Monday, February 2, 2009

Fresh Root Beer

I was intending to trot out with another informative (read: boring) discourse on the realities of cellaring real ale, when I passed A & W in Oakridge on the way down to Eugene for a quick shopping run. I was hopeful that this time the shopping run might entail a visit to a purveyor, or plural, of fine barley-oriented beverages. This would purely be, of course, as a reward of my bravery in attempting to shop sensibly. Success has been achieved, thanks to my vehicle's tendency to navigate to McMenamins High Street Cafe while in Eugene. That's my wife's vehicle, actually, as mine has no brake lights, amongst other electrical features, due to mice and their industrious incisors.

Now, as many of you know, A & W is a pioneer in the manufacturing, promotion and retail of the acclaimed soft drink known as root beer. They have a multiplicity of franchises all over this fair land. I used to take my wee little daughters into our local (for lack of a better word) for a root beer float or two before they learned how to roll their eyes at me and say "Dad!" in that tell-tale, teenage accent. It is firmly etched in their gray matter. I hope.

So, all that blather above just to introduce the bit that caught my eye. The reader board, located as such to catch the travelers' eye, said "Root Beer, Made Fresh Daily". I didn't happen to notice a surfeit of Les Schwab tire skid marks opposite the "restaurant" in prospective patrons' efforts to toss back a fresh one, but the promotion is in its early stages and I admonish myself to be patient. But the rub here: am I to understand this bold, all-caps advertising strategy as suggesting that BOTH the fizzy soda water AND the root-beer-syrup-food-product are, as the precursors, suitably "fresh"? What exactly is "fresh root beer"? Are the CO2 bubbles in the peak of their hazardous existence?

Now beer, particularly real ale, cannot be made fresh daily. It can be made daily to be fresh at least two weeks out, but you wouldn't be interested in it the day it is brewed; at least not in the sense of one tipping back a pint of same. We do like to take a little sample as it tumbles into the fermenter after the heat exchanger, but mostly to see if it might be headed for the land of just plain awful or the magnificent realm of the sublime.

And I want you all to check back every hour or two to hear my further tales of the woes of beer finings, and I hope someone questions my over-use of quotation marks.


Whorst said...

What's the problem with finings?
In my latest beer, that wasn't cask conditioned, I used a combination of gelatin and Polyclar Plus 730. Knocked out any tannins present and dropped the yeast on its ass. But I used Safale-05, which produces some serious swamp water.

Anonymous said...

Did you talk with the fine people of A&W to determine the details behind what their sign was claiming? Inquiring minds want to know.

Unknown said...

I noticed the same sign several weeks ago and think the our thought processes run pretty parallel. My guess is that by "fresh" they mean the flavored high fructose corn syrup mixing with CO2 laden water a fraction of a second before it is dispensed into your waxed paper cup. "Made fresh" being roughly equivalent to "assembled in the USA." Numpties I tell you! Numtpies!

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I used to not have a problem with finings, up until Brewers Supply Group decided to no longer handle Caskleer Paste from Murphy and Son in the UK. I'm now trying some Biofine stuff, which requires much more hand-holding. The instructions were a bit mysterious as to how to mix the stuff up, so I'm still in experimentation mode.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

And I really should go in there and ask what they mean, shouldn't I? I'm just expecting a glazed look from the staff.

What I would really like fresh to mean is that there is, or was recently, a pot full of roots and herbs out back somewhere.

Whorst said...

Ted, just buy some gelatin in bulk. There's got to be a local outfit that will sell to you. I just mix it with water and heat it up until it dissolves.

Unknown said...

I am not a pro with soda knowledge, but knowing my brother's soda experiments, I know that some soda shops prime their drinks with yeast then let them fizzle. Don't know so well about A&W, but I do recall the one up north of Eugene still kegging their rootbeer as opposed to the 'boxed syrup' method. Why not stop in and ask? And along the same lines, are you serving housebrew sodas yet? I got a group of people heading up your way around the 14th for a birthday party.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I stopped and asked.

The Oakridge A & W staffperson said that "we make our own syrup" in back, which is then dispensed via the usual syrup and fizzy water at point of sale. I don't know the process of making the syrup, but it sounds more like an approach that dabbles in the vicinity of honesty than something that comes out of a box. That's cool.

The sign had been changed to mention something about a strawberry float.

I'm not much of a root beer drinker, so I took a fairly nice bacon cheeseburger back to the pub and had it with a pint of rye mild.