Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Burger Bus!

What goes best with a good root beer? Why a good burger, of course! Followed by a chocolate malt. But we'll forgo the malt for the interests of this post. And the root beer, for that matter, since I didn't get one here...


I stopped by The Burger Bus in Santa Barbara (Goleta, actually, but who's counting...?) after a meeting this past week and had a CB&J -- that's cheeseburger & jelly, as in cheddar cheese on a griddled 1/3 lb patty, on a ciabatta roll with berry jelly and caramelized onions. And yam fries on the side. Had to skip the fried pickle chips since I was a dollar short, and they only take cash.

The Burger Bus is basically a lunch truck, except they use a shortbus instead of a roach coach, and lunch is limited to burgers and falafel sandwiches with fries, onion rings, or fried pickles. But that's OK, since I'm a fan of the burger lunch option. The burger patty was very good -- seasoned nicely and griddled to a perfect combination of charred on the outside and tender on the inside. I could do without the jelly and the ciabatta roll though, since the berry jelly was a little too sweet, and the ciabatta roll (due to its crusty and chewy nature) caused everything to blow out the back of the burger when I took my first bite... Still the roll was tasty, as were the onions -- at least the ones that stayed in the burger and didn't blow out the back... I imagine the ones that blew out the back were good, too, but I left them alone since I didn't really want to eat a just whole mouthful of onions and jelly after I finished my burger -- though the sweet berry jelly and sweet caramelized onions did taste good together.

Next time, if I'm on The Bus' route (yes, we are on a first ... er, last... name basis now), I might skip the jelly altogether and stick with the standard lettuce, onions and tomato, or at least try the habanero jelly instead of the berry jelly for some extra kick. And while I would be perfectly happy getting the yam fries again since they were really good (great subtly sweet yammy richness, with coarse salt sprinkled in for a great salty contrast), I'll bring enough cash to try the fried pickle chips.

Santa Cruz Organic

The Pooj prays for good results.

(Big Lots, July 2010)

We stumbled upon this brew quite accidentally whilst scouring the not-so-local thrift store for ice cube trays. Ordinarily, looking for ice cube trays and finding root beer instead is cause for celebration, but in this case, we really kind of needed the ice cube trays, which were frustratingly absent from this store… Nevertheless, there was an un-sampled root beet within reach, so I went for it. While my focus here is primarily on bottled root beers, I was willing to branch into the canned sauce in this case because (1) again, it was there and it was fairly inexpensive for carbonated sugar water, and (2) because the missus made a good point (she tends to do that) that if my intent is to try different root beers, then this one does in fact qualify as different. It’s supposed to be an adventure, right? Of course right; thus we plow ahead.

I should preface any further comments on this particular beverage by stating that I generally steer clear of sodas that claim the “organic” label, but not for any principled reason; it’s just that organic sodas typically use organic cane juice, which while certainly tasty, tends to be a bit overpowering in the cane juice flavor. Now I should mention that I really do enjoy chewing on fresh sugar cane – like I said, cane juice is tasty, and there’s also my oft-mentioned nostalgia – we frequently bought sugar cane off of the back of a dump truck full of fresh cane when we lived in Taiwan. When it comes to root beer though, the cane juice flavor has a tendency to overshadow the actual root beer flavor in my opinion. There are definitely root beers out there that do a good balance of cane juice and root beer herbs, and those are quite frankly delicious, but I haven’t found that to be the case with the so-called organic varieties.

Thus was the case with Santa Cruz Organic Root Beer. First impression, upon cracking open a can: smells good, like root beer – this is promising. Second impression, upon tasting the beverage: hmmm, not a very strong root beer flavor – more cane juice flavor than root beer flavor, with a hint of vanilla flavor; closer to a cream soda than a root beer. Third impression, upon pouring the beverage into a glass: whoah – it’s kind of clear, which makes sense, since there’s probably no coloring added, already implied by the “organic” label (while being organic doesn’t preclude coloring; it just seemed unlikely that unnecessary ingredients would be added to something thats selling point is being organic). Fourth impression, upon drinking it from the glass (and this is the perplexing one): it doesn’t taste like root beer at all anymore...!

Strange, eh? It smells like root beer and tastes a little like root beer when imbibed from the can, but loses all root beer flavor entirely when quaffed from a glass? It’s almost like the root beer flavor came from the can itself or something. I suppose I’ll have to taste it side by side – alternating sips between the can and the glass to see if there’s a noticeable difference there. Since we bought a whole 6-pack of it, this should not be a difficult experiment to perform…

Anyways, it was worth a shot. I’ll give it a 2.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sprecher Root Beer

The Pooj studies the ingredients list.

(Rocket Fizz, June 2010)

My initial reaction is that this is sweeter than I remembered it being – probably because it uses both honey and HFCS as sweeteners. That having been said, I actually don’t mind that it’s sweeter, since it has a nice honey flavor. Overall, it’s smooth and even a little creamy.

Sprecher also makes a Honey Cream Soda, which, I dare say, I actually like better than their root beer due to the even stronger honey flavor. The fact that both come in 16 oz. bottles also adds to their charm, since that means the fun lasts longer…

The one thing keeping Sprecher from popping into the elusive “5” bubble is that I would have liked a stronger root beer flavor. But again, since there’s a nice honey flavor/smoothness, I don’t particularly mind that it’s not as root-y as I usually prefer.

All in all though, since I still really liked Sprecher and this is, after all, a subjective rating, I give it a solid 4.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Relaunch and Root Beer!

Webpage redesign……………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, I never thought I’d ever step onto the oft-tread food blogger path, but the missus had a good idea – and while I don’t know much, I know that when the missus has a good idea, I should do it. So I’m going to start cataloguing all the different root beers I try from here on out, and review them based on my subjective preferences (Just face it, fellow bloggers – even though you have a blog, rate things on your blog, and people read your blog, you’re not as objective as you like to think you are).

This should result it, at the very least, a list that I can refer back to prior to making a root beer run so I can remind myself what I liked and what I didn’t. This should also make it easier for me to remember, when I see an unfamiliar label, whether or not I’ve tried that particular brew before.

Or perhaps the missus only wants me to digitally catalogue my root beer conquests so that the physical catalogue of my root beer conquests (i.e., the bottle collection sitting on the shelf above the stove and on the windowsill) doesn’t overwhelm her kitchen… Hmmm…


To begin, I need to set up some sort of rating system so that I can rank my favorite root beers. For now, let’s use the following:

5 – Where have you been all my life?!? (God, my wife, this root beer – in that order.)

4 – Thank you sir, may I have another. (I like it; I will buy more in the future.)

3 – Meh. (I’ll drink it, but it’s nothing special; a step above mass-market brands.)

2 – Charlatan! (Maybe good soda, but not really root beer; lacks root beer flavor.)

1 – Dear God, is this durian juice?!? (Umm, I didn’t like it.)

Onto my first beverage!


The Pooj gazes upon the beverage hopefully, expectantly.

(Rocket Fizz, June 2010)

The label boasts “cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla” as ingredients, which piqued my curiosity. As a disclaimer, I should note that I usually prefer my root beers fairly traditional in the sense that I don’t typically like it when there’s a whole lot of extra stuff added to it. That may explain why I don’t particularly like Virgil’s, which is probably tantamount to root beer sacrilege. The overly herb-y flavor leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, like I just chewed on some bark. And while I generally prefer root beers that have a more traditional root-y flavor, I don’t generally like beverages that are too bitter, hence why I’m also not a big fan of Dad’s – I like that flavor in old-fashioned root beer candy, but not so much in a drink, where it can come off slightly medicinal. It’s got to be sweet enough to not taste like cold fizzy black coffee.

But I digress….

So as I was saying, the label states that Gale’s Root Beer is cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla flavored. Unfortunately that’s at the expense of being root beer flavored. The first taste has a slightly-better-than-mass-market-root-beer flavor to it, better in part because of a nice vanilla richness, followed by a ginger aftertaste similar to that of a good ginger ale. There’s heat there, probably from the combination of ginger and cinnamon, like Reed’s Ginger Brew, but it’s not overwhelming and fades quickly. As I got further down the bottle, there was more of a cinnamon scent, but the cinnamon taste was never really that noticeable. On the whole, it’s a pleasant drink – good balance of sweetness (real sugar) and spice.

But since Gale’s calls it root beer, and it doesn’t really have much of a root beer flavor – more of a ginger ale with slightly rooty taste – as nice as I found Gale’s as a soda, I’m going to have to give it a 2.5.