Fri 16 Aug 2013
I came upon Bundaberg Root Beer at Fresh Market, and while it’s expensive — $1.99 for a 12.7-ounce (375 milliliter) bottle — of course I could not resist trying a new brand. The company was founded in 1960 in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia, and is still owned and operated by the Fleming family. The company is primarily known for ginger beer, which it sells a ton of in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries. Bundaberg’s motto is the alliterative “Brewed to Be Better,” and I’ll say that this is not just a better but a superior root beer, with a shiny dark color, a mild blond head (you know, the foam) and good body. It’s moderately rich and quite lively, offering a clean but sweet rooty essence and a hit of clove-anise-vanilla spiciness; a touch of light, bright fruitiness seems to come from sarsaparilla root, making this perhaps not a true root beer, but there are, after all, no hard and fast recipes for root beer; the multitude of choices makes it interesting. For some reason, this gets mixed reviews on root beer blogs — talk about fanatics! — but I liked it immensely. The company does a separate bottling of sarsaparilla.
Here’s the ingredients list: Carbonated water, cane sugar, root beer brew (water, sugar, molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, vanilla bean and yeast), caramel color, citric acid, preservatives (potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate), antioxidant (asorbic acid), root beer flavor.
While I wish that Bundaberg Root Beer did not contain preservatives, the entry on this list that throws me is “root beer flavors.” What the hell? Don’t the flavors come from the previous constituents? And if not, or at least if not entirely, could we get an explanation of what “root beer flavors” are? Transparency, please, not evasion!