Now, I am used to Australian things leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
As an avid Formula 1 fan, I am getting pretty sick of Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo failing to finish races due to mechanical failures. Him withdrawing from the latest race in Mexico while running second was the most disheartening part of the season.
But the bad feeling of seeing his Red Bull car puffing smoke pales in comparison to the Australian product currently sitting on the shelves of the Herd Shop.
Bundaberg Root Beer is an Australian family owned brand. And let’s get one thing sorted out straight away; it is not a root beer.
But starting from the beginning, these stubby 12.7-ounce bottles are nearly impossible to open cleanly. Instead of a normal screw off cap, Bundaberg decided to have a pull-tab cap, and in two tries, I have failed to open it without making a mess.
Once the mess is cleaned up, something is different with this “root beer,” and it starts with the smell.
Root beer? No, it smells like a bad red wine.
Taste often follows smell, and that still rings true here. While most root beers often feature some combination of honey, vanilla and/or caramel, Bundaberg has none of those in the list of ingredients.
Instead, the third ingredient is “root beer brew.” In that brew, there are such ingredients as ginger root, sarsaparilla root and licorice root extract.
The combination of those three leads to a taste that can best be described as a nonalcoholic red wine.
Oddly enough, nonalcoholic appears on the label. How Australian it is to clarify.
It is important to understand just how much Australians like their alcoholic beverages. Sticking with the auto racing, police had to ban the amount of alcohol fans brought into the Bathurst 1000. The limit was 30 cans of mid-strength beer per person.
To get around the limit, some fans apparently went into the track the week before and buried more drinks.
When it comes to Bundaberg, I feel like alcohol would be a great addition to this drink. That is not to say that the drink needs to be forgotten, which it does. Rather, a spiked version, when poured into a dark glass, could easily pass as a bad red wine.
The fruity taste is perplexing for someone expecting a true root beer. From the first moment the drink hits the tongue to the last moment it leaves your throat, fruity is the best way to describe it. The licorice root extract seems to be the dominating force.
On the positive side, the bottle is a fun change from American sodas. It is unique and just looks pretty cool.
It also says invert bottle before opening. I am not sure if that is a joke or a recommendation, either way it is a nice touch.
But that is about as much positive I can say about this option. When it comes to calling this a root beer, it feels like calling Dr Pepper a cola. It seems to be a stretch.
At the end of the day, the Bundaberg is yet another option in the Herd Shop’s root beer arsenal. Comparing it to a baseball pitcher, A&W and Barq’s remain the fastball and Dad’s is the changeup. Bundaberg is the dirty slider that does not come as expected.