This week we’re going around the country to three great local root beers from three great music cities. I’m not saying this will decide what city produces the greatest blues music. I’m just saying the blues and root beer should probably go hand in hand more? I don’t actually know what I’m saying.
Dr. Brown’s Root Beer
J & R Bottling, New York City, New York
The good Doctor’s been kicking around fine delicatessens in New York City since 1869, when the company first introduced it’s Cel-Ray soda a cream soda flavored with celery seed that you will not see me drinking and not just because celery is in no way a root. This particular glass bottle claims it exists under the authority of the Canada Dry Company, though with everything I’ve learned about brand rights and licensing in doing this show I’ve got no idea what that might actually mean for ownership.
Herbal and bitter, but with a super-sweetness and a bit of a chemically burn on the backend that I’m chalking up to the possibility of high fructose corn syrup or my own hang ups about that stuff manifesting as an otherwise nonexistent flavor. Smells a bit of cough syrup, but has a good creamy balance of flavor.
Fitz’s Root Beer
Fitz’s Bottling Co., St. Louis, Missouri
Fitz’s got its start at a drive-in burger joint in St. Louis in the 40’s that eventually closed after 25 years or so in business. Around 1996 a new Fitz’s opened up with vintage bottling machinery and the original Root Beer recipe on hand. They’ve been chugging along ever since.
Very sweet and and vanilla-y with an almost chemically burn to it as well. Like a root beer candy that fell into a vat of acid and became a supervillain hell bent on the destruction of tastebuds and the spreading of diabetes. Still good undertones of sassafras. Not bad at all. But not that great.
Abita Root Beer
Abita Brewing Co., Abita Springs, LA
Located across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, Abita’s been making beer since 1986. Their root beer is made with locally-sourced cane sugar.
Nice sassafras upfront with sweet vanilla underneath, rich and dark. Good bite to it as well. definitely on the more bitter end of root beers, almost to the point that there’s undertones of anise but no outright anise flavor. I could drink a case of this stuff right now.