Thursday, February 17, 2011


If you missed our inaugural post in this series, we've been kicking it root down and going through as many root beers as we can find in the hopes of finding a clear winner.

In between our first post and now, we started digging a bit deeper into the wonderful world of root beer fanaticism, and have still only scratched the surface. There are many, many websites devoted to the tonic-turned-soda-pop: some are devoted to reviews, others devoted to the science behind root beer, and yet others devoted to its history. While it would take months for us to sift through all of the information at hand, one thing became rather clear: there's a lot fewer root beers in Vancouver than down south, and after this post, we're going to have to cast our net a bit wider.

Henry Weinhards (Hood River, OR)

I'm not entirely sure why we were surprised to find out that this root beer was brewed by an actual, uh, brewery, but I suppose that's because we associate root beer with the golden days of childhood, and not as an offshoot of our more adult adventures. The connection here becomes a bit more clear when you pour the root beer into a glass: there's a good head on it, the same that you'd be used to with an alcoholic beer. There's a lot of creaminess and maltiness to this brew as well, though the taste of honey overwhelms all of the other flavours, and in the end it ends up a bit lacking.

6.5 to 6.75 out of 10.0

Thomas Kemper (Portland, OR)

Another root beer from Oregon, Thomas Kemper is a small batch root beer from a soda manufacturer. It greets you with a peppy carbonation, and ends up creamy, akin to a Real Brew root beer, which might turn some people off if that's not what you're looking for (what exactly are you looking for, then?). While Kemper also uses honey in its mix, it's the cane sugar and vanilla that hits the heaviest here. Fans of Real Brew should take note.

7.5 out of 10.0

Frostie (currently, Detroit, MI)

There's not too many root beers with their own Wikipedia entry, but when you've been around since 1939, I suppose you deserve it. Frostie was originally brewed in an abandoned jailhouse in Maryland, sold to the same Atlanta company that owns Dad's Root Beer, passed on to a company in Texas, and then moved up to Detroit two years ago.

I'm guessing that some might have some childhood nostalgia attached to Frostie, which starts off aggressive, with ample carbonation, a heavy vanilla and cane sugar flavour with hints of licorice, but finishes off with an oddly flat finish. There's little to no creaminess, so if clean is what you want, clean is what you get.

6.25 out of 7.0

Americana (Mukilteo, WA)

I'm not sure what it says about Americana in general, but this root beer is lighter in both colour and carbonation, no creaminess, and rolls in your mouth and flattens out on its back. There's a solid licorice presence, honey tones, and the ubiquitous cane sugar taste.

6.25 out of 7.0

Bawl's (Miami, FL)

If you're slightly skeptical about a root beer marketed to gamers and 'geeks,' you're on the right track. While most root beers are caffeine free, this one has guarana, a plant that has about twice the caffeine as your average coffee bean. At 65mg of caffeine, this root beer packs about as much punch as a 1 oz shot of Starbucks espresso (so says the Mayo Clinic).

It's kind of odd when you drink a root beer that both tastes a bit like bubble gum and has a bitter aftertaste, but that's what you're getting with Bawl's. (Truth be told, it's still not as bad as you'd think.) I get the feeling, though, that if you're picking this up, it's probably not the taste you're after anyway.

4.5 out of 10.0

Trader Joe's (the store is from California; no idea where the root beer is brewed)

Apparently Trader Joe's has three different root beers, and our pals picked up their Vintage brew for us when they crossed the border. It's not too bad for a store-brand root beer, more caramel-y than most, with a bit of creaminess and a hint of wintergreen in the aftertaste. Not too shabby, but that might also be me yearning for a Trader Joe's in Vancouver.

6.5 to 6.75 out of 10.0

Hansen's (Corona, CA)

For a can that promises an "all natural" brew with wintergreen, birch, sassafras, and Tahitian vanilla, it's slightly disappointing when all you can taste is something approximating a root beer with a good bit of wintergreen to chew on in the aftertaste. Probably the closest to an A&W, but gets docked a bit for that aftertaste.

4.75 out of 10.0

Santa Cruz (Orrville, OH)

Oh, Lord. A clear - yes, clear - root beer that we took two sips of and poured out. It's like someone with no memory of root beer made one based on what they've been told about it, like a robot with planted memories. Hell, the label even says "organic root beer flavour." We were so offended we didn't even include it into the group shot (our dog took a sniff of the can and walked away). Next time we want something root beer-esque and not an actual root beer, we'll just buy candy.

0.0 out of 10.0

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