Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sparky’s - #88, 5 out of 12

It all started in the 80's with a beer brewing kit in Pacific Grove, California. Kevin Knox got hooked on home brewing and his beers won many local, state and national awards.  He also wanted to make soda to give away to friends and family. After experimenting unsuccessfully with various flavors of soda, he began developing a recipe for his boyhood favorite, root beer. It took many years and many five-gallon batches before the recipe became fine-tuned. Throughout that time, Sparky’s was hand bottled in the same type 22oz. bottles used for his beer and gave both away as gifts, especially at Christmas.  After much encouragement from friends and family to offer Sparky’s Root Beer to the public, it was on April 1, 2000 this brew was born and debuted in Pacific Grove, California at the annual Good Old Days Celebration.

To make Sparky’s, a small commercial kitchen was rented and converted into a root beer brewery. The original plan was to produce Sparky’s on draft only, in 5 gallon kegs, for use in restaurants, private parties and other special events.  Now in bottles and distributed, which is why I have this to review.


Carbonated Filtered Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Honey, Caramel Color, Natural and Imitation Flavorings, Spices, Sodium Benzoate as a Preservative, Phosphoric Acid and Caramel Color.

Nutrition 12 oz. serving (from the bottle)

 160 Calories
 45 mg Sodium.
 42g ( %) of Daily Carbohydrates
 0 mg Caffeine

Aroma and Flavor – 1 out of 3 mugs

Immediately upon opening the aroma was one of cough syrup or overly fermented.  I have long questioned if soda can just go bad.  I will need to try this again just like Sassy Lil’lass which I tried three times and found very disliked by me.  The taste had a strong birch, wintergreen and honey flavor that really are not to my liking.  I am not much of a birch flavor lover.

Head – 1 out of 3 mugs  

The head was rather small and what did appear was gone just as quickly. 

Zip – 2 out of 3 mugs  

The carbonation was on the lower side and the flavor an interesting mix.  Although I was not pleased with the flavors, it scores high for the combination and zip.

Post Consumption Impression – 1 out of 3 mugs  

I will try this again in case I have a bad bottle.  Although, based on this experience, I have a hesitation as it was not one I enjoyed at all.

Would I recommend this at 5 out of 12 mugs?

If you like birch flavor and high sweetness, maybe give it a try. It really should be a 4 total score yet the zip was unique and prominent, just not to my liking.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Death Valley - #87 - 7 out of 12

Death Valley Root Beer is brewed by Indian Wells Brewing Company based in Inyokern, California, and is owned by Master Brewer Rick Lovett. The company and location have been in the same family for three generations. This historic location of the Indian Wells Spring has a rich history.

It began as a U.S. Army Cavalry outpost in the 1860s. Then, it became a freight and stage station until the turn of the last century; a healing waters resort from 1900 to 1920; a base for the CCC and WWW in the 1930s; and a doctor’s office in the 1950s. In 1960, it became a restaurant: Indian Wells Lodge.

The Indian Wells Lodge Restaurant has slowly expanded from the small 1,000 square foot building to the 6,500 square feet it is today. In 1995, Indian Wells Brewing Co. was born in one of the rooms of the restaurant. By 1997, the company’s beverages had gained popularity and required expansion into the 10,000 square foot building where it now resides.

All sodas at Indian Wells are produced using pure artisan spring water from the historic Indian Wells Spring (California Historic marker #457) and the brewery is proud to say the artisan spring water gives their sodas a clean--pure taste. An artisan spring contains water that naturally flows and bubbles to the surface. The company has access to the spring which has its origins high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Geologists believe that melted waters from Mount Whitney snow packs journey by an underground river and follow through a fissure to form Indian Wells Spring. For Indian Wells Brewing, the water is captured below the surface and, because of its altitude, is able to flow to their brewing operation via gravity. No man-made power is used to transport the water.


Indian Wells Artisan Spring Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Real Vanilla and Citric Acid.

Nutrition 12 oz. serving (from the bottle)

180 Calories
25 mg Sodium.
45 g (15%) of Daily Carbohydrates
0 mg Caffeine

Aroma and Flavor – 1.75 out of 3 mugs

The aroma is medicinal with dominant licorice and a hint of wintergreen. At first sip, the licorice intensified.  There is a rooty aftertaste I can't place.  Even though it read “Real Vanilla” on the ingredients, I found little of no vanilla flavor. 

Head – 2.0 out of 3 mugs  

The head is frothy, yet not overly foamy.  It took minutes to dissipate. 

Zip – 1.5 out of 3 mugs  

Odd situation being the flavors are not complex and the medium carbonation created difficulty for me in determining the rating for this category.  It is complex yet simple.  I could debate each way so it is 1.5.

Post Consumption Impression – 1.75 out of 3 mugs  
This is an odd but pleasing beverage.  I compare it to sucking on the old fashioned root beer candy with an odd, bitter aftertaste.  Yes that means good and bad at the same time.  

Would I recommend this at 7 out of 12 mugs?

This brew is a love hate brew, in my opinion.  Trouble is I love the sip and hated the aftertaste.  I would suggest you try the brew, but only one bottle before purchasing a 6 pack. 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bulldog - #86, 9.25 out of 12

Been a while since I completed a review.  In fact, almost three months.  There is a reason for the delay.  I was hospitalized with deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and anemia.  Well over a month since I left the hospital, I still battle the issues with very slow progress.
Before the hospitalization, I started to set up a Microsoft Word file long in advance of the test.  I get links to the brew in the file and type basic information for each brew.  This makes my review as the focus as opposed to all the extraneous information I like to add first.  This brew was rated 10 of 10 by many and high by all.  So, I guess that builds some anticipation?

The slogan is “Unleash the Taste” which is a bold statement.  They also use real bulldogs on the label, appropriately named Barley (male) and Hops (female).  The dogs live in Fresno, California.  There is some decent history on the website.


Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Honey, Maltodextrin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, Real Vanilla, Phosphoric Acid, and Salt.

Nutrition 12 oz. serving (from the bottle)

160 Calories
45 mg Sodium.
41 g (14 %) of Daily Carbohydrates
0 mg Caffeine

Aroma and Flavor – 2.5 out of 3 mugs

Before opening the bottle, I noted this the first brew I have ever seen that uses three different sweeteners (Cane Sugar, Honey and Maltodextrin) and list “Salt” as an ingredient.  Upon opening the bottle, I was fully aware it was root beer and it was dominated by vanilla.  This was also noted in the first sip.  Now I love vanilla, so I should love this brew.  Yet the sweetness factor was very high.  This score is high due to the vanilla flavor, which I love.

Head – 2.5 out of 3 mugs  

The head is very tall with very fine bubbles.  It dissipates slowly yet full dissipation in about 90 seconds.  A very solid head.

Zip – 2.25 out of 3 mugs  

You can taste the honey and vanilla yet they are balanced and do not detract from the brew.  However, there is a sticky sensation that I did not mind, but may detract the favor mix for some. There was medium carbonation and scores a little lower as the flavor are very fine, just overpowering sweetness.

Post Consumption Impression – 2.5 out of 3 mugs  

The brew was a lot like Henry Weinhardts without the excessive foam.  I really loved the flavor (strong vanilla) yet the salt and the sugar were also highly noticeable.

Would I recommend this at 9.25 out of 12 mugs?

Yes, I think it is a highly-rated brew, although it scored slightly lower for me due to the sweetness.  Then again, it scored high for the vanilla.  In the full range, I would take two points off if I disliked vanilla.  I also found it much more enjoyable when it was on cold ice and slightly watered down from the ice.