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.
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.
Bundaberg is family-owned outfit based in (you guessed it!) Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. They certainly seem to have a passion for real-brewed products, so I was excited to try it out. I was also excited because I purchased it at a coffee shop with smoldering-beautiful baristas and an intolerably chic client base. It might be snooty beyond belief, but it was almost guaranteed to be good!
Bundaberg is sold in a cute shortie bottle, as if to say “everyone will know how expensive this root beer was because, hey look, it’s in a short bottle!”. It also had a cool pull-tab for opening the cap. I noticed the glances from the other customers, whichs silently communicated a strange mixture of “I’m envious of your root beer’s cool pull tab”, and “do you know how many calories are in that?”.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bundaberg markets the same drink as sarsaparilla. I’m a little suspicious because sarsaparilla and root beer aren’t supposed to be the same thing. However, my bottle said “root beer”, and it tasted darn good, so I’m going to let the issue slide.
The flavour is sprightly, dancing on the tongue like rain sprinkled from fairy wings. It is reminiscent of American sweetened iced tea, with a hint of lemon. A quick peak at the label reveal that it’s spiked with ginger, vanilla, liquorice, molasses and sarsaparilla – all good things.
Bundaberg is unique. It’s tasty. It’s like a carnival. Maybe it’s not the best representation of the “classic root beer”, but it’s interesting and well-balanced, and not to mention superbly marketed. Now if you excuse me, I have to throw a thin scarf over my tight v-neck t-shirt, don some sun glasses, and catwalk to my next destination.
A butterscotch root beer sounds suspicious. The essence of root beer is: spices; green forests; surprises; back porches. The essence of butterscotch is: sticky puddings; warm rum drinks; cuddles. I cannot see those two lists intersecting.
The root beer smells strongly of butterscotch. It tastes like a melted caramel candy mixed with melted butter substitute with a squirt of rootbeer-flavoured syrup. The root beer flavour is not complex – it’s more of an add-in, as if they thought you can make a drink “root beer” by pouring in a bit of flavouring.
The butterscotch detracts from the root beer experience. Never mess with a classic! That being said, it is an original combination, and we won’t hit them too hard for living on the edge. Paired with a juicy hot dog, and needing a sweet and sticky dessert… why not? The drink of a connoisseur? Definitely not.
Dougie Dog is a food truck started in Vancouver, B.C., but branching out with locations (i.e. hotdog stands) across the lower mainland.