Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Root Beer Store

So, when we drove down through Puyallup to ride on the old railroad with the steam locomotive a few months back, we spotted The Root-Beer Store on the way, down Meridian Drive,* and vowed to come back and explore further some feast day down the road.** That day duly came, and we had the good luck to arrive on a day when they were doing a taste-testing, so we could try little sampler sips of different artisan root beers. We departed with seven bottles:

Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg
Hippo's (1927)
St. John's Brewers (Virgin Isles)
Fritz's (1947)
Dougie's Butterscotch
Sprecher's (two bottles)

Then, unexpectedly, we wound up getting invited to a super-bowl watching party (only the second time I've ever watched the superbowl; it's more fun when you can visit with friend and don't have to watch the game). And as our contribution to the comestibles we decided to take along the root beer. Which went down fine, and left us determined to make another root-beer run when the opportunity offered.

That opportunity came today, carefully scheduled to co-incide with another of their taste-testings. This time we decided both to stock up on a good supply for when we next have people over  (e.g. D&D on Monday night or the new ORIENT EXPRESS Cthulhu starting up next Saturday) as well as a nice little cache for ourselves. Here's what we wound up with:

VIRGIL's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg [x2]
VIRGIL's (their regular root beer) [x2]
SPRECHER's (our previous gold standard, Milwaukee made, but hard to get out here) [x2]
HIPPO 1927 [x4]
FITZ [x2]

In addition, we decided to try a few new ones, at least two of them due to today's tasting:

BUNDABERG (an Australian upside-down r.b.)

And, just to be true to my six-year-old self, one bottle of FROSTIE's, my favorite when growing up in Monticello, Arkansas.

I shd add that in addition to many, many artisan brews, the store also stocks popular favorites, like A&W and Dad's and Th. Kemper, as well as things related to root beers (sarsaparilla, birch beer, ginger beer, cream soda, &c.), and altogether non-root beers such as Orange Crush and Nehi.  We used to have an A&W stand in Magnolia, but I've never found the bottled version to match up to my memories of the draft on-tap A&W of old, so after some internal debate I passed on that.

The taste-testing was self-guided this time, whereas last time there'd been a knowledgeable store employee pointing out things about the various offerings -- e.g., which had a licorice or caramel undertone, which had more of a kick at the end, and so forth. I also learned, by asking, what's the difference between a sarsaparilla and a root beer: turns out that everything that goes into sarsaparilla is in root beer, but root beer contains more, including some things not in a sarsaparilla.

From the tasting we did today, I'd say the two big categories seem to be smooth and sweet (but sometimes a bit thin) verses strong and with a bite. We tended to prefer the latter.

So, an enjoyable excursion, and a nice low-key day.

--John R.

current reading: THE SUMMER TREE (Guy Gavriel Kay, 1984; doesn't hold up well), THE HOUSE OF THE WOLFINGS (Wm Morris, 1888; holds up remarkably well).

current dvd: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG extras [quite interesting], CAPRICE [1967; awful]

current music: GRINNING STREAK by BareNakedLadies, THE ART OF McCARTNEY (an enjoyable but slightly weird tribute album to Paul McCartney; on vinyl!)

*here's the link to  The Root-Beer Store in Puyallup, which turns out to be one of three in the area (the others being up in Redmond and Lynnwood), as well as a second link giving something of the history behind the store, and how someone who planned to start up brewing his own artisial root beer found out how many local brands were out there and decided instead to start up a store where folks cd come and find all the many wonderful and sometimes slightly weird offerings.

**since one can either drink root beer or be on a low-carb diet, but not both at the same time.


David Bratman said...

For Eric Rauscher's birthday party, because he likes beer-beer, I found a store that sells exotic Eastern European beers and bought six bottles, each from a different country, and he held a tasting. When I left, they were still passing them around; I think the Polish one got the best ratings.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David
Since I'm a teetotaler and prohibitionist, I've never had beer-beer, but you're right: it's the same principle. A writer's group I belong to holds its once-a-month meetings in a pub (fortunately one that provides hot tea), and one or two of the attendees are similarly adventurous, trying different small-press beverages each time.

So far as the root beers we purchased, I'll be making notes so that afterwards we'll know which ones most appealed to us, for future reference.


David Bratman said...

I didn't drink any of the beer any more than you would have. I don't totally refrain from alcohol, but my problem with beer is that it tastes like beer.

I do like root beer, though.