After an aborted attempt to hold a taste test in October, weeks and weeks passed before the taste testers gathered again for a pre-holiday taste test on December 16th, 2001.
In addition to the botched October test troubles and post-September national malaise, we seemed to be reaching the Chicago-land Root Beer Flavor Horizon: the point at which new and untested root beer brands become more and more difficult to find and acquire. Initial estimates of 6-10 remaining brands in Chicago were revised and downgraded. It seemed that very soon, perhaps even in the next round of testing, there would be no new brands to whet the appetites and interest of our researchers. Other than the mainstream national brands that we haven't much included in previous tests, for much of the fall there were only two new additions to the root beer cabinet to get excited about:
Dr. Brown's, which I'd been looking for in a bottle. A friend gave me a Dr. Brown's bottle cap, so I knew it must be available in bottles, but she could not remember where it had come from. Since we appeared to be reaching the Root Beer Flavor Horizon, we decided to sample the Dr. Brown's in a can.
Blumer's, a Wisconsin brew found at Sam's Liquor Warehouse. I hadn't been to Sam's before then, but wow, what a place! It's bottle cap heaven! They may only have 4-5 kinds of root beer there, but its fun just to wander the aisles and see all the obscure kinds of beer and wine imported from all over the world.
But a gift from Roadside Beverage company allowed us to include Root 66 in Round 7 (see letters page), and a few samples kindly donated by Alex & Lauren on the day of the test rounded out our roster.
The Root Beers Tasted:
Once again the veteran and novice testers took their places with score sheets and pencils in hand to away the able-bodied staff member to arrive from the kitchen with the samples.
With some introspective, intense instrumental music on the hi-fi, the testers fell to their task with instrospection and intensity.
One by one, each round of tiny cups was sampled, with only minor murmurs of discontent when one or two of the samples were found to be undrinkably awful. For the most part everyone was careful to keep their opinions to themselves so as not to distract or distort the opinions of their neighbors. When a former taste-tester rang the bell during the midst of tasting the last samples, the fresh air from outdoors revived us all and allowed us to remain focused and in good spirits through the end of the test.
After the test was completed, the author was dismayed to discover that he had neglected to take any photos during the sampling, hence there are no illustrations to enliven this page.
Round Seven Results
One of the most entertaining parts of each round of testing has become the point at which the identity of each sample is revealed. First, each taste tester reveals the Overall Taste score they awarded the sample, tells a few comments and thoughts about the flavor, and so on around the room. Then the bottle-opening staff member runs to retrieve the sample in discussion and in front of all, the newspaper wrapper is torn off to reveal its true name. Sometimes this is quite a shock to the taste testers, other times it may be more mildly surprising, if it is an obscure brand that perhaps the tester hadn't heard of before.
In this round, many of the testers figured out that there was one diet soda lurking among the samples, but some of them guessed that there were several, due to the disagreeable bitter tastes of several of the root beers. The testers seemed surprised to learn that only one of them was a diet root beer. A look at the scores shows how much that diet soda stood out from the others:
Average scores across all categories:
Average scores in the category of "Overall Taste":
It seems that once again the mainstream, well-rounded (if boring) brands will come forward while the other more controversial flavors are lost in a cloud of disagreement. Though there were few obvious or vocal disagreements on the merits of individual brands or ingredients in this test, still the inoffensive but dependable taste of A&W took it to the top of the Round Seven list, with a 3.95 Overall Taste score second only to Boylan's when compared to all root beers tested.
The inclusion of Sprecher Lo-Cal in the test was perhaps a mistake, as its terrible nutrasweet flavors caused such an uproar among the reviewers that it may have distracted them from the subtler differences between the other brews.
Our Rigorous Taste Testing
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