The Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi presents the
Great American Root Beer Showdown
Recently I received an e-mail letter from Mike Lynn, the creator of Myers Avenue Red Root Beer:
Matt, found your review and had to write...I'm Mike Lynn "President" (and "chief bottle washer" as my Dad used to say) of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company in....Warrenville Illinois.
Hey, that's where I live...well, actually in Naperville (just down the road)...not trying to fake anybody out! Just happened to find a brewery that would recreate the drinks nearby. My uncle worked and lived in Cripple Creek in the 1890s.
As regards the results...Ouch...but I understand....I happen to agree with some of the comments regarding the taste of the root beer. BUT, I am working on a resolution so that it really tastes like the root beer my uncle really did serve in Cripple Creek in the 1890s.
Preposterous as the story sounds, you should have met my (great grand) uncle. My Dad did when my Dad was a kid and my uncle was what would be loosely referred to as an "entrpreneur" today, but a "flim flam man" in the 1890s. (Ever see the Producers? Well, like the movie, my uncle sold a few more shares than he probably should have...many to relatives...and it created quite a rift in the family when the mines went belly-up).
He really did run a mining operation in Cripple Creek. And according to his own stories (which were wonderful to hear according to my Dad), uncle Frank came up with a lot of business ideas to support his mining dreams. Cripple Creek in the 1890s was full of over nite millionaires...and my uncle was going to be the next one come hell or high water.
The beverage enterprise was actually one of his more successful ventures...but he never made a dime on the mines. In fact, he lost a bundle and ended up giving up the mines in the early 1900s.
And, you think the story on the carton was "preposterous"? Want me to tell you how my uncle created the "Black Cow"?
According to his story, he was gazing at Cow Mountain (where his claims were...just outside the gold rich area) one moon-lit nite and the snow capped peak reminded him of a scoop of ice cream floating on top of "black cow mountain" and....well you can imagine the ending.
He started floating scoops of ice cream on top of his Myers Avenue Red root beer for the kids on Sundays and called them "Ice cream capped black cow mountain root beer floats" (or some such thing) and the kids just shortened it to Black Cows. He once told my Dad that he'd be a rich man if he had a nickel for every time someone ordered a Black Cow.
The label is an actual share of stock from the company. (By the way, it did win a Bronze in the International Packaging & Design Competition in 2000.) The picture on the side is uncle Frank (although it's an older picture than when he was in Cripple Creek. He jus looks more distinguished in that one.) And the story is his...as passed down to me by my Dad.
Preposterous...we just like to refer to it as family lore.
I am working on the root beer flavor...it's inconsistent. Some people love it (it's the cinnamon)...but others have the same comment about the medicinal or candy-like flavor.
We have a crème soda (Celon's Mythical...and wait till you hear my uncle's story about that one!) that has an almond flavoring so if you do a review of crème sodas, I'll send some along.
And Dream Lode Golden ginger ale is still under development.
Where did you get the bottle you tested?
Anyway, Matt, wanted you to know the "truth" about Cripple Creek...and maybe give us a second chance if you ever do your tasting again.
The Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company
In our original review I'd called the Myers Avenue Red story "preposterous." (Mostly due to the illogical location of Cripple Creek Brewing Company, about as far from mountains as you can get, in flat suburban Warrenville, Illinois.)
Maybe I was a bit too cynical. There are quite a few root beer brands out there trying to grasp at some kind of historicist Americana theme for the sake of advertising. But I liked Mike's letter about his great-uncle Frank. His tall tales come from that same cloudy vernacular past that obscures the origins of root beer itself. Who invented root beer? Was it Charles Hires? Was it a nameless colonial New England farmer? Or some equally anonymous pharmacist in the late 1800s? Can something as general and wide-ranging as root beer be invented by one person? Or like any great invention, were there numerous inquisitive people, attuned to the spirit of their time, each contributing some part of the idea, testing and refining toward some particular goal. Until somehow the flavor we know as root beer was fully formed and born into the beverage world. And somehow we all now know the flavor of this Platonic root beer as if it had been with us from the beginning of the world.
Well, I don't know if I'm persuaded by Mike's story about Frank inventing the Black Cow, but he does sound like an interesting larger-than-life character. There's plenty of room in the halls of legends of root beer for a few more tall tales. Who else has a story to tell?
Here's a scan of the story on the side of the 6-pack box of Myers Avenue Red. Read the tale and judge its merits for yourself!
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