Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Root Beer Taste Test


We love root beer. We love taste tests. So why not do a taste test of root beers? We taste tested eight different root beers and documented our findings. It is amazing how each of them were so different from the others. We didn't do this as a blind test like we did our water test. We didn't feel that the branding of root beer had affected our judgement like bottled water. We found a huge difference between the root beers that used corn syrup to those that used natural cane sugar. We have noted that below. The natural cane sugar was far superior than those which used syrup. We also found it interesting that lower the carbonation the more distinctive the flavors. Less carbonation is a characteristic found in early root beer recipes. Root beer was first introduced to the public in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. For more history read here.

Here are our findings:

Briar's Premium Root Beer: Sweetened by corn syrup, this low carbonation variety left you well aware you were experiencing an old-fashioned style microbrew. What took us by surprise about this one was identfying a subtle but significant element of walnut. It has a nice clean finish.

Capt'n Eli's Root Beer: Flavored with pure cane sugar. The wintergreen oil in this one added a refreshing compliment to the anise . This would be great to enjoy during the summertime. It was light and refreshing.

Gale's Root Beer: Sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, this beer was an exception to the rule. Although sweetened with syrup, Gale's remained light and less syrupy than the others. It was the cinnamon that popped out from the first sip that earned our "most unique" distinction.

Henry Weinhard's Root Beer: This was more syrupy than the others likely due to it being sweetened with corn syrup. We also seem to think while it tasted good we were also aware that this seemed to be manufactured to taste like root beer. We placed this as the same category as Stewart's in that it tastes more like a traditional soft drink rather than good old-fashioned root beer.

IBC Root Beer: It was a favorite growing up. It has a distinctive malt taste which is a different direction than the others reviewed. It is one of the most carbonated options. We like it as our standby root beer.

Stewart's Original Root Beer: Easily our least favorite. This corn syrup sweetened brand seemed to have the least actual root beer taste and seemed to rely more on delivering its taste through smell than through the tongue. The closest approximation to another root beer taste would be what is provided by root beer flavored Dum Dums.

Thomas Kemper Soda Co. Root Beer: This was a fair and standard root beer. This was not so much bad as it didn't have a distinctive characteristic compared to the others. Given the choice between a Thomas Kemper and Stewart's, we'd grab this one every time.

Virgil's Micro Brewed Root Beer: Last but not at all least, Virgil's was our top favorite. This is truly a root beer lovers root beer. Virgil's is the most represenative of the quesential rootbeer taste. It has robust licorice tones, strong anise flavors and plenty of fizz. It would be the best for a root beer float! Virgil's was our top choice for root beer walking into this taste test and we are proud to say it remains one of our favorites.

Our recap: While Virgil's and IBC remain our standard favorites, if you're looking for something more distinctive, characteristic and unique, you should give Gale's or Capt'n Eli's a try. We will review more root beers as we find them so check back. If you don't see your favorite listed above, write and tell us about it. We would love to review it and add it to our list.

-Fer

2/13/07 Update: Check out the second installment of our root beer taste test here.
6/28/07 Update: Check out the third installment of our root beer taste test here.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer Dog_N_Suds_Root_Beer but all of those are great rootbeers!

1:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer Braq's root beer. But I'm not sure what the availability is outside of the southern US.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you ever get a chance, try Fitz's -- it's microbrewed in Saint Louis, MO, but may be found elsewhere. It's sweetened with cane sugar and has a delicious hint of vanilla. I don't even really like root beer, but I love Fitz's.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Fer said...

Anonymous 1-
Thank you for your suggestion of Dog n Suds. I will have to give it a try.

Anonymous 2- I will have to give Braq's a try! Thank you for telling me about it!

Anonymous 3-Fitz's in Saint Louis sounds great! I will try my best to get me one! Thanks for your comment!

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Not anonymous said...

To one of the anonymouses above:
I believe it's spelled Barq's - not Braq's. I assume this is a variant spelling of "bark", from the ingredient of sassafras bark in root beer. This should aid in your search for it.

As far as my two cents, I feel as though Barq's is a common and therefore rather homogenized-tasting brand much like A&W or Stewart's. The smaller companies seem to have the most creativity in brewing this complicated beverage.

Great work on the post!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Fer said...

To "not annonymous":
I am with you on what a great job the smaller companies do in making root beer. Each of us have different perspectives and experiences with these root beers. That is why I am so intrigued to try all of them!! We have had a great response to this post via email and the postings above. I cannot wait to add more of our reviews to the list. If you have any specific brands you can recommend please send your recommendations too. Thanks for you comment!

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Liz @ Buffalo said...

You know, I always thought of Barq's as pretty average, run-of-the-mill root beer--it's sold by Coca-Cola, after all.

But when I lived in New Orleans everybody was nuts about Barq's. They all said "Have you tried Barq's?" Which struck me as silly since it's widely available in grocery stores and restaurants throughout the US. Like asking "Have you heard of Mountain Dew?"

But, as I was informed, Barq's began as a local brew in New Orleans, spread to the south, and only later got picked up by Coke. So the drink still has a large and loyal following in the south (and maybe especially in Louisiana).

Which seems like plenty of reason to give it another chance!

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an assortment of root beer and birch beer sodas from Boylans. Thats from New Jersey.

From Maine theres a sasparilla and a root beer variety from a company called Maine root. The sasparilla is better by far- the root beer is kinda watery.

One other that ive had is from Lake Saranac bottling company (or something similar to that). Another pretty standard root beer.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Fer said...

Anonymous-
I was looking for Boylans today but the shop only had some sodas and not a root beer. I am intrigued and will continue to look for some to try. We are going to do another installment of tasted rootbeers later this week so stay tuned! Thanks so much for your suggestions!

7:03 PM  
Anonymous make root beer said...

As you're growing up as a teenager, there are a number of things that you look forward to; getting your drivers license,

graduating from high school, going to your senior prom, having your first date and having your first beer. The problem

with this last one is that the drinking age and the thing you want make it something that you just can't have yet. And

still, you want it and will go to any lengths to get it.

Underage beer drinking is certainly no secret and to try to sweep it under the carpet isn't going to make it go away. But

the most odd thing about underage drinking when it comes to beer is that even after kids sneak their first beer, they

still want to have another one. If you're wondering why that sounds so strange then you need to think back to when YOU

had your first beer. It was pretty nasty tasting. Let's be honest, beer is bitter and is an acquired taste. Very few

people, if any at all, enjoyed their first beer. Many even get sick after it because of the taste or the fact that

they're not used to the alcohol yet.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barq's used to taste a lot better than it does now.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

sprecher out of wisconsin has grown to become one of my fast favorites. I recently bought some IBC as my old favorite and found myself wishing it were sprecher.

also try to find a label called 1910. I've only had it out of a keg, but it is the thickest and most flavorful brew I've had... probably not great on a hot day though.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure you don't mean 1919? It's a popular local brand made under contract at the August Schell Brewery in New Ulm, MN and available in 2.5 Gal refrigerator kegs on up to a full keg. Many liquor stores handle it and some bars have it on tap. It is not bottled.

For what it's worth, it is easily my most favorite of the 143 brands I've tried; then again I rate Virgil's at 15 out of 100 and Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer at 2 out of 100. In my mind Mystic Seaport is the only worse Root Beer.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a little late to this game. Virgil's is wonderful but try Abita brand Root Beer. It is also very good. It is smokey but creamy too. It is made at the Albita Brewing Company in Abita Springs Louisiana.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you get a chance try Bundaberg root beer it's a vey unique root beer from Australia.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried over a hundred differt rootbeers.I really liked Hanks,Henry Weinhard,buckin rootbeer and fitz are my favorites.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Sorry to see Sprecher did not make it to the test :( please consider more root beer taste testing??

9:51 AM  
Blogger oldguy said...

How about Baumeisters and 1910 Root beer ? My favorites !!!

4:21 PM  

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