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 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.
We found this root beer for sale at a cycling shop and tourist stand at the end of a 100 km cycling day down Quebec’s Route Verte #1. It’s made in Richmond, Quebec, only a few km from where we’re sitting. It’s “100% Naturel”, and is made of “Appalachien Mountains spring water”, plus colourings and flavourings.
The aroma and flavour are definitely on the creamy side. The flavour is traditional root beer with a bit of licorice. The aftertaste is mild (good thing), and it’s not too sweet. It’s not terribly complex, though. The branding is excellent – shortie bottle, and none of that “Ye olde time” nonsense.
Disclaimer: I’m really tired, thirsty and dirty from a day of bike riding, so I can’t guarantee I haven’t been swayed in this review by thirst and gratitude for the rest.
Made in Quebec, Canada. www.bulls-head.com
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
Babbling Brooke’s Root Beer showed promise from the start. The label is hilariously faux-old-fashioned, inexplicably featuring a guy dressed as a gondolier poling his way down river rapids in a barrel alongside a chambermaid. The proclamations of “old fashioned” and “all natural” are actually supported by the ingredients list, which includes a variety of good things, including, among other things, cinnamon bark, star anise, sassafras, and orange peel.
The aroma is strongly of liquorice – from the star anise, presumably. The flavour is deep and earthy, and can only be described as “rooty”. This helps offset the sweetness, which is not overpowering. The flavour could be a bit brighter in my opinion – perhaps a touch more orange? – but this is only my preference, not a criticism.
This root beer is brewed by Nickel Brook Brewery in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. They are clearly experts at brewing beer, and carried over their passion for crafting a fine brew to this root beer.
This is truly a fantastic root beer. If you like dark, earthy flavour with lots of spicing, this is for you.
Bought at Vincenzo’s grocery store in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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.