Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/8/2016 (1919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
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 it 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 more than 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 U.S., but they also happened to have a non-alcoholic craft root beer that happened to taste absolutely amazing and is 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 brewers 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 six-pack of the boozy soda, there are three popular options available here in Westman — all of which 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 its owner, the 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 per cent ABV, and is brewed with malted barley, glucose-fructose, hop extract and yeast. It pours dark brown with a bit of a ruby red hue, and is 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, and a hint of cinnamon. But for the most part, it has an off taste to it. The flavour of root beer disappears immediately, so it doesn’t give off that rich, creamy and spiceful sensation 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. However, it’s currently sold out in most of Manitoba except for the Liquor Marts in Killarney and Roblin locations. It sells for $11.86 per six 355 ml cans.
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 it was a Minhas Creek line of malt beverages.
Mad Jack comes out at five per cent ABV and is brewed with malt liquor, glucose-fructose and "artificial/natural" flavours.
It pours dark brown with a burnt caramel reddish-brown hue and it’s incredibly fizzy like your typical root beer.
Aroma notes include roasted barley, which gives off a hint of roasted coffee, a hint of wintergreen, a light sugary sweetness that’s 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 (not pleasant), a subtle hint of vanilla, clove and cinnamon, a sweet and creamy mouthfeel, and an aftertaste reminiscent of 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, it costs $12.30 per six 355 ml cans.
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.
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 immediately. Now they have two package sizes — 355 ml bottles and 355 ml cans — both at the same price of $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 per cent ABV, and is brewed with malted barley, grain neutral spirit, cane sugar, natural flavours, hops and phosophoric acid.
It pours dark brown with a caramel red hue, a liberal amount of yellow-beige head that diminishes with the liberal amount of carbonation that’s taking place here — it’s quite the fizzy root beer.
Aroma notes include an earthy muskiness right from the beginning, a subtle amount of sarsaparilla, and a hint of vanilla that would be complemented with a scoop of ice cream. It’s 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, and a light caramel malt sweetness. The vanilla and spices are nowhere near as present as they are in the aroma — disappointing in that it’s 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.
It’s available at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Dauphin, Killarney, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Russell, Swan River and Virden for $2.99 per 355 ml can/bottle.
on the horizon ...
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 per cent 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 355 ml bottle.