The Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi presents the

Great American Root Beer Showdown

Round Twelve

After many weeks, our researchers were able to meet again on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, August 11, 2002.

This round of testing featured several more intriguing bottles from the popsoda crate, a giant plastic bottle of Frostop which was a recent exciting discovery my aunt tipped me off to on a trip to Minneapolis. I also discovered a lone bottle of Filbert's in the root beer cabinet, which I'd forgotten about. This allowed us to have a showdown between Filbert's and two other Chicago favorites, Goose Island and Berghoff, which we've tested once before.

In preparation several hours before the test, I placed the samples in the refrigerator, cleaned the house and headed off to the beach for a quick swim in Lake Michigan to cool off and relax before the researchers arrived. As we shall see, perhaps my hasty preparations were not enough for a perfect taste test.

The Root Beers Tasted:

  1. Americana - (Sample D)
  2. Berghoff - (G)
  3. Filbert's - (B)
  4. Frostop - (C)
  5. Goose Island - (E)
  6. Pearson Bros. - (F)
  7. Sonora - (A)

The Test

With all the bottles hidden in newspaper wrapping, and sample cups laid out, we got off to a quick start (we have had a lot of practice by now). With some mambo music to liven the mood, the taste testers were having a good time.

Round Twelve Results

The enthusiasm of the reviewers was dampened halfway through the test when several of them revealed that they had just come from a large luncheon where they had already consumed excessive amounts of soda. They admitted that their scores for the root beers may be unnaturally low due to overloaded palates and over-sugared tongues. And yet we continued with the taste test and bid them do their professional duty and carry on rating the samples.

When the bottles were revealed one by one, it became clear to me that the Frostop sample had suffered because it was not as fully chilled as the other samples. This was no doubt due to the large size of the one liter bottle. While the rest of the bottles had been able to reach proper refrigeration temperature in 3 hours, this large bottle was obviously not fully chilled at its core, leading to a luke-warm flavor, definitely not the proverbial "frosty mug" which most of the reviewers try to imagine when rating root beers from plastic cups.

Total Scores

Average scores across all categories:

  1. Sonora - 3.29
  2. Frostop - 3.21
  3. Berghoff - 3.04
  4. Goose Island - 2.88
  5. Americana - 2.57
  6. Filberts - 2.41
  7. Pearson Bros. - 2.41

Overall Taste

Average scores in the category of "Overall Taste":

  1. Berghoff - 3.56
  2. Sonora - 3.46
  3. Frostop - 3.16
  4. Goose Island - 3.09
  5. Filbert's - 2.63
  6. Pearson Bros. - 2.44
  7. Americana - 2.00


Due in part to low scores on the part of the satiated reviewers, Round Twelve ended with a wide divergence of scores. There was general agreement in dislike of Americana and Pearson Bros. due to their bitter flavors and strong aftertastes, but there was less unified agreement on which brews the reviewers liked and why. While some rated Frostop as a 4 or 4.5 in Overall Taste due to its balanced complex of flavors, these scores were balanced by other reviewers rating these as 1 or 1.25 who thought it was too sweet. Either way, it was an unexpected result for a brew that is packaged in a cheap plastic bottle. In the end, Round Twelve was a contentious taste test with a wide range of opinions on the same flavors.

In the face-off between Chicago brands, Filbert's failed to make a strong showing, while Goose Island held its position in the ranking well. Once again, Berghoff came out with a high score for its smooth, creamy dessert-like taste.

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Copyright 2002 Matt Bergstrom. Text Copyright Matt Bergstrom