History: Rocky’s Ginger Beer is so cute, you almost don’t want to drink it. Sitting there in it’s little stubby 12oz., clear plastic bottle and gold cap, I wonder when I grab it by its chubby little sides if it’ll giggle at me, “hehe!” But I promise, it doesn’t. This isn’t the beginning of some weird, erotic soda fan-fiction novel. Sorry to those of you we let down. Rocky’s is a relatively new company that markets itself as a lower calorie ginger beer that is both crisper in taste and cheaper in price than some of its more mass-produced competitors like Gosling’s or Barritt’s. The ginger beer was created in September of 2015 and named after the devilishly handsome Chicago beverage veteran Rocky Mosele. Seriously, I have no affiliation with Mr. Mosele and I am a heterosexual man, but I’d put a poster of him in my bathroom. The company certainly affiliates its ginger beer more with the craft cocktail scene than craft soda, but it does contain many signature craft soda traits. For starters, it’s made with pure cane sugar and high-quality ingredients like natural ginger extract, triple-filtered water, and is void of food coloring. The last part is what makes Rocky’s Ginger Beer stand out for me. It’s clear instead of hazy or a tint of pale yellow like most ginger beers. Pour it in a glass over ice and you can’t tell it apart from tonic water or Sprite. Beyond the above information, we don’t know a whole lot about Rocky’s Ginger Beer. When reached for comment about this review, Rocky’s did not return our emails.
Where to get: You can purchase Rocky’s Ginger Beer online via the company’s sister website Caffeinated Club or Amazon. It’s also widely available throughout the Chicago area.
Nose: Ginger candies; peppers. Reminds me of those bite-size, sugar-coated ginger gummy candies.
Taste: Ginger; cinnamon; peppery notes. You taste the ginger right away, and it’s accompanied by another interesting flavor you don’t find in ginger beers often: cinnamon. Ginger and cinnamon dominates the first half of each sip, while the back half is a more peppery ginger. This isn’t particularly spicy. Maybe a 4/10 or 5/10 on the heat scale. Rocky’s Ginger Beer also possesses a large amount of carbonation when compared to other ginger beers. The cinnamon influence is a little jarring when paired with the ginger. The peppery notes near the end of the sip taste familiar, but a little too similar to the cinnamon to provide much in the way of contrast. Also, the flavor drops out of the sip very quickly instead of taking residence on the tongue. Slightly unconventional with lots of fizz and conflicting cinnamon and pepper tasting notes.
Finish: Mild ginger and sugar that don’t last long.
Rating: Rocky’s Ginger Beer seems like something that is aiming to be a direct competitor to brands like Gosling’s and Barritts. Both are common ginger beers you can find in most liquor stores. And while you might see them often on the shelves, they don’t really stand out. I’m afraid the same can be said about Rocky’s Ginger Beer. The intense carbonation, mild spice, and high sugar content make this taste more like a ginger-flavored soda rather than a ginger beer. What makes most ginger beers taste great is the fermentation process. It gives the beverages an extra kick. Sometimes it’s a tartness, sometimes it’s even kind of a skunky taste like you find in certain beers. It’s one of those things where you know it when you taste it. It’s not a one-fits-all flavor. I don’t taste that process here. While Rocky’s Ginger Beer may be made with pure cane sugar, it tastes a little artificial when compared with all of the other wonderful ginger beers out there. I think this could do well with bartenders for creating interesting vodka or gin cocktails that simply have the novelty of containing ginger beer. The best asset of Rocky’s Ginger Beer may indeed be that it’s interesting to look at because it’s clear. Make of that what you will, but I didn’t open this bottle to just look at it. The bottom line here is that the flavors just aren’t strong enough to encourage repeat drinking. I think the ginger-cinnamon flavor you taste near the beginning is interesting, but the peppery finish is too similar to that combo. With ginger beer being the current hottest flavor in soda, it’s inevitable that some brands will swing and miss. How many strikes will you give Rocky’s is the question you have to ask yourself.