Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Abita Root Beer review

Bought from the Brighton store of Cyber Candy but also available at London's newest posh burger restaurant, Shake Shack (as featured in my UK posh burger trend blog post). Abita root beer is brewed in Louisiana and naturally caffeine free. The company has a history of brewing alcoholic beer but has only been around since 1986.

This is a classic root beer taste, a strong medicine-like flavour which haters will hate. It has the right balance of carbonation and freshness without tasting watery. Bonus points for being caffeine free too. Since it sets a good standard and would happily drink this on a regular basis but with so many other gourmet roots beers around I'd personally would want that little bit extra for the same price. Supermarkets, if you're reading this then why not stock this!


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Monday, 24 February 2014

Baldwin's Sarsaparilla review

After the subtle taste of Mawson's reviewed earlier on this blog this Caribbean sarsaparilla cordial drink is like a smack in the teeth in super-charged sweetness. After a tip-off from a Facebook fan that A & W cans were in the West Indian section of Tesco (there weren't in the Shoreham store) I found this bottle of squash instead.

After diluting this Baldwin's sarsaparilla with chilled water it tasted synthetic like a high frequency sweetness. If you can remember the candy candles or sweet cigarettes then you're nearly there but just multiplied by 10. Even adding more water and some ice couldn't help the cause so tipped it away.

Second attempt was with some vodka straight from the freezer. Another mistake as the smell was like opening a tin of paint at a nasal hair distance. Drinking it made me feel like my insides were being painted with a dark purple gloss. The taste was still as sweet but the vodka made it slightly sour - not a great mix really. Gave up after 3 sips.

Overall, even at £1.89 a bottle I preferred the Mawson's but won't be buying either in future.


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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Olde Rhode Island Molasses root beer review

Molasses is quite a rare taste. As a kid, my mum quite fancied herself as a hippy and regularly visited those health shops selling alternative medicines, vitamins, vegetarian supplements, things made out of hemp, and in this case molasses snack bars. They had a distinctive caramel, creamy taste but that was a long time ago.

This Old Rhode Island molasses root beer from Cyber Candy Brighton at £1.89 tasted silky but still quite pleasantly carbonated. It's a rich root beer taste and potentially one of the best I've had. The only disappointment is that I didn't taste any molasses, or at least based on memory. There's a top layer of quality root beer and a subtle underlying flavour of caramel.

After a month of some average, mass-produced root beers it's nice to finally have an excellent one. Highly recommended at:


Here's what some of our reviewers in the USA said about this:
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Friday, 21 February 2014

Support the 'Set Root Beer free in the UK' campaign

Sign the petition for Set Root Beer free in the UK

Another frustrated UK root beer fan like me has taken the brave step to create an online petition aimed at the British supermarkets and ask them to stop ignoring those with different tastes.

The flag bearer for this campaign is Lloyd Kinsley, a design creative who has passionately proclaimed his anger at supermarkets for their ignorance. It is my duty to promote this and would like to quote him here on this blog:

UK Supermarkets
There is a soft drinks party going on in your aisles and someone is not being invited. In a time of choice and variety it seems only fair that you should stock a beverage that is freely available in all United States supermarkets and restaurant chains. It appears that if you ask around Root Beer seems to have a 'Love It or Hate It' response from the masses. That appears to have done no damage to your sales of Marmite. Please consider stocking Root Beer in your supermarkets. One of you is surely brave enough.

[Your name] 

And he's got a point! I hate Marmite but I wouldn't want to deprive those from getting their yeasty fix. Apart from Asda offering the second rate Carters root beer and Waitrose with Bundaberg's liquorice-tasting 'root beer' there is only the likes cola, Red Bull, lemonade and fizzy fruit drinks.

If all this doesn't motivate you to simply just sign up and generate (just) 100 signatures then we're all doomed to pay over-priced imported root beers and put up with a poor choice of soft drinks forever.

Go on, you know it makes sense!

Mawson's Original Sarsaparilla Cordial review

Since sarsaparilla is synonymous with root beer I couldn't resist trying out this cordial drink with the potential to satisfy my root beer cravings. Mawson's has an interesting history associated with this drink according to the company website. Back in the late 19th and early 20th Century, temperance bars were all the rage in Northern England. These bars served no alcohol but offered local communities public places to drink and socialize as long as they swore not to touch the evil booze. Anyone part of the Temperance Movement or Methodists drank the likes of this Mawson's sarsaparilla cordial or Vimto, which still survives today.

Basically you're buying something that tastes very similar to Vimto, another drink of the bygone age. I used a sparkling spring water to mix up the drink but had to put in a lot of cordial to get it to the taste I liked. The main problem was the spring water as the fizziness had that bitter taste. With normal still water it still needed the same amount of cordial but at least the strong quirky fruit taste came through very much like Vimto (a more lively version of Ribena is you like).

Value for money was pretty poor. I bought the bottle from Taj the Grocer, a supermarket full of wonderful world and healthy food in Hove (actually) for about £5. I've already had two glasses at a potential cost of 70p each go. Might have a go at mixing it with vodka but that might just be wrong for religious reasons!

Difficult to rate really being virtuous but expensive. I bless this a saintly:


Thursday, 20 February 2014

A & W Root Beer review

So, finally got to drink what is possibly the market leader in root beer. A & W has the marketing power of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (previously Cadbury-Schweppes) and is possibly more served in American themed restaurants in the UK than any other brand.

It has a good standard root beer taste, fizzy though slightly watery and artificial. The 'Aged Vanilla' didn't exactly make itself known to my tastebuds. If it did then it crept in like my mouth was a library and went straight to the checking desk. Despite being a mass-produced root beer it didn't offend so scored above average.

I was hoping it would be cheaper in the Cyber Candy Brighton store being perhaps the most popular but it was the same price as all their gourmet selection. Even more annoyed that the website sells it at £1.29 a can. The Brighton store used to do the 2 litre bottle but now only do the canned version at £1.80.


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Monday, 17 February 2014

Crater Lake root beer review

This Crater Lake Soda made root beer has a strong flavour yet not harsh like others with a soft carbonation. Caffeine free which is a bonus for school night drinking. Gluten free too for those on a wheat free diet or celiacs. This is definitely a top 10 root beer but I like mine with a little depth.

Checking out their company website and worryingly all its content is about 3-4 years out of date. This is a worrying trend on a lot of US-made root beer websites and perhaps indicating a flat market?

Other reviewers across the pond also rated it above average:

Another Cyber Candy purchase from their Brighton shop. I rate this Oregon root beer:


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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Bundaberg root beer review

Apart from Carters being available in Asda, this is probably the next most easily available root beer in the UK being stocked in Waitrose supermarkets.

When I was in Australia last year I didn't really notice root beer stocked in shops but their ginger beer product was certainly more popular. Even as we traveled towards Bundaberg in Queensland I didn't see any shop selling it. Still, Australia's lose is the UK's gain. Perhaps its a case of Fosters Lager, a British brand being marketed as an Australian product?

Anyhoo, Bundaberg root beer is good or fair dunkum. The bottle is spiffy, feels like a real man's drink being in a stubby. It has an average root beer taste with the licorice root blending well. You're also getting more root beer too with a larger bottle at 375ml. One or two small newsagent or cornershops used to sell them in singular form but I haven't seen this in awhile now. So your only option is putting on some smart clothes and visiting your local Waitrose for a four pack.


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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Boylans Root Beer review - A Tesco's trial?

Visiting some friends in London near London Bridge and we popped into (possibly the biggest) Tesco Metro near Bermondsey tube station. Past the fruit and veg isles was a promotional stand (I think they call the gondolas in the retail trade) with loads of USA products like Hershey's chocolate and more importantly, just the one root beer bottle product of Boylans Root Beer.

Returning to my friend's flat and couldn't wait to taste it. The first few sips of the root beer is wet, watery and a very subtle flavour but pleasant. Couldn't taste any of the flavours that were listed (sassafras flavor, cinnamon, anise, black pepper, mushroom, sweet birch, extracts of chocolate and coffee, vanilla, and wintergreen oil). After the drink had warmed from being chilled and sipped for a while whilst playing cards (possibly one of the funniest but cruelest card games yet Cards Against Humanity) the vanilla taste comes through. Good for a slow drink I'd say. 

With Tesco's retail mega-force to buying bulk the cost to a consumer was a more reasonable £1.70 a bottle. Could this be just a local addition or a one-off promotional campaign? Or, I'm hoping, a test to see if American products sell well and get some permanent shelf space. Either way folks, pay the devil and let's see if a major supermarket plants a potential rising star in an otherwise flat soft drinks market.


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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Judge Wapner Root Beer review

It would seem illegal to ignore a judge's order so I respectfully bought this Judge Wapner root beer from Cyber Candy.

So, the guy on the label is an actual judge named Joseph Wapner and starred in the US reality show in the 1980s and 90's, The People's Court. It's got a fantastic theme tune to even rival Starsky and Hutch. Below is Wapner in action:

What's the root beer like?

It has a nice fizz so the carbonation/yeast formula works well. There's a slight caramel after-taste but generally it could be a stronger root beer flavour. Overall score is:


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Can root beer ride the tailcoats of the UK posh burger restaurant trend?

Burgers and root beer are as American as Uncle Sam and any good US-themed restaurant should be selling them both together. With the current rise of popularity of the Posh Burger in the UK root beer should be with it surely?
Troll's Pantry burger, Brighton

Being a Brightonian its not hard to see that burger cuisine has got classier and more available. Last year's Meat Liquor opening in Brighton showed us that the humble burger can be ultra-cool. Local culture and listings monthly, Source Magazine did an excellent article and led me to try a couple of quality eateries in the city. Meat Liquor's food was good for the first time then over-cooked for second but at least root beer was served. Whereas the Troll's Pantry was superb but limited to the Goblin's bar choice.

More proof of the posh burger trend was last week's TV viewing in The Restaurant Man, a BBC2 TV programme about new businesses starting up and Russell Norman doing a Mary Queen of Shops-like consulting. It featured a restaurant named 7 Bone in Southampton (an old stomping ground for me) and saw a couple of businessmen start up their burger place (in a very student part of town which surprised me).

Disappointingly, 7 Bone doesn't offer root beer on the menu, not even a root beer float. However, do those more well-established burger places in London do root beer? Let's see who does according to their online menus:


Which posh burger restaurants stock root beer?

Shake Shack, Covent Garden 
On the menu: 1 root beer - Abita at £4.50 a bottle, 1 root beer float and 1 Creamsicle

Well, at least they have root beer to serve but at £4.50 a bottle they're really aimed at the tourist market being in Covent Garden. For an extra 50p you can get a float. It's not clear how large the root beer is and if it is a regular 340ml/12fl oz then what a rip off!

On the menu: A+W root beer (with the option to add a float at 50p) £2.95.

Where: 31 stores in London, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Manchester and Kent (Bluewater)

Unlike the two above which are US companies wanting to muscle in, Byron is a British business inspired by the high quality burgers in America. A+W is a pretty safe choice so not that inspiring but at least you won't complain at the price.

Meat Liquor
On the menu: Brown Cow, a root beer float £4.00. Not on menu but can be asked for is their Honeybee (honey flavoured) root beer.


Who doesn't stock root (not even a root float)?

  • Five Guys - despite being an American chain they only stock Coca Cola products 
  • Hache - available in trendy places like Clapham, Camden, Shorditch and Chelsea in London 
  • Honest - looks like they're going for a British experience with their drinks menu featuring iced tea and ginger beer
  • Gourmet Burger Kitchen - Formed by a couple of Kiwis and now a major chain in the UK. Too mainstream perhaps? 


  • Almost Famous burgers- in Manchester and Liverpool. No drinks menu but plenty to say about their sauces.



The majority are going for tried (or should that be tired) and tested soft drinks i.e. Coke etc. over trying something a little different. If those burger restaurants are serving it then in only one form which I guess is down to buying in bulk for discount.

Well done to Byron and Meat Liquor for bringing reasonably priced root beer!
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