AMAZING TAP HANDLES!!!

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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Photos or tap descriptions used in this blog may not be misrepresented as your own. Photos may not be used for financial gain whatsoever, as the uniqueness of the photo would unfairly associate a seller's product and reputation with this site. Tap descriptions may be used word for word as long as this blog is cited as the source, and a link is provided to this site.

Brewery history may not be used for any reason without citing the blog post or original source from which it was taken, and providing a link to such.

Failure to follow the guidelines above is a violation of Copyright Law, which protects original works of ownership.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reviews for the Sweet Tooth Hard Root Beer Battle: Coney Island vs. Not Your Father's Root Beer

I wanted to get this post up as summer ends because the numbers show that Hard Root Beer was a pretty huge deal when it hit the market in a big way this summer. Although Sprecher has been making hard root beer since 2013, it has not been distributed nationally, making it very difficult to find. This year, Small Town Brewery's "Not Your Father's Root Beer" got some big backing when Pabst bought a large stake in the brewery and started contract brewing it in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Coney Island Brewing, which is owned by Samuel Adams, began to distribute "Coney Island Hard Root Beer". Sam Adams has the chops to move this product nationally...look no further than their Angry Orchard Hard Cider line to see how they can perfect a recipe in an emerging market and make it available almost anywhere.

Click through to read more about my encounters with Hard Root Beer...

I first saw Not Your Father's Root Beer earlier this summer and flirted with buying a six pack, but put it off. Big mistake. For a couple months I had trouble finding it again, as it would continually sell out as soon as it arrived in the store. Part of the problem was that you could only find it in the six pack form rather than in individual bottles. I heard about bombers that were higher ABV, but they might as well have been unicorns or leprechauns when it came to my inability to get my hands on one. As a result, when Coney Island Hard Root Beer suddenly appeared on the shelves of my country market, I snagged up a six pack and whistled all the way home, especially when a friend went in the store to get his own the next day and they were all gone. I knew the brewery name immediately, as I had acquired a Coney Island tap handle several months before.

So Coney Island was the first hard root beer I tried, despite its later arrival in my local market. I also talked museum artist Kelly into trying one - he doesn't like beer but he loves root beer. My opinion of Coney Island's bottled brew can be divided into thirds. The first third of the bottle I drank was delicious - the sweet vanilla flavor really came through strong. It was creamy with a good head and very smooth to drink. The alcohol seemed to be barely present, with a very slight warming effect and no harshness or bitterness. Although it did taste like root beer, I'd have to say that it almost reminded me more of a hard cream soda (which might be the "next big thing" we see on the shelves next summer...Not Your Father's Cream Soda, anyone?). I never drank it as a float with vanilla ice cream, but I would bet it's spectacularly, maybe even sickeningly, sweet.

As I got to the second third of the bottle, I was thinking it was still okay, but something was a little off. By the time I hit the bottom third, I was having a tough time finishing it, for what I believe were two reasons: 1) I had drank so much sweetness through the first two-thirds of the bottle that I was overloaded with it, since I'm not used to that much sugar/sweetness, and 2) I didn't drink it quite fast enough and it had warmed up too much. To me, that last point is key - when your going to drink a dessert/sweet beer, it needs to be cold. Warm sweetness is hard for me to swallow (literally). So I liked the Coney Island well enough, but secretly I hoped that Not Your Father's Root Beer would surpass it.

I got my chance to compare the two when I managed to score a six pack of Not Your Father's Root Beer the next week, before it sold out within two days. It was a stark contrast to the Coney Island, in that the flavor reminded me more of an old time sarsaparilla recipe: more bitterness, less sweetness, where I tasted more spices and yeast and less vanilla. Don't get me wrong, it was still on the sweet side, but after having tried the Coney Island, there was a clear difference in the sweetness levels between the two. Not Your Father's Root Beer was also less creamy and had almost no head, and the alcohol came through just a tad bit more. I'm not sure how well it would do with a float, although I imagine some high quality vanilla ice cream would make it smoother, sweeter, and balance it out nicely.

In conclusion, I liked the Coney Island more thanks to the sweetness and creaminess, and Kelly agreed - he did not like the Not Your Father's Root Beer at all. I saved one bottle of each, which I plan to share with my father and grandmother. Those who don't like sweet beers may not like either one, but I imagine out of two, they'd probably prefer Not Your Father's Root Beer, especially the high ABV versions, over Coney Island.

For more about the current Hard Root Beer craze, check out this article from Food Republic.

Photo courtesy of Small Town Brewery.

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