History: Gale Gand is an acclaimed pastry chef. From writing books, teaching classes, developing products, filming television and running restaurants, Gale Gand has done it all in the world of food and beverage. But Gand has a liquid passion. “I can’t live without root beer,” she says cheerfully over the phone. Her love for the king of craft soda was tested years ago cooking in England where root beer was scarce. In her three years across the pond, the only place to find her favorite soda was in McDonald’s. But she and her chefs weren’t allowed to be seen in a McDonald’s, so they’d have to sneak people a pound to go buy them root beer as if it was some sort of black market treasure. A couple neighborhoods over from me, I often see people doing the same thing. They don’t sneak out with root beer though. As if to supplement her craving, while in England, Gand bought a Terrier and named it Rootie. After returning to America, Gand set out to make her own root beer, containing cold-pressed Nielsen-Massey Vanilla. The vanilla may be the most premium ingredient in the root beer, but its most defining element is likely the cinnamon. Gand makes a cinnamon-ginger infusion and then her bottler finishes it off with vanilla and cane sugar. About 50,000 bottles of Gale’s Root Beer are produced every year. Rootie appears on the bottle’s label.
Where to get: Gale’s Root Beer is available from a number of online retailers and the chef’s website has aggregated them all into a nice, single page. It’s also sold at Gand’s Chicago restaurant Spritzburger, home to fine burgers and homemade sodas.
Nose: Mild root beer; mint; light vanilla.
Taste: Vanilla; mild mint; cinnamon. This is a little harder to place than most root beers. Everything in this is relatively mild. There’s some mild spice to this that I’m identifying as ginger, but it doesn’t have a spicy bite. This isn’t creamy like a root beer rich in vanilla, but it also doesn’t have a crisp bite, like earthier root beers. Vanilla and cinnamon are probably the strongest flavors you’ll taste, but the two tastes really meld together to not overpower the other. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing either the vanilla or cinnamon be more pronounced in the flavor profile. It’s very easy drinking, but the individual flavors are not bold on their own.
Finish: Light carbonation with some ginger earthiness. The ginger is most evident on the finish, probably the most prominent of any flavor at any point of the sip.
History: This is a root beer that should appeal to a wide audience for its drinkability and lack of bite. This does very well with a few ice cubes and you’d have no problem drinking it quickly. But for so many craft soda enthusiasts, strong flavors are desired in every bottle. This is a root beer marketed as “cinnamon, ginger, vanilla flavored,” yet none of these flavors really jump out at you individually. Yet, you can certainly taste all three flavors. The ginger provides a mild earthiness and is strongest at the end of each sip. The cinnamon and vanilla work together in supporting roles, but both could stand to have the volume turned up. I can certainly see how fans of root beer would like this for variety’s sake. Gale’s Root Beer is something kids would also likely enjoy for how mild it is compared to some spicier root beers. I personally need a little more complexity when it comes to the granddaddy of craft sodas, but this is a root beer with a wide reach and for Chef Gand, that’s an accomplishment.