Soda Review: Which is the Best Root Beer?

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 13, 2008 · 146 comments

in Soda Reviews

In celebration of the Art of Manliness’ love for the finely crafted, independently made soda, today we begin a series of soda reviews . We’ll help you on your way to becoming a soda connoisseur by placing all of your favorite flavors in head to head competitions to see which soda rises to the top. Let the best fizzy beverage win.

All the sodas we will review are made with pure cane sugar or another natural sweetener, since as you know, sodas made with high fructose corn syrup constitute soda sacrilege and aren’t worth the flimsy can they come in. Most of the sodas will also be from independent bottlers.

Today we are having a showdown between various varieties of our favorite brew, root beer.

The history of root beer goes all the way back to colonial times. America’s early settlers would create brews from various herbs, roots, and barks including wintergreen, birch bark, vanilla beans, and ginger. The boiling and fermentation of these concoctions helped kill any floaters in the water that might have made the colonists sick and imbued these “beers” with a 2-10% alcohol content. But it was Charles Hires who brought the deliciousness of root beer to the masses. Mixing up an irresistible concoction of various herbs, roots, berries, and spices, Hires introduced root beer to the public at the 1876 Centennial Convention. Calling it the “The Temperance Drink,” he touted it as “the greatest health giving beverage in the world.” Despite these claims, the temperance advocates were suspicious of a beverage named “root beer.” Hires had to perform a laboratory test to prove his new drink had no more alcohol than a loaf of bread. Root beer then really caught on during Prohibition as an alternative to imbibing booze.
While root beer has forever been the red-headed stepchild to big brother cola, it’s always been at the top of my list. There’s nothing like a hot pizza and a cold root beer in a frosty mug.

Berghoff

Made in: Chicago

The bottle says: “Famous Root Beer” and “Draft Style”

OG? Since 1891

Our review: Our least favorite brew. Rather bland and limp in flavor. A little too sweet, a little too fizzy. Blah.

The AoM Verdict:

(out of four bottle caps)

Mason’s

Made in: Atlanta, GA

The bottle says: “Keg Brewed Flavor”

OG? Nope

Our review: Mason’s had a nice fizz level. But the root beer flavor was too mild and not distinct. A little too sweet. An interesting nutmeg-y accent. Goes down pretty smooth.

The AoM verdict:

Journey’s John Barleycorn

Made in: Putney, VT

The bottle says: “A diverse collection of root bark tea and root brew recipes is the source for Journey’s Historic Brews. Native Americans shared intense aromatic root tea with conquistadores in the 1500′s. Since then, the Anglos, Germans, Scandinavians and Americans have blended and brewed an estimated 60 root beer types over the last five centuries. John Barleycorn brings back Scottish and Irish American root beer traditions. Heady malted barley creates a smooth taste and sweet aroma.”

OG? Started in the 1970s.

Our review: Journey’s John Barleycorn soda bills itself as “Nutty Malty Foamy,” and it is certainly all three. Unfortunately, although the bottle and concept are quite interesting, and though we were prepared to love anything coming from the state of Vermont, the flavor just didn’t deliver. The brew is very dark and the flavor is unique, but it’s simply not very root beery or pleasant. Strange herbal accents doomed this brew.

The AoM verdict:

Capt’n Eli’s

Made in: Portland, ME

The bottle says: Nada

OG? Nope

Our review: Just the right sweetness and a really smooth flavor. Strong wintergreen flavor, almost medicinal really, but not to the point of being unpleasant.

The AoM verdict:

Boylan’s

Made in: Moonachie, NJ

The bottle says: Nada

OG? Since 1891

Our review: A fruity tasting brew with strong hints of sassafras. Not too sweet. Has a very pleasant aftertaste.

The AoM verdict:

Americana Microcrafted Root Beer

Made in: Redmond Washington

OG? Nope.

The bottle says:

“The era of soda poppery began in the early 1900s. Early soft drinks, or tonics as they were called, were available in a wide variety of flavors. Sassafras root bark created the classic American flavor we have come to know as Root Beer. Americana Cream Style is produced in true micro fashion, only 600 gallons at a time. Our extracts are carefully blended with pure cane sugar to produce a rich creamy flavor made in the tradition of those old times sodas.”

Our review:

Our hands down favorite and not just because of the vintagey-looking label. Americana has the traditional root beer taste you’re looking for in a brew. The flavor is full and robust. It labels itself as “cream style” and there’s definitely a cream soda undertone. Wintergreen flavor invigorates the tongue; hints of sassafras and licorice are subtle and add to a nice, complex flavor.

The AoM Verdict:

Editor’s note: While not available at the time of this testing, we later got a hold of Virgil’s root beer, and it easily beat every entry in this test. It’s the best root beer out there, hands down.

Got a beef with our ratings? Did we forget a root beer that you think deserves being reviewed? Drop a line in the comment box.

{ 146 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tig September 13, 2008 at 7:40 am

Gentleman,
These are good choices of root beers, but I know of one that failed to make your list. Henry Weinhard’s Root Beer is, in my humble opinion, the best root beer made today. Unfortunately, I can not find a link for their homepage, however if you search for the name, you can find plenty of places to order from. Worth giving a try, I would like to see how you all rank it against the rest of your selections.
Best of luck,
Tig

2 Jeff Craig September 13, 2008 at 7:45 am

Interesting post, and I’m going to be interested in following it, I’ve been moving towards reducing sharply the amount of processed food, and especially HFCS, from my diet, so I look forward to this.

> All the sodas we will review are made with pure cane sugar or another
> natural sweetener, since as you know, sodas made with high fructose
> corn syrup constitutes soda sacrilege and aren’t worth the flimsy can
> they come in. Most of the sodas will also be from independent bottlers.

The Food and Drug Administration, has recently (July) decided that High Fructose Corn Syrup legally fits the definition of a ‘natural sweetner’.

http://www.foodproductdesign.com/hotnews/fda-says-hfcs-is-natural.html

Regrettably, this is a reversal from a position stated in April.

http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/HFCS-is-not-natural-says-FDA

This is highly regrettable for both health and flavor reasons, but it does give that much more reason to seek out independent vendors who still have pride in their product. Quality costs, but it’s so worth it.

3 Mike September 13, 2008 at 8:11 am

I second Henry Weinhard’s, and it is available at safeway (or was). I can’t find their root beer, but their web site is http://www.henryweinhards.com/ and if you look at their wikipedia page, you will see the soda’s they make.

4 Brian September 13, 2008 at 8:28 am

I go back and forth between Weinhard’s and Bulldog rootbeer (http://www.bulldogrootbeer.com/) which is available at most Cost Plus World Market’s.

5 Shadoglare September 13, 2008 at 8:48 am

Can’t say I’ve ever seen any of these being sold around here, even the Berghoff, and I live less than two hours from Chicago :(
I’ve tried Jones root beer, which was pretty blah actually, regardless of the cane sugar.

So far my favorite (pretty good but I’m still looking for something better) is probably Roundhouse Rootbeer, another Chicagoland brew which I did a short review of back in June on my blog if anyone is interested in checking it out.

By the way, I must have missed something somewhere – what does “OG” mean?

6 Brett September 13, 2008 at 9:14 am

@Shadoglare-

“OG” is slang for “original gangster.” People use it humorously to mean something really old, the first generation of something. I’m basically using it here to mean-”Does it have a long history?”

7 Jeff September 13, 2008 at 10:07 am

You should give Abita Root Beer a try. You’d probably have to go to New Orleans to find it in a store, but it looks like you can order it here: http://www.popsoda.com/abitarootbeer.html

8 Hussey September 13, 2008 at 10:21 am

The era of soda poppery began in the early 1900s. Early soft drinks, or tonics as they were called, were available in a wide variety of flavors. Sassafras root bark created the classic American flavor we have come to know as Root Beer. Americana Cream Style is produced in true micro fashion, only 600 gallons at a time. Our extracts are carefully blended with pure cane sugar to produce a rich creamy flavor made in the tradition of those old times sodas.

9 Steve September 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

Relatively easy to find, Wisconsin-made Sprecher Root Beer tops my list, though the only one that you listed I have tried is Boylan. I was at a family reunion in WI and they had a keg of this stuff – best thing to hit my taste buds in a while!

10 Steven September 13, 2008 at 11:15 am

Where’s Virgil’s? Surely it warrants some consideration.

11 Andrew September 13, 2008 at 11:24 am

Wow, you’ve all forgotten Sparky’s Fresh Draft Root Beer, the 2003 World Beer Champions Gold Medal Winner in the Root Beer category. Pick that stuff up. http://www.sparkysrootbeer.com/

12 Lee September 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm

WHich is the best root beer?

That’s like asking which is the best colonoscopy.

13 Steve September 13, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Agreed with Tig. Henry Weinhard’s is hands down the best root beer I have ever found. I think its mostly only found on the west coast. I have to get it shipped to me in Wisconsin. 2 cases under my bed right now

Also another one that should be considered is 1919 roobeer:
http://www.1919rootbeer.com/1919/

It is only available in Kegs so you won’t find a 6 pack anywhere

14 Phil Gerbyshak September 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Steve’s right: Sprecher is best!

You have a great list of reviews though. Very thorough! Much to think about and try!

15 justin September 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Red Ribbon root beer is microbrewed to perfection, using dry ice to carbonate it giving it a very smooth feel with just enough bite to make it interesting, and a rich flavor to boot. I can’t describe it too accurately, but I definitely trusted the taste of the guy who owned the old soda shop in Los Angeles who recommended it to me.

http://www.sodapopstop.com should have some.

16 StevefromMKE September 13, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I have to agree with the other Steve too…No Sprecher’s?? And if you like cream soda, they’ve got the best too, but that’s another list.

17 Brett September 13, 2008 at 1:27 pm

@Sprecher fans-

Sprecher’s is made with HFCS which disqualified it. Although it also uses honey as a sweetener, so maybe I should give it a pass.

18 evan mathews September 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm

This kinda of a silly article. There’s over 1000 root beers in the US and you haven’t touched close to some of the best one’s. Sprecter and Weinhard’s are great beers. So is Gayle’s out of Chicago, Fitz’s in St. Louis etc. etc.

This article is akin to judging the best Micro breweries without including 90 per cent of the breweries.

You’re asking for a war. Try again.

19 Brett September 13, 2008 at 2:48 pm

@Evan-

It’s not meant to be comprehensive, it’s just for fun. Lighten up man.

Weinhard’s, Sprecher’s, and Gale’s are all made with HFCS and were thus out of the running. Please try again.

20 Valla September 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I don’t know too many of the major root beer brands (outside the really bad, really commercialized ones), but the best I’ve ever tried, hands down, is Virgil’s Root Beer. I’ve only ever found it at Trader Joe’s (yeah yeah…), but if you guys find it at any other normal stores please let me know :)

21 rengal September 13, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Well done! and thank you for not wasting time on the ones sweetened with high frustose corn syrup. No matter how you define it, that sweetener really is garbage, whether you look at it for taste or by its affect on the body.
My children and I are allergic to corn (my husband can eat anything), and I’m really grateful you chose root beers that were sweetened with cane sugar.

~and in regards to the above commenters: although Henry Weinhard’s is tasty, it does have corn syrup in it and other corn derived ingredients in it.

22 Matt S. September 13, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Evan Mathews above mentioned Fitz of St. Louis. Wonderful stuff. Plus, you can see it being bottled while sitting at the counter enjoying lunch or a root beer float. Another good one is made by the same folks who make Saranac beer – they also make a decent root beer.

23 Andrew M. September 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm

I’m also a big fan of Virgil’s. You absolutely MUST try their “special edition Bavarian nutmeg” it is by far the best root beer I’ve ever had. I also like Fitz’s as well and I believe they have locations in Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago.

Great post BTW, I’ll have to find some of those to try for myself

24 Scooter September 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Henry Weinhard tops this list

25 Michael Johnson September 13, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Fine review, I have not had all the beers on the list but am a regular drinker of Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer.

As an aside, if you are interested in some really strong Ginger Beer then taste test the Capt’n Eli’s Ginger Beer. Too strong for me! But an interesting old-fashion taste non-the-less.

26 Matt Goldberg September 13, 2008 at 4:57 pm

I’d be curious to know how these stack up against the the three root beers with the largest market share: A&W, Barq’s, and IBC. I’m not saying these sodas are better or worse; I just want to know how they compare.

27 Jim U. September 13, 2008 at 5:02 pm
28 Zach September 13, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I live about 20 minutes from Redmond, just north of Seattle. Does anybody know a place that sells Americana Root Beer?

29 Mac September 13, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Hey,

Even if it’s disqualified, you’d all be better people for having tried Wisconsin made Sprecher Root Beer. They make it right by my old neighborhood. It’s a classic!

30 Brett September 13, 2008 at 5:22 pm

@Matt-

Yeah, it would have been interesting have thrown them in just for comparison.

We did do a taste test awhile back, putting Dr. Pepper made with HFCS against Dublin Dr. Pepper, still made with cane sugar. We wanted to see if our purist commitment was reasonable or just unfounded snobbery. We gave a blind taste to a bunch of our friends, and only 2 out of 12 people didn’t prefer the cane sugar variety. And the 2 dissenters didn’t have a preference. We filmed the test and we were going to post it on the site but we cut off a bunch of the reactions by accident when filming.

31 CaptBig September 13, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Frostie Root Beer. There is no equal. Originally brewed in Baltimore in the late 30′s, now bottled in Texas and distributed mostly in the Southeast. “Frostie man, Frostie”

32 Rod Homor September 13, 2008 at 6:23 pm

AH, finally a topic I can share my expertise about with your loyal readers, LOL. (I say this after finishing my dinner and root beer…)

Sure, Berghoff’s is a fine CHicago root beer, but heck, I would be remiss if I didn’t educate you about another fine brew: Goose Island Root Beer!

33 Helikaon September 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

I agree with Fitz’s…just grabbed a case in St. Louis (they have a restaurant and you can watch them bottle it). Highly recommended.

34 Nudels September 13, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Virgils:

http://www.virgils.com/about.shtml

It’s definitely worth a taste.

35 Rocco Stanzione September 13, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only commenter saying “what about Virgil’s?” I particularly agree with Andrew M., who calls the special edition Bavarian nutmeg the best root beer he’s ever had. It was $5/bottle at my local specialty grocery store. I don’t usually spend that kind of money on soda, but I had to know what a $5 root beer tasted like, and I was not disappointed. It puts more than enough distance between itself and whatever 2nd place is to warrant the price tag.

36 Brett September 13, 2008 at 10:06 pm

I am duly convinced. I must find me a Virgil’s.

37 David September 14, 2008 at 5:59 am

I have to agree wiht the several fans of Sprecher’s who wrote before me. I have it brought to me from anyone that visits WI (now live in AR but found Sprecher’s while living in WI. Seems like a minor technicality re: the sweetner. It’s still the best I’ve enjoyed.

You also missed several other good WI root beers but perhaps because of the HFCS issue.

38 Fish September 14, 2008 at 8:11 am

I agree you should try Abita root beer

39 Aaron Krug September 14, 2008 at 9:53 am

Adding another one to the long list of Henry Weinhards supporters. A nice review can be found at:

http://www.rootbeerreviews.com/brews/henryweinhard.php

or

http://www.lukecole.com/root%20beer/Luke%27s%20root%20beers%20-%20H%20-%20HenryWeinhard.htm

or

http://www.sodaking.com/product_info.php/products_id/160

or

http://www.bevnet.com/reviews/henry_weinhard/UserReviews_316.asp

In short, many folks out there think this is the best around as far as root beer is concerned.

40 Richard September 14, 2008 at 11:57 am

Brett, you ever try Cheerwine? It has a strong cult following locally. I may be wrong, but I believe it is made with all natural sweeteners.

http://www.cheerwine.com

Contact me at my email and I will send you a bottle if you wish. I would send a glass bottle. Plastic stinks.

41 Beau September 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I’m one of the Henry Weinhard’s root beer fans out there. Hands down, I think that it is the best root beer.

I’ve had some of the brews mentioned in the comments, but none are as good (and readily available) as Weinhard’s.

This was a great read!

42 Chris September 14, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Because nothing says manliness like root beer.

Sodas? Really?

An article on making your own would be more appropriate for this site. Hell an article on making your own beer would be even better.

43 Andy September 14, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I was going to mention virgil’s, but I noticed it had already been said. The root beer was excellent, but their cream soda is probably the best soda of any kind, hands down.

44 Michael September 14, 2008 at 10:41 pm

I’ll add another voice to the Virgil’s choir.
They’re owned by Reeds and have similar distribution. Not everywhere that has one has the other, but that is usually the case. I used to buy Virgil’s at Dodson’s when I lived in Norman.
I’d also recommend trying some of the Reed’s Ginger Brews if you go to get some Virgil’s. They are much less sweet than root beer, and have a very strong ginger taste. Some of their sodas are sweetened with fructose (which I’m pretty sure is from non corn sources) while others are sweetened only with honey and fruit juice.

When you were in Vermont did you try any of the Pop Soda varieties? I liked them quite a bit when I was visiting Vermont.

45 Dan Nelson September 15, 2008 at 7:34 am

Terrific Choices all of them. I have never tried the Americana, I will have to seek it out. I saw a review of your off the shelf variety here:

http://www.jath.com/mt/jathmt/archives/2000/03/root_beer.php?movieToLoad=rootbeerone_100k.swf

46 Zach September 15, 2008 at 8:52 am

I’m a lucky man. I just found out that the distributor for Americana is a couple blocks from where I work. I’m goin’ get my drink on!

47 Denise Montgomery September 15, 2008 at 11:51 am

Anyone know where you can buy any of these? I live in GA and I have NEVER seen Mason’s in ANY store or restaurant in GA!

Would really like to try the Americana Root Beer…I’m headed to Portland, OR in a few days and if there’s any possibility of getting it there…

48 Hasnain September 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm

At first, I was in shock that Virgil’s wasnt mentioned in the reviews. But Virgil’s has a strong support base. When I searched for it by name, I felt at ease that reader’s know good root beer and cream soda! Best I’ve had. Their cream soda is aaah-mazing.

49 Hasnain September 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm

I’d like to know how Virgil’s stacks up to the competition in this review. Would love to know if something tastes better.

50 Brett McKay September 15, 2008 at 1:41 pm

@Hasain-

We couldn’t find any Virgil’s for the review. But we’ll keep our eyes open and if we come across it, we’ll definitely add it in.

51 Lou September 15, 2008 at 1:58 pm

You omitted the best biylans, The CREAMY RED, has hints of avnilla, really nice. If you gave 3 bottle tops to the regular, the red if worth 4 or more.

52 Adrian September 16, 2008 at 7:07 am

This is a great topic for manliness! however, I really think the manliness of root beer is trumped by the machismo of birch beer, and the king daddy of them all sarsaparilla!

53 Cynthia September 16, 2008 at 1:06 pm

I’m not particularly interested in manliness (being quite comfortable in my femininity), but I love root beer. I did a bit of research to see if the root beers might be available online. I claim nothing for these websites except that they came up as a Google search for each of the root beers.

Berghoff Root Beer http://www.beveragesdirect.com/products/berghoff/
Mason’s Root Beer http://www.popsoda.com/masonsrootbeer.html
Journey’s John Barleycorn Root Beer
http://www.sodapopstop.com/products/detail.cfm?link=622
Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer http://www.sodaking.com/product_info.php/products_id/937
Boylan’s Root Beer http://www.amazon.com/Boylan-Bottleworks-Root-Beer-12pack/dp/B0001BVFN4
Americana Microcrafted Root Beer
http://www.amazon.com/Americana-Root-Beer-12-Pack/dp/B000NVZHF4

And for those of us who want to conduct our own taste test, this site offers “sampler packs” of regional root beers (I don’t think they’re fussy about HFCS vs sugar though):
http://www.straubs.com/category.html?id=30&gclid=CNnb0YWZ4ZUCFRIMDQodK0itXQ

54 Eric Mangold September 18, 2008 at 6:02 am

VIRGIL’S ROOT BEER – This is the best damn root beer I’ve ever tasted. It has an amazing, natural root beer flavor complemented with exotic spices and licorice. Mmmmm so tasty.

It won the “Outstanding Beverage” Award at the International Fancy Food and Confection Show in 1994, 1996, and 1997.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil's_Root_Beer

55 Il Padrone September 18, 2008 at 2:08 pm

@Chris:

Actually there is nothing more manly than an awesome burger (which fast food burger is the best, may be another topic for AoM) onion rings, topped offed with an iced cold. not to sweet, refreshing, delicious root beer, like IBC (my root of choice). Furthermore women may enjoy the occasional root beer… but in this day and age when Metro-sexuals and Women alike are extremely health conscious to the point they won’t part take in one of life’s best drinks, it is definitely worth mentioning!

56 Baniz September 18, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Americans should forget about root beer and Dr Pepper. Australians should forget about root beer. The best soda is Coca-Cola, Creaming Soda and Lemonade

57 Granata September 19, 2008 at 7:01 am

I found Americana at Pops in Arcadia, OK last night. It was great! Thanks for the recommendation.

58 Tim September 20, 2008 at 11:45 am

You forgot to rate Bulldog Rootbeer. I think it is the best.

59 William September 20, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Berghoff is my recent favorite. I love how it’s flavorful without being too intense, too sweet, or too fizzy.
I tried the barleycorn recently and it had a VERY different and distinct flavor. Not exactly root beer, but very good as a unique drink.
I think Eli’s is so-so and Bolyan soda is all garbage across the board.
Virgil’s root beer is very good.
YOU FORGOT FAYGO ROOT BEER! the second best ever! my previous favorite before berghoff! it’s great because it’s not as sugary, nor as carbonated as most soda anywhere.
Sprecher soda made some of the worst “ginger beer” I’ve ever had and I blew off the whole brand because of it.
Abita is mediocre at best.
Virgil’s is pretty good, but I liked the “barleycorn” one better.

I do enjoy Henry Weinhard’s a lot, even if it does have high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. I hate when people call it HFC like you’re stupid for not knowing their lingo.
Anyway.
You should do one of these on ginger beer! YAYUH!
I have never had anything as good as Iggie’s fiery ginger beer in steel cans from the UK but I haven’t had it for years as it was only available to me one time at a highland games.
Eli’s is one of the best I’ve had since then, as well as bundaberg’s from australia. I really like the Reeds extra ginger brew, but it’s still not fiery enough for me.

:D I love root beer!

60 William September 20, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Correction – Idris fiery ginger beer.

61 Rafael September 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm

My favorite Root Beer has always been Stewart’s Root Beer. It is the best one I have tasted.

Stewart’s did win the 2006 World Cup of Root Beer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stewart%27s_Fountain_Classics

62 gene September 23, 2008 at 12:52 am

“are you kidding me? what about ” BULLDOG” ROOTBEER .. only the winner of several reviews already, just google and see for yourself…. its only made with pure cane sugar with a touch of vanilla and honey. and HAS nothing remotely artificaL IN IT….

63 Tehki October 12, 2008 at 7:45 am

@Rocco Stanzione – Virgil’s is a good soda, but it is just barely a root beer at all. Very low sasparilla flavor, not much licorice(what gives root beer its bite) and not particularly sweet(depending on the connoisseur this is more or less important) Buckin’ Root Beer is my current favorite though I am always on the hunt. I’ve seen some good suggestions here but Virgil’s is low on the totem.

64 leatherthroat November 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Interesting blog here. Gotta tell ya, if you want really good root beer, you’ve gotta come to my neck of the woods. I live in Amish country (Lancaster county, PA). The Amish around here make and sell homemade root beer. A lot of times it’s just a couple of glass gallon jugs sitting beside the road with a cash box. Everything is sold on the honor system. Want a jug, put your dollar in the box. Wanna steal it? I guess your judgment day will come.

Anyway, it’s like the mini-microbrew of the root beer world. I always grab a jug from different places when I’m out. The interesting thing is, the taste can vary from one batch to the other, all being made by the same guy. If I pick up a really good jug, I’ll go back and buy the rest of that batch.

Plus, the glass jugs make great piggy-banks to collect your quarters for poker.

If you find yourself in this area, make sure to get some of the local stuff, you won’t regret it. But please, don’t drive like a tourist!

65 Root Beer Fanatic December 5, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Wow! You guys are forgetting the best Root Beer Available. Haven’t you considered A&W. I mean, the tone in this drink is priceless. I give this drink to all my children as soon as they can use a sippy cup. With the high fructose corn syrup and amazing advertising, it is second to none. Plus, you can pretty much purchase this gem in any grocery store. Don’t forget to add a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. Heaven comes to mind with this coctail of delight.

66 stevieV December 10, 2008 at 8:30 am

Hey, great blog and a lot of personally valuable input for this budding Root beer connoisseur. I have always loved Root beer but my early exposure to hard-to-find brands definitely showed me that there is what I’d call “Real Root Beer” and what I’d call “Not-so-real.” For me, and this is just little ‘ole me, brands like Mug, Barq’s and many others – including A&W (sorry if you’re a fan) – fall into the latter category.

You mentioned Hires Root beer – but it was not on your list. Maybe you’ve had no more luck finding it anywhere than I have!?

Finally – if you are ever in the Taylors Falls area of Minnesota – right on the borders of S. Central MN. and Wi. – you MUST go to “The Drive-Inn Restaurant” there on the more northern end of town. There is a putt-putt golf course right behind it. Anyway – some guy in there makes his own home-made rootbeer in the back of the little building. It was THEE best Root-beer I have ever had.

Check it out.

http://www.taylorsfalls.com/drivein.html

67 Cameron December 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I would recommend “Dorothy’s Root Beer”. It is made in Ely MN, and has a very interesting history behind it.

68 kasper December 30, 2008 at 5:27 am

Please can someone clarify for a poor Englishman… Is root beer the same as ginger beer? Or is ginger beer a type of root beer, ginger being a root? I guess the best one that’s available this side of the Atlantic is Fentiman’s traditional ginger beer, which has a nice kick to it, but please let me know if anyone knows of an American ‘root’ beer available in the U.K….

69 cory December 30, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Henry Weinhard’s and Gale’s. try these two and you will come to Jesus.

70 Wishbone43 January 29, 2009 at 6:38 am

The best, hands down is:

…..Virgil’s Root Beer……

The right combination of spices, sugar, and carbonation make it a delight to drink. Feels like velvet on your tongue!!!!! —

Buy it at ‘Trader Joe’s

71 Feed Mill February 7, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ok, I see all these root beers and nobody mentioned Sprechers Soda.
Its fire brewed like the old time stuff and is out of this world. sweetend with red honey from wisconson.
We sell it in our store.
Its great!

72 Kaleo Kala February 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

First of all I have never tried any of the Root beers on the list. But I sure would like too.

I recently moved to Philadelphia and found what has to be one of the best Root Beers ever. Now I know there are many of you here that enjoy Virgil’s. I to enjoy it, but it’s far from the best. The best is known as ABC (Appalachian Brewing Company) http://www.abcbrew.com

As for Ginger Beers hands down the best ever is Bunderburg Ginger Beer out of Australia. You can get it at World Market. If you see it, you have to try it.

Love the post.

73 jurisnaturalist February 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

I read “Root Beer” and thought of Weinhard’s. This, yet I haven’t had a bottle in over 10 years. I moved to the East Coast about that time and have never found Weinhard’s out here.
But the fact that there is this one brand of root beer out there that I know Ilove, and haven’t had in a decade, but remember… well, it says a lot.
And someone said Safeway carries it, and there’s now a Safeway nearby…
Guess where I’m headed tomorrow after church!

74 Brock March 1, 2009 at 5:32 am

If anybody is ever in Kentucky, grab an Ale-8-One. I guarantee you’ve never had a soda, or “pop” where I’m from, like it. I’m pretty sure, however, that they have also switched to high fructose corn syrup like the rest of the larger bottling companies.

75 JayNay March 2, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Let me take you back to the good old days of Barq’s, when it was made and sold only locally in Biloxi, MS.
I used to drink it room temperature because it was so full-bodied. Pouring it over ice diluted it too much. But it was also good straight out of the fridge.

When Coca-Cola bought them out, they ruined it. Even if they say they use the same syrup recipe, they don’t. They put too much fizz in it and it also isn’t bottled with good old Biloxi spring water…or sewer water…whichever

I’ve tried a lot of the ones mentioned here but even if some do have HFCS, sorry, high fructose corn syrup, I do recommend Weinhard’s. Another one I like alot is Iron Horse. But it wouldn’t be included here, again because of HFCS.

76 Greg T March 3, 2009 at 8:34 am

Interesting that none of these are, or claim, 1919 as the year they started. Apparently Prohibition produced a lot of mass produced root beer and that was about it.

77 Brent April 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

I have been conducting my own taste tests, on the root beers I can find here in So. UT. As far as Smoothness, Flavor and Carbonation goes, her’s my list in descending order:
Hires
Sprecher
Henry Weinhards
Mug
Thomas Kemper
Virgils
Teddy’s
IBC
Jones
Stewart’s
A&W
Barqs
Dads
Walgreens

Factor in price, and you get:
Hires
Mug
Thomas Kemper
Teddy’s
Sprecher
Henry Weinhards
Virgils
IBC
Jones
A&W
Stewart’s
Dads
Barqs
Walgreens

I still need to try Deerfield (Walgreen’s cane sugar sweetened brand) and Sam’s Choice to round out the comparison. Enjoy!

78 David April 30, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Yeah, I’ve tried all the so called “top” ones and Virgil’s wins hands down.

It’s also the only one I know of that doesnt have Sodium Benzoate, which I suspect is a bigtime carcinogen.

79 jay May 2, 2009 at 8:48 pm
80 Christopher May 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I’m a Fitz’s fan through and through. I have 3 24 packs under my bed and one in the fridge right now.

81 ds May 28, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Soda is not manly. I love soda and sweet beverages, especially root beer, but it just ain’t manly, that’s not what it’s about. Also not manly – this sentence:
“Wintergreen flavor invigorates the tongue; hints of sassafras and licorice are subtle and add to a nice, complex flavor.”
Go to a wine tasting with that talk (not manly either). What’s next, grandma, iced tea reviews?

82 Barry June 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I have tried over 60 different root beer’s and to me the absolute best is Hank’s Gourmet Root Beer. It’s from Philadelphia but you can get it at Bev Mo, Galco’s soda pop stop. Pure cane sugar, creamy, not to sweet, nice vanilla aroma and the perfect blend of spices. Give it a try. I live in Oregon and I have it shipped to me from Philly… that’s how good it is.

83 Brandon June 18, 2009 at 11:08 am

Try Abita Root Beer. From a Brewery in Louisiana. Outstanding Drink.
Can usually be found at Publix grocery stores if you have one of those available.

http://www.abita.com

84 dee sniter June 29, 2009 at 9:02 pm

you didnt get sprecher from wi

85 Tom Demo July 10, 2009 at 12:22 am

In my own recent casual taste test I have found Thomas Kemper to beat out Mug, Barf’s, A&W, IBC, Powerhouse (local brew), and the bottom off the list H. Weenhard’s. The last was an impotent piece of mouthwash, so bad I spent a half-hour with customer service asking how they could be so brash to produce nothing but fizz-in-a-bottle. Tastelessly made with high fructose corn syrup so much so you had to struggle to dial in your taste buds to get a hint of flavor.

86 logan July 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm

try bulldog and frostie they are bolth close to americana.

87 bessie August 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm

i’m doing a school project on homade root beer

88 dannyb September 15, 2009 at 11:09 pm

1919 Root Beer is perhaps the greatest roobeer ever made. Its rare, as unlike nearly every other rootbeer (including the ones reviewed) it is non-pasturized, which means it cannot be bottled, only served from a keg. they do make “personal kegs” for you home refrigerator that holds about a gallon. Brewed in New Ulm Minnesota at the Schells Brewery. If you are ever in the area, spend the 3 bucks, take a great tour and sample the beers, and of course, dont forget to get a glass of 1919.

89 Ashford September 18, 2009 at 11:52 am

What about Triple X Root Beer? This is hands down the best root beer i’ve ever had

90 Ashford September 18, 2009 at 11:53 am

What about Triple X Root Beer? This is hands down the best root beer i’ve ever had.

91 Pete Luscombe September 21, 2009 at 11:06 pm

It’s not quite root beer, but in the same family of beverages, Moxie is now and forever #1 in my book. I am looking forward to trying Americana, however.

92 Eric October 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

It’s a shame that Henry Weinhard’s Root Beer wasn’t included. It is by far my favorite and I make an extra effort to bring some home with me whenever I travel far enough west.

93 Jeff October 20, 2009 at 1:08 am

Sprecher root beer from Wisconsin.
Try it. You’ll like it.

94 Joe October 25, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Fitz’s Root beer out of St. Louis is absolutely to die for. I call for a run off with the new candidates.

95 Sam Granger November 3, 2009 at 10:29 am

Henry Weinhard’s Root Beer is the best I’ve ever had. It’s main ingredients are Sassafras, Honey, and Vanilla.

As far as boutique root beers go, I was very disappointed with Virgil’s. Too much licorice flavor.

96 Vincent LoGreco November 5, 2009 at 9:13 am

My current favorite root beer comes from Harrisburg Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Brewing Company. They are an independent brewery that happens to make a fantastic rootbeer with a strong honey flavor to it and uses appalachian spring water.

97 DAVID RODRIGUEZ November 13, 2009 at 12:19 am

I ALMOST GOT VIRGILS THEN I SAW HANSENS CREAMY ROOT BEER FOR A THIRD OF THE PRICE AWESOME ROOT BEER

98 Wally November 13, 2009 at 9:44 am

Berghoff USED to be the worlds best root beer up until the restaurant closed in Feb of 2006. It was also one of the best restaurant values in Chicago. After consiserable protest by the locals it later reopenened and although still quite good it is not as great a restaurant as it was in former times. In particular, they must have lost their root beer maker during the closed period because now their root beer is nowhere near as good as it used to be even though they claim it is the same. As to Virgil’s, the root beer in their 5 liter keg is much better than their bottled root beer. They claim it is the same so to be sure my imagination was not playing tricks I bought both bottled and keg at the same time and compared them side by side. Their keg root beer is definately superior to the bottled. Maybe something happens to it in the bottling process. The keg version is occasionally available in some Costco stores but if you cannot find it you can order it online at: http://www.reedsinc.com/ then click on Online Store in upper right corner.

99 Mike November 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

Web site to Galco’s – http://www.sodapopstop.com/home.cfm

I’ve never been there, but check out the youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPbh6Ru7VVM This guy LOVES his job, and I’d assume it reflects in his business.

100 Papou Paul November 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Hope someone mentioned IBC Root Beer. It used to me limited to the St. Louis area, but over the last decade or so has moved further north. They make a great creme soda as well. We used to drive further south from college to get where they served IBC.

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