Might as well go for a soda!

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 26, 2016

During the North Dakota State Fair a few years back, one of my parents’ friends told me to check out Mac’s Hardware in Minot because the hardware store boasted one of the largest soda selections in the entire United States. Who would think that a hardware store of all places would have a large soda selection, but sure enough - they had a large display of over 100 different sodas from all over the world. The one that popped out most for me was Abita Root Beer from Louisiana’s Abita Brewing. Abita Brewing is one of the more popular craft breweries in the United States, but they also happened to have a non-alcoholic craft root beer that happened to taste absolutely amazing and easily the best root beer I’ve had in my life. Craft root beer is becoming more popular as time goes by and booze-based root beer is becoming a big trend in the beer industry. In late 2014 American brewery Small Town Brewery saw their Not Your Father’s Root Beer become an overnight success to the point where I was receiving emails asking if the malt-based root beer was available in Manitoba - it’s not, and it may never come to Manitoba until a distributor gets the Canadian rights for it. Instead of having to travel down to Minot to pick up a 6-pack of the boozey soda, there’s three popular options available here in Westman - which all use barley malt, making it a beer-like soda, with a kick of booze to it.

Mike’s Hard Root Beer - Mike’s is now a Labatt product ever since Mike’s owners Marc Anthony Group (also makers of Stanley Park Brewing) was purchased by Labatt back in the late winter. Mike’s Hard Root Beer comes out at 5.5% ABV, brewed with malted barley, glucose-fructose, hop extract and yeast. Mike’s Hard Root Beer pours  dark brown with a bit of a ruby red hue to it, incredibly carbonated with close to no head retention. Aroma notes include mint, sarsaparilla, caramel and a spice that seems to slightly burn my nostrils. Flavours include mint (again), a bit of a booze burn, caramel, a strange faux-hop bitterness that leaves an unpleasant aftertaste on the palate, a hint of cinnamon but for the most part - has an off taste to it. The flavours remnant of root beer disappear immediately, so it doesn’t give off that rich, creamy and spiceful sensations you would expect in a typical root beer. Mike’s Hard Root Beer is available at nearly every Liquor Mart in Manitoba, as well as at select beer vendors in Westman. It’s currently sold out in most of Manitoba except for the Liquor Marts in Killarney and Roblin locations. $11.86 per 6 355mL cans. 2.5/5 Pints

Mad Jack Premium Hard Root Beer - First off, I hate Mad Jack’s TV commercials, for it being a Molson product, I would have expected that there would be a larger budget for the Mad Jack line of products rather than giving off a vibe that made me believe that Mad Jack was a Minhas Creek line of malt beverages. Mad Jack’s Root Beer comes out at 5.0%, brewed with malt liquor, glucose-fructose and “artificial/natural” flavours.
Mad Jack pours dark brown with a burnt caramel reddish/brown hue and incredibly fizzy like your typical root beer. Aroma notes include roasted barley, which gives off a hint of roasted coffee, hint of wintergreen, light sugary sweetness but nowhere near as sweet as Mike’s Root Beer, vanilla extract and a bit of a metallic scent. Flavours include roasted malt which gives off a burnt marshmallow taste to it (not pleasant), subtle hint of vanilla, clove and cinnamon, a sweet and creamy mouthfeel to it and the aftertaste is reminiscent to a typical root beer. Once you get past the weird roasted malt flavours, Mad Jack is actually.. decent. Available at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Neepawa, Roblin, Russell and Virden. $12.30 per 6 355mL cans. By the way.. speaking of Minhas Creek, they actually also make a root beer now, Boxer Root Beer, which you can only find at beer vendors that still happen to carry Minhas products, which is rare in this day and age. 3/5 Pints

Dusty Boots Hard Root Beer - The most popular malt-based root beer in Manitoba. Every time I try to pick up a can to do a review, it sells out near immediately so now they have two package sizes - 355mL bottles and 355mL cans - both at the same price, $2.99. I’ve never heard of their brewery, Iconic Brewing but apparently like Farmery, they were on Dragon’s Den at one time. Dusty Boots comes out at 5.9%, brewed with malted barley, grain neutral spirit, cane sugar, natural flavours hops and phosophoric acid. Dusty Boots pours dark brown with a caramel red hue, a liberal amount of yellow/beige head but diminishes with the liberal amount of carbonation that’s taking place here - quite the fizzy root beer. Aroma notes include an earthy, muskiness right from the beginning, a subtle amount of sarsaparilla, a hint of vanilla that would be complimented with a scoop of ice cream, moderately sweet with a hint of caramel and a hint of vodka burn on the nose. Flavours include the taste of vodka right from beginning, a light caramel malt sweetness, the vanilla and spices are nowhere near as present as it is in the aroma - disappointing, a bit watered down in flavour considering that I found the aroma to be making a serious pop! I was excited on trying this when I was seeing an actual thick A&W-like head on this root beer and a real nice earthy aroma with a hint of vanilla.. but it fell flat in the taste department. Available at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Dauphin, Killarney, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Russell, Swan River and Virden. $2.99 per 355mL can/bottle. 2.5/5 Pints

This was certainly way too much sugar for one review session! Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams, Twisted Tea) is coming out with Coney Island Hard Root Beer. It tops out at 5.8% ABV and is described as having hints of vanilla, licorice and birch. It will be available at Liquor Marts throughout Manitoba in the coming days or weeks so stay tuned! $2.96 per 355mL bottle

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