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: