Brand: Dr. Brown’s
Location: New York, NY
Purchased at: Spec’s
Container: 12 oz can
Sold in packs of: Six
Date Reviewed: February 16, 2015
Color: Dark brown
Sweetener: High fructose corn syrup
Nose: Wintergreen, anise, mild clove
Fizz: Medium bubbles
Flavor notes: Wintergreen, anise, herbal bite reminiscent of a Ricola, hint of vanilla, slightly bitter back end
Commentary: If you like a good head on your root beer, Dr. Brown’s is not your soda – whether it was the can pour or the size/intensity of the bubbles, there was virtually no head from the get-go and what was there dissipated immediately. (I take the pictures of the full glasses within less than a minute of pouring and as you can see above, there was already no head at all with this one.) The bubbles weren’t too harsh on the tongue, but with medium fizz the root beer is less smooth than some others. The nose and flavor are indicative of what you might term the “herbal” class of root beers – wintergreen and anise were predominant in both, but with some other hints and flavors showing up. Clove also appeared in the nose, though not really in the taste of the soda. The actual flavor was mostly wintergreen and anise, with a little hint of vanilla, but there was also a strong secondary suggestion of herbs – as noted above, I was reminded a bit of a Ricola cough drop. That’s not an inherently bad thing, by the way – I like the way Ricola tastes and it’s certainly more interesting than a root beer that just tastes like cream soda – but this seemed to lead into some bitterness on the back end that was a less pleasant finish than one would like. The body was probably light to medium – not too watery, mildly creamy, but definitely not robust. The drinking experience aside from flavor was probably similar to what you would get from Pepsi, Dr. Brown’s current bottler.
Summary: Given that the root beer is called Dr. Brown’s, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that there was a back end flavor that had a bit of a medicinal quality to it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The basic flavor of the root beer is pretty generic – wintergreen, anise, and vanilla are three tastes I certainly expect to encounter in most mass-market root beers, and they account for most of the flavor here – but that bitter back end is a good way to ensure I leave the experience with (no pun intended) a bad taste in my mouth. From the standpoint of a root beer connoisseur, it also doesn’t help that there’s very little here to suggest you’re drinking root beer other than the basic taste – it pours like a cola, it fizzes like a cola, and really that herbaceous bitterness is reminiscent of a cola as well. Maybe Pepsi brews this in the exact same place as their cola and didn’t give the vats a thorough enough scrubbing in between? When I was younger I would regularly get Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry to go along with a turkey sub I was particularly fond of back in New Jersey, and I would say that the root beer would serve best in that capacity – as a way to wash down competing flavors. It’s by no means appalling, but on its own it just doesn’t get there.