Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Maine Sarsaparilla root beer review

So after the UK market dries up of decent US made, sodium benzoate -packed root beer there's very little choice out there. Cyber Candy in Covent Garden, London only had Virgil's, this Maine Sarsaparilla root beer and a very weird and wonderful British root beer in stock.

The first swig and I'm almost shocked at the taste. This isn't the sarsaparilla taste I remember. If this is the future for UK root beer fans then I'm not impressed. I'm all for natural and organic ingredients but it tastes weird with even a hint of ginger. It's not a bad taste but I just wouldn't bother.

At this rate I'll be moaning about EU regulations, writing strong letters to my MEP and even voting UKIP (that'll never happen by the way).

I rate this low sodium benzoate root beer:

Monday, 13 October 2014

Has root beer been banned from the UK?

A few weeks ago I noticed that my local Cyber Candy store in Brighton had removed all root beers from their shelves (although I could see them in a back cupboard). I instantly thought that the store wanted to concentrate maybe on sweets or other products due to profit. I tweeted my disapointment quoting them:

Not expecting a response I received these replies later in the day:


So, what's going on?

Unfortunately, for root beer fans, Cyber Candy and other shops should no longer be selling root beers identified to have more than the allowed quota of sodium benzoate. According to Wikipedia it says that Benzene in soft drinks is of potential concern due to the carcinogenic nature of the benzene molecule. This means something that can cause cancer! Ok, let's not get all Daily Mail here and I would suspect that you would have to drink this continuously in litres for years until something seruous like this would happen.

To be honest you have to be a nutrionist to truly undertstand what's in the root beers that means the ban to being imported.

So, root beer hasn't been banned?

Forgive the attention-grabbing headline but it appears that some brands of root beer have stopped being imported. I've checked with a contact with American Fizz and there's still hope for root beer fans. 

Tom Turner from American Fizz confirmed that:

"... this affects all varieties of Root Beer imported from the United States including A&W, Barq's and Faygo. These varieties are no longer available for sale and unless the regulations surrounding Sodium Benzoate change, which they are not likely to, these drinks will not be returning."

I asked Tom if he thought US manufacturers would consider changing their recipes and ingredients to compensate for this UK and European law. He said:

"Unfortunately not. We have spoken to a few US manufacturers in the hope that they will adjust their formula for sale in Europe. We were met with very cold responses that were basically along the lines of “You are too small for us to even consider modifying our formula”. "

And another contact I have in the industry said that Rob's Root Beer Review favourite Goose Island had "3 times" the amount of sodium benzoate allowable so we'll never see that again in the UK!

US manufacturers not bothered about international markets

Since I started this blog and visiting websites for US manufacturers of root beer and I got the sense that marketing activities have been kept to a minimum since their websites look dated and very out of date with old news. Could it be fair (and worth a groan at) to say that the US market for root beer has lost its fizz? I know from Twitter activity that there are some passionate people out there in the UK who love root beer and even some restaurants serve it could be caught out by this change in law. So with every threat there's an opportunity for another. Therefore if any ambitious US manufacturers out there are reading this then now's the chance to change and take a chance on new markets like the UK and Europe.

So what can I buy now with this ban in place

American Fizz has taken the initiative to find new root beers that do have the allowed amount of sodium benzoate. Virgil's Gourmet Root Beer will soon be sold on their website.

Another highly rated root beer not affected by this import ban is Dominion Root Beer as confirmed by Heathwick Ltd, their official importer.

Otherwise, you can check with your local or favourite online shop. Existing stocks of root beer whatever your favourite brand may still be available but not for long!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Frosties root beer review

This was a bargain at 99p from American Fizz but was a special deal at the time and is now priced at £2.29. It's a huge bottle of 947ml or a quart in US measurements designed for sharing with.

The taste is ok, smoother than the canned HFSC root beers but not as good as it's Frostie Vanilla root beer counterpart which I reviewed back in January. After a day being originally opened in the fridge, a lot of the carbonation had gone and didn't retain its taste either.

Checking the actual ingredients is rather confusing and I'm sure would be illegal in the UK. It quotes 'High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Cane Sugar'. Well, which is it?? It tastes more like sugar but the overall quality is less so than the top rated root beers so can only assume there's a mixture.

On taste alone this I would award this:


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Dr Pepper Vanilla Float review

Bought this Dr Pepper 'Vanilla Float' can from American Fizz with a couple of root beers (already reviewed). I went through a phase of liking Dr Pepper a few years ago but now I just find it weird.

I was hoping the Vanilla Float would conjure up tastes reminding me of vanilla ice cream floats but it seems the packaging is a complete lie as it still tastes exactly like original Dr Pepper. No wonder its so misunderstood!

Anyone who regularly drinks Doc P and is still curious or has actually had it and disagrees please comment below. Otherwise American Fizz sell it at 99p a 355ml can.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Goose Island Chicago Style root beer review

I'd been recommended this root beer via a fan on Twitter but had almost dismissed it thinking it would never be available in the UK. Yet when searching a little deeper via Google for UK root beer shops American Fizz was discovered i.e. the Bournemouth shop who are importers for Faygo, reviewed recently.

This Goose Island root beer taste of vanilla flavouring and a subtle caramel-like smoothness which makes this a fast drink as its so delicious. Like any sensual experience you want it to last yet for every first time you always do it too quickly and leave you wanting more.

And what a bargain too at £1.49 for a 340ml bottle and none of that HFSC either - just 100% natural cane sugar. So whilst you're on the American Fizz website order some other drinks and snacks too (just re-ordered another 5 bottles plus cans of Inka Cola, Fanta Grape and Frostie root beer) so you make the postage count.

Probably the best craft or gourmet-style root beer at a decent price. If you're looking to upgrade from the mass-produced A & W's and Barq's then try this, you won't regret it.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Faygo root beer review

Another canned clone which has the same taste as A & W, Barq's, MUG, Day's, IBC etc. It's good but like all the other mass-produced, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) canned root beers it'll just be a case of how convenient it is to buy your root beer. I'd be happy to buy this in any supermarket, corner shop or convenience store but if your specialist store has root beers without HFCS then I'll ignore it.

However, this Genuine Faygo Old-fashioned Draft Style Root Beer is possibly the cheapest I've come across at just £0.69 a 355ml can. American Fizz (based in Bournemouth) also offer different sizes in this Faygo brand with choices of the 12 pack of cans, a 355ml glass bottle, a 710ml and the 2 litre bottle. Checking the Wikipedia page for Faygo and it appears that American Fizz is the official importer for Europe so that would explain its good price and range.

With such good value and a taste that's not too sweet I rate this:


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Francis Hartridge's celebrated root beer

Hooray! Let's celebrate this celebrated, English made root beer that's a reasonable price! But is it any good?

Bought from a 24 hour super corner shop in Brighton called Easy Hours at £1.10 its competitively priced. According to the website Hartridge's is stocked in places I usually avoid i.e. Asda, JD Weatherspoons and Nisa as well as some others I've not heard of. Bravo to Asda for stocking this and their cheap but not so cheerful Carters root beer. With Tesco selling A & W and even Boylans in some stores plus Waitrose selling that Aussie licorice faux-root beer it just leaves Sainsburys to man up and bring us an alternative.

First impressions from the reading the label and alarm bells are ringing. There's 37g or 31% of your daily recommended amount of sugar but checking a bottle of Pepsi and there's the 2% less sugar so maybe not such a big thing.

The taste however is not root beer or sarsaparilla as stated on the label. This is more like Bundaberg's root beer with a licorice flavour. Hats off for a UK company to produce a root beer but I think they need to do some research and actually taste some real American sarsaparilla. I suspect it'll be down to ingredient availability outside the USA or they've only tasted Bundaberg's.

I rate this UK root beer:


Monday, 1 September 2014

Dominion root beer review

The kind people at Heathwick contacted me and gave me a bottle of this Dominion root beer. So reviewing a freebie would be a little awkward if it didn't taste that good then I'd have to come up with some rubbish text. However, I can honestly say this is one of the best I've so far. No bull, the total truth m'lord.

To be honest I'm sure I've had it before as a 'Brown Cow' (root beer ice cream float) in Meat Liquor, Brighton - one of the coolest burger resturants (but no longer sell it). It has a clean natural taste, not sickly sweet but with a natural sweetness which I'm guessing is the honey. I enjoyed it so mych that I regretted drinking so fast and wished they bottled it in 500ml size. There's no horrible high fructose corn syrup and no caffeine either.

  • No caffeine

  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • Where to buy it - restaurants

    Heathwick tell me its sold mainly to the trade to restaurants (£2.95 a bottle) so try the following:

      Where to buy it - shops

      For those more eager you could try Beers of Euope website which sells Dominion root beer at a bargain £1.28 a 355ml bottle. The only catch is the postage at a whooping £7.49 for any order. So it makes sense to order a crate for £30 for 24 which makes it £1.56 a bottle. Still good value if you consider good gourmet root beers are at least £1.79 or more. Annoyingly, their website does not offer indvidual web page links so use their search to find it.

      For more information on the brewer have look at F&D Brewing (US) and the Dominion root beer web page for the ingredients.

      I rate this:


      Thursday, 28 August 2014

      Sioux City root beer review

      Nice to be back on a real root beer with real ingredients. Sioux City is made with cane sugar and none of that high fructose corn syrup. This is another brand owned by the White Rock Products Corporation who also produce the Old Brooklyn Williamsberg root beer which I recommend (scored 8/10).

      For a bit cult product placement, Sioux City's sarsaparilla gets mentioned in The Big Lebowski as seen here:

      Its a good root beer and better than the mass-produced brands more commonly available in the UK (originally bought from American Soda for £1.99). If you want a no-nonsense, simple root beer then this is a good example. However, there's nothing memorable about it compared to the Old Brooklyn counter-part.

      I'm being generous and rating this root beer:


      Tuesday, 26 August 2014

      Day's root beer review

      Another mass-produced root beer from Day's made in Springfield (unfortunately, no Simpsons connection here - apparently Oregan gets that nod). Bought from American Soda for 99p a can. Love the 'Did you know' quote from the American Soda website for Day's which basically means that the founder was a petty thief:

      "The Day's Beverage Company was founded by Freddy Day after he was caught stealing from a soda delivery truck! Given the choice of facing the police or helping out with the deliveries, Freddy chose to help the driver. His passion for soda was born and a few years later in 1946 he founded the Day's Beverage Company and began manufacturing and distributing his soda throughout Philadelphia. For 20 years Day's thrived before Freddy's death. The company was resurrected in 1996 by his sons David and Fred Junior and has been thriving ever since."

      Other Day's products include a Champagne Cola, Blue Pop and Mountain Pop as well as many fruity-flavoured fizzy drinks.

      Their root beer is very similar to other popular brands like A & W, Mug and Barq's, but just a little bit more sweeter. These mass-produced root beers will be just down to availability and convenience.

      I rate this:


      Saturday, 23 August 2014

      MUG root beer review

      Mug is a mass-produced brand by Pepsi so its easy to compare this to A&W root beer. The last time I drank it was waiting for a helicopter flight along Manhattan Island whilst on holiday in New York (2006). It was a special American moment and possibly the second time to have had root beer after McDonald's in the UK stopped selling it.
      The taste is so close to A & W I can't really tell the difference. I would love to do a blind taste test with Mug, A & W, Barq's and to be reviewed Day's. Shame its full High Fructose Corn Syrup but for mass-produced root beers under a £1 a can there is no real alternative.

      Overall, a good tasting, very sweet, tooth decaying root beer I rate as:

      Tuesday, 19 August 2014

      Psyche root beer review

      I don't do diet drinks but in the name of root beer research (and the cheap promotional price of 49p a can from American Soda) I realise there are some people out there who want to avoid sugar at times.

      From the start I know I'm the wrong gender for this drink from the design and branding. Disappointed it had nothing to do with the PJ and Duncan song, Ready to Rhumble but instead Psyche is pronounced Sy-kee and is the goddess of purity who married Eros. (PJ and Duncan are now Ant and Dec btw)

      If you love Diet Coke, wet t-shirts on guys and like trying to injury poor gardners just trying to mow public lawns and parks then this is the drink for you. The root flavour comes through ok and is passable even ok to good. Good to see that the company behind it, White Rock Beverages also produce a top 10 favourite of mine, Old Brooklyn Williamsburg Root Beer.

      I can imagine after a hard session of yoga this would be the perfect drink if you were craving root beer however water's probably the best thing to be honest.

      I rate this 6.5/10 (7 for value but 6 for taste)

      Thursday, 7 August 2014

      Virgil's Root Beer review

      Being priced 20-30p more than the other gourmet root beers and with Cyber Candy quoting "one of the best root beers in the world" Virgil's had a lot to live up to. It's a good natural tasting root beer - one for the true root beer fan. You can certainly taste the vanilla and a hint of licorice if your senses are on full alert. However, for me, the vanilla cream taste just tips it over a tiny bit too much after a few mouthfuls. This is a good root beer but at the price there are better ones to buy.


      Thursday, 31 July 2014

      Rat Bastard root beer review

      To be honest I didn't think I'd be drinking another root beer this year. Thanks to my lovely wife she dsicovered new stock in Brighton's Cyber Candy shop and bought me three bottles.
      I'm not sure I should take it personally that the first one to review is called Rat Bastard. How did it do? Well it won't break any hearts on taste but is a very interesting read with its ingredients. Skulleap or Mad Dog Weed, Shitake, Ginseng from 3 different countries and Goldenseal.
      A mild root beer taste and a sugary coating of the teeth sensation. As a welcome back drink to root beer I'm looking forward to more.
      I rate this 7/10.

      Sunday, 18 May 2014

      This is the end? Cyber Candy stops selling root beer

      Ok, so I've had a short break away from root beer but should I blame myself for not supporting it for the past month?
      My regular source for root beer in Brighton has stopped selling any gourmet root beers. Only the likes of A & W seem to be stocked. Cyber Candy's website is also nearly bare. Just 11 products, a massive cut from around 50 just a few weeks ago.
      Is this just a sign that the UK just isn't into root beer?

      Sunday, 27 April 2014

      Spring Grove root beer

      Normally I buy root beers in threes from my local Cyber Candy shop, here in Brighton but the shelves were nearly bare after the Easter break. No doubt all the visiting foreign students were spending the Euros trialling root beer or perhaps my blog is having an effect on the local economy (in my dreams anyway).

      So this Spring Grove was only one of two I bought with a Hosmer White Birch Beer - review coming soon. Drinking straight out of the bottle and the fizziness hits you first and I expected quite a flavourless root beer. A few more swigs and a good head starts appearing through the clear glass bottle. This makes the taste a little creamy, hints of vanilla and then your teeth alert you to the pure cane sugar. Normally I wouldn't recognise the sugary-ness but after checking the bottle's ingredients I spot there's actually a mixture of cane sugar and corn syrup. Its not as bad as Daddies root beer but I certainly wouldn't drink more than one bottle a day otherwise my dentist would have a heart attack. Towards the end of the bottle the caramel flavouring comes through reminding me of warmed up Coca Cola when your molars feel they have a sheen of sugary coating.

      Whilst I appreciate the full-headed, creaminess this is just a little too sweet for me.


      Hosmer Mountain White Birch Beer review

      With my local source of root beer running low after Easter I had little choice so opted for this White Birch beer from Hosmer Mountain. Hosmer Mountain's Sarsaparilla was my highest rated drink since starting this blog so had high hopes. However, the Lurch Birch I had previously wasn't the different taste I was expecting.

      To recap, Birch beer does taste similar to root beer using herb extracts usually birch bark. The best way I describe this is comparing this with chocolate. Root beer is like good, quality milk chocolate and birch beer having less flavour. This White Birch beer is like white chocolate i.e. sweeter than milk chocolate but also, for me sickly sweet after a few gulps. It also reminds me of cheap vanilla ice cream at times but never really satisfies me.

      I rate this White Birch beer:


      Thursday, 17 April 2014

      Lurch Birch review

      Birch drinks are new to me though are displayed in the same section as root beers. Couldn't resist this particular birch drink being named after the supermarket trolley boy / simple-minded killer in the film Hot Fuzz. I was expecting a different taste to root beer, though naively expected a woody flavour like some bourbons. Instead I got a very ordinary root beer, slightly caramel but nothing special.
      Shame really as I was hoping to discover something very new.
      Another Cyber Candy purchase I award this 'left coast recipe' (as per the label):


      Wednesday, 16 April 2014

      Kutztown root beer review

      Sounding more like a small town hairdressers that would guarantee to cut your kid's hair like Beckham this Kutztown root beer went down a treat.

      It's very gassy towards the end but the vanilla like after taste is just enough without being too much. There's no caffeine and 'very' low in sodium, not that I've ever noticed root beers had it in the first place. 
      The quote on the back of the bottle is a bit odd and maybe more apt for a lager beer.
      "Tastes chust like old-fashioned, 'cause you know we make it that way. Drink 'til you ouch, there's more back!"

      First off is 'chust' just a spelling mistake from someone's bad accent? Secondly, is 'til you ouch' suggesting I'll get stomach cramps or even poisoned? 

      Anyway, despite the random bottle labelling this is a great root beer (bought from the Brighton branch of Cyber Candy).

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