Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Not Your Father's Root Beer: Not His Son's Beer Either

You can't currently peruse American beer forums without seeing talk of Illinois-based Small Town Brewery's Not Your Father's Root Beer.  This seems to be about the weirdest and most divisive 'beer' in the community, with most loving it and some hating it, with little in between, though overall it rates phenomenally and apparently flies off of shelves.  Thus, I had to chime in since a bottle found its way to me in trade.

Though there are also 10% and 19.5% (!) ABV versions, this is your standard 5.9% root 'beer.'

Without wasting time, I am going to get right down to it, with all ratings out of 5.

Appearance: It pours a rather dark brown with an audible, just off-white head that dissipates almost instantly.  Looks like root beer!  I guess it deserves a 5 for that, but the beer geek in me wants it to be a beer with some retention and lace... but I guess that isn't to style.  Yet, much high quality draught root beer brings a head that never dissipates.  I'll settle at 4.

Aroma: It smells just like root beer!  Well, at first it does.  Initially one is blown away by the sassafras (or sarsaparilla) root but as it both warms and as one sniffs a little deeper, hints of molasses come through, followed by a faint hint of ethanol.  There is also something in the background that resembles that of a stale bottle of macro adjunct lager that has been sitting for a whole day after a party.  Part of me wants to give this a 5/5 for withstanding simple scrutiny and smelling like a root beer, because - let's be honest - who sniffs their root beer like they do their beer?  But, this rates well, and thus deserves to be rated, and in digging deeper its flaws become apparent.  Maybe these smells are also in other root beers and my consumption of them lacked this level of engagement, but I doubt it.  I am shocked, and amazed that a beer can present this... and bravo for that... but I am not shocked enough to overlook that which I find to detract.  3.5

Taste: It is super sweet and nearly identical to an A&W root beer with a few variations.  The taste is clearly of the syrupy-artificial root beer variety, not fresh draught, and is perhaps even sweeter than most root beers.  Loads of artificial vanilla is also present, yet the artificial taste is excessive and the slight hint of ethanol couples in being equally off-putting as it detracts from the root beer elements.  It is very 'root-beer-forward,' don't get me wrong, but perhaps not enough so to keep me from beer (see comments in overall below).  3.5

Mouthfeel: It is super syrupy, sticky, and carbonated, with a touch of warmth in the finish.  Yes, pretty much like root beer... but even more syrupy and even more sticky, if you can imagine that!  3

Overall: Before truly assessing, I'd like to note that during and afterwards I burped uncomfortably and with its lesser aromatics returning each time in a way that doesn't happen to me with other beers or with (non-alcoholic) root beer.  Like the flavour, it returned an artificial quality and was rather off-putting.  I can't help but feel like I want a real beer after, and yet I LOVE root beer.  To me, this isn't even a top ten root beer.  It is remarkably akin to the soda, and praise for that is deserved, but it may be one of my least favourite root beers.  So why would I drink it?  Booze?  If I want the booze, I may as well grab a beer... if I want a root beer, I may as well avoid it and be the DD!  I guess my point here is basically, wtf?  I mean, are we going to have others doing this now?  Then cola beers?  Then other sweet messes that no longer present hops and malted barley in balance, characterized by water and yeast specifics?  At what point will the gimmick run thin?  3

I enjoyed this, and I was truly happy to have some, but I didn't enjoy it so much that I finished the bottle.  I passed it to my wife and moved on.  It is noteworthy and impressive, but it isn't something I'll be seeking out again.

It is fine for what it is, but fuck I hope this doesn't start a trend of trying to closely mimic the tastes of other drinks.  Let's keep mimicking the taste of beer, in all of its diverse and ingenuitive complexity.  It can taste like other styles, hybrid styles, new styles, but I hope we don't seek to make too many more that taste like soda.