Root Beer Reviews
This is all about the way I rate the gourmet root beer that I have tried. I consider any root beer that comes from a glass bottle as gourmet. I cannot drink root beer from a can or plastic bottle because I don't like the taste of aluminum or plastic in my root beers. Plus, aluminum and plastic is so low class. My tastes on root beer may be different than yours but I try to be consistent on the way I judge and review. This means that based on my description, you may like it even though I don't.
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Root Beer Judging Categories
Body: The Body is the flavor of the root beer while it is in your mouth. The flavors used are very important. The Body is usually the main point of disagreement among different reviewers. I look for a fully bodied root beer. That means first of all, that it can't be watery. After that, I like a sweet strong sassafras taste. I prefer creamy root beers which usually have vanilla surfacing after the initial contact. I love honey in my root beers and I think that it is one of the best flavors to put in it. I also enjoy the occasional additional flavor, like butterscotch, cinnamon, or maple. These can really make delicious and unique bodies if done properly. I don't like strong anise, licorice, or fruity flavors in the Body.
Head:The Head is very important. Everyone imagines a tall frosty mug with a huge frothy Head when they think of root beer. That is exactly what a root beer needs, a tall frothy Head that lasts. The foam that constitutes the Head should taste good and not be harsh, but smooth and frothy. I don't appreciate Heads that fizz away quickly, though, the taller the Head the better even if it goes quickly.
Bite:The Bite is a combination of the spices and what carbonation is left in the root beer after the Head has been formed. This is the stuff that literally 'bites.' I like a smooth, spicy, fizzy Bite in my root beer. While I like lots of spices, they can't be strong like a ginger beer (which is good, but completely different). I don't like a strong and harsh carbonation Bite. The carbonation should tingle the tongue while the rest of the Bite should come from the spices. It should also go down smooth on my throat.
Aftertaste: The Aftertaste is a very important aspect indeed. I enjoy an Aftertaste of vanilla and honey mixed with some faint hints of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. I don't really enjoy a fruity Aftertaste or one of licorice or anything too strong. The Aftertaste should be enjoyable, the good stuff from the Body and Bite saying goodbye to your mouth. Like all goodbyes, it can't linger too long or be too brief.
I rate my root beers with a 5 keg system. Before I rate a root beer I first chill the root beer and my 20 oz A&W root beer mug in the refrigerator. Then I don't eat for a while. I wait until I get a neutral sort of feeling. Then, I take a bite of a saltine cracker, chew it, and rinse my mouth out with clean, filtered water to clear my palate. Then I am ready to begin. After that I open the root beer, take a whiff, and pour it into the mug to observe the head. I then drink the root beer, all the while making little notes on the Body, Bite, Head, and Aftertaste that about it that I use on the reviews. I usually drink at least two bottles to confirm my review and to make sure I didn't just get one bad one. I believe in rigor in my root beer 'science.' The whole setup of a review can be seen in the picture below.
My taste testing setup.
My policy is that if a company feels that for some reason I have received a bad batch of their root beer that I will re-rate it if they will send me a few more complimentary bottles, this however does not necessarily mean that they will receive a better rating, but rather, a second chance. Also, if I have given a good rating to a root beer and I find that subsequent batches that I purchase for purely satisfactory purposes prove to be less pleasurable than the original sample, I will purchase a few more bottles and re-rate the brew. So, if you are a brewer of fine root beer and feel that you have been unjustly rated, send me some more and I will see. If you already have a good rating, don't mess with your recipe!
Eric's Seal of Approval