A public service is any service rendered for the greater good of the public interest. And in that spirit 2 Out of Three, in association with the Best Cabin ever, held it’s first ever ginger beer tasting on March 21 in South Lake Tahoe. The mission was to establish a pecking order for ginger beers, specifically in the mixation of a Dark ‘n Stormy. The blue ribbon panel consisted of veteran Dark ‘n Stormy tasters, including, but not limited to William Lavery, Robert “Frodo” Sostak, Bea Leung and yours truly.
Normally we frown on rules at 2 Out of Three but as this tasting was for the greater good and to avoid the unpleasantries of an inebreated judging panel it was prudent to apply a bit of structure. 15 ginger beers were divided into five groupings. Within each grouping the judges did a solo sampling and then mixed up a Dark N’ Stormy to determine if any new flavor notes would be revealed when combined with the drink’s other ingredients – Goslings Dark Rum and lime. The judges then scored the ginger beer on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being utter crap that hereupon will never meet your lips again and 10 being proof that God does exist and he/she loves us). The scores were then averaged to attain an overall rating for each ginger beer. In order to uphold the storied tradition established on the beaches and boat decks of Bermuda the below key and results should be consulted before picking the ginger that’s right for your Dark ‘n Stormy.
- Score 8-10: Buy it, steal it, do whatever you can because this ginger is worth your hard earned dollars or the prison time.
- Score 6-7: Solid ginger beer. Can be whipped into a decent Dark ‘n Stormy
- Score 5: In a pinch these slightly underwhelming gingers will do the trick
- 4 and under: Stay away, far away from these. Our expert panel has done the leg work so you don’t have to suffer.
Cock ‘n Bull
(score 8.43) (final rank 3 of 15)
Already an establish favorite of our judging crew Cock ‘n Bull can be found in most San Francisco bars that serve a D ‘n S (noteably Hobson’s Choice and Bruno’s). Tasting notes included a stronger ginger scent than taste, a clear appearance and a low spiciness score (1). Cock ‘n Bull has a brisk start and a smooth finish and when mixed into a D ‘n S our tasters all agreed “it was like coming home”. In the final assessment Cock ‘n Bull is a top performer and should be stocked in any self respecting D ‘n S’ers fridge.
(score 5.29) (final rank 10 of 15)
A late edition to the lineup I was really excited to try this unheard of variety. Billed as “Aussie style” (a “Yank” style, which we have yet to sample, does exists) Buderim comes strong with the ginger flavor upon first taste and then lingers with a medium hit of spice (a 4 on the spice scale). It’s golden color takes away from the storm clouds provided by the application of Goslings. Overall our judges were disappointed in the Buderim describing the mixed cocktail as muddled with the ginger being overpowered by the rum and lime.
(score 7.86) (final rank 5 of 15)
After carrying back two bottles of the Maine Root from New Mexico I was fired up to give it a try. Subsequently I’ve spotted the Maine Root at both a Cost Plus World Market in Fairfield, CA and the Whole Foods in Santa Cruz, CA. A fresca like color hides a solid kick of spice (5) in the Maine Root. The spice intensifies as it lingers in your mouth, possibly because of it’s slightly syrupy texture. It’s flavor is more unique than most gingers and worth a sampling. Due to it’s spiciness you won’t be able to put down glass after glass of a D ‘n S made with this stuff but that can sometimes be a good thing.
(score 0.4) (final rank 15 of 15)
It don’t look like ginger beer, it don’t taste like ginger beer, in fact it’s a malt drink that just happened to have the ginger flavor. In the interest of science we ended up tasting the Vita Malt and mixing it into a D ‘n S which was a mistake. Molasses is a decent enough flavor, but I just don’t ever want to see it anywhere near dark rum and a lime.
(score 9) (final rank 1 of 15)
In Australia, where Bunderberg is made, the company makes a pre-mixed Dark ‘n Stormy stubby so we were pretty sure these guys knew how to craft a fine ginger beer. Our judging panel found very few faults with the Bunderberg, declaring it a “great dance partner”. One judge went so far as to exclaim “I would drink the shit out of that!”. It has a clear yellow look and sits very light inside your mouth. Lacking the spicy kick found in some of the other gingers it’s very refreshing and sweet – making you want to go back for another sip before you’ve finished the last one. Whether it’s a hot summer day on the porch, or the snow is blanketing your driveway, Bunderberg makes one hell of a D’ n S and is the gold standard for ginger beers.
(score 5.29) (final rank 10 of 15)
Bite baby bite, that burning sensation in the back of your throat is just the way Stewart’s says hello. As an 8 on the spicy scale you’ll progressively take fewer sips of this ginger beer as you’ll be forced to wait for your mouth to cool off. The excessive spice also found it’s way into a few of our judge’s noses due to a high level of carbonation. It’s deep golden brown color obscured all storm cloud visibility during the mixing of a D ‘n S. Once mixed, the rum and lime flavors are almost completely drowned out leaving a less than refreshing D ‘n S. Stewart’s ginger beer scored just above the Mendoza line meaning it’s an acceptable mixer for a D n S, but you won’t see me rushing out to pick up a case.
The Ginger Peoples
(score 2.33) (final rank 12 of 15)
“Gently tip to and fro and enjoy” is a tag line on the bottle of the Ginger Peoples and it had our judges feeling whimsical and ready to pop open this drink. You can tell the makers are serious about ginger, after all they named their entire company after it. At first pour you’ll notice a cloudy almost grapefruit looking appearance, as well as the strong scent of ginger. Unfortunately after the pour everything went downhill. Being called the “Mountain Dew of ginger beers” or noticing a “hint of a metallic” flavor were not meant as compliments by our judges. High expectations can sometimes be blamed for low scores but that is not the case here, this ginger beer just flat out sucks.
A few images from the tasting
We were able to acquire almost all available ginger beers our judging panel had knowledge of, with the exception of Barritt’s. If anyone out there knows where to purchase Barritt’s in the San Francisco Bay Area please let us know.
*Update: The good people at Barritt’s were nice enough to ship us a case which we reviewed in out 2010 tasting. You can stock up on Barritt’s and support this site by purchasing a couple of 4 packs on Amazon.