Recall, if you will, the earlier Deerfield Trading Company post containing the following postulation:
“… I have not yet tried the regular Walgreens generic root beer, which I’d imagine is the same recipe except with HFCS instead of sugar, but it might be worth doing a side by side comparison, you know, for the betterment of science and … um … stuff…”Today, we are back for the betterment of science and … um … stuff … ! With this post, we officially launch the SCIENCE! posts, previously unofficially launched way back in August (ah, memories) with the Santa Cruz Organic experiment. Now you’ll have to excuse the rather loose application of the term science (!), but I do believe that if I endeavor towards the betterment of root beer enjoyment, such an endeavor requires some empirical – even if it is somewhat dubiously empirical – observations regarding this wonderful beverage. And so we proceed…
First, we look at the ingredients to see if they are in fact the same, with the exception of sweetener used. Consider Exhibits 1 and 2 below:
The ingredients are in fact the same, with the exception of the type of sweetener used. However, we also note that the ingredients are not in the same order (ergo, proportion), and thus the formula is slightly different for each drink as well. While both list carbonated water and sweetener first, the position of natural and artificial flavors is different. Deerfield goes as far as to have more natural than artificial flavors, whereas Walgreens is opposite. Thus one can conclude empirically that the ingredients in Deerfield are “better” than Walgreens in that flavorings are in higher proportion than colors and preservatives, and that natural flavors are in higher proportion than artificial ones. Both have citric acid in lowest proportion (which makes sense, because a little citric acid really does go a long way).
So does the higher proportion of natural flavors, and flavorings in general give Deerfield a superior taste over Walgreens? To determine that, we will have to utilize slightly less objective, but just as empirical methods – taste tests. We test for 3 main factors: (1) whether or not a test subject can taste the difference between both beverages, (2) which beverage was preferred (and whether or not that was consistent), and (3) whether or not blind taste tests would yield the same results as fully-cognizant taste tests.
This round of testing was administered to two test subjects – the missus and myself – each subject administering the blind portions of the test to the other. Drinks were poured into 2 different glasses, the contents of each glass known only to the administrator. At the administrator’s discretion, each glass carried either differing beverages or the same beverage – tests subjects were required to identify which they thought was Deerfield and which Walgreens, and whether or not they had a preference of one over the other. Results are as follows:
We're serious about this SCIENCE! stuff.
And thus the conclusion is … inconclusive… While both subjects were generally consistent in preferring the same beverage over the other during the blind taste test, the subjects were not consistent in being able to distinguish whether or not the samples presented them were in fact different beverages. Both subjects at one point either stated the drinks were the same when they were really different, or vice versa. The “full knowledge” test may have been slightly skewed by the fact that each beverage tasted different from the bottle than from the glass (possibly due to the same factors stated in my earlier Walgreens Original review). Also, each drink’s flavor may have been altered based on which glass it was in – further testing may be required, using the same type of glass for both samples.
Perhaps the only conclusion we can really come to is that neither version of root beer is very good. This conclusion, of course, makes neither subject really willing to perform the test again, same glass types or otherwise. If I really wanted to develop a conclusion for this, I would say that unless one is really sensitive to it, there is an almost imperceptible difference in flavor between sugar and HFCS (makes sense, seeing as chemically, the two sweeteners are separated by only one atom). There did not seem to much bias against HFCS one way or the other by either test subject – Subject 1 stated preference for what was blindly perceived as Walgreens, and picked Deerfield in the full-knowledge test, when all 3 stated preferences were actually Deerfield; Subject 2 preferred what was blindly perceived as Walgreens, and actually turned out to be Walgreens, yet preferred Deerfield in the full-knowledge test. I’d like to say that this means my preference towards one root beer over another is not based solely what sweetener is used, and more on the blend of herbs. While still subjective in taste preferences, if nothing else, this does prove that neither the missus nor I are mugwumps when HFCS is concerned.
On the other hand, explaining the more curious question of why the beverages taste slightly better when mixed together might never be possible…