorite brews and one of my least favorite brews to date. As always, the 3-mug A&W standard is in effect. And so, from the halls of academia, here we go. I'll try to be fancy (as per Adam's instructions) without being a pretentious bore.

Appalachian Brewing Company

As a resident of Southeastern Ohio, maybe I favor this quasi-local root beer, with a wise, contented bear on the label and a "delightful blend of honey" inside. As Adam discovered just a few months ago, they brew the stuff just up the road (a few hundred miles) in Harrisburg, PA. I will most definitely be stopping at their historic brewpub near downtown Harrisburg later this month. In the meantime, I can savor the memory of the bottle I split with Mike, a truly pleasant mix of various flavors and textures. Sweetened with cane sugar and honey, the brew was sweet but not sickening or syrupy sweet. The honey really does give an extra something that sets this brew apart. With low carbonation, it went down smooth but was also full-bodied enough to grab my attention: faint vanilla, some anise maybe, and a sharp note I can only describe as cinnamon, or more specifically, red hot (as in the little red hot candies that start showing up on people's desks around Valentine's day). I think "blend" is the key word here, a word on the label. ABC's root beer is satisfying but not filling, creamy but able to bite. It is a high end soda and a work-a-day beverage rolled into one. And with a charming bear for a mascot. (Do bears like root beer? I know llamas do, but that's a story for another time.)

I give it 4.5 Frosty Mugs.

Waialua Soda Works

Although there were brews I liked less than Waialua's during our marathon taste-fest, I don't think there was one that disappointed me more than WSW's. First of all, it's from Hawaii, land of pineapples, volcanoes, and Magnum P.I. Hawaii = cool. The label is a nice retro design with a hula dancer and the promise of "finest Hawaiian quality." There also seems to be a translation, at the bottom, into characters from some vaguely Asian language (I know somewhere out there knows what it is). So far, so good. Sweetener: cane sugar. And it comes in a clear glass bottle, which I didn't mind since the beverage had a very unique and appealing reddish tint. A rusty orange/brown. BUT. The root beer itself was, to my palate, almost flavorless. It was decidedly watery, and what flavor there was came through as a rather overpowering wintergreen aftertaste. A touch of vanilla just didn't meld very well with the minty, couldn't soften its clear bite. Maybe it goes well with a spam sandwich. Or maybe it's a great brew for the beach because while sitting in the island sun, with your toes in the sand, you are so happy you don't care what you're drinking as long as it's cold.

Until I get to Hawaii to try this last theory out, however, I give it 2 Frosty Mugs.

- Joe

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A&W All-American Food Restaurants Predicted to go Bottoms-Up

Yes these are the places where A&W Root Beer flows freely from a draft dispenser typically landing into a glass frosty mug. Along with the root beer they serve traditional American fare including burgers and hot dogs. These venues have been spotted all across the country and at times even paired with other restaurants such as Long John Silver's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Taco Bell. Over the years they have even been known to be in mall food courts often going by the name of A&W Hot Dogs & More. Yes this is what you may already know about this amazing chain of brew making, American food grilling, frosty mug serving fast food joints. What you may not know is that these were in fact the FIRST Successful Franchises in America!!!!

I know what you are thinking..... Adam are you drinking that "other" beer? Most of us would just be happy believing that McDonald's was the first. The fact of the matter is that I love the story of McDonald's and Ray Kroc so much that I too would love to live in that happy place. The reality is that A&W came first!!!

After Roy Allen and Frank Wright perfected their root beer they began selling franchises in 1921 and by the 1960's they had sold over 2000 franchises. Ray Kroc didn't even meet the McDonald brothers until the 1950's..... so what happened??? Unfortunately the reality is this..... Allen & Wright knew root beer and Ray Kroc knew business!!!! So in the long run the A&W franchise did continue to roll forward, just not with the force of McDonald's. The other sad truth is that they have slowly dwindled over the years and current numbers are very disappointing, there are roughly only 1000 locations and over half of these are paired with another restaurant. An even more disappointing fact is that earlier this year the current parent company announced that due to dwindling market share they were going to sell the A&W All American Food brand.

To be clear, this is in no way connected with the actual root beer. A&W Root Beer is owned by Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc. and remains the top selling brew by a long shot. The inspired restaurant chain branched from the actual root beer ownership very early in the history of the brand. But with the recent declining sales and being placed up for sale the restaurant chain, which certainly helped the brand gain great lengths in being a recognizable root beer across the country, is predicted to come to an end. An annual report by 24/7 Wall St. which outlines predictions for the failure of brands in the coming year listed the A&W restaurant chain within their top 10 for 2011. Their prediction results in times past have been mixed but these are the very people that predicted the demise of Blockbuster Video and T-Mobile. It is unclear what the future of the frosty mug and draft A&W looks like, but it is certain that the waters are currently very rough.