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Monday, January 26, 2009

IBC Root Beer

Since this is the beginning of a brand new blog for me, I figured there was no better way to try out the ropes than with one of my absolute standbys, IBC Root Beer. Everything about the Independent Breweries Company's root beer is classic: from its simple bottle with subtly raised letters instead of a flashy label, to a taste that instantly makes everything around you turn to sepia tone. Okay, maybe that only happens if you're doing shrooms while you drink it. Don't look at me, the internet said so.

IBC as a company started my obsession with independently brewed sodas. When I used to go to Sea Isle City with my church youth group, we'd always buy Stewart's Root Beer from the convenience store across the street. By the time the weekend was over, we'd have piles of empty bottles in the room where we were sleeping, and I had found a new favorite drink--but it was when I went to the grocery store upon arriving home that first year, I found that there was an even cheaper alternative in stock, a package of blank brown bottles with the letter IBC branded right into the glass. I figured I might as well give it a try, if nothing else I'd save a few bucks.

And so it began. A completely (literally) unhealthy obsession that lives on to this day.

There are two basic types of root beer: the creamy, heady kind like Mug and A&W, and the bitey, zing-to-the-back-of-your-throat-and-scratch-like-an-angry-cat-the-whole-way-down-your-esophagus kind like IBC and Barq's. Obviously, seeing as I think that IBC quite possibly makes the best root beer in the world, I am an ardent supporter of the latter camp. However, I know quite a few people who prefer the creamy style to the point that they feel brews like Barq's and IBC are almost a different kind of drink completely. If you are of this opinion but have never tried IBC, it is probably not the drink for you. It almost burns on the first sip, tingling the roof of your mouth and going down just as sharp. And the burning doesn't stop! Every last sip of an IBC has the same amount of bite. I left a bottle open for a few hours today while I went across town to record music with a friend, and when I arrived home this evening, the last few sips were still well-carbonated--rich, sassafras razor blades even hours later. I have no idea what they put in this stuff, but it's got staying power. Actually, all that's in it, other than the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, is some coloring, sodium benzoate, modified food starch, citric acid and a good ol' dose of flavoring (natural and artificial). No caffeine though.

It's definitely not the healthiest soda on the market, that's for sure. Many indie brewers use cane or beet sugar, and plain old salt for preservation. It's also not technically a completely indie brand anymore. The company started out small in St. Louis, Missouri in 1919, but by the 1970's was sold to a larger company, then in 1980 it was passed off to the Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up Bottling Company (still, a separate entity from the Big Two), but in in recent years, Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up was bought out by the British snack conglomerate, Cadburry Schweppes. However, the recipe through all those changes has remained the same, and the spirit of the tiny, struggling company that started it all almost a hundred years ago remains strong in the taste, the style and the price. As their motto says right on the side of the packaging, "IBC Bottles Memories." I couldn't agree more.

TASTE: 9/10
LOOK: 7/10
OVERALL: A

PRICE: $3.00/6-12oz. btls ($.04/oz)
BUY IT: At just about any grocery store; I got mine at Redners Warehouse Markets, Ephrata PA

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