Monday, February 28, 2011


The Pooj releases the hounds.
(Cost Plus World Market, January 2011)

Bulldog Root Beer, like many other brews before it, uses honey as a secondary sweetener. Thankfully, unlike some of those “other brews,” the honey here is not overpowering, yet still manages to smooth out the texture quite a bit. Honey definitely still accounts for much of the initial taste and aftertaste, but there is still a nice root-y flavor in there. Said root-y flavor is mild compared to the rich honey flavor, making me wonder if the herb flavor would perhaps be stronger if the honey was toned down a bit.

With that in mind though, I’m sometimes willing to overlook a slightly milder root-y flavor when the overall beverage goes down smoothly. That means I will probably go for more Bulldog from time to time in the future. On that note, Bulldog gets a high 3.5.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Boylan's Creamy Red Birch Beer

The Pooj embraces the differences.
(Big Lots, February 2011)

As promised in my earlier Boylan post, I returned to the scene of the crime (…purchase…) to get some of Boylan’s Birch Beer for comparison purposes. While I did not find any of the original-recipe birch beer, I did find some of their Creamy Red Birch Beer, which, as it turns out, I like a lot more than their root beer. I can’t really speak to the differences between the Creamy Red and the Original Birch Beer(s), but I can confirm my reasoning for not liking their root beer – namely the overly-licorice-y flavor and lack of any other herb flavor. One can probably assume that birch, wintergreen or otherwise, is the main flavoring in a birch beer, and there is a very nice birch root-y-ness here (this may also indicate that I tend to like a little more birch in my root beers, even though my reaction to Trader Joe’s Vintage may indicate that I don’t like that much more birch). The absence of other herbs typically associated with root beers leaves the aftertaste slightly bark-y, and ever so slightly bitter, but the added vanilla more than compensates for that. Curiously, Boylan Root Beer had an almost fruity flavor to me despite the absence of fruit in the ingredients, whereas Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer includes fruit juices for color, yet tastes less fruity to me than the Root Beer. Said fruit juices are not on the Original Birch Beer ingredient list, which shouldn’t make that big of a difference in taste, but the formerly said vanilla is also missing from the Original Birch Beer, so that may
potentially make a big difference.

Either way, I still like Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer. I have a theory that mixing the Creamy Red Birch Beer into the Boylan Root Beer – the extra licorice of the Root Beer blending with the extra birch of the Creamy Red – could potentially create a root beer to my liking, but I’m not sure if that’s enough of a theory to qualify for a SCIENCE! posting. Since I’m not really in the business of rating non-root beer beverages here (though I suppose I’m not really in the business of rating root beer beverages here either, since it’s not really a business … yet … :) ), I don’t think it’s necessary to really give it a number. However, if I had to, I would give Boylan’s Creamy Red Birch Beer a high 3.5, not quite a 4.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Whole Foods Market 365

The Pooj loses a contact lens.
(Whole Foods Market, February 2011)

So a man (um… me…) walks into a health food store, and comes out with potato chips and root beer.
Ironically enough, I think the last time I went into another branch of this health food store chain, I came out with the very same thing (though I think I also had a bottle of unfiltered apple juice that time, which was at least healthy in comparison…). At least it’s healthier junk food, right? Right…?


365 Everyday Value is Whole Foods Market’s generic store brand.
Store-branded root beers have not been particularly good in my experience (with the exception of the Trader Joe’s Vintage, which was decently good), so 365’s root beer is a pleasant break from the norm. It’s a little bland out of the can (something about aluminum cans seem to neutralize flavors more than glass bottles for me, most likely because I’m smelling the metal can, not the beverage inside – I’m not sure why this isn’t as much of a problem with glass bottles, but I can postulate that it’s because glass doesn’t really have much of a smell to me), so I poured it into a glass, where the flavors are better revealed. The dominant flavor and aftertaste is wintergreen, and there’s a slightly heavy dose of it, similar to that of some “old fashioned” style root beers. It’s also pretty sweet, slightly caramel-y.

Overall, though, I liked it.
Maybe not well enough to have it every day, but enough to get more next time I’m in a health food store and have a craving for potato chips as well… I’ll give it a 3.5.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Iron Beer

The Pooj stretches in preparation to pumping some iron.
(Porto’s Bakery & Cafe, January 2011)

First things first: Iron Beer does not make any claims to being root beer – it only advertises itself as the official soft drink of Cuba. Any assertion of Iron Beer’s root beer credentials comes solely from the description given to me by the nice lady working at the counter at Porto’s Bakery & CafĂ© (home of Cuban sandwiches and pastries like their legendary cheese rolls), who told me it’s “kind of like root beer.” So is Iron Beer the official Cuban root beer?

Not really. Iron Beer kind of tastes like three parts Cactus Cooler, mixed with two parts Coca-Cola (mostly for color, since it’s dark like cola and root beer), mixed with one part Sangria Senorial (non-alcoholic Mexican sangria soda). That actually makes we wonder if I can recreate it using said sodas in said proportions. But that’s not why we’re here; we’re here to talk about the relative root beer value of various soft drinks that claim to be root beer or that one might think to be root beer. By that rationale, Iron Beer is not root beer, so it gets a 2.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Myers Avenue Red

The Pooj thinks he can hear the ocean from here.
(Rocket Fizz Valencia, October 2010)

Cripple Creek Brewing, creators of Myers Avenue Red Root Beer, allegedly began as a back-up venture for a failed Colorado gold prospector. While I wouldn’t tell them to keep mining, I don’t know that I would tell them to keep calling their beverage “root beer” either… Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think the beverage is bad – I just don’t think it tastes like root beer. In fact, with its strong dose of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, I think it actually tastes more like carbonated eggnog. So move over, Frostie – we have ourselves a new official holiday fizzy beverage: Myers Avenue Red Eggnog Soda.

OK, fine, there’s a little bit of a root beer aftertaste. But I still like it better when I think of it as eggnog… I give it a 2.


The Pooj tries to hide.
(Big Lots, November 2010)

Boylan Bottling Company got started back in 1891 with a birch beer they still make today. While I have yet to try their signature beverage, I have had their root beer a few times in the past decade. It’s pretty sweet, with a pretty strong licorice flavor and aftertaste. There’s a little more of a root-y herb-y scent in the aftertaste, but with the exception of the licorice, there’s not a whole lot of other herb-iness that I usually prefer. I would almost say that there’s a slightly fruity flavor to it, and a slight bitterness not unlike that of black coffee.

I’ll still have to get some of Boylan’s birch beer for a taste of their history, but for now, the root beer is somewhat unremarkable – I give it a 3.


The Pooj ponders.
(BevMo Pasadena, November 2010)

A couple years ago, the LA Times ran an article about specialty root beers, and gave Abita its highest ranking over the likes of AJ Stephans and a couple other brands I can’t remember. While I certainly think Abita is a good root beer, it probably wouldn’t be in my top five. The flavor and scent are both very good – the scent is strongly herb-y, and the flavor mildly so. Most of the herb-y flavors are in the aftertaste, since the initial taste is mostly sweet. In fact, Abita’s root beer flavor is pretty similar to IBC’s, except sweeter, since it uses real Louisiana cane sugar. Like I said – it’s pretty good, but not quite great. I’d give it a 3.5.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The Pooj asks, "Red pill or blue pill?"
(TJ Maxx, January 2011)

The general consensus amongst online root beer critics is that Steaz Root Beer is a train wreck, so the fact that I bought one anyway fully knowing that – and considering that I found it in the random-items bin at a discount store, which most likely means it was broken down for individual sale from a multi-pack that failed to sell because one bottle was missing, which I’m pretty sure I saw at the very same discount store several weekends earlier – means I’m either completely daft or committed to being your root beer guinea pig. I choose to think it’s the latter, but by all other accounts, it’s probably actually the former (especially when you consider the whole “several weeks earlier” part of that last sentence)… I am, if nothing else, committed to the cause of root beer, and this level of commitment towards anything causes men to do stupid things, so consider this me taking a proverbial root beer bullet for you.

In truth, Steaz really isn’t that bad. But that does not mean it’s any good either. Root beer flavor is completely absent, and the tea flavor (green or otherwise) is only slightly in the aftertaste. The taste actually reminds me of something between dried dates, dried longan (a small tree-based fruit, not unlike a lychee), and Pei Pa Koa (a Chinese herbal cough/sore throat syrup made from loquats). Steaz uses organic cane sugar, which does come through since it does taste a little like sugar cane. In keeping with its healthy credo, it’s also packed full of vitamins and antioxidants: 833% of my daily B12, 500% of my daily B6, 100% folic acid, and 20% vitamin C – it’s also only 75 calories a bottle, easily less than half what you would normally find in an unhealthy soda.

Now I like tea a lot and I like root beer a lot, but I still don’t want them mixed together. You’d think I’d find this an abomination of a drink. Well, I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t like it either, and I certainly wouldn’t buy it again for any good reason – that gets you a 1.5.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The Pooj stares a hole through my computer.
(Whole Foods Market, February 2011)

Ever since I had the Diet Hansen’s Creamy Root Beer a few months back, I have been meaning to find myself some of the regular variety. Granted, I wasn’t looking very hard, seeing as it is pretty widely available (although the diet version is usually easier to find). Apparently when I slack in my search, root beer actually starts to beckon me towards it. Back-story: I have been employed at the same place of business for the past 10+ years, with little expectation that it would ever leave its non-descript home, nestled amongst houses, apartments, and other uninspired office buildings on a small hill in West Los Angeles. Just like everyone else these days, we came upon hard financial times, and as a result had to move to a new location (I use the term “new” rather loosely – it’s more “new-to-us” than “new,” per se, seeing as I’m pretty sure these digs are much older than our last ones…). Well, this new location happens to sit right across the street from a market which offers no fewer than six different varieties of root beer! See – what’d I tell you? Root beer just calls to me, even on an unconscious level.

But I digress…

Hansen’s Creamy Root Beer is actually quite pleasant. Herbs include wintergreen birch, anise, sassafras, and Tahitian vanilla, of which I would say the wintergreen birch is most prominent. All of the other ingredients play well together, so the flavor is very nice. It’s not too sweet, even though they use real sugar (some sodas tend to think that if they have real sugar in it, they don’t need to add anything else, so all you end up getting is sugar soda, not whatever the flavor is supposed to be…), and the carbonation is not too hard and not too soft, even from a can. My only gripe with it – and this is a relatively small gripe – is that while the flavor is good, it’s a little thin – something that could have been remedied with a thicker head. Still, Hansen’s is making a good argument for becoming my mass-market-ly available pantry root beer. I’ll give it a low 4.