Interestingly, I recently received a large box of, uh, soda from Reed’s. The bottles included their Extra Ginger Brew, Spiced Apple Brew and Virgil’s Root Beer.
I’ve enjoyed and appreciated their Extra Ginger Brew before and used it in Savoy Cocktails. Not as super spicy as the description “Extra Ginger” would lead you to believe, it is however, a very natural tasting ginger beer style soda.
I haven’t yet tried their Spiced Apple Brew, but have one chilling in the fridge as we speak.
The thing that interested me most, however, was the Virgil’s Root Beer.
Root Beer and I go waaaaaay back.
Growing up, a trip to the A&W drive in, (for a Root Beer float and Cheeseburger with bacon, thank you very much,) was as intrinsic a part of just about any sporting event as the event itself. Win the track meet? A&W afterward. Win the baseball game? A&W afterward. Lose the track meet? A&W afterward. Lose the baseball game? A&W afterward. And yes, it was a real drive in, with the call boxes and car hops who would bring your order out and attach the tray to your partially rolled up window.
Looking over the ingredients in the Root Beer, they include “Unbleached Cane Sugar, Anise from Spain, Licorice from France, Vanilla from Madagascar, Cinnamon from Ceylon, Wintergreen from China, Sweet Birch from the US, Molasses from the US, Nutmeg from Indonesia, Pimento Oil from Jamaica, Balsam Oil from Peru, and Cassia Oil from China.” Whew, that’s a lot of stuff!
Wait a sec, this isn’t a Root Beer at all, as it has no Sassafras, Virgil’s is a Birch Beer!
Tasting Virgil’s, to me, with all the spices above, the dominant taste element is the Wintergreen.
It’s a pleasant, natural tasting Root Beer-like beverage. Not overly sweet. However, the heavy wintergreen flavor detracts somewhat from the overall flavor. The use of unbleached cane sugar, on the other hand, gives them big points in my book. Given a choice between the usual HFCS heavy American Root Beers and Virgil’s, I’d pick Virgil’s to salve that occasional Birch Beer craving.