A sweet, soft drink originally made from sassafras, root beer is one of those "love it or hate it" beverages. And unlike tea, coffee, or other soft drinks, root beer doesn't contain caffeine! We took some brands to a drive-in for a taste off to see if one stood out from the rest.
- One of the first carbonated beverages in America, root beer pre-dates colas. They were brewed like beer from herbs, roots and barks and contained little or no alcohol. Other brews included birch beer, sarsaparilla beer, and ginger beer.
Many historians believe that root beer was created by accident at the hands of a pharmacist looking for a miracle elixir.
The first commercial root beer was introduced by Charles Hires, a pharmacist, in 1876, who sold packets of dried ingredients to the public. A few years later, Hires root beer was bottled and sold to the public.
There are so many different ingredient combinations for root beer. Some ingredients that have been found in root beer throughout history include allspice, birch bark, coriander seed, ginger, hops, burdock root, dandelion root, spicewood, wild cherry bark, bitters, wintergreen, prickly ash bark, and even molasses.
Today, root beer is made with many of the same ingredients. Other ingredients may include anise, lemon, sweeteners (like sugar, fructose, aspartame, brown sugar, malt extract), and carbonation.
With over 30 types of root beer available in North America, there’s no need to pick a favourite, but we wanted to find out if there really is a big difference among today’s brands.
With over 30 types of root beer available in North America, there’s no need to pick a favourite, but we wanted to find out if there really is a big difference among today’s brands. We tested:
- Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer: $1.50/330 ml bottle
- A&W Root Beer: $1.45/330 ml can
- Boylans All-Natural Root Beer: $1.69/330 ml bottle
- Barq’s Root Beer: $1.05/330 ml can
(A) Boylans fans described it as sweet, caramel-y, and light compared to the others, with a good flavour.
(B) A&W had the right balance of sweet and the classic root-beer-ish taste, according to one tester. It had more bubbles, according to another tester.
(C) Our testers either loved or hated Dad’s. Some people said it tasted like medicine. Others said it had a good, brewed-at-home taste.
- (D) Barq’s fans said it had the best kick, wasn’t too syrupy, and had a good level of carbonation.
OUR TOP PICK
We liked A&W the best, but out of 100 tasters, Barq’s came out as the popular pick. Our final decision? It’s really up to you which brand you like most. With so many out there, why choose just one?