Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bawls (#13 - Rated 6.25 out of 12)

Balls was originally a gamers beverage as it was a designed a high caffeine drink.  Hoby Buppert (1998 CNN Money interview) created the drink as an alterative to coffee as part of a college class project in 1997. He came up with a carbonated and non-alcoholic beverage made with guarana, a highly caffeinated berry native to the Amazonian rainforest.   This root beer is no exception. 

The original variant, Bawls Guarana, is packaged in a cobalt blue, non-slip glass bottle. Bawls EXXtra comes in a clear bottle. Both containers are covered in approximately 104 bumps for easier gripping. 

The root beer was released in 2008 and has about 64 mg of caffeine in 10 ounces.  This is more than Mountain Dew Game Fuel.  Almost double a Dr. Pepper or Coke, (according to  The bottle is labeled “Warning: This product contains high levels of caffeine”.  Another example, Bawls has 6.4 mg/floz whereas Barq’s has 1.9 mg/floz .  As far as energy drinks, KickStart is lower at 6.0 mg/floz yet Monster is higher at 9.4 mg/floz.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Natural Guarana Extract, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Caffeine, Natural & Artificial

Nutrition information from the label (per 10 oz): 

  • 130 Calories (13 per oz)
  • 35mg Sodium.  (3.5 mg per oz)
  • 36g Sugar (12%) of Daily Carbohydrates  (3.6 per oz)
  • 64mg Caffeine  (6.4 mg per oz)

Aroma and Flavor – 1.25 out of  3 mugs  
It is the use of high fructose corn syrup that caused me to lower the score by 0.5.

When I opened the beverage the aroma was outstanding!  The taste was nothing special, but good.  It has the commercial root beer taste (like A&W) and carbonization with an unidentified fruity aftertaste.   I assume that may be the caffeine and Guarana? It left my mouth a little dry.  

Head -- 2.25 out of  3 mugs  

The head it one of the best I have tested.  Full and frothy and lasted to the last drop.  Its only negative is it impacts the overall enjoyment.  

Zip -- 1 out of  3 mugs  

The zip is actually strange.  It has a strange sensation that leave the mouth feeling a little dry.  While not disappointing, it is nothing special either. 

Post Consumption Impression – 1 out of 3 mugs  

This is a typical root beer.  I would drink it again, but at breakfast.  The caffeine punch was noticeable!  When I get this type of caffeine buzz, I usually feel it when the effect is past through my internal organs.  In fact, the buzz was such that I actually became dizzy and felt ill for several hours.  Realistically, this is a solid energy drink that lacks the vitamins.  While I enjoy energy drinks, I usually take 6-8 hours to drink one where I could not imagine that with a root beer.

Would I recommend this at 6.25 out of 12 mugs?

This is not the worse, but based on the effect it had on my internal organs and nothing special in taste, I am not sure it would be the root beer of choice for me.  If this would not have such a solid head, it would still not be at the bottom of my rankings.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dog n Suds (#12 - Rated 9.0 out of 12)

This root beer originated from an in-car (A&W style) drive inn restaurant.  The first Dog n Suds was opened in 1953 in Champaign, Illinois.  It was two University of Illinois music teachers, James Griggs and Don Hamacher, who started the chain. The chain grew and a training center was established in Champaign, named "Rover College" after the dog on the restaurant sign.  At its peak there were over 500 restaurants.

The franchise was sold in the early 1970s and the franchise business was abandoned.  About a dozen Dog n Suds restaurant still remain in the Illinois/Ohio region.  The Dog n Suds brand of root beer was sold off to a private bottler.  It is currently bottled by Clover Club Bottling Corporation in Illinois.

Ingredients: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), natural and artificial color

Nutrition information from the label (Per 8 0z):  

  • 110 Calories  (13.75 per oz)
  • 30mg Sodium.  (3.75 mg per oz)
  • 30g sugar  (10%) of Daily Carbohydrates (3.75 g per oz)

Aroma and Flavor -- 2.2 out of 3  
It is the use of high fructose corn syrup that caused me to lower the score by 0.5.  (So really a 2.7 is I did not like the HFCS use.)

Upon opening the bottle it immediately has the aroma of solid root beer.  Although for my liking, there is no notable vanilla scent.  At the first drink I found it to be rich and creamy.  There is a subtle vanilla flavor with a stronger caramel flavor.  The flavor nothing special, being comparable to many mass-produced root beers.  Although the lighter carbonation has it near the top of the HFCS mass-produced root beers which are normally way over carbonated.  It is easy to note the syrup texture, which tends to linger long after consumption. 
Head -- 2.5 out of 3

The head is what I would expect from a drive in root beer, very high with suds.  Although, the carbonation balance impacts the experience I like from the head of the root beer.

Zip -- 1.9 out of 3   

The beverage lacks in this category.  The carbonation is a little higher but need to offset the lack of creative flavor.  Hard balance to find and it is a little off the mark, based on my preferences.

Post Consumption Impression -- 2.4 out of 3   

This is a beverage that would be great with a hot dog.  Really not saying that cause of the name, but it is just the chilidog with a solid root beer experience.  It did not satisfy my thirst.  In fact, the syrup aftertaste made my mouth dry.  I would not turn away from the beverage if available, but there are other that are clearly my personal favorite.

Would I recommend this at 9 out of 12 mugs?

The Aftertaste also has got the right stuff. I say that this root beer is just plain good, but not great.  I bet when it was originally produced, it was significantly different than the commercial brand I experienced today.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rocky Mountain (#11 - Rated 9.0 out of 12)

I really had a hard time finding much information about this brand.  No real cool history on the webpage, not wiki page, no historic names to search.  From the website

“Rocky Mountain Root Beer was the idea that started it all.  We wanted to make the best-flavored, all natural root beer available. We set out to create a flavor that evokes memories of the old West.  Think warm vanilla and caramel notes that glide along a creamy cloud of delicious sassafras flavor.  We also add a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to give a grounded earthiness that ends with a spicy finish.  We hope you enjoy the end result of our quest to create the best root beer made.”

They also say ”We custom craft each of our flavors in small batches and package every bottle by hand.  The benefit of our efforts is realized in every sip you take. We thank you for the opportunity to present our soda for your drinking pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do…Cheers!

Now for the review.  NOTE: This was not a twist off top and even with an opener; it was not easy to open!  (Click here for rating criteria information)

Ingredients: Carbonated Colorado water, rocky mountain beet sugar, natural flavors, and potassium sorbate as a preservative

Nutrition information from the label (Per 12 oz):  

  • 135 Calories  (11.25 per oz)
  • 36g sugars (12%) of Daily Carbohydrates  (3 g per oz)

Aroma and Flavor

It carries a very strong aroma, a medicinal wintergreen and licorice.  I am not a huge licorice fan so I am not having high hopes.  Then I took a drink.  I could taste the vanilla but the first thing is the tingle, a little to much of a tingle, of wintergreen.  Carbonation is a middle low but the spices make up the difference.  It is really hard to place.  Well, it actually could be mistaken for some good mouthwash…

It scores a 1.5 out of 3 for aroma and flavor.   


The head is average.  This is becoming a commonplace for root beers I have tested.  It was less than a minute and the head was gone.  It was just light foam and not at all bubbly like some heads.

The score is 2 out of 3 for the head


The taste is spicy with licorice and wintergreen that is dominant, although you know there is a vanilla flavor as well.  The predominant zip is from the licorice and the wintergreen is almost overwhelming my tongue.   It is rather hearty!

The Score is a 2.0 out of 3 for zip.  

Post Consumption Impression

One thing I noted is the root beer lists the distinction of being made with “Colorado Water”.  Maybe I am getting some flavors from minerals in the water?  I also love the claim it’s “All Natural” then list potassium sorbate.  I had no clue that by neutralizing sorbic acid with Potassium Hydroxide industrially was natural? (Sarcasm intended!)  But then just like most “all natural foods”, they know most consumers will not know the difference. 

I have uncertainty of this brew.  The beet sugar flavor may be what I note is different, yet pleasing.  I can’t place the sugar with any other

 It scores a 2.2 out of 3 for post consumption impression.  

Would I recommend this?

This is a beverage that would be solid in a social situation.  The flavors are such; I would avoid it with a meal.  The mix may be a little odd.  I would consider this brew again and it scores 9 out of 12 mugs.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thomas Kemper Small Batch (#10 - Rated 7.8 out of 12)

Since 1989, the Thomas Kemper Brewing Company, one of the Northwest's first Microbreweries, held an annual Oktoberfest celebration at their brewery. Starting out as a small event, the Thomas Kemper Oktoberfest soon was adding thousands of extra people to the population of Poulsbo, WA each autumn.  Andy Thomas and Will Kemper first brewed Thomas Kemper Soda as alternative to Oktoberfest beer in 1990. 

The bottle reads “One honey of a Root Beer.  This wonderfully rich and complex Root Beer was first brewed for our company Oktoberfest back in 1990.  It quickly became such a hit that we invented Novemberfest.”  Let us see what my impression is for this beverage.  (Click here for rating criteria information.)

Ingredients: carbonated water, cane sugar, maltodextrin, honey, caramel color, natural flavor, sodium benzoate (for freshness), gum acacia, phosphoric acid, salt, and vanilla extract.
Nutrition information from the label (Per 12 0z):  

  • 160 Calories  (13.75 per oz)
  • 45mg Sodium.  (3.75 mg per oz)
  • 40g sugar  (10%) of Daily Carbohydrates (3.75 g per oz)

Aroma and Flavor
This brew has a very prominent and pleasing aroma.  Immediately I believed I was about to enjoy a very creamy root beer.   I was slightly disappointed.  The body was a little soft with dominating honey and fruit like taste.  I sense I was drinking root beer flavored juicy fruit gum beverage.  Just like Juicy Fruit gum, it a great for the first minute but dies off quickly,

It scores a 2 out of 3 for aroma and flavor.   (Average of 3 for aroma and 1 for flavor.)

When poured into a glass, the head is excellent, tall and frothy.  This is the highest scoring part of the beverage!

The score is 2.8 out of 3 for the head

While this is a very flavorful root beer, it lacks bite and long lasting enjoyment.  Carbonation is marginal and other than the honey and fruitiness, there is little to savor.

The Score is 1.5 out of 3 for zip.  

Post Consumption Impression
The beverage starts with a bang and leave with the thought that I just consumed a soda.  Nothing spectacular.  I would drink it again, but that is if I had to choose between commercial brands like Barq’s or A&W, which does not say much.

It scores a 1.5 out of 3 for post consumption impression.  

Would I recommend this?
I would highly recommend this if you prefer a honey and fruity root beer taste.  It is not one I would rush out to buy, but would not hesitate to enjoy it over any High Fructose Corn Syrup option.

Overall score is a 7.8 out of 12 mugs

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Capone (#9 - Rated 7.75 out of 12)

I decided today to try the Capone Family Secret Root Beer.  Based on the name, it is easy to understand where it comes from, Chicago.  The bottle is very dark with a vintage label. 

I tried to find some background and there is little on the web.  The only story I found was:

During the 1920's Capone's warehouses were raided by the police 137 times, eager to seize their inventory of illegal alcohol.  There were only a few items found on every single raid and it was not alcohol.  It was cases of the "Capone Family Secret" Soda.  After 80+ years the "Secret" Soda was finally made public, so families can enjoy great sodas, while experiencing a piece of history.

My first thought before I opened the bottle is that this secret family recipe is protected!  I imagined Vinnie Drucci, Bugs Moran, Hymie Weiss and other either fighting for or protecting the secret.   I guess I should just open the bottle and get an idea of the Family Secret.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Natural Flavor, and Citric Acid

Nutrition information from the label (Per 12 0z):  

  • 180 Calories  (15 per oz)
  • 30mg Sodium.  (2.5 mg per oz)
  • 30g sugar  (10%) of Daily Carbohydrates (2.5 g per oz)

FOUND THE FIRST SECRET… Sugar of an unknown kind is listed.  Could be they listed it generically as it is “a secret”.

Aroma and Flavor - 2.0 out of 3 mugs

Upon opening I had a cream-influenced scent with licorice and wintergreen aroma. While a pleasing aroma, it is not overpowering and very balanced.  I also had a medicinal sense to the bottle after my first sip.

I have a real hard time describing the taste.  I had a sense at first it was biter, then that was not really true.  Carbonation is very low.  It leaves a cough syrup feel on my tongue.  I can’t place this or truthfully compare it with anything as the flavor VERY unique.  My tongue experienced a whirlwind of emotions (if a tongue can have emotions).  First a spicy light caramel flavor, then a punch of vanilla, then a unique wintergreen tingle, then dryness, then a sense of honey, followed by the desire for another drink due to the medicinal aftertaste.

This is the most difficult to score! One side gives it a 0.5 as it is so unique yet the unique flavor and aftertaste make it a 3.  Since I am more inclined to try it again, it scores a 2.0 out of 3 for aroma and flavor.   

Head - 1.5 out of 3 mugs

This has a nice head that is very short and is gone in seconds.  Better to drink it from the bottle.

Zip - 2.0 out of 3 mugs

This bottle has very low carbonation.  The zip is confusing at best, but leaves you longing for another during.  Unlike any other root beer I have ever experience, the zip is little at first but is the longest lasting sensation of any beverage I have reviewed.   There is no bite although it goes down quite well.

Post Consumption Impression - 2.25 out of 3 mugs

The tongue feel from the “secret recipe” makes it hard to know what I am drinking.  Seems like several beverages at any stage of consumption.  One thing that is very unique is the dry feeling I had after drinking this root beer.  It left me thirsty, which could the primary reason I desire more?  With my first taste this was an average root beer at best.  As I drank more, I savored more.  This is a very balanced brew that is intended to be enjoyed slowly, like a fine dry wine.

Would I recommend this at 7.75 out of 12 mugs?

If you desire a beverage that you want to enjoy for an hour while conversing with friends, this is the one.  You will not drink 1,000 calories at the gathering, as you will sip this beverage, not drink it, to get the full enjoyment.  If you drink it quickly, do not waste you time.  

Handy Father - 3 of 5
Fear No Root Beer - 1 of 5
Eric's - 4 of 5
Cosmo's - 3 of 9
Anthony's - 87 of 100
Root beer Reviews - A
Thirsty Dudes - 4 of 5