History: You wouldn’t expect an artisanal soda to come from a city where the only modern convenience is a gas station. Welcome to Amana, Iowa. Amana is part of the Amana Colonies, one of seven villages in a 26,000 acre farmland area. There’s no McDonald’s, no Wal-Mart. “If you walk down main street, you go back 150 years in time,” says Millstream Brewing co-owner Teresa Albert. It’s a town of rich German heritage. So it’s no surprise that despite the lack of basic human necessities… there’s beer. And where there’s beer, there’s almost always root beer. The brewery opened in 1985 and ten years later Millstream introduced their root beer. They’re especially proud of the prominent vanilla flavor they infuse it with and how creamy they’ve tried to make it. Albert says confidently, “Our sodas are just like our beers. We’re not willing to compromise.” Like many, Millstream Brewing wants to take their customers back to the old days with their root beer. Yet unlike most, Millstream Brewing literally still lives in the old days. A town of 1,200 where you can’t even get a Crunch Wrap Supreme. For the longevity of your insides, I wouldn’t advise that anyway, but still. Get ready for a mug of German root beer nostalgia, a dose of old glory the brewery designed to stay with you. “So many sodas are on your tongue and gone, and this one just lingers. It’s the love we put in every batch.”
Where to get: Millstream Brewing’s Root Beer is distributed throughout Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois. I know this means nothing to you, but I wouldn’t be doing my journalistic duty if I didn’t tell you. Millstream’s root beer can be ordered online through John’s Grocery. Trust us, it’s legit.
Nose: Classic root beer float; soft vanilla; faint anise.
Taste: Vanilla; light but crisp bite; mild; earthy mint; cream. On the initial sip, this is phenomenal. You’re greeted with a classic root beer taste with bold, creamy vanilla. This is an especially smooth root beer. The bubbles in Millstream Brewing’s Root Beer are very light, yet wonderfully accentuate the vanilla notes while also providing a mild, crisp earthy bite. The mint taste in this is very mild, which will likely please a majority of soda drinkers, but could disappoint hardcore root beer purists. Creaminess coats the tongue with each sip, though there’s just a little too much of a syrup taste on some sips. But make no mistake, the vanilla combined with the refreshing bite of sassafras bark flavors make this extremely easy drinking.
Finish: Creamy vanilla that lingers on the back of the tongue, increasing in strength briefly before fading. Mostly vanilla here with a pinch of licorice and anise. Vanilla is what you’ll notice.
Rating: Dangerously drinkable. There’s a 173 calories in each bottle, and one bottle probably won’t be enough. So put some sweat pants on before you lose your dignity in a six-pack of this stuff. One of the smoothest root beers on the market. Pretty impressive coming from a village devoid of most basic human needs besides a gas station. The vanilla in this is very nice and perfectly compliments the mild earthy undertones throughout the body of each sip. Despite our initial expectations, this isn’t what I’d consider an especially creamy root beer. There’s a difference between a rich vanilla flavor profile and creaminess. Millstream does a really nice job of capturing the former and pairing it with complimenting flavors like anise, sassafras and very light wintergreen. Every once in a while, you’re left with a syrupy taste, but it doesn’t linger. Honestly, this is just nitpicking. Here’s what you need to know: this is good and you should drink it. It’s one of those sodas I don’t mind telling you to enjoy quickly because it goes down so smoothly. This will take you back to childhood when mom was making root beer floats, but you’d sneak a few sips before the ice cream made it in the glass. And if that doesn’t ring a bell, I’ll pray for you that adulthood turns out better. Old time root beer. Big time flavor.