History: The Caruso’s are fourth-generation brewers of root beer. That should tell you a lot. Today, it’s Pete Caruso who runs the family business. But it was his grandfather who started it all when he purchased the Black Bear bottling plant in Milwaukee, Wiconsin in 1961. Root beer was the drink that started it all for them. Back then it didn’t have a fancy name; it was just grandpa’s root beer. Well, grandpa’s root beer hasn’t changed recipes since 1978. All of its ingredients are sourced from Wisconsin. If that doesn’t tickle your little craft soda purest heart, then I dunno about you. Robusto Root Beer was designed to be bold up front and mellow on the finish. It continues to be the company’s flagship beverage. Out of Old Creek, Wisconsin, Caruso’s Legacy is a brand underneath the WIT Beverage umbrella, a company that also houses familiar craft soda names like Jelly Belly and Green River. Root beer is one of five soda flavors the Caruso’s produce.
Where to get: Caruso’s Legacy is primarily sold regionally throughout the northern Midwest. If it isn’t available in your area, the company encourages you to contact them directly to figure out the best way to fill an order.
Nose: Earthy; classic root beer; root bark; light vanilla.
Taste: Earthy bite up front followed by a more mellow, traditional root beer flavor. Upon each sip, the tongue is greeted with a bold root beer bite that makes itself known before anything else. There’s a little bit of a minty note there as well, more akin to birch beers than root beers, but it’s definitely there. In fact, I’d say just a smidge too much mint on the initial mouth feel. The flavor up front is potent, but certainly drinkable and pleasant. Next, the earthy root bark profile very slowly begins to fade into a more subtle version of itself. If you want to get the full range of flavors, take your time in between sips. This root beer needs some spacing to let the subtleties come though. The backend of Robusto Root Beer glides down the tongue smoothly with light creaminess and very faint vanilla. This tastes a little bit like A&W, but infused with bolder flavors and not as foamy. The soft creamy mouth feel here really lets the flavors come through more than other root beers that drown them in vanilla. The use of sugar in this is impeccable. It’s there, but you don’t really notice it; it’s more of a companion to the flavor profiles the company is trying to get across.
Finish: Root bark, sassafras, light creamy vanilla. The finish is consistent every sip.
Rating: This is a traditional root beer done well. There’s a reason this recipe has stayed the exact same since 1961. It works. This is a good root beer to introduce your buddies to who think your craft soda habit is weird. It’s a classic, but with kicked up, better flavors. The wintergreen up front does distract a little bit on the initial taste, but doesn’t linger long enough to discourage you from drinking. This is a soda for any occasion, any season and any partaker of beverages. If what you seek in a root beer is extreme creamy taste and lots of vanilla, you won’t find that here. This roots itself (get it?) in more natural-tasting, earthy flavors. I taste root bark, sassafras, wintergreen, birch oil and cane sugar the most. No one flavor overpowers the other, but they do take time to make themselves aware to your taste buds. So, like my ex-wife used to say, be patient. This has staying power. Throw a mug in the freezer and pour one out. Get robust.