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.

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anthony said...

so did you have the Barqs pictured or some other kind? since the bottle in the photo is the original recipe stuff found in the New Orleans area and tastes rather different than the widely available version. so i hope you got the true Barqs stuff this time! from the review though, it sounds otherwise.

Robert Engel said...

I grew up drinking Barqs Root Beer in Cincinnati and when I moved to Michigan it wasn't up here at that time. Every time I went back to Cincy I would stock of on as much 16 oz glass bottles as I could because I missed it and loved it so much. I don't know what year Coke bought Barqs but by the time it got to Michigan it was in plastic bottles or cans. The taste was off but still good but something was different. I know plastic changes the taste and so doe’s aluminum cans but I think part of the problem is corn syrup instead of cane sugar. So, I miss drinking my Barqs Root beer out of a tall 16 oz glass bottle served cold. Probably won’t ever get to taste that again. Robert Engel