Friday, January 25, 2008

Taste Tests: Ginger Beers, Part II

I know you've been waiting with bated breath for the results of our ginger beer taste comparisons, and I don't want to make you wait any longer. Here are our rankings, along with our tasting notes for all the products we tried (both alone and in Moscow Mules, it was interesting to see how our opinions changed!):

Our Overall Ratings:

Best: Bundaberg - all around, the best performer both on its own and in mixed drinks. Consistently ranked in the top two. Plus, we like that its actually fermented.
Second: Cock 'n Bull - the "original" for Moscow Mules was one that we preferred for mixing, even though we didn't like it as much on its own (but who drinks it that way anyway)
Third: Fentimans - the most unusual (in a good way) of the bunch, with less sweetness and more rich spice, with a genuine-tasting flavor

We did not care at all for the Reed's Original or the D&G's Old Jamaican. The Barritt's was certainly acceptable, but not our preferred choice if we have one, and the Ginger People version seemed somewhat limited in its application. Although we used it at our event, we probably wouldn't choose the Sioux City again, unless someone asked for it.

Tasting Notes on their Own:
  • Cock 'n Bull - clear in color, sweet, relatively light, with a bit of ginger tang/spice. Very bubbly, like a soft drink ought to be.
  • Ginger People - very gingery, not really spicy though, sweet and lightly carbonated, with caramel notes. It was a very light yellow/tan color.
  • D&G Old Jamaican - Very bubbly, sweet, with ginger tang and heat. Dominant lemon/citrus notes, but with a less genuine flavor than the other two above.
  • Reed's - Dominant honey smell and taste. Had ginger and spice notes, but the honey dominated the flavor. It was sweet, with medium carbonation.
  • Bundaberg - Nice ginger flavor, with a bit of tang - more ginger than Cock 'n Bull. Sweet with medium carbonation.
  • Fentimans - Spicy, a blend of ginger and other spices (we could smell the juniper). Left a bit of heat in the back of my throat. Less sweet, well carbonated.
  • Barritt's - Gingery, with a tiny bit of tang. Sweet, with a bit more flavor overall than Cock 'n Bull, although very similar to the Cock 'n Bull.
  • Sioux City - darkest in color (colorings are added). Spicy, in a nondescript kind of way, with a nice ginger nose. A hint of heat, but very soda-like.
Tasting Notes in a Moscow Mule:
  • Cock 'n Bull - a light, refreshing version of the drink, with moderate sweetness and light ginger. Well balanced.
  • Ginger People - I liked it better with the lime, and would use a lot of lime with this ginger beer. My other half did not like it and thought it conflicted with the lime. The ginger is a true ginger flavor, and it lingers on the finish.
  • D&G Old Jamaican - Overbearing, overwhelmed the drink, with an artificial taste. The citrus notes dominated, with nondescript spice in the finish.
  • Reed's - Neither of us liked this one for this drink. The honey flavors dominated, and it didn't really work in the drink at all.
  • Bundaberg - Nice balance of ginger flavor, with a bit of tang - more character than Cock 'n Bull, but seemed a tad sweeter.
  • Fentimans - Had the most character & spice, and was less sweet than the others. One of us loved that peppery spice, while the other of us merely liked it.
  • Barritt's - Light ginger, very bubbly. It was well balanced and had ginger and spice flavors, but seemed rather average.
  • Sioux City - One of us thought it was boring, and that the alcohol came through over the beer (despite my rigor in pouring it exactly the same way 8 times). One of us thought it was spicy in a nondescript way, but too much like cola.
So there you have it. I'm glad I got that 4-pack of Bundaberg, I might have go back for more!


Blair, aka Trader Tiki said...

I've long been a fan of Cock 'n Bull, and still am, but was just recently turned on to Bundaberg, which is apparently available at a local Cost Plus World Market!

I played around with Barritts after it was recommend by an in-the-know friend of mine, but wasn't pleased... too sugary.

Of course, there's always making your own as well! I've got a ginger bug sitting in the kitchen, just waiting for when I have some time!

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Blair! I found the Bundaberg at my local Cost Plus, so hopefully you will also. I haven't taken on making my own, but from what I gather you can get a great one that way. Please let me know how it turns out (or post it on your blog!).

abe said...

Nice post, that was a solid ginger tasting you had. Recently a few friends and I completed a very similar tasting with 15 ginger beers. Our results were similar to yours with Bundaberg and Cock N Bull coming out at the top.

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks Abe, looks like you had a fun tasting too - glad our results came out the same! I just had the Maine ginger beer recently, but haven't put it up against any of the others yet. I expect my results will be similar to yours.

Star Taylor said...

Where did you find Bundaberg??
I was recently in Australia and tried Bundaberg for the first time and it's pretty popular there. I was quite sad to come back to the states and see how difficult it is to find.
Which is why I'm on your blog... Trying to find a replacement until I go back to Oz.

~Sonja~ said...

At that time, and for awhile after, I found the Bundaberg at Cost Plus World Market. Mine has closed down, unfortunately, so I didn't see it for awhile. I did, however, just find some literally last weekend. If you are in the Chicago area, there's a store called America's Market in Buffalo Grove that carries all kinds of crazy sodas, including both the Bundaberg ginger beer and their root beer, even. I also found a few more to add to the comparison, so expect an update soon!

Good luck finding it!