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


Michael A. Williams, Sr said...

Rockin review my RBB! Bringin home some South African Brew in a coupla weeks! Get ready! it is pretty good!

Dave said...

Great reviews, Joe. I want to know about your judging standards: what's the quintessential root beer? To give five frosty mugs, do you need to have had an emotional/nostalgic experience, much like one might have while watching the cane-sugary Super 8? Yours in Root Beer, Dave.

Zach said...

What is the origin of root beer? Does its design run counter to the pineapple? The quintessential root beer is made by Saranac. Mint in root beer tastes cheap. Get it out of there. Do you have a special root beer chalice? Keep up your good work, Joe and keep your palate clean.

Adam Rootbeer said...

Joe i think you already have some fans..... :) so glad to have you aboard!!!!