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.
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.