Name: Natural Brew Draft Root Beer
Bottled by Smucker Natural Foods, Inc.
Price: $1.83 per 12 oz. bottle
Purchase Date: 6 July 2013
Consumed on: 8 July 2013
Ingredients: Sparkling filtered water, evaporated cane juice, natural flavors, bourbon vanilla extract, anise, sarsaparilla, licorice root, birch oil, wintergreen oil, caramel color, phosphoric acid.
Notes: This is a very interesting root beer. I find it to be excessively sweet. But, unlike some of the other uber-sweet root beers I have tasted, I find this one to be a pretty complex sweetness. Smucker uses evaporated cane juice for sweetening this root beer, which is, for all intents and purposes, nearly identical to regular white table sugar. (http://www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/405-the-truth-about-evaporated-cane-juice). This brand seems to be about the all-natural ingredients, and evaporated cane juice sounds more natural that "refined cane sugar," even though that's what it is. Regardless, this root beer does have a whole lot of sugar (39g of sugar in a 12oz bottle.) Interestingly, the sweetness does have a bit of a honey taste to it, although honey is not included in the list of ingredients.
Fortunately, this sweetness is modulated somewhat by the presence of several ingredients which provide a very complex, albeit it not always pleasant, flavor. Anise, Sarsaparilla, Licorice Root, Birch Oil, and Wintergreen Oil are all included in the ingredients list. I do like that you can actually see a large number of the ingredients instead of just "Natural Flavors" which is what is on most root beer. This root beer also uses Bourbon Vanilla extract for its vanilla flavor, which does impart a little of a burbon-like flavor to the mix. I doesn't taste boozy, per se, but there is a bit of that fermented flavor.
In terms of carbonation, Natural Brew is pretty lightly carbonated, and that carbonation disappears pretty quickly after the bottle has been opened. The bubbles aren't very "aggressive," resulting in a very smooth mouth feel.
Since root beer is, in essence, a tea, it is not surprising that there is a bit of a medicinal aftertaste to it. Rather like the metallic flavor you might get in your mouth after getting IV fluids. (I just had a "surgical" procedure today which required an IV, so that's the example that is fresh on my mind.)
In short, I didn't find this root beer unpleasant. Nor, however, did I find it very exciting. It had a complex flavor, but it came across as almost too complex. There were so many different competing flavors that they all ended up muting each other, leaving behind a rather bland final product. I generally more pronounced wintergreen and vanilla flavors in my root beers than I got here. And there was no "bite" at all. This was just an okay root beer for me. Very middle of the road.