The Siren Call of a Dubious Pursuit
Look in most any grocery store or delicatessen these days and you'll probably see new a brand of root beer you haven't tried before. Why don't you have a sip? Everyone seems to have a favorite brand, whether its IBC or Sioux City or A&W. But the huge number of root beers on the market -- some well-known, others more elusive -- inevitibly raises the idle question: Which root beer is the best?
In order to provide an answer to this question, as well as generate concrete data for comparison, we have begun a series of inquiries into the matter. A taste test, or continuing rounds of taste tests, to rate all the brands of root beer we can get our hands on.
What with new gourmet soda companies, formerly regional brands expanding territories, and spin-off products by new brew-pubs, the national root beer market is exploding. There are dozens, or perhaps hundreds of root beer brands (Ask Dr. Root Beer's List of Known Root Beers), and we'd love to taste them all, but first they must be found.
The hunt for new brands of root beer can be just as exciting as drinking the root beer. Unlike cola soft drinks, the root beer market seems to be wide open to anyone with a recipe and a bottling plant in their basement. Distribution of the small-scale brands is less standardized than the big brands. You'll have keep on the lookout in unlikely places. Look for new root beer brands at your favorite local sandwich shop, at liquor stores, at the corner convenience store, in regional grocery stores, in the cooler at a coffee shop, sometimes even in a museum or clothing shop. The next time you visit a new town, take a look around in these places to scout out a new market. There's nothing like the thrill of finding a new bottle or brand you've never heard of to take home and enjoy with friends.
There will be other root beer flavors we will not be able to include in our test, such as root beer found only on tap in certain brew pubs, or venerable 1919 Root Beer, available only in kegs from New Ulm, Minn. These we will enjoy when we are able, without the strictures of judgement or rating systems the official test imposes.
As for the rest of the root beer brands, let us start the taste test!
Our Rigorous Taste Testing
Feedback From Readers
Where can I get all that root beer?
Try your own Root Beer Showdown at Home
Reviews of all Root Beers Tested
Root Beer Resources on the Web