Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dog n Suds

The Pooj gets ready to catch some suds.
(BevMo Pasadena, June 2012)

What started as a hot dog and root beer stand in 1953, dreamt up by two music teachers at the University of Illinois, spread throughout Midwest to become one of the largest franchised fast food chains in the country by the early 1970s. Dog n Suds Drive In (and the Dog’s name is Rover, for those keeping score) (I don’t know the Suds’ names, however) later merged their company of approximately 850 restaurants with an East Coast company in the mid-1970s, and that East Coast company very promptly and sadly drove it into the ground (source). Of the 17 locations that remain today, only 2 are original, but all still serve what they claim to be the "World's Creamiest Root Beer" (source).

Truth is, I've had creamier, but Dog n Suds is still fairly smooth as far as texture goes. While the carbonation is comfortably soft, the small bubbles build up to a modest amount of foam before wicking to the edges of the glass. Any creaminess that may exist, however, doesn't really translate into the flavor, which is slightly fruit-y, with cola-like tang – nothing close to the tongue-coating richness that I would expect from something claiming a “creamy” flavor (I suppose they never explicitly say that the flavor is supposed to be creamy, so perhaps I’m unfairly reading too much into it). I will say that its sweetness and scent are satisfyingly birch-leaning and pleasantly tempered, and that birch flavor extends to a nice herbal aftertaste with notes of menthol.

A little more of the advertised creaminess in the flavor would go a long way in kicking Dog n Suds up to a higher rating. The additional body and depth that creaminess can often add would be a welcome addition to what's already there. Having said that, I still like Dog n Suds enough to give it a 3.5.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Capone Family Secret

The Pooj teaches a lesson on "the Chicago way."
(Old Town House of Jerky & Root Beer, May 2012)

Despite being named after a Chicago mobster and being bottled in the Windy City, Capone Family Secret Root Beer actually has roots in Las Vegas. Capo’s Speakeasies have had a restaurant presence near the Strip since 1964 and sell Italian food items under the Capo’s Foods label. Owner Nico Santucci also helped develop the “Mob Experience” for the Tropicana Casino in 2010, and while doing so met with family members of the infamous boss. According to the company website, Capone’s descendants revealed some of the family’s long-guarded Italian food recipes to Santucci during those meetings, foods which are now produced and packaged for sale by Capo’s Foods. The name of the food and beverage line – Capone Family Secret – comes from tales of Federal liquor-raids at Capone’s warehouses during Prohibition frequently only turning up recipes for “Italian specialties.” It’s not clear, however, if the soda line is made from any actual Capone family recipes.

Somehow, unless Al Capone was more down-home Americana than Brian DePalma presented him to be, I highly doubt the Capone family had a secret Italian root beer recipe. If they did, and this is certifiably it, I'd say the Capones had quite the sweet tooth (sweet teeth…? What’s plural for sweet tooth…?), since the predominant flavor here is sugar. Not in a bad way, mind you, because it's nice and smooth around the edges, though there's very little distinctive root-iness about it. A freshly popped bottle gives off a spicy scent at first, but that doesn't seem to have carried over to the taste much – it’s more of an herby-y essence that floats up to the roof of the mouth, leaving a menthol feeling in the back of the throat. The aftertaste is initially crisp, giving a clean-palette feeling, though it's followed quickly by a somewhat heavy sweetness, mixed with a little vanilla cream.

Carbonation is marginally on the harder end of the spectrum. There's a decent amount of soft foam that hangs around longer than I would have expected, given that there's no foaming agent listed in the ingredients – maybe lingering for a little less than 10 seconds. Aside from that, there's little else to set Capone Family Secret Root Beer apart from the general field of root beers. It's certainly not unpleasant to drink, but not exactly an offer I can't refuse either – that’ll warrant a 2.5.