Unfortunately, due to the pressure of graduate school and the corresponding lack of time, I don’t have the will or ability to do this blog service. I’m unwilling to delete it entirely, but I am retiring it for the moment. Sorry to disappoint; I should have realized what I was getting into from the beginning. If at some point I find renewed energy, I might start it up again. Until then, please accept my apologies.
Sorry about the delay in getting a third review up. Graduate school is even more time consuming than I realized. No excuse, I know…
Brand: Thomas Kemper
Price as purchased: $0.83/bottle
Where to buy: Hard to tell; they don’t post locations on their website. At least Safeway stores in Colorado.
The Geek’s Thoughts:
I first tried Thomas Kemper at Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza in Golden, CO (a place that in itself is worth a mention because the pizza is so good). I didn’t want a regular soda, or water, and I wasn’t about to spend money on anything fancier, so I just asked the waiter “do you have any bottled root beer?” He brought me a bottle of Thomas Kemper, and after about two sips I said to myself “I need to figure out where they sell this stuff.”
As it turns out, Thomas Kemper is a Seattle, Washington, company, but the only place I know where to find their root beer is in Safeway stores in Colorado. Their website, while very fancy, isn’t much help in actually figuring out where to buy their soda. Which is a pity, because it is definitely worth buying.
Thomas Kemper Root Beer is made with honey and cane sugar, and definitely tastes different than your standard root beer. It isn’t all that sweet; it’s more of a savory root beer. Its not all spice: as they claim, it does have overtones of vanilla (kind of like a vanilla Coke but more subtle). Thomas Kemper has a bit of an acidic aftertaste, also like a cola, which I didn’t care for as much as I did the initial flavor. In my opinion, Thomas Kemper goes better with a meal than on its own, because the spicy flavor is a great compliment to food and the food hides the aftertase. It goes particularly well with meat, like steak or sausage. If I were having a barbecue, I’d probably go out and grab a couple six-packs of these to go along with it.
Try it… with a steak.
TL;DR: Good flavor, reasonable price, and a great accompaniment for whatever you’re making on the grill.
Price as purchased: $1.32/bottle
Where to buy: Whole foods and natural foods stores, or online.
The Geek’s Thoughts:
My wife found and purchased Virgil’s root beer for me, although she doesn’t even like root beer. However, I’m glad she found it, because Virgil’s is one of the best root beers I have tasted. It is sweet, but not overpoweringly so, and has an overtone of vanilla. It also has many other flavors (according to the label anise, licorice, cinnamon, cloves, wintergreen, and nutmeg, among other things), and overall is a very complex soda. Virgil’s uses cane sugar over corn syrup. I tend to favor cane sugar in soda, and there’s no exception here. The taste is more clean and satisfying.
Virgil’s is microbrewed and uses all natural and unprocessed ingredients, many of which are imported from around the world. This is probably what makes it such a superior root beer. It’s also probably why it is so expensive. Either way, it tastes fantastic and I would buy it more often if I could justify the expense.
Virgil’s is a root beer I generally wouldn’t waste on food. It is so complex and delicious that I’d rather drink it without the interference of other flavors. This is a root beer to savor. If I have it on hand, I pull it out when I have time to sit down and relax.
Try it… by itself. Or in a root beer float if you’re feeling fancy.
TL;DR: Virgil’s is delicious, complex, and refreshing, and comes highly recommended if you can stomach the price.
Price as purchased: $0.67/bottle
Where to buy: It’s IBC; it’s nearly everywhere. Check your local grocery chain.
The Geek’s Thoughts:
IBC is the brand that got me started really liking root beer, so it’s only fair that I give IBC the first review. Yes, I know that anyone who likes root beer has probably already tried IBC. So yes, I know that there’s probably not much new here, but I had to start somewhere. Next time I promise it will be something more local or more interesting.
I like IBC, mainly because it’s cheap, easy to get, and enjoyable to drink. However, now that I’ve tasted other root beers I’ve grown to see it’s shortcomings. IBC is a decent root beer, but not particularly complex or subtle. It also tastes a bit strongly of sassafras, which in my mind shouldn’t be the dominate flavor in a root beer.
IBC isn’t a root beer I would sit down with and savor, but it does have it’s appeal in other situations. IBC has a simple, straightforward flavor that complements simple, straightforward foods. It’s great for a root beer float, for instance, or for accompanying a picnic or a BBQ. It’s also a great choice of root beer in situations where you aren’t concentrating on the root beer itself and just want to relax, such as at a party or while watching TV. Hands-down the best part about IBC is the price. I bought it for around $4.00 for a 6-pack, but you can find them on sale for as low as $3.00. It’s rare to get a better deal on good root beer than $0.50 a bottle.
Try it with… Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, or other party foods
TL;DR: It’s not great, but it’s good and it’s cheap.
I should also mention that I’m by no means the first person to write a blog about root beer. There are at least two others I know about: one by a guy named Jonathan and another by a Mr. M. R. Jarrell. Jonathan’s blog is straightforwardly about root beer itself, though he doesn’t always go into much detail. Mr. Jarrell seems more sophisticated, but half his posts seem to have more to do with Libertarian politics than drinkable beverages.
I can’t say yet whether I’ve got anything to bring to the table that these guys don’t. I will say this, though: I aim to review at least one root beer a month and I’m going to have pictures. Take from that what you will.