I’ve actually seen Berghoff around quite a bit, possibly at Bed Bath & Beyond, or Whole Foods, but I’ve never taken the time to taste it, let alone review it. I’m looking forward to the root beer, because I’ve seen it around so much. Generally speaking, the only brands I see around are the typical trash, and Virgil’s. I’m hoping that Berghoff is closer to Virgil’s than the typical trash, but let’s just say I’ve been burned before.
Old Fashioned 1921 Chicago Brand
The bottle is your standard dark fair, but the label reinforces traditional vibes by being dark brown as well with hints of red and orange. The font is reminiscent of the 20s for sure. I’m intrigued by that, because I absolutely love Art Deco. The label says draft style, as well as touting that it’s caffeine free, naturally sweetened, has low sodium, and is gluten free. I can’t speak about those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but I wasn’t aware that root beer typically contained gluten.
The Berghoff brewery and the Berghoff restaurant are two different but partnered entities. The Berghoff is a historic German restaurant in Downtown Chicago. They offer a bar, café, and fully featured restaurant. It’s well rated online, and they’ve also franchised into O’Hare. The Berghoff brewery creates both root beer and traditional beer, but according to their website, their version of root beer had origins as a pop known as Bergo, which was their response to prohibition.
- Carbonated Water
- Cane Sugar
- Caramel Color
- Natural Flavoring
- Yucca Extract
- Gum Arabic
- Ethyl Alcohol
- Propylene Glycol Alginate and Triethyl Citrate
- Preserved with Citric Acid and Sodium Benzoate
I don’t drink alcohol, so seeing that this contains ethyl alcohol, the intoxicating agent in most beers, puts me on edge. I understand that it’s likely at less than a tenth of a percent by volume, but I’m still not comfortable. It also appears that this thing is packed with food additives, like propylene glycol alginate and triethyl citrate, stabilizers and thickeners found in some foods. When I look at an ingredient list like this, and I compare it to Virgil’s, there’s going to be a bias and it isn’t going to be favorable.
The immediate scent of Berghoff is bitter. It’s not only bitter, but it actually burns the nostrils a bit. That doesn’t translate well to the actual taste either. The flavor is both bitter and spicy, and the root beer essence itself is muddied and weak. There are definite hints of mint-like flavor, which is subtle but pleasant. The carbonation isn’t overwhelming, and this, coupled with what I assume are the chemical stabilizers, results in a smooth experience. Not quite as smooth as past brews, but definitely better than a high carbonated drink. There is definitely an off flavor here though, something that reminds me of the smell associated with a sickly bar, or a crowded city street at night.
Over time this brew doesn’t really change. It doesn’t lose flavor, and it isn’t watered down, but it doesn’t get any benefit from time. It’s still spicy and bitter. The flavor I mentioned earlier is also still present, and is still very difficult to place. The carbonation is still strong, which is a good sign. The aftertaste doesn’t stick around too much, which is a definite plus. I just can’t get over that weird flavor, and the spicy bitter combo that seems just a tad too sharp.
Traditional root beer enthusiasts aren’t going to find this brand enjoyable, and I certainly don’t. However, it has some great benefits when it comes to texture, like how smooth it is, and how appreciable the carbonation is. The after taste wasn’t overwhelming, which is definitely an issue when it comes to root beers that are so syrupy that they stick around. That being said, this root beer doesn’t sit well with me, and I’m just not a fan. It borders between a 1-2.
Rating: ♛♕♕♕♕ – 1/5