Thursday, September 3, 2015

Black Bear

I see a Pooj looking at me.
(Real Soda in Real Bottles, December 2012)

So we know that Bulldog Root Beer is named for its owners’ Bulldogs, III Dachshunds Root Beer is named for its owners’ III Dachshunds, and Freaky Dog Root Beer is named for its owner’s Freaky Dog. Following that trend then, Black Bear Root Beer is named for its owner’s … Black Bear …? 

Really, it is… 

Needless to say, Louis Patmont had to release his baby bear back into the wild when it became less baby, but named his business after it in remembrance of their good times together. Patmont had already been bottling spring water in Town of Lake, WI since 1920, but didn’t make the name change until 1924, and didn’t include flavored sodas in his repertoire until 1932. Thirty years later, in 1961, Peter and Esther Caruso bought the business and their family runs it to this day, moving production to Oak Creek, WI in 2001 where distribution would be easier (source). 

There’s a nice scent coming from the bottle, with some vanilla that doesn't really end up factoring much in the flavor. Bubbles are small, and there’s no head at all – not even any bubbles rising to the top of a glass when poured. I don’t know if this is normal or more due to the fact that I have an old bottle – I’m easing back into this game slowly, evidenced by the smaller serving size for my first real post in oh-so-many months. Unfortunately, that means some of my stock of new-to-me root beers is much older than I’d care to admit. 

Disclaimer aside, the taste is very sweet compared to other flavors present – your standard herbal flavor with some clove around the edges. Although Black Bear uses HFCS instead of real sugar, the texture is much improved over standard HFCS, which is typically thin. Black Bear coats the mouth more than HFCS usually does, which helps to leave a pleasant herbal aftertaste that is, again, pleasant, if not particularly distinctive. I’m going to give Black Bear a low 3.5 for now, but I might be inclined to give it another fair shot should the opportunity present itself, given that the bottle is so old. 

Follow me down another rabbit hole (bear hole…?) for a second here (actually, I should recommend not ever following anybody down any bear hole, should anybody ever ask): III Dachshunds is produced by Black Bear, which was purchased by the Caruso family in 1961, for which Caruso’s Legacy Root Beer is named. All three of those labels are now owned by WIT Brewing Company of Redding, CA, which now also runs Goose Island’s soda operation (though evidently not the beer operation), as well as another label called Oak Creek Barrel Aged, also based in Redding (but named for a town in Wisconsin, with a Chicago phone number…?), that ages two root beer varieties in oak barrels for an entire year. I don’t know if any brewing or bottling occur in Redding, but I’d be interested to see what a side-by-side comparison of these labels would reveal. On paper, Caruso’s and Dachshunds have the exact same ingredients list, though the nutritional information indicates different quantities of sugar and therefore calories. Goose Island differs from both in the order that the natural/artificial flavor and citric acid are added, as well as an additional preservative. Black Bear already differs from everything else in its use of HFCS instead of sugar, so there should already be a noticeable difference in flavor. No ingredients are indicated for Oak Creek, but there are already enough differences in its production to suggest a very different experience (source). 

I have somewhat ready access to all the aforementioned labels except the Oak Creek varietals, so perhaps we can find some SCIENCE(!) down that rabbit hole sometime in the future. Meanwhile I need to sort through my stash to see which bottles have already become science experiments in their own right… …Stay tuned…