Friday, November 22, 2013

Gurrnaid: Root Beer's Spazzy Cousin

Yes, the Pooj would even catch this for you.
(Tehran Market, November 2013)

Taking a brief break from the road trip chronicles…

Let’s just get this out of the way now: Gurrnaid isn't actually root beer at all (so it's not going in my root beer count, nor is it getting a rating). In fact, it doesn't even claim to be root beer – only root beer flavored. But since we’ve sworn oath to explore all things root beer (well, speaking for myself at least), why not give it a shot, right? After all, it couldn't be worse than a Fizzy, right...?

Generally, I avoid “energy” drinks because they are rarely more than caffeinated glucose water. I am, however, also generally a sucker for unique packaging (come on, I can’t be the only person who’s been tempted to buy Tea of Kind just to watch that pressurized cap do its thing). Thus, on an afternoon when I can use a caffeine boost anyways and don’t really feel the urge to down coffee, I’m fortunate to encounter something equal parts energizing and root beer (which is to say, not much of either).

As far as ingredients go, Gurrnaid is no different than its peers in the sense that it is predominantly sweetener – a mixture of sugar and Reb A (AKA, stevia) clock in as the second and eighth ingredients, respectively. Caffeine is listed seventh, just before the Reb A, and preceded by a bunch of acids and preservatives. In addition to the requisite B vitamins, it also contains Omega 3, which does seem different than other energy drinks, though it makes for an alarming allergy warning: “Contains Fish (Anchovy and Sardine).” Sounds refreshing…

Oh well – it’s not like I went into this expecting health food. As promised, it is indeed root beer flavored, more like root beer mixed with something sugary and fruity, like root beer mixed with Gatorade or something to that effect (I say Gatorade rather generically, since all sports drinks kind of taste the same regardless of brand or flavor). Thankfully, it doesn’t taste like someone crushed a vitamin into it, like other energy drinks are prone to. While, Gurrnaid isn’t really something I’d make a habit of drinking, it’s not particularly offensive either – just don’t expect a flavor explosion as far as root beer is concerned. 

…and while we’re on that subject, the word “explosion” should never be used to describe any food item…

Thursday, November 21, 2013

El Camino Root Beer, Part 3: Solvang Brewing Company

(October 2013)

The Missus and I know our way around Solvang way more than we have any right to as non-Danish non-residents. If you’ve ever been here, you’d understand why – it’s really more of a stop-in-on-the-way-to-somewhere-else kind of tourist trap than a stay-here-for-a-week kind of tourist trap. But even having firmly established ourselves in the latter camp, we still manage to experience something new every time we visit. Seeing as it might be a while before we get a chance to come back for hakkebof, medisterpolse, and aebleskivers, it seems appropriate to at least make a quick detour during our road trip.

Our annual pilgrimages to the Sunny Fields have allowed us to see how things have changed over the past few years, including the establishment of Solvang Brewing Company in 2010. Proprietors Steve & Cari Renfrow bought the building from the granddaughter of the man who had originally built it in 1963 – including the windmill – and had operated it as the Danish Inn (source). The Danish Inn had long been shuttered before the Renfrows came across the property, but the new owners have legitimate pedigree: Cari Renfrow is a 4th generation Solvang-born Dane. In fact, her grandfather's uncles were amongst the first Danish settlers in Solvang when it was established in 1911 (source). 

Obligatory windmill shot.

As I said earlier, each trip to Solvang manages to reveal something we hadn’t seen before, and this trip is no different. While we have eaten at the Solvang Brewing Company in past visits, they were out of root beer in all of those instances. For the first time, we come away with this: 

The Pooj is perpetually quixotic about root beer.

I’m happy to report that Solvang Brewing Company’s root beer is worth the wait. Although it’s definitely spicy and heavy on the wintergreen, it’s not so strong as to be unpleasant. Since it’s not really that sweet at all, the rich herb flavors can feature prominently. There’s definitely a strong licorice aftertaste, though the aftertaste does start a little watery – it builds as you drink more and lingers on sides of the tongue. Head is virtually non-existent, as the bubbles are roughly medium-sized. Were I to compare it to recently sampled root beers, I’d say it tastes and feels like a slightly sweeter, less bitter/spicy (depending on your herb-strength preferences) version of Steelhead Spicy Draft, with some added body.

Until we meet again, Solvang, we leave on a happy note. …and with a gigantic tub of Danish butter cookies… Solvang Brewing Company’s root beer gets a low 4.

PS: Speaking of hakkebof, we had lunch at Viking Garden, which is kind of tourist-trap-y in a good way, has authentic-enough Danish food as far as the Missus’ Swiss-German sensibilities can ascertain, and has Death Valley Root Beer on tap

Bunden i vejret eller resten i håret!