River City Root Beer is a classic – made by root beer people for the root beer crowd, with little awareness of the flash-pow marketing normally coupled with soda sales. The front of the label is laughably bad (I suspect it was made in Microsoft Office 2000 using clip art), but the back has an adorable iconographic set of instructions for making a root beer float.
The flavour is robust, but not particularly complex. It has a classic flavour profile, and does not attempt to gussy it up with the newfangled concepts of the designer soda world. I agree that it would be great for a root beer float — old fashioned and to the point. My dad would appreciate this root beer.
Bought in Portland, Oregon, USA. www.bluedogbeverage.com
The warning signs for Oogavé were very clear from the start. “Organic”, the label proclaims. “Purified water” is the first ingredient. On the side is a laundry list of qualifications: Gluten free, low glycemic, caffeine free, vegan. Of course, those are all true of practically every root beer, but who cares? This one comes in a chic transparent bottle that looks oh-so-svelte when lined up next to the other sodas in the lineup with different label hues.
The sugar source is organic agave nectar, but the flavours are all added as chemicals. In fact, besides water, there are no root beer ingredients at all. This root beer is visibly different than others, with a relatively transparent colouration that suggests “thin and forgettable”. Indeed, it tastes like heavily flavoured tap water, albeit fizzy. One advantage of the thin flavour is the relatively light sugar content. At only 100 calories, you might be able to drink these often and not stretch your yoga pants too thin.
Really, though, this is one of the worst I’ve ever had. Like a low-calorie soda stream knockoff bitter water. Yucky.
Brownie Carmel Cream Root Beer is a surprising root beer. The label is decidedly retro (and strangely features a Seussical elf). Like many root beers I have tried, this one comes from the American Pacific Northwest — the unlikely hotbed of innovative root beers these days it seems.
Brownie has the scent of vanilla, a bit of liquorice, and a whole lot of caramel. One slurp and the caramel flavour slams your tastebuds like someone has just fired a Super Soaker filled with liquid candy at point blank at your soft palate. It’s totally unexpected. I mean, sure, the word “caramel” is in the title, but it’s little more than a subtitle, barely readable, really. It should be featured in 3D. The caramel flavour lasts long after you swallow, with one of the most powerful aftertastes I have experienced. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have a cloying aftertaste, though, making the experience more interesting than yucky. It is very smooth and creamy.
Overall, Brownie is one of my favourite flavoured root beers. It is like root beer crème brûlée, and would make an excellent dessert after a multi-course French meal.
This root beer was purchased in Tofino, BC, Canada.
Caribou is a beer brewery in Prince George, BC, Canada that is known for its… affordable… canned beers. Caribou normally brings to mind backyard drinking sessions with an electric bug zapper for entertainment, an ice cooler in the back of a pickup truck, and quite possibly a fire in a barrel. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that they also brew a root beer!
Caribou is slightly alcoholic (0.5%), which right away indicated it would be different. Its ingredients (sugar, root beer flavour, sodium benzoate, and citric acid – no water?) are uninspiring, but who knows what magical changes the fermentation process could impart, so I reserved judgement until tasting.
It smells like a root beer and tastes like a root beer – no doubt about that. It has no unique characteristics. No special flavours. But that doesn’t mean it’s no good – far from it! If you need to satisfy the voice in your head saying “I need a root beer right now“, it will quench your craving like a Molson Canadian. It was absolutely perfect after a hot 40 km bike ride (which I had just completed).
Bought at the Halfmoon Bay general store on the Sunshine Coast in BC, Canada. As an added note, Aristophanes was surprised to learn that his friend’s sister’s family owns the store. It’s lovely – visit it!
Bedford’s is one of those cool, “micro-brew” sort of root beers with lots of personality. It’s in a cool old-fashioned bottle, and strives to be very “local”. Unfortunately, the ingredients do not match the marketing. It’s just water, “color” and “flavors”, although there is a bit of “quillaia”, which grants it a bit of street cred. There is liquorice on the nose, and it has a pleasing aftertaste that doesn’t linger. Other than that, it’s pretty generic – not surprising considering the ingredients.
This is a dessert root beer – creamy and sweet.
This root beer was purchased on the Coho ferry from Victoria, BC, Canada to Port Angeles, Washington, USA.
Sioux City is a rather unremarkable, easy-drinking root beer. It is highly carbonated, has a simple root beer flavour, is very sweet, and has no aftertaste. It’s drinkable by the litre (that’s about a quart, to those still using medieval units). Like many root beers, the label is printed to look old-timey, recalling a bygone era of saloons and boot-spurs, which, really, is out of place for a beverage popularized after that era had closed. It has a full-colour mass-produced printed label and artificial ingredients. Who are they fooling?
Did we mention that Sioux City is “highly carbonated”? The explosive effervescence melds with the unremarkable flavour to produce the equivalent of a firework that fires, but then fizzles. It’s not terrible. Just don’t expect a show.
We bought this root beer along with several others in a Portland Fred Meyer store.
Rat Bastard is a bit of a puzzle. The graphics on the label seem to say “edgy rock guitar solo”, but the ingredients list suggests “herbal medicine/organic tonic”. Included in the ingredients (besides the mandatory carbonated water and sugar) are a herbal blend of ginseng, jasmine, clove, skullcap, capsicum, ginko, and even a mushroom extract. It’s like a hybrid between root beer and a salad. Rat Bastard is easy-drinking and bright. It has a smooth, light taste with leafy high notes, but the herbal flavours are not noticeable. It’s as if the makers tried to downplay the interesting flavours. That’s a shame. Some of the best root beers embrace their uniqueness, but this one tries to mask it. Then again, there are more “natural and artificial flavours” in the ingredients (going on ingredient order) than there are herbs, which suggests they were added in minute quantities as an opportunistic marketing ploy. www.skeleteens.com Rat Bastard was purchased in Portland, along with several other root beers.
This root beer was discovered while we were on a cycling tour of Salt Spring Island, an island where artists, hippies, and the wealthy coexist under their common appreciation for ultra-left-wing politics and living the slow life. What better way to ring in the new year than with a root beer?
The bottle is striking, with a great retro label featuring a robot flying in a spaceship. The ingredients list is great too, with every ingredient, spice, and herb listed honestly and opening, rather than the usual “spices” or “flavour” so common in the soda world.
The pour was light brown, like iced tea. No colours added, it seemed. A gentle wintergreen aroma greeted me immediately. I was getting excited. This was going to be good.
And it was. Oh, it was. Captain Electro’s Intergalactic Root Beer had has a smooth flavour, tasting of wintergreen, rooty herbs, and vanilla. A pleasant, not-too-strong aftertaste of liquorice lingered on the pallet before fading to a satisfying tingle-zip. Despite the spice blend, it manages to avoid tasting like Christmas – a common problem with minty-vanilla-spice blends. It was not too sweet, although sweet enough to satisfy my need for a treat. Perhaps the only slight downside is that it did not have a strong flavour of what most of us know as “root beer”, although, in truth, the fact that they were able to almost achieve that flavour without resorting to flavouring agents is nothing short of miraculous.
If you see this root beer, buy it. Cherish it. It will make you realize that you have defined root beer incorrectly for your whole life.
Red Arrow is an all round good root beer. It is listed as containing wintergreen, liquorice, and the infamous “natural flavours”. It pours flat, without a lot of head. The aroma of wintergreen and liquorice is immediately evident. It has a smooth flavour, although it’s a bit too sweet for my liking, but the lingering creaminess makes it tolerable.
Red Arrow was originally produced in Michigan, but now is part of the Orca Beverages soda family. Orca manufactures or bottles many classic root beers, including Frostie’s, Dad’s, Sioux City, and many others. They seem to have a genuine love of unique sodas.
Trader Joe’s is a quasi-organic grocery store based in California, but spreading across the united states. Most of their products are house brand, so it was not a surprise to come across a root beer with their logo on it.
The aroma is of cotton candy, vanilla, and wintergreen. It has no head to speak of, fizzing out quickly into a bubbly brew like a fountain drink. This is not a creamy root beer – think peppy, fresh, and highly carbonated. Luckily, it is not tinny like many of its peers.
Once the sweetness shock is swallowed away and and the fizz calms down, the taste of anise comes through. There is no aftertaste within a few seconds, however, beyond the sweet residue all too common with this style of root beer. It isn’t unique – just a run-of-the-mill, decent brew.
Trader Joe’s Vintage Root Beer lacks the pizazz normally associated with the impressive ingredients list claimed on the bottle. It would be best bought in bulk and served at a BBQ where you want the guests to know that you shop at Trader Joe’s. For individual, private enjoyment, choose something else.