Natural Brew Draft Root Beer is made by Smucker Natural Foods, Inc., of Chico, Ca., a division of The J.M. Smucker Co. The well-known parent company, a producer of jams and jellies, peanut butter and other products, was founded in 1897 by Jerome Monroe Smucker; it is operated by the family’s fourth generation and headquartered in Orrville, Ohio. Until May, 2009, Smucker Natural Foods was known as Smucker Quality Beverages, but the word “natural” conveys the firm’s intent to capitalize on the national trend toward “natural,” “organic” and “healthy” ingredients. According to foodprocessing.com, the Smucker Natural Foods plant was the first LEED-certified building in Butte County, Ca., and is “94% off the grid.”

The Natural Brew segment also makes Outrageous Ginger Ale, Vanilla Creme Soda and Chai Cola. The website touts a commitment, without going into much detail, to traditional methods, small-batch brewing, hand-crafted techniques and such.

The ingredients in Natural Draft Root Beer are listed thus:

“SPARKLING FILTERED WATER, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, NATURAL FLAVORS, BOURBON VANILLA EXTRACT, ANISE, SARSAPARILLA, LICORICE ROOT, BIRCH OIL, WINTERGREEN OIL, CARAMEL COLOR, PHOSPHORIC ACID*”

I really liked this root beer. One smells and tastes a complex layering of spicy, herbal and rooty elements for the savory medicinal quality that’s a prerequisite in well-made root beers. It’s creamy on the palate yet sprightly, with a nicely developed presence. The vanilla and anise high notes dominate a bit more than I would like them to, and I don’t know if this is a result of “evaporated cane juice,” but this is a very sweet root beer, yet altogether it’s a tasty and authentic brew. Very Good+. I paid $4.99 for a four-pack at Whole Foods.

*Phosphoric acid (H3PO4) is an inorganic mineral acid that lends liveliness and tang to cola-style soft drinks. It’s cheaper and more widely available than citric acid. Phosphoric acid is also used as a rust remover — “naval jelly” — and has been linked to lower bone density in habitual cola drinkers. Just so you know.

Image from natural-brew.com.