Root Beer Throwdown 2013

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Root Beer Throwdown 2013

          It has been a while since you’ve all heard anything from my lab, but recently ideas have been brewing and new articles should become more regular. I’m thinking about changing up a few things as well, prettying things up and making it all look nice. Hopefully it all goes well.

          Anyways, on to the Main Event – the ever-so coveted Root Beer Throwdown 2013. For this event I have brought food and beverage expert and critic Dick Wrightley (don’t ever call him Richard) to taste test my selected root beers. Today’s match up will be a well-known favorite against a local favorite: A&W and Killebrew.

I chose to have Dick try out A&W first. This root beer claims to be made with “Aged Vanilla” and is known for its “rich, smooth taste.” According to the website, it is the #1 root beer “in all measurable channels.” Wrightley said of the claim “Statistics such as these, are made by the companies themselves for marketing purposes and are mostly horseshit.”

          I cracked open the A&W and poured it into my finest pint mason jar. Dick was nearby to analyze every aspect of the root beer from its color to the scent. He meticulously took notes as I stood back to observe. After several moments of not even touching the beverage, he sniffed it and gave a sip. Dick held a straight face, not even allowing me to know his judgment before I read it.

“A&W had the standard dark root beer color. The head was fine and frothy, and dissipated quickly after pouring. A&W uses Quillaia extract as a foaming agent to achieve this. Whether or not this is cheating, I cannot say. It does, however, leave me burping up foam, which is unpleasant.

The scent was light on the vanilla and had the typical root scents of sassafras and sarsaparilla. The flavor was rich and creamy but light on the root flavors, which disappointed me greatly. Any flavor of vanilla was quickly overtaken by the sugary sweetness of the beverage. A slightly syrupy, frothy mouthfeel distinguishes this one. Overall, a mediocre drink, perhaps best suited to the construction of root beer floats. Dick’s Rating 6/10 – Just slightly better than average, but not good enough to earn the extra half-point.”

       I reached for the glass to have myself a sip, but Dick quickly slapped away my hand and scolded me “I’m not finished with my review!” Spoken by a man who takes this activity as a true art. Less than a quarter of the bottle remained for me to sample. I couldn’t even give a review after reading Dick’s commentary. I do remember it being quite sugary sweet, and I didn’t remember anything notable other than that.

       Being from Minnesota, I had to choose a local favorite: Killebrew root beer, the root beer with the “Hall of Fame” taste, named after Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. It is characterized by its “pure spring water” and by being flavored with “real Minnesota honey.”  It is only available in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas. Whether or not this brew has a “Killer” taste will be up to Dick.

       I poured the Killebrew into the glass, same as before. Dick took his time with this one, and for some reason I thought maybe he might look upon this brew more favorably. I would see soon enough when he handed me his official review.

“Killebrew was dark in color, standard for root beer. Aromas of sarsaparilla or sassafras arise from this one; the aroma is notably stronger than A&W. The ‘Real MN honey’ offers pleasant floral aromas. The head on this one was non-apparent, almost non-existent, and it had very little carbonation. The flavor was that of root beer, very herbal, with the honey being a major component of the sweetness. The herbal flavor hit calmly and did not overpower. I even noticed a possible hint of cinnamon in the mix. Mouthfeel was crisp and clean, but almost slightly too sweet, which left a slightly sticky after-feel. The lack of carbonation is disappointing, but overall, a good brew.

Dick’s Rating 7.5/10 – Good overall flavor, but the lack of carbonation brings it down a half point from my original 8.”     

       After he was good and finished, I took my turn. The Killebrew tasted more like an authentic root beer to me, with rooty and herbal flavors. The lack of carbonation was odd, and I believe corn syrup is used in addition to the honey as a sweetener, which adds to the sweetness quite a bit. I thought it was better than A&W due to its more authentic flavor.

       There you have it, Killebrew beats out A&W by a point and a half. Next time, Dick and I will compare two more root beers in hopes of finding one that will satisfy his palette. The search is on until next time.

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