Monday, October 29, 2012

Triple XXX Root Beer

I'm starting to run low in my "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store" stash of root beer. I'll need to restock by Thanksgiving! Over the weekend, I busted out some Triple XXX Root Beer:

Triple XXX Root Beer
Across the bottom, it says "MAKES THIRST A JOY"

Their website shares a nice history of the company, which was originally started in Texas. It also says it's "tastes like root beer used to taste." And that's about right - it tastes like "classic" root beer.

Brand: Triple XXX Root Beer.

Origin: Lafayette, IN.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Pure Cane Sugar.

Review: This is sort of a "can't go wrong" root beer. It's nothing fancy, but it tastes (in my opinion) the way root beer should. And it has a great freakin' label!

Score: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nature's Nectar Pumpkin Cider at Aldi

My wife stopped at Aldi a few days ago, and she found a treat for me. She introduced it saying "I'm not sure if this will be great or horrible..."

Nature's Nectar Pumpkin Cider

We both sniffed it after we popped the top. It smelled strongly of ginger, and I thought it might taste too "harsh" for my liking. But the first sip was pretty good! And it was in a ceramic-cork bottle that I'll be able to save for when I start brewing some of my own root beer. (I think you can use bottles like that... I guess I'm not totally sure because I haven't done it yet.)

Brand: Nature’s Nectar Sparkling Spiced Pumpkin Cider.

Origin: Batavia, IL.

Purchase Place: Aldi, St. Paul.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: It tastes like an apple cider / pumpkin spice / sparkling soda. It actually tastes MORE of apple than it does of pumpkin (apple juice is the second ingredient behind carbonated water), but I'm not complaining. It's unique but not too "out there." It tastes like fall. It's a good Oct-Nov treat.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Goose Island Chicago Style Root Beer

I was shopping at Kowalski's Market in St. Paul this past weekend with my son, and we came across some Goose Island Root Beer.

Goose Island Root Beer

I've had this before, and I remembered liking it, so I left with a 4-pack.

Goose Island Root Beer

Brand: Goose Island Chicago Style Root Beer.

Origin: Redding, California.

Purchase Place: Kowalski's Market, St. Paul, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: I liked it before, and I still like it now. It's not too heavy, has a nice vanilla smell, goes down smooth, and has just a little bite. The combo of smooth and bite makes this a great soda that most people will like. There's a great "sweetness" (not sugary) to this root beer.

Score: 8 out of 10.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mercury Root Beer

After trying some so-so sodas recently, it was time for me to go back to root beer.

Mercury Root Beer

Brand: Mercury Brewing Company Root Beer Soda Pop.

Origin: Ipswich, MA.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: This was good. It was a bit heavy, almost a little thick, and quite vanilla-y. Not fantastic, but good.

Score: 6 out of 10.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jic Jac Strawberry Soda

So after my poor experience with Jic Jac Lemon Lime Soda as noted in my last post, I thought I'd give Jic Jac another try. (I have 3 different Jic Jac flavors to try: Lemon Lime, Strawberry, and Blue Raspberry.) So Thursday night, I tried Jic Jac Strawberry Soda.

Strawberry Jic Jac

Unfortunately, this didn't win me over either. Dang.

Brand: Jic Jac Strawberry Soda.

Origin: Mukilteo, WA (first produced in St. Louis).

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: This wasn't bad, but I wanted it to be better. This had a weird "chemically" aftertaste. I wish the strawberry flavor was stronger - it just tasted a lot like sugar. My wife thought it tasted a little like Crush, and I thought it tasted a little like a cherry Icee that had melted. I've had better strawberry soda before, but this wasn't horrible.  It earned an extra point for having delicious post-consumption burps.

Score: 4 out of 10.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jic Jac Lemon Lime

I bought a few bottles of Jic Jac soda when we first stopped at "Minnesota's Largest Candy Story" last month. The other night, I tried their Lemon Lime soda.

Jic Jac Lemon Lime

The logo looked old, so I looked up a bit of Jic Jac's history and where it fit into the "Lemon Lime Soda timeline." This is what I learned on Wikipedia:

Bubble Up is the oldest common Lemon Lime soda, as it was introduced in 1919. (I just recently tried Bubble Up, and it was just OK.) 7-Up was introduced 10 years later in 1929, and Sprite was introduced in the early 1960s. Jic Jac was first produced in the 1950s in St. Louis, and then it moved west about 20 years later. But how would it taste?...

Brand: Jic Jac Lemon Lime Soda.

Origin: Mukilteo, WA (first produced in St. Louis).

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: It was just OK. The Lemon Lime flavor was good, but it had a slightly harsh / chemical aftertaste that was undesirable. Sprite or 7-Up tastes better.

Score: 3.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lester's Fixins Sweet Corn Soda. Yes, SWEET CORN.

This was my most "out there" purchase when I bought my case of assorted sodas at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store. This was simply to intriguing to pass up. Sweet Corn Soda?!? I had to grab a bottle.

Sweet Corn Soda

I opened it this past weekend when family was visiting so we could all try a little.

Sweet Corn Soda

It smells strongly like actual sweet corn mixed with a can of creamed corn.  The smell is not that appealing - it almost made me gag as I was going in for my first sip. But the taste isn't TOO bad. It doesn't really taste like sweet corn, but it has a "sweetness" to it.

Brand: Lester's Fixins Sweet Corn Soda

Origin: Camarillo, California.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wished it tasted MORE like sweet corn. The flavor was just a strange sugariness. The only reason this isn't getting a "0" or a "1" is because it's entertaining - this would be a fun bottle to open with friends (like I did) to see who actually likes it.  You won't ever forget your first sip of Sweet Corn Soda.

Score: 2 out of 10.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gale's Root Beer

The bottle said "cinnamon vanilla ginger flavored," and I just had to try it.  I grabbed a bottle of Gale's Root Beer:

Gale's Root Beer

I found Gale's website, but it didn't have much on her root beer.  Then I found a Facebook page that showed this photo of the ginger and cinnamon all ready to infuse a batch of root beer:

Ginger and cinnamon ready to be added to the root beer

The flavors come in waves, not all at once. When you first take a sip, the initial taste is a pretty normal, smooth, vanilla flavored root beer. Then the cinnamon hits you - it's not "red hot" cinnamon, but it's more of a Christmasy "cinnamon spice" flavor. As you're done sipping is when you finally notice the bite of ginger.

Brand: Gale's Root Beer.

Origin: Riverwoods, Illinois.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: This is unlike your "normal" root beer.  The bottle says "cinnamon vanilla ginger flavored," and that's what you get. The flavor is noticeably different, but it's not too strong. This is the first "differently flavored" root beer that I've had that I have NOT hated. If you're looking for good ole' root beer, this might not be for you. But if you're looking for something a little different and you like just a little tang, check out Gale's Root Beer.

Score: 6 out of 10.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Millstream Old Time Root Beer

As someone who grew up in Southern Minnesota, I've been raised to have a distrust in all things Iowan. It's in my blood. But my love for root beer is stronger than my negative feelings for Iowa, so I had to try this Iowa-born Millstream Root Beer.

Millstream Root Beer

Brand: Millstream Old Time Root Beer

Origin: Amana, Iowa.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Sugar.

Review: This had a unique flavor that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  It's a bit herby with a little bit of anise flavor (but not too much for this anise hater right here).  Good, but not amazing.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dad's Blue Cream Soda

I tend to like unnaturally colorful sodas. If it's redder than a sports car or bluer than the sky, it's going to be sugary and delicious. So I was intrigued by "Dad's Old Fashioned Blue Cream Soda."

Dad's Blue Cream Soda

Brand: Dad's Old Fashioned Blue Cream Soda.

Origin: Jasper, Indiana.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Review: It's really sugary, but the super unnatural blue color tipped me off to that.  I DO like sugary soda, but this is almost a bit much for me.  However, the "cream soda" flavor that emerges right after the sugar rush is delicious!  It's super creamy and leaves a great taste in your mouth.  If you like cream soda AND sugary soda, then this is for you.

Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lost Trail Sarsaparilla

Years ago, I realized I loved root beer.  It took a few more years to realize that sarsaparilla was similar, and (in many cases) as equally delicious.

I had to do a quick Google search to find out the actual difference between root beer and sarsaparilla.  I found this (and I underlined things that I found important):

What is Sarsaparilla?
While the sarsaparilla essentially is also a 'root beer', going by its definition, the drink is made from the sarsaparilla root alone. The plant is a vine which is abundantly available in Central America. It's Spanish name zarzaparrilla is derived from the words 'zarza' meaning 'shrub' and 'parrilla' meaning 'little grape vine'. The Central Americans were apparently the first people who came up with the idea of using the extracts of this vine to prepare this beverage. The way they saw it, it had a remarkable medicinal value and there are many uses and hence till date considered to be a good medicine in treating syphilis. It also gained popularity later as a beverage in the old west. If you remember the Yosemite Sam character, which was loosely based on a guy from the old west, he often mentioned that he wants a 'sasparilly' and that he wants it 'really snappy'! Today, is a drink which is made primarily from this plant, without mixing it with anything else. As such, the sarsaparilla root beer recipe contains only one flavoring ingredient: the sarsaparilla itself.

What is Root Beer?
Unlike of course, the root beer. The root beer is a drink made from a combination of roots, in tandem with the sarsaparilla, such as cinnamon, clove, licorice, vanilla, wintergreen, etc. The root beer comes in several flavors based on the other roots used. Unlike sarsaparilla of course, the root beer uses a combination of different substances to dilute the taste of sarsaparilla which some people may not enjoy. Root beer in essence is an adulterated sarsaparilla since it contains a mix of other ingredients. It has a lighter aftertaste than sarsaparilla. The root beer comes in two varieties, the alcoholic version and the soft drink version. Both drinks are well loved and have their followers all over the world.

OK.  So now I know a little more.

So I tried a syphilis remedy sarsaparilla from my stash the other night:

Lost Trail Sarsaparilla

Brand: Lost Trail Sarsaparilla.

Origin: Louisburg, Kansas.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: This was amazing from the start. It's super smooth, and pretty flavorful. It's "rooty" and herby, and it tastes a bit of vanilla. The flavors work soooo well together. This is a sarsaparilla that could disappear in a second because it goes down so smooth.

Score: 9 out of 10.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bubble Up Lemon Lime Soda

I got to try a "classic" 2 nights ago when I got home from work. I pulled my frosty bottle of "Bubble Up" lemon-lime soda (born 10 years before 7-Up) out of the fridge to enjoy with supper.

Bubble Up

Brand: Bubble Up Lemon Lime Soda

Origin: Jasper, Indiana (bottled by Dad's Root Beer).

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Review: I tend to like lemon-lime sodas. This one was just OK. (I've always wanted to try Bubble Up, and I think I was just expecting more.) It's very sharp and crisp, but it had more lemon in it's lemon-to-lime ratio than I'm used to, so it was a bit "strong." My wife even commented that it was a bit like drinking "ReaLemon." However, it seemed to taste better as I drank more of it, and the post-consumption burps were tasty.

Score: 5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Empire Root Beer

Rhode Island makes shitty root beer.  Or so I found out on Wednesday night when I tried this:

Empire Root Beer

Brand: Empire Root Beer.

Origin: Bristol, Rhode Island.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Cane Sugar.

Review: It wasn't smooth, but it didn't really have bite either.  It was like it was trying to be both, but it failed at both - it needed to pick a team and stick with it.  I didn't care for the taste.  It wasn't horrible, but I wouldn't purchase this again.

Score: 3 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer

Ely, Minnesota.  It seems like a place where everyone is friendly. And everyone is bearded. And everyone wears plaid. And everyone drinks root beer. (I can't really say - I've never been that far north in Minnesota.)

Yesterday's selection was Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer, brewed just a few hours north of the Cities.

Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer

Dorothy Molter is remembered fondly as the “Root Beer Lady.” Dorothy lived in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota. She lived on the Isle of Pines on Knife Lake for more than 56 years where she paddled, hiked, fished, skied and snowshoed until her death in 1986. She was visited by as many as 7,000 people a year. She was such a part of the community that there is a museum in downtown Ely devoted to her life.

The museum's website writes about her root beer: "Dorothy brewed 10-12,000 bottles of homemade root beer each year. Chilled by ice cut in the winter from Knife Lake, Dorothy’s home brew provided a welcome treat for the thousands of paddlers who visited her island home. While Dorothy’s Root Beer is no longer brewed in her 8-gallon crock, it is still the favorite beverage of travelers to the Canoe Country."

Brand: Dorothy's Isle of Pines Root Beer.

Origin: Ely, Minnesota.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Review: Smooth, strong, a bit "zesty," and a lot of flavor on the tongue. Flavor disappears quickly and doesn't stick around (which is keeping it from getting a slightly higher score).

Score: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Simpson Spring Root Beer

On Saturday, I made my first trip to "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store" just south of Jordan, MN on Hwy 169. They had 92 kinds of root beer (and 87 kinds of licorice), and shelves and shelves of other obscure sodas.  I had to leave with a case of 24 kinds of assorted soda:

Case of Root Beer

I will be back to that store!

Sunday night, I cracked into my stash.  I started with a Simpson Spring Root Beer with a distinctly baby blue cap:

Simpson Spring Root Beer

Brand: Simpson Spring Root Beer.

Origin: South Easton, Massachusetts.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: Sugar.

Review: Nice and smooth, but a little too much anise aftertaste for my taste.  Good carmel flavor.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Monday, October 1, 2012

How It All Started...

I've always loved root beer. Always.

Around 2008, I made it a point to buy a new kind of root beer if a saw one in the store. So I often came home with random solo bottles, 4-packs, or 6-packs of new root beer to try.

In the Fall of 2011, I was dining with some friends at the Heartland Restaurant in Lowertown St. Paul. The "farmers market" part of their restaurant had a local root beer called Spring Grove Soda Pop. I bought 2 bottles, and I soon fell in love. In January of 2012, I ordered a case (24-pack) of Spring Grove Soda Pop that contained 3 bottles of each of their 8 kinds of soda:

Spring Grove Soda Pop Selection
(Now they have more than these 8 flavors.)

You could say this blog started with my first case of Spring Grove Soda Pop. But it's been an idea in the works for years.

I'll post a mini-review here whenever I have a root beer or other "non-mainstream" soda. I'll point out local and national distributors of sodas that I like. I'll try to share anything delicious in the "soda world" that I feel like others should know about.

I have no deep insight into today's non-mainstream soda market. I don't know anyone on "the inside." I do not claim to know it all. (In fact, I welcome any info, tips, or leads on good soda, especially local brews.) I'll simply share the delicious, sugary findings along my journey with all of you.