Thursday, 30 January 2014

Brew It Yourself Root Beer - Second attempt review

If you've read my first review of this Firebox gift of Brew it Yourself Root Beer kit then you'll know it didn't go very well. The lessons learned that time were that maybe I didn't put enough root beer flavouring in and the dark cane sugar was just too much.

Homebrew Root Beer 2.0
I used the same still water in two 2 litre bottles but tried two recipes to make two different bottles and flavours. Both were made with:
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 3 squeezes of honey (probably half a tbsp)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 unit of Root Beer flavouring extract supplied with the kit – actually I might not have used enough in the first batch as there was more left than I expected.
Left recipe had:
  • 33% vanilla cane sugar
  • 33% dark brown cane sugar
  • 33% normal white cane sugar
Right recipe had: 
  • 33% vanilla cane sugar
  • 67% dark brown cane sugar
Due to an old saucepan replaced I only had one 2.5 litre pan and one 2 litre pan so preparation got a little messy stirring the mixture to dissolve the sugar. The cinnamon might have been a mistake as it just floated on the top (my wife said I should have tea-bagged it – the cinnamon not…). After heating up the mixture and stirred it for a while it actually tasted ok. Warmed it up a little too much so it took ages to cool to the optimum temperature for the yeast (around 24C needed). In the end I was putting it in the fridge then the freezer to finish the job before bedtime.

I’d seen a YouTube video of an experienced root beer homebrewer and he actually added the yeast differently to the instructions given. So this time I added the yeast straight into the bottles and shook them up as per the video. After about 2 to 3 days both bottles were checked for their fizzy-ness then put into the fridge.

The results
I was expecting the Left bottle to taste better due to having less dark brown sugar but the root beer flavouring didn't come through, neither did the vanilla and the yeast didn't activate properly so it was instantly flat. The cinnamon flavour came through but although all flavours were extremely subtle there were small floaty bits.

Left recipe: 4/10

Right bottle was marginally better having a lot more fizz than Left (after being chilled it almost flooded my kitchen work surface). However, the root beer flavouring was too subtle and perhaps suffered from the bad idea of cinnamon. After two openings the carbonation had almost gone so a poor result.

Right recipe: 5/10

Overall, I think even though the cinnamon might have caused some flavour confusion it was the root beer flavouring that wasn't strong enough. Other causes could have been brewing it in 2 litre bottles instead of using 355ml glass bottles but that would have meant special capping equipment and saving bottles. Let's say I won't bother buying this again and with finding the actual natural ingredients to homebrew this properly I might as well let the experts peddle their wares.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Waialua Soda Works Root Beer review

I didn't know what to expect from a root beer brewed in Hawaii. The smell and taste of this Waialua Soda Works Root Beer is full-on medicine so this is one for the haters! So much so I would hope it would cure a sore throat or perhaps splashed on like an antiseptic after-shave.

Another Cyber Candy purchase, this time from their Covent Garden store in London. At the time of this review it was out of stock on their UK root beer shop.

It's better than average so I'm not giving it an Hawaii 5-0 but I give this:


Reviews of Waialua root beer from around the web

Across the pond and our Yankee cousins have been drinking root beers for ages. Here's a selection of links of reviews for the above same root beer:

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Langers Premium Soda Root Beer review

It sounds like a Marks and Spencer product. Madagascar vanilla extract is combined with thick notes of rich cream flavour and topped off with a touch of honey. Bold, rich, sweet and smooth. But does this Langers Premium Soda Root Beer live up to its luxury sounding description?

First of all, it's nice to see there's no artificial ingredients according to the label. What IS in the bottle ingredients wise comes through as very strong flavours but at a balance leaning towards the cream which in my opinion tips it over to an offensive cream taste. Even the smell has that near the sell by date of off cream.

Don't take my word for it though. reviewed it years ago and also thought it was disappointing and rated it 3 kegs out 5 (gotta love his gimmick).

Another Cyber Candy purchase rated at a disappointing:


UK singer/artist Example likes root beer

In case you didn't know Rob's Root Beer Review is on Twitter. So is Elliot John Gleave better known as Example, the British singer/rapper.

Whilst searching for UK tweeters liking root beer Mr EG is looking for root beer himself. Well, how could I not help a fellow addict? So I mentioned possibly the best shop for the job, Cyber Candy and obviously my blog. Below is the screenshot helping Example but looks like he's a well-informed man. Still I hope he can take away some advice of what to buy next according to my reviews!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Jack Black's Dead Red Root Beer review

How could I not buy this bottle of Jack Black's Dead Red root beer!? Anything with pirates will always win and they've gone 'overboard' with the packaging. Like all imported US root beers this was quite a few pieces of eight to buy. This brew also boasts added caffeine and Brazilian guarana so will revive the deadest of scurvy seafolk. Love the inside bottle cap warning which states: Stay away from crack; drink Jack Black. Shame this has nothing to do with School of Rock front man, Jack Black.

Is she sailing or failing?
I'm not too sure about the taste to be honest. (Adopt a pirate accent for maximum understanding) There be root beer in sight when you take a dip but once on board its given the heave-ho. If you landlubbers like liquorice then swing into port and pick up this bottle of rum. However, its after-taste for us old seadogs may be too much after one grog.

The slogan suggests that "Once you've had jack black you'll never go back!" - well, I'd rephrase this to "Once you've had jack black you'll probably not go back and drink something cheaper and tastier instead" - but that wouldn't really fit on the bottle. Saying that though there's always benefit to the ability of keeping that unpatched eye awake.

If you want a decent caffeinated root beer then check out Bawls which I reviewed earlier in the month.

Bought from the Covent Garden London store of Cyber Candy at £1.79. I rate this:


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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Gale's Root Beer review

A cute bottle label which reminded me of Enid Blyton children's books and running around crazy with a sugar high from too much fizzy pop.

The first thing that hits you (or your taste buds) is the cinnamon. There's supposed to be ginger and vanilla in there too but the cinnamon muscled them out and told them to never come back. It's not smooth like other better root beers as the fizzy texture remains but it is an acquired taste i.e. if you like cinnamon.

The back story is that brand owner and US TV chef Gale Gand, whilst cooking in England ran out of ingredients to make root beer (I know that feeling) so got a dog(!) and named it Rootie. Not exactly a substitute for root beer unless the dog provided an essential ingredient?

I rate this gourmet root beer:


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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Carters Root Beer review

After a tip-off from a Facebook fan I went to Asda supermarket to buy a six pack of this Carters Root Beer. At £1.40 for six 330ml cans this is a bargain at just over 23p per can. Carters is made in the UK hence the price and should be supported otherwise Walmart has the power to sink these type of companies i.e. if the public doesn't buy it, they won't stock it. With over 500 stores in the UK that's a lot to lose.

If you remember how some of us in the UK got introduced to root beer then you would have had a McDonald's root beer. Well, Carters root beer is exactly the same taste - that medicine or Deep Heat cream smell and taste which haters will hate! Although this is not a diet drink you can taste the saccharin sweetner slightly which becomes more apparent as the drink gets warmer. If it was a wine it would be the house wine of a cheap restaurant. The best way to drink it is as cold as it can get, with ice in a frosted glass.

Because of its excellent value for money, being a British product and easy to get hold of this is the standard or the mid-point where root beers should be measured. Any gourmet, low-production, imported root beers should be better than this (and normally are).

It would be great if Carters could market and produce a vanilla version but with the UK soft drinks market as it is the investment and risk looks doubtful.

I rate this bargain beer:


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Brew It Yourself Root Beer - first attempt review

This was a recent birthday gift which I'd spotted on the website and added this Brew It Yourself Root Beer kit to my Amazon wishlist. There was the fun factor of making my own but I also thought I could save a bit of money as imported root beer is so expensive.

Read the instructions carefully and be aware of the US measurements
The first annoying thing for any British root beer fan was the instructions quoting measurements in gallons, cups, quarts, Fahrenheit and just to be extra awkward, litres as well. I had to do some web research to calculate the proper measurements.

Secondly, which was may fault, was forgetting to make sure my large saucepan had been properly washed and clean. A previous night's meal of rice was still stuck to the pan even after the dishwasher had tried its best. This resulted in some floaty white bits.

Finally, I poured in the whole supplied packet of yeast when it only needed a fraction of it! D'oh! This meant I had to buy some more Active Dry Wine Yeast from a local homebrew shop i.e. not the sort of thing that can be easily bought from a supermarket.

Ingredients used
My second go at making this root beer went to plan. Used the yeast I had bought to replace the one supplied, and inserted the flavouring agent as directed. Dividing up the sugar was slightly tricky with the US to Euro conversion. It was quite frightening to see how much sugar went into mixture! Also, I used an electronic thermometer to make sure the water was at the right temperature. The two 2 litre bottles had their fizz after about two days (at room temperature) and were then placed in the fridge.

The ingredients I used to make my first batch were:
  • 2 x 2 litre bottles of supermarket spring water (only 18p each)
  • Half required mixture of dark brown unrefined cane sugar
  • Half required mixture of white granulated sugar

Actual results
Finally, when the bottles were chilled enough, I had my first taste. There was a weak flavour of root beer but it was just very disappointing with the lingering aroma and taste of sickly, yeasty brown sugar. I had one glass from both bottles and poured the rest away.

For this first attempt I rate this a low score but maybe some different types of sugar combination will raise the score next time.

Value for money?
At £15.99 for its claimed do-it-yourself 9 litres its good if you take the average imported bottle as £1.89 (i.e. 3 times more in volume). However, the yeast I bought to replace it cost £2 per sachet (which is more than enough for 9 litres), a small funnel which must cost a maximum of £1 which leaves just the root bear flavouring extract. Its this soda flavour extract that seems to be the only item you're buying at premium due to it not available in the UK. Expect another review of my own homebrew 2.0 soon.


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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Frostie Vanilla Root Beer review

A perfect Christmas present with a Santa Claus lookalike making an appearance on the bottle (though I hope they have a summer version so you don't look quite so odd in the baking heat). The history of the brand is that the company was founded in 1939 by George Rackensperger and the root beer was brewed in an abandoned jailhouse in Catonsville, Maryland.

Anyway, what's it taste like? This is a good root beer with a strong vanilla flavour. Despite being one of the cheaper bottles available from the Cyber Candy website at £1.69 a 355ml bottle it was a good creamy taste with hints of cream soda.

I rate this Frostie Vanilla root beer:


Bawls Guarana Root Beer review

Love the kinky, sex toy bottle design which also doubles as a Dalek eunuch. The pimpled bottle would also assist with grip, though I have never had the problem of root beer slippage.

I took this root beer to a party where I was the designated driver. On the night I had one normal alcoholic drink, a Red Bull and this Bawls Root Beer. The result was a very good night and still buzzing until 3am so the combination for stimulation worked.

The taste was not a disappointment. It was a good, well-defined and natural root beer taste and no hint of any other flavours. It went down smooth too leaving you want more. The only disappointment was that it came in under-sized bottles i.e. about 50ml less than non-caffeinated root beers.

296ml bottle bought from Cyber Candy's website. I rate this super-charged root beer:


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Drive-in Style Dog 'n' Suds Root Beer review

Dog n Suds drive-in diner.
Dog n Suds drive-in diner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nice colourful label with a cute hot dog or should that be dawg. A little web research reveals that its a small chain of drive-thru restaurants in the US Midwest named Dog n Suds.

However, this is possibly the blandest tasting root beer yet. The flavour is drowned out by the fizzy water and there was no frothy head to speak of, as claimed by their Wikipedia page but obviously greatly exaggerated.

Bought from Cyber Candy's website for £1.79 for a 355 ml bottle.

I rate this dog of a root beer:


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Found: YouTube video of 1976 TV advert of Shasta Root Beer "Saloon"

I've never heard of this brand Shasta so must be available only in the USA. Shame as the they have a lot of different flavours but only one root beer. Just shows how much advertising has changed since the the 1970s.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Barrel Brothers Creamy Vanilla Root Beer review

As well as the 'creamy vanilla' flavour and slightly cartoon-ish label that appealed to me I was slightly concerned that the brewer was predominately an apple beer maker. The ingredients make interesting reading, most notably the High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The creamy vanilla taste certainly came through but there was a slight harshness from the fizz like you get from mass-produced soft drinks. Despite this there was something slightly addictive about it making me want to keep sipping it. It also created a good head.

After doing some web research it seems that the 'new' lettering on the bottle's label is a little out of date. A USA blog reviewed the same root beer back in 2006! Check out the Root Beer blog for the full report.

Bought this from the Brighton store of Cyber Candy in the North Laine but can be bought via their website for the same price at £1.89 a bottle.

My score for Barrel Brothers Creamy Vanilla Root Beer is:

7 / 10

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Dang! That's Good - Butterscotch Root Beer review

After the first sip of this Dang! That's Good root beer my first reaction to it wasn't Dang! but more like meh, as it was quite a watery taste. However as it settled more taste followed through as the butterscotch flavouring revealed itself like a shy stripper.

The label informs me that it was brewed in Milwaukee. All I can think of now is the Alice Cooper scene from Wayne's World ("we're not worthy"). 

Original price was £1.79 a 355ml bottle and bought from the Cyber Candy website.

I rate this butterscotch root beer:

7 / 10

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Friday, 3 January 2014

Olde Brooklyn Williamsburg Root Beer review

This is another fine root beer with a classic creamy taste. According to the White Rock Beverages website, Olde Brooklyn root beer has been around since 1871 so the recipe has been perfected over the years. I'd happily drink this on tap.

According to Cyber Candy where it was bought it has "a smooth brew with hints of peppermint, aniseed and vanilla, and sweetened with natural cane sugar" though only the vanilla flavour could be tasted. Original price was £1.89 a 355ml bottle.

I rate this thoroughbred root beer:

8 / 10

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Jeremiah Weed Root Beer review

First off, this is an alcoholic root beer at 4% and has only been in the UK for about 6-9 months. As root beer tastes go this really doesn't taste of root beer at all. Its a fruity, slightly ginger sour taste with a slight bourbon edge. I've also tried the original sour mash version, which the bourbon taste has been turned up a notch, and is nearly just as good. Its a great long drink if you don't drink lager. Its essential to drink it with loads of ice (perhaps in one of their branded jam jar glasses) so the bourbon taste is clean and not sickly.

Some web research reveals that although its an American brand, the root beer product doesn't appear on their USA website. The plot thickens when looking at the UK website where the root beer product doesn't show it either but then again the website consists of only one web page. Quite worried that they've discontinued the root beer product and my local independent beer shop has the last lot.

Quite interesting from a marketing point of view that the UK Jeremiah Weed website describes itself as a Cider Brew but the Root Beer product labeling has no mention of this. I'm guessing the company decided that either UK drinkers were confused by the new concept or the company couldn't risk the uniqueness of the drink.

Either way they've used Facebook to spread the word.

Here's Jeremiah Weed's TV advert which must have been broadcasted at the start of summer 2013 just in time for the festival season, which I see the company did some on-site promotion.

Being based in Brighton, I've seen both versions available to buy in the Brighton Dome bar, in Neighbourhood Bar (Kemp Town) and can be purchased from Trafalgar Wines on Trafalgar Street in the North Liane of the city.

Asda also stocks this and according to their online store, there's a special deal at 3 bottles for £5.00.

My rating:


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Hosmer Mountain Sarsaparilla Root Beer review

Reading the label for this Hosmer Mountain drink and its clear that this root beer is a little more special than others I've tasted. The spring water quoted can really be tasted with a clean, freshness in the mouth. The sarsaparilla is smooth and memorable. This is a premium root beer I would love to have on tap.

Checking the manufacturer (Hosmer Soda) website, its both surprising and yet charming how small scale they are. They have just two actual shops and a website that has the charm of a family-run business.

Bought via Cyber Candy for £1.89 a 354ml bottle.

I rate this 'antique' root beer a thoroughly deserved:

9 / 10

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