Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Santa Cruz Organic, Part II

The Pooj doesn't get it either.

(Big Lots, July 2010)

For the advancement of science, I revisited Santa Cruz Organic Root Beer recently to test the theory born from the previous post about this beverage:
“So 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 …. 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.”
Thus I poured half the can into a football season-appropriate glass (Fight On) and left the other half in the can. And you know what? They actually did taste different! But you know what else is strange? I took my first sip from the glass, noticing that there was a definite root beer smell, and even some root beer flavor, but when I sipped from the can, there was no discernable root beer flavor there. Subsequent sips from the glass and the can yielded less and less root beer flavor as time went on. Mind you, there really wasn’t any to begin with, so it actually just tasted kind of like carbonated cane juice – and the sips from the can tasted sweeter than those in the glass. Now I would have thought the opposite would normally be the case, since drinking from the glass would also allow piquing the olfactory senses, as I would be smelling the beverage as I drink, logically making it taste fuller. Of course, as I noted previously, the flavor dissipated the longer the drink was exposed to open air, so perhaps the flavor was literally vaporizing, and thus the can, with its smaller opening, simply allows less vapor to escape than the open-top glass.

Hence the only conclusion I can come up with here is that the root beer flavor, however fleeting, must come from the smell of the beverage rather than the taste of it. Imagine that – root beer perfume, perhaps mixed with the carbon dioxide which, once released from the liquid, simply vanishes into the ether. Unless you can come up with a better conclusion, I guess I’m sticking with that one.

It still only gets a 2 though. On second thought, I didn’t really like it at all this time around, so I’m dropping it to a 1.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Maine Root

Taking a cue from the elephant train, The Pooj makes a play for my beverage.

(Rocket Fizz, June 2010)

Maine Root adds “fair trade” to the organic cane juice equation. Since I wasn’t too familiar with the Fair Trade movement, I looked it up, and looked up Maine Root itself while I was at it. They seem like a good, noble company – founded by two brothers with the intent of creating a better root beer, now also making several different kinds of soda (including sarsaparilla, which I may have to try for comparison purposes, since most other companies seem to use the terms “root beer” and “sarsaparilla” interchangeably), and making local deliveries in Maine on a biodiesel truck.

The organic cane juice flavor here is not overpowering, which I appreciate, but neither is the root beer flavor very strong. It does taste good, but it just passes quickly, so the flavor doesn’t really linger in your mouth for very long. Actually, this is a good example of a root beer that is better than the mass-market varieties – quality ingredients that you can taste – but not necessarily one that I would go back to over and over again, since I prefer a stronger root beer flavor and a creamier texture.

Based on that rationale, Maine Root is a solid 3.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hansen's Diet Root Beer

While the Pooj isn't looking, the elephant train heads to the watering hole.

(Pilfered from the Fridge-In-Law, August 2010)

Yes, I know this wouldn’t normally count in my tally since it’s both canned and diet, but since it was a root beer, I figured I should at least keep track of it…
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually decently good. There’s a fairly good initial root beer flavor, which gives way to the typical weird artificial sweetener aftertaste after a few seconds. So I suppose if one were committed enough to the cause of decently good root beer to time their sips such that you get the initial flavor just as the aftertaste is arriving, this could work. But it’s kind of like being the reoccurring bad guy on a single season of Dexter – you can sort of stay one step ahead of Dex in every episode of the season (i.e., timing the sips to get the initial root beer taste of subsequent sips to cover up the aftertaste of the previous sip), but he’ll eventually catch you and kill you in the season finale (i.e., when the can is empty and you’re out of fresh sips, and the aftertaste comes for the reckoning). Or kind of like a high-speed chase on the TV “news” – you can keep driving away from the po-po, but for goodness sakes, you’ve got 4 network news helicopters following you in addition to all the squad cars and S.W.A.T. aircraft who know where you are and where you’re going, so do you really think they won’t eventually catch up with you? Or kind of like trying to dodge a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick – you think he missed you with the steel of the toe, but that boot heel’s coming back to high-five your skull in 3, 2, OW.
OK, so it’s not quite as bad as certain death, certain tasering, or certain tattoo-to-the-temple-by-Walker-Texas-Ranger, but I wouldn’t go rushing out to the store to get more right this instant. Buuuut, if I’m in a position where a diet mass-market root beer is all that’s available to me, I certainly would not thumb my nose at the free beverage, and I would gladly choose the Hansen’s Diet Root Beer over other diet sodas.
Not quite a 3, since it’s not really better than mass-market root beers and because of the whole artificial sweetener thing, but I’ll give it a very drinkable 2.5.

Monday, August 2, 2010


The Missus is a better date than the Pooj. Sorry Pooj.

(Twohey's Restaurant, July 2010)

For 66 years and going, Twohey’s has been an Alhambra / South Pasadena / San Marino institution – probably leftover from bygone days when drive-ins were more prevalent along old Route 66. I often think that I would have liked to live in those drive-in days, with their soda fountains, roaring LA car culture, and burgeoning rock-n-roll underground. Then I consider that I probably would not have much enjoyed living during such a racist era, when the only access I would have been allowed to the aforementioned drive-ins, car-culture, and rock-n-roll would have been whatever I could glimpse from a distance through the glass of the grocery store, pawn shop, or dry cleaner where I worked… Considering further that the missus and I would have been a forbidden match back in that day, I am thankful for the minority generations past who endured the oppression and labored to create the era and the LA I now enjoy, where most times I’m not even conscious that we would be classified as an “inter-racial” couple – an era and an LA where Twohey’s is a rose-colored nostalgic reminder of the better parts of years past.

These days, I’m willing to bet that Twohey’s better known as being that-place-that-has-reserved-parking-spaces-so-you-can’t-park-there-if-you’re-trying-to-go-to-the-neighboring-In-N-Out… Having said that, they serve a pretty good burger, an even better turkey melt, and nearly-perfect fresh potato chips. As is often the case with these old roadside dives, there’s a glass case by the register that sells T-shirts and other restaurant paraphernalia, along with random memorabilia of their heyday – a case that also displays pies and old fashioned bottled sodas. Conspicuously missing from said display case, but boldly stated in the drink menu, however, is the real reason for my current rant – they make their own root beer!


It’s probably better that Twohey’s keeps their root beer out of the display case, since it’s unfortunately kind of a dud. Really, it tastes like carbonated water, and little else. There’s an inkling of a potential root beer flavor in there, but really, it tastes like what comes out of a soda fountain when the syrup is running low. Funny thing is that it’s actually a slightly nostalgic taste for me – back when I was in 5th grade, I went to the March Air Force Base Museum (before it was an Air Reserve Base) for a friend’s birthday party. We got to run around an old unused portion of the runway where there were 50 or 60 some-odd retired planes on display – fighters, bombers, cargo transports, experimental flyers, helicopters, spy gliders, what have you – some were from before WWII (an awesome B-29), some were used in movies (the C-130 from Con Air), others were stealthily cool (an SR-71 and a U2) or just plain odd (the “Flying Banana” helicopter). We were even allowed to climb inside a couple of them. At any rate though, we went to a pizza joint inside the Base for lunch, and I got a big glass of Coke not realizing that the syrup was low, unsure as to why my soda tasted weird when I returned to the table. Well, the Twohey’s Root Beer tasted kind of like that, except without all the cool flying machines to go with it (not even a B-52!). I have a sneaking suspicion that the root beer wasn’t actually bottled in the bottle it was served to me in, that they keep a bunch of empty bottles around affixed with spiffy retro-looking self-printed labels, and that when someone orders a Twohey’s Root Beer, they drop some syrup in the bottle, and fill the rest of it with carbonated water from their soda fountain. Maybe the person who filled my bottle was a soft touch with the syrup and a heavy hand with the fizzy water. Who knows…?

Maybe if I’m in the mood to give them another shot, I’ll give the root beer another try in the hopes that someone else is filling the bottles then. Until then, I’m definitely filing Twohey’s as a good place to get a burger, probably a great place to get a malt, and probably a good place to get a root beer float, provided that they fill my glass with the mass market stuff. For now though, Twohey’s Root Beer gets a lowly 1.

(Eh, maybe a 1.5, but that extra 0.5 is just for taking the effort of trying to make their own brew…)