The Fizz: Henry Weinhard’s Root Beer

The first guys I worked with in the West were so nuts for Henry Weinhard’s beer, they called him Hank. Brewed in Portland, Ore., Hank’s beer could stand up Henry Weinhard Root Beerto any of the back-East brews in their original hometowns.

Times changed. The brewery was sold twice, then closed, though Hank’s name lives on products brewed for SABMiller.

Like many breweries, Henry Weinhard’s turned to making soda during Prohibition. So Henry Weinhard’s Root Beer was born. It is still made as a “gourmet soda.”

Much of the appeal comes from the marketing persona created about Henry Weinhard himself. A German immigrant who supposedly arrived in the United States with only a recipe and a kettle in which to cook it, he once offered to pump beer through a new public fountain in Portland. What would he think of the root beer made in his name?

What’s in it: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, vanilla extract, natural flavors, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness),

Hank on the cap.

Hank on the cap.

honey essence, acacia sassafras extract.

Appearance: Deep brown, loads of bubbles, deep head of foam. Looks extremely promising!

Aroma: Vanilla, wintergreen, rooty, sweet. Smells good!

Flavor: Sweet and watery. Gentle bubbles have no bite at all. This is where root beer flavor goes to die.

Finish: Clean mouth feel. Fast fade to nothing.

Pairings: Anything mild and nondescript. Cream cheese on saltines?

Notes: It’s hard to believe that old Hank would have satisfied his Prohibition-era customers with this weak-kneed root beer. On the other hand, if you were stuck in the desert with only this root beer to drink, you would think you had water.

 

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The Fizz: Dang! That’s Good Butterscotch Root Beer

Any soda company that calls itself Dang! That’s Good had better be good, and any soda called root beer coming out of the beer capital, Milwaukee, had better Dang Butterscotch Root Beerbe better.

Vanilla is a component of root beer, so why not butterscotch? Here’s the lowdown, short and sweet.

What’s in it: Carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative).

Appearance: Deep brown; loads more bubbles cling inside the cup than rise to the top; no head.

Aroma: Butterscotch, vanilla, sweet.

Flavor: Root beer on the first sip; butterscotch becomes more pronounced on subsequent sips until the root beer flavors become secondary. Nice bubbles all along the ride down the hatch.

Finish: Butterscotch lingers, then fades to root beer flavors.

Pairings: This is sort of a dessert drink among root beers, so I choose Vienna Finger cookies or angel food cake.

Notes: I found myself savoring the finish, mumbling, “Umm, that’s good.” Dang!

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