Fentiman’s Old English Root Beer

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Our Review: 0/10
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Finally, after a years-long dry spell, I have found a root beer that has surprised and delighted me. I admit I was skeptical at first. Since when has Old England been associated with root beer? In what way is it “Traditional?” Why is there a cute dog on the neck label? But once I tasted it, I stopped caring about these minor details.

The label says the beverage is “botanically brewed,” which I usually interpret as marketing drivel, but in this case seems to be genuinely true. A glance of the ingredient list shows that it does indeed contain a variety of real ingredients, including fermented ginger extract, sarsaparilla, dandelion root, burdock root, and even pear juice extract. The flavour doesn’t disappoint, with clear notes of anise, and a hint of clove and pear. The blend is not the same as a traditional American root beer, which is delightful for someone who has tasted too many business-as-usual brews.

I also like the bottle. It is smaller than usual, at 275 mL, which is good in my opinion. It has a no-nonsense screw cap instead of the fussy bottle cap favoured by most boutique brands. It has the words botanically brewed embossed in the glass.

It is indeed a product of the UK.

8.5/10

Reviewed in London, ON 2019-12-26

Original New York Seltzer

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newyorkseltzer.com

What a delight to experience a root beer that brings something a little unique to the game. This charming soda has a refreshing twist on the typical “old time soda shop” branding by being – gasp! – fully transparent. That’s right, no caramel colour here. It’s served in a cute shorty 296 mL bottle, which in my opinion is a better size than your typical giant-sized 341 mL bottle. I adore the New York Art Deco stylings.

The root beer itself is completely uninteresting. I’m not sure what Seltzer is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t it. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a higher rating than usual because I like the bottle and it’s Christmas.

7.5/10

Hires Root Beer and Vodka

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Our Review: 5.5/10
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Visitor Rating: 8.0/10
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Hires root beer, with vodka mixed in!  They sell this in a can, pre-mixed, at the liquor store.  Slightly thinner colour than usual root beer — it’s actually semi-transparent.

It smells like Hires root beer, but with paint thinner mixed in!  The flavour is not complex, and it’s a touch sweeter than I would like.  Not bad, bad basic.  It has an aftertaste of distillation column.

It’s hard to imagine drinking more than a couple of these at a party (think of all the sugar!), but it’s not a bad thing to have in the fridge.  If I was designing a root beer alcoholic drink, I would take a “root beer cocktail” approach, like adding root beer extract to a martini.  But if you just want to buy a can of something, you could do worse.

Bear ‘N Beaver Root Beer

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Our Review: 6.5/10
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Visitor Rating: 8.0/10
(3 votes cast)

Bear ‘N Beaver… So Canadian, OR SO IT SEEMS!  But to bears and beavers really hang out together?  NO!  And if they did, would they do it over top of a brown-tone Union Jack?  NO!  Does it matter?  Not really… the label is actually pretty nice.

On the clear side (fairly transparent).  Rootbeery nose with no other obvious tones.  Taste is surprisingly effervescent, despite it having few bubbles in the glass.  The description on the bottle claims it’s the “ceramist recipe”, but I disagree — it’s more on the acidic side.  They added yucca root extract to make it more “authentic,” whatever that means.

This root beer is made in White Rock, BC, Canada, by a company called “Double D Beverage”.

www.bearnbeaver.com

Island Root Beer

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Our Review: 4.0/10
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Visitor Rating: 4.0/10
(3 votes cast)

I bought this root beer on Maui, Hawaii, in February 2018, at the Rodeo General Store in Makawau, after being defeated by the Haleakala volcano.  So.  Rainy.

The young man behind the counter (who is planning on “pursuing his music career”) enthused wildly about this root beer: it’s made locally; it’s the best root beer in the world; it’s made only with Hawaiian ingredients; did I mention I play guitar?

As I left the store to enjoy my root beer, I overheard the young man enthusiastically promoting the box of ballpoint pens about to be purchased by the next customer. I settled down to assess the label:

  • Purified Water — agreed, likely Hawaiian
  • Natural White Cane Sugar — a.k.a. sugar.  They do make grow sugarcane in Hawaii, but I’m doubtful…
  • Local Honey
  • Hawaiian Vanilla Extract — Did they grow the vanilla here, or just extract it?
  • Natural Root Beer Extract — Ah yes, the delicate first press from the rare and coveted stamens of the rootbeeris nonsensis flower.  Hmm?

Coming from a can, it has that unfortunate tinny taste. Underneath that though, you can taste the hint of vanilla. Upfront sweet taste. The honey doesn’t come through. Not creamy, carbonated, somewhat thin. Not the best root beer in the world, sorry to say.

Frostop Premium Root Beer

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Our Review: 6.5/10
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Visitor Rating: 8.5/10
(8 votes cast)

A friend of mine picked up this root beer at a local gas station.  I can imagine it now: between the vacuum-packed beef jerky and cigarette wrapping papers, a mildewed refrigerator with enormous bottles of soda and energy drinks, and this gem hiding in the back.  Thanks Erik for your sharp eye.

Anyways, enough about gas stations — let’s talk about Frostop.  It’s decent root beer with a traditional taste, nothing remarkable.  However, the stability of the foam is rather remarkable for a root beer, with a long-lasting dense head like Guinness.  A shame, really, since I don’t imagine the road warriors who normally buy it from the gas station carry a chilled glass with them, and so I suspect this feature goes largely unnoticed.

The jumbo size is obviously too big for one person (I shared it with a friend over about an hour), and the squooshy plastic bottle is rather downmarket, but I suppose what can you expect for a product sold in a gas station?  All in all, a decent brew, with an extra point for the foaminess.

Sea Dog Root Beer

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Our Review: 7.5/10
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Visitor Rating: 5.0/10
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Sea dog root beer is nice and creamy with a taste of carmel. It is a delight to try and just a good all-around root beer taste, with a little interesting after taste. Sea Dog is a good day-to-day root beer to enjoy.

Bulldog Root Beer

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Visitor Rating: 6.5/10
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I found this empty bottle of Bulldog underneath my bed today.  I don’t remember drinking it.  It must have consumed it late one night, smelling of booze, a little fuzzy-eyed, and then let the bottle drop there, unnoticed, until now.

I don’t recall anything about this root beer.  I don’t even recall drinking it.  Maybe I wrote something down, but it hasn’t surfaced yet.  If I knew where to buy another bottle, I would pick up another one and give it a fair review.  But considering how widely I roam to find these things, it could have been from anywhere.

So here’s my assessment: an excellent post-bar root beer.

Harvey and Vern’s Root Beer

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Our Review: 5.0/10
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Visitor Rating: 8.0/10
(5 votes cast)

Harvey and Vern’s falls in the “sweet and creamy” category of root beer.  It is made with “pure cane sugar” (also known as “sugar”), and, interestingly, has yucca extract in it.  I’m not sure what the yucca contributes, exactly — their website claims it gives the soda a wintergreen undertone, which I always appreciate, but I didn’t pick up on that myself (likely due to cycling-related exhaustion).  It’s definitely creamy, though, and a bit cloying.  It has a nice novelty cap, and everyone knows I’m a sucker for a good novelty cap.

Serve this root beer in an iced glass at a summer backyard party.  You’ll impress your friends with a fancy soda, but you won’t offend anyone’s pallet with anything too complex.

Overall, I give this root beer a surprisingly low rating… surprising even to myself as I write it up, considering that I recall it being pretty darn decent.  I guess I was feeling vindictive that day.  Oh well.  I’ve never  claimed this website is objective.

Harvey & Vern's Soda

Birdie & Bill’s Root Beer

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Our Review: 7.0/10
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Visitor Rating: 6.3/10
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Birdie and Bill’s is a sugar-free “all natural” root beer.  Thus my expectations were low to start.  After all, I have yet to come across a sugar-free root beer that is worth the name.  Fortunately, Birdie & Bills does try to make an interesting, tasty product that, though not exactly like root beer, can still hold its own.  It tastes like sarsaparilla, with a slightly bitter, astringent quality.  The closest flavour comparison I can identify is Brio soda, that dry and herby fizzy Italian soda, but with a bit of root beer concentrate added in for good measure.

One interesting thing about Birdie and Bill’s is that it it sweetened with Sweeten FX, a branded sweetener that contains erythritol, which is not very popular in North America but is making great gains as a sugar alternative in parts of Asia.

I give this root beer a 7/10 not because I particularly like it, but because I often get flack for being too hard on the sugar-free options, and as far as that goes, this one is pretty decent.

www.BirdieAndBills.com

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