I’ve been trying different root beers so long it’s hard to find something that surprises me. Well, hard to find something that surprises me in a good way. There have been plenty of unpleasant surprises along the way. This root beer looked different from the get-go and it was obviously in a different league than most of what I’ve sampled over the past three years.

This is the Special Reserve Root Beer made by the Indian Wells Brewing Co. They also make a non-special root beer (Death Valley), but as I haven’t tried it I can’t compare the two.

Let’s make one thing clear, this root beer is marketed beautifully, almost like a high-end scotch. Check out this bottle, wax sealed cap and everything:

IMGP2151These guys aren’t screwing around. It’s also not just a fancy bottle, this stuff is brewed and then aged in Iberian chestnut barrels (I’ll pretend like I know that that’s impressive), and is flavored with real birch, sarsaparilla, raw ginger, wintergreen, and wild cherry bark (among other things). What really impressed me about this root beer wasn’t that it had all these interesting ingredients, BUT YOU COULD TASTE THEM!

Get out of town, right? It’s brewed well enough that your nose reacts to the spices before your tongue can make sense of it. It’s a bold flavor, but the cane sugar and vanilla smooth it out enough to enjoy the nuance of the wintergreen and birch root (not bark, mind you). I think I could pick out the wild cherry bark…gives it a slight Dr. Pepper feel. I’ve never seen a commercial brewery use that ingredient before, it mostly comes out in craft recipes.

Do the Quercus Pyrenaica Chesnut barrels from the northwest Iberian Peninsula make a difference? I don’t know, but it’s a really good root beer. You got the sharp spice and you get the tingly wintergreen. Something for everybody. I would never serve this with ice cream. Or ice cubes. This deserved a frosted mug.IMGP2153

I give this an easy 9 out of 10. It could probably be higher, but I thought that 9.5 would be too high. If I’d change anything about this is would be to add a bit of malt to the brew. If it’s there, I couldn’t tell. Would love to try it again.

Sampled on July 9, 2016. Purchased at Rocket Fizz on Capital Hill for $6.99 (22 ounce bottle)