History: “It was always his dream to do a bottled root beer,” Glen Schott says of his father. And it was Schott’s father, Jack Pettigrew, who started Imperial Flavors back in 1964. To this day, the Wisconsin-based company is still a family business. Imperial Flavors has two functions: making juice concentrates to be sold to bars and restaurants throughout Wisconsin, and of course, making soda. The story goes something like this… Pettigrew had an old A&W-like root beer formula from many, many years ago. After making his own tweaks, upon having others try it, their response was “Dang! That’s good.” And the rest is history. History in your mouth. The company produces four different flavors (six if you count diet versions), but they’re most famous for their butterscotch root beer. Schott, who is the general manager of Imperial Flavors, estimates the butterscotch root beer outsells all of their other sodas by a margin of three-to-one. It was partly inspired by Werther’s Original butterscotch candies. Imperial Flavors comes up with their own soda formulas and they source as many local ingredients as possible. Cane sugar is perhaps the most important. Schott adds, “You have to use cane sugar to get that old fashioned flavor.” Even their methods are old fashioned. Members of the company will often take home products and give them to relatives, friends and neighbors to taste test. And if that doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies, then I don’t know if we can be friends.
Where to get: Dang! That’s Good sodas are nationally distributed. Online, Amazon and Soda Emporium are your sources. You can also find them at most Rocketfizz craft soda and candy retailers. Cost Plus World Market is another familiar retailer where their products are sold.
Nose: Werther’s Original candies; creamy vanilla; sugary, earthy tones.
Taste: Creamy butterscotch; vanilla; mild carbonation; cane sugar. This is definitely more butterscotch than root beer. It’s sweet, but the butterscotch flavor is incredibly smooth. It glides across the palate like a creamy tidal wave of melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Dang! That’s Good Butterscotch Root Beer is almost like a candy root beer, really emphasizing the sweet butterscotch flavors as opposed to earthier sassafras and licorice found in more traditional root beers. This will be too sweet for some. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing some added earthy notes in addition to the sweetness. But this really nails the butterscotch flavor, while weaving in a nice creamy vanilla body to compliment it. There’s also some caramel undertones. The carbonation is crisp, but light and helps cut a little bit of that sweetness. Extremely drinkable and pleasant.
Finish: Deep, rich notes of toffee that fade into smooth vanilla across the tongue and into the back of the throat. The sensation is pleasant and lingers for a few seconds.
Rating: Butterscotch is a hard flavor to accurately portray as a liquid, but Dang! That’s Good Butterscotch Root Beer not only pleases the taste buds with its signature flavor; it simultaneously mixes in creamy vanilla, and sweet cream caramel flavors. It’s a wonderfully done alternative root beer. And we’re pro alternative root beer rights. Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re weird. I could keep this joke going, but it’d eventually end up with people picketing outside my house. Back to the bottle. This is a sweet root beer. It’ll be too much for some people. If you enjoy sweeter sodas or root beers, this is a must-try. Imperial Beverages should be commended for nailing a tough flavor from which many shy away. Butterscotch as a flavor is ripe for a renaissance, much like maple has enjoyed the past couple years. Dang! That’s Good may be the reason other bottlers don’t even make an attempt. If you can’t beat the best… uh, do something else I guess? This is an original that’s quickly becoming a craft soda classic. Try it before others start flooding the market. This should go in your regular rotation. Excellent.