Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yards Brewing Company - The Beloved Root Beer in the City of Brotherly Love

Located on the water front in the City of Brotherly Love a small craft brewery is making some VERY BIG BREW!! On my last few days of my internship in Philadelphia a local friend (thanks again Brian) gave me a grand tour of this very historical city. No tour in Philly is complete without some stops in the local breweries. As you can imagine the brewer we chose was known for much more than their "other beer". The more I asked around about local root beer makers, the more often I heard the name Yards!







Unlike many other brewers in the area that offer a full menu and restaurant, Yards Brewing Company takes a much different approach to opening up their brewery. A visit to their "Tasting Room" will focus all of your attention in exactly the right place, their BREW! During our visit to the Yards Tasting Room I learned that they have integrated the local Philly history into their craft by developing some "other beer" that is fashioned after original recipes from our founding fathers. They call the line-up "Ales of the Revolution" Very Cool!!!!




We eventually got to the subject at hand, Yards Root Beer. The Tasting Room staff were so delighted to talk about the root beer. I was very surprised in fact to notice that they actually had more to say about the root beer than the Revolution Ales! They explained that Tom Kehoe, co-founder of Yards, is also a huge fan of root beer. He apparently has taken much pride in developing their current recipe and is very proud of their outcome. The tough reality, as the staff explained, is that people who are interested in Philly craft brewers tend not to be as interested in the rooted beers. So Yards currently only offers their root beer on tap in the Tasting Room and in a couple of the local sandwich shops. Bottling their root beer may come in the future, but for now a visit to Philly is the only way to get it.







I was very excited to finally enjoy Philly's beloved root beer from Yards Brew Co. The environment of the Tasting Room put me in mind of being in a friends garage, hanging out, and spinning some "yards" :) The Tasting Room was a perfect setting, in others words, for Brian and I to sit back, talk shop, and enjoy some fine crafted root beer. The staff asked "ice or no ice"..... I just thought to myself.... "silly staff, ice belongs in soda, not root beer" but instead I simply replied "no ice please". My first impression came from the 16oz very uniquely shaped glass bearing the brewery name which held this very dark brew. The aroma was sweet, inviting, carrying a deep root beer extract smell with a hint of wintergreen. Carbonation was very subtle but perfectly mixed with the subtle sweetness the brew delivered. The wintergreen, or maybe it was anise, presented more apparently as the flavors all settled on my tongue. Ultimately Yards Root Beer carried a very similar flavor of typical home brews but with a just noticeable difference of deeper flavor, this deeper flavor is solid,a brew for Real Men, the flavor is what I would call a stout, not a heavy stout like Moxie, but a stout none the less. I think most people would agree that Yards carries a much more appealing flavor than Moxie as well..... I grant Yards Root Beer -a real mans brew- 4 Frosty Mugs.

-Adam

check out Yards Brewing Company at www.yardsbrewing.com

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crabs & Root Beer with Captain Wiso

When I first moved to Philly I quickly realized that my internship stipend would not allow for housing in Philly and so I found myself living south of the border, so to speak. I actually lived in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay and the first lesson I learned was what all the fuss was regarding the haled "Maryland Blue Crab"..... fact in point..... so YUMMY!!!! But what I also learned is that the best place to score some of these yummy hard shell blue crabs was NOT in Maryland!!!! The best place to grab a bag of steamed & perfectly seasoned crabs was actually in Maryland's smallest neighbor, Delaware!!!


I discovered a small crab shack in a very small city on the other bay. In Delaware City, Delaware on the Delaware Bay you will easily find the very unique location of Captain Wiso. At Wiso's Crabs you will be invited to grab a bag of many varieties of steamed to order seafood, but most importantly, bags of Maryland Blue Crabs. What does this have to do with root beer? Glad you asked.....


You see the reality is that Wiso's is not known for their root beer. The reason is simple, they don't make root beer!!! They are a crab shack..... they steam fresh crab and seafood..... what do you expect? I mean the place looks very strange as you drive up to the small shack, lots of silly decorations line the drive-way... but no signs of root beer anywhere????

From my perspective, the best food tends to come from some of the strangest... even shadiest..... looking places. I love tacos from roadside trucks, BBQ from permanent outdoor grills, and even burgers from a wagon (check out www.hamburgerwagon.com).... so a crab shack covered in Christmas decorations (in August), toilet seats, gas pumps, and rusty antiques held much promise for me.







As I entered this very promising crab shack one thing grabbed my attention even more than the very inviting aroma of freshly seasoned steaming seafood, it was the cooler full of root beer. Sure they have other soda in there but it was the A&W and A-Treat root beer that quickly caused my experience at Wiso's to border on a Nirvana experience (not the band, the transcendent experience of life without suffering)!!!! A world where freshly steamed crabs and root beer co-exist..... now that is a world I want to live in!!!! Welcome to the world of Captain Wiso!!!

The Captain probably did not realize at the time that he chose to stock his cooler with 2 brands of brew that he was creating a better world, but he did! The reality is that this Captain has probably not fully realized his obvious kind nature that pours out of him each day. Another example of this good nature is his support of Smile Train, a very important charity that truly blesses the lives of the most vulnerable children in the world. Wiso's sells ice-pops of which all proceeds are donated directly to this cause. The Captain is also committed to the equal treatment of those in poverty within his community. He proudly established a system in which those receiving social services can use their EBT card to purchase his yummy crabs and seafood. I have a wonderful feeling that there is a very diverse group of people that visit the shack.

For these reasons and many more I am happy to extend my full recommendation of Wiso's Crabs!! Grab you a bag and a can/bottle of brew and head to the nearby park where you can enjoy these scrumptious crabs and wash em down with some great brew.

In the future it is my hope that the Captain expands his list of available brew, he is certainly off to a great start..... the crabs..... no changes needed there!!!!

-Adam

to learn more about Wiso's Crabs go to http://wisoscrabs.com/wordpress/

to learn more about Smile Train go to http://www.smiletrain.org/



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Durango’s Zuberfizz Rootbeer


The name itself is fun to say.  The label is very cool with fun colors.  I think one of my favorite lables, easy to read and they stayed with the same font on most of the bottle.  Durango even kept the font on the nice black bottle cap.  Enough about the outside, how about the inside.
At first opening the bottle it had a good spew and light root beer aroma.  As I poured there was a nice rise in the head and I figured this would be a very carbonated brew.  To my surprise, it wasn’t.  Actually I barely noticed the carbonation at all.  A very smooth brew with a nice blend of cane sugar and root beer extract.  Not as strong as the “standard” A&W and not as flavorful either.  That’s not a bad thing.  The blend made it, in my opinion, very good.  Also a good “chuggable” brew. 
Durango’s website really lets you know that they use the cane sugar and it does reflect in the taste.  Here’s an excerpt from their website: The most important ingredient used in our sodas is pure cane sugar. Large companies have abandoned pure cane sugar to cut costs by using high-fructose corn syrup. It has been shown that this new widely-used ingredient is difficult to metabolize and is the leading cause of obesity and diabetes among Americans. Pure cane sugar also tastes much better.
I agree!  Cane sugar is better and has a better flavor in any soda.  The color was a bit darker than A&W.  All in all this is a very good root beer.  The cost is a bit pricey, 15 bottle for $36 shipped.  If you’re in Colorado or Las Vegas, get some.  You won’t be disappointed.  Good Job Durango!
My rating is set a 4 frosty mugs.  Points added for smoothness and a cool bottle!

~ Marc

Monday, September 12, 2011

Victory Root Beer: claiming Victory all day long

After spending nearly one-year in Philadelphia my internship began to slow down which finally allowed me to engage in some activities that I simply did not have the time to do earlier in the year. One of these such activities was visiting the local root beer brewers, one of which was located, seriously, less than 5 miles from where I worked!!!!!


Located in Downingtown, PA a modest suburb of Philly, Victory Brewing Co. has been bottling micro-crafted beverages (the other beer) since 1996 when two beer loving friends came together to indulge in their shared love. The fact of the matter is that Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski had been fine tuning their brew crafting skills as far back as the mid 80's and so when Victory opened their doors the sky was the limit. They chose this small suburb for two reasons, according to Bryan Audet the restaurant manager, the Brandywine River and the availability of an old Pepperidge Farm factory. They in fact use the water from the river for an added distinct flavor and have renovated the old factory into a full functioning brewery. Bryan assured me that they filter the water extensively but leave in all the good stuff. Victory has claimed some very significant crafted (other) beer awards over the years but he explained that at this point they have refocused on expanding their market share.

It is unclear when Victory began
brewing root beer but most recently they began bottling it in 12-ounce amber long-necks and the local response has been overwhelming. Bryan explained that they often run out of their drafted root beer at the restaurant and now the bottles even run scarce. I was fortunate in being able to grab a six-pack during my visit to the restaurant which is located on site at the brewery. I grabbed enough to pass to the other Brothers. I must admit however, that my arrival to the brewery caused some alarm. The parking lot is just as it was back in the Pepperidge days, it is set up like a factory. In other words, no parking near the door. I first thought maybe I was at the wrong place and that this was employee parking for the brewery. The reality is that it probably is employee parking along with customer parking. So my short walk from the parking lot led me to the entrance of a place that DID NOT look like the inside of a factory!! This restaurant was very impressive, modern, clean, nicely decorated, and not even a hint of an old factory. The wait staff seemed suspicious when I asked to see someone who could talk about the root beer. I tried to explain but it really is not easy to explain what or even why we Brothers do what we do. Hesitantly she ushered Bryan to my table. He was more than willing to tell me all that he could about Victory and the brewery, a real delightful conversation, indeed!

What I was first impressed with was the slogan I found on the six-pack packaging which read, "our root beer is our way to claim Victory at any time of day"!! Now that simply melted my heart!!! The next thing I noted was the fact that this was no "screw off top" nope I indeed (or actually the waitstaff) had to "pop the top". That was very cool!!! The brew had a very pleasant presentation, light and crisp, lots of vanilla and distinct yucca flavor. It may have been the yucca that caused a moderate bite, not a Barq's Bite but one that will be easily noticed. The flavor was distinct but not over bearing and carbonation moderate, a perfect brew to compliment my pizza that they served. In fact I should admit, the root beer was actually much better than the pizza.... please consider however that I have spent a year of eating pizza from downtown Philly where pizza has been perfected for generations!!! I am certainly one to enjoy a good brew with my food... any food... and Victory would be a good choice for that. As a stand alone brew I would say that Victory may not be so sure.... but you gotta eat sometime and you should follow it down with brew that won't make you forget what your eating. I extend 3.5 Frosty Mugs to Victory and a huge thanks to Bryan and the courteous waitstaff.

-Adam

check out Victory Brewing Co. at http://victorybeer.com/

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oogave

I like the story behind Oogave. The brand was started by a small restaurant owner in Denver who was frustrated with the lack of all-natural, organic, non-HFCS sodas on the market. So he did an admirable thing and started making his own, sweetened with agave nectar, of course.

This year Oogave won a Silver Bev Star Award from Beverage World Magazine, which seems like no petty achievement. And while I don't really know what the criteria is for such an award, I guess I hope it isn't based on their rootbeer. Oogave has a large stable of delicious-sounding beverages (Strawberry Rhubarb, Watermelon Cream, Grapefruit) that I would like to sample. However, I can't recommend the rootbeer.

Basically, I found it flavorless. Not unpleasant, mind you. And for the sensitive tastebud, it may be just what the doctor ordered. But I like a little more oomph. I want a rootbeer to declaim to me like a street preacher. Maybe later I'll decide that I'm not buying what he's selling but, for a minute at least, he has me with his mettle. His bravado.

Oogave rootbeer was an unremarkable layover on my way to rootbeer nirvana. (I had a Hank's afterwards.) It was watery, even vaguely acerbic. But again, not mean-spirited. It boasts a bland, comfortable sweetness and sasparilla-ish familiarity that people who could probably care less about rootbeer might find enjoyable. It's like rock candy, which everyone agrees is technically candy but no one really takes seriously. I wonder if anyone makes an agave rock candy . . .

In other news, the bottle is handsome and the "oo" in "oogave" looks like cute bug-eyed creature with a mane of agave-hair.

I give it 2 FROSTY MUGS.

- Joe