Monday, September 22, 2014


The Pooj keeps the metric system down.
(BevMo Pasadena, June 2012)

Mason's Root Beer has had a volatile history. Originally opened in 1947 by Mason & Mason Inc. in Chicago, it has since 1970 bounced around from big beverage companies to bigger beverage companies, eventually landing with PepsiCo after a hostile takeover. The FTC, however, decided Pepsi was too powerful, so forced its sale to Monarch Beverage Company in 1978, where Mason's has remained (source). While there also appears to have been a chain of midwestern drive-ins bearing the Mason's name and logo, I'm not sure how they were associated with Mason & Mason, if at all (similar to how the remaining Triple XXX drive-ins are no longer part of the Triple XXX bottling operation). Unfortunately, I might never find out, given that there only appears to be one drive-in left and it's all the way over in Washington, IN.

If the bottled Mason’s is any indication, however, I might not have to make the trip. While there is a nice amount of foam that forms at the initial pour (though it doesn’t stay very long) and a smooth texture with soft, small bubbles, the flavor isn't particularly remarkable. Not that it’s bad – there’s just nothing distinctive about it, so it’s rather generic. The scent suggests something slightly licorice-y and slightly fruity, but the dominant taste is sugar. Again, it’s not even that Mason’s is too sweet – it actually has a pleasant sweetness – it’s just that there’s nothing else to really speak of. Considering the smoothness, I would have expected there to be either honey or a foaming agent included, but neither are indicated in the ingredients list nor implied by the taste. Just as sugar is the dominant flavor, so it is with the aftertaste – mostly sweet with a very slight tartness and an even slighter menthol/cool feeling.

Were I to find myself in Indiana for any reason, with access to a car and a few hours of spare time, maybe I’d make an effort to see the remaining Mason’s drive-in for the sake of research, but I suppose if any of these factors did line up, I’d probably make the effort to see Triple XXX in Lafayette first (and seeing as Washington and Lafayette are 3 hours apart, I’m unlikely to get to see both unless I’m required to drive through western Indiana for whatever reason I’m required to be in Indiana to begin with…). But again, nothing compelling all on its own to make the effort, which may be the best way to describe Mason’s Root Beer: not bad, but not particularly special. That’ll get you a 3.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Honest Fizz

Sorry folks, no photo this time.  I had briefly considered Photoshop-ing something together, but then considered the irony – indeed, hypocrisy – of presenting something called Honest Fizz with a completely fabricated image.  You’ll have to settle for the photos and description on the company website (link here) for reference.

As you can already see, this is the root beer offering from Honest Tea’s relatively-recent foray into non-tea beverages.  In addition to being a root beer fanatic, I am somewhat of a brewed-tea fiend, and Honest Tea is one of only a couple bottled teas that I’ll resort to in the absence of the fresh-brewed whole-leaf varietal.  Given that, I’m willing to give their root beer a fair shake at winning me over.

Having said that, I think that they would have been more honest if they called it “root beer flavored soda” instead of "root beer."  My first warning should have been its advertisement as “zero calorie,” but since it’s made with stevia instead of an artificial chemical sweetener, I’m willing to give it a chance because I have had at least one decent stevia-sweetened root beer.  Unfortunately, Honest Fizz reminds me less of Zevia, which I thought was drinkable, and more of Santa Cruz Organic, which I did not.  It has a golden tan color, much like Santa Cruz, with a scent and flavor reminiscent of Extra Dessert Delights’ root beer float-flavored chewing gum and Cracker Barrel’s root beer-flavored licorice vines.  Thankfully stevia does not leave the throat-stinging aftertaste that artificial sweeteners often do, though the aftertaste is thin, tart, and vaguely fruity. 

I suppose if you are desperate for a no-calorie, organic, non-GMO soda, this could work – I’m willing to bet that Honest Fizz’s fruit-flavored sodas are much better (there is also a non-organic version of the root beer which I have not seen or tried, but I doubt that there is a significant taste difference).  The carbonation is a little sharp, but an otherwise pleasant drinking experience for a canned soda, with small bubbles, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it amount of foam, and an oddly tea-like texture (that is, rich and light at the same time, like a dark oolong).  But good root beer needs more than good bubbles and good intentions.  Honest Fizz Root Beer gets a 2.