The Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi presents the

Great American Root Beer Showdown

Round Three

Round Three testing took place on March 18, 2001, with six researchers sampling seven root beers. Some of the root beers were new finds brought back from a trip to northern Wisconsin in February, one a previously unknown gourmet brand discovered by Emily in a suburban Chicago deli, and one (IBC) was a repeat from Round Two, once again to provide some points of coordination between the two tests.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when we began the test. We were unable to reproduce the extraordinary situation of Round Two testing, due to a previous engagements and the limited opportunity time-window. Some of the researchers had just returned from a large brunch of cinnamon rolls and hashbrowns and eggs at a neighborhood restaurant, severely limiting the amount of root beer one can pleasurably drink before falling to the floor from over-fullness.

The Root Beers Tasted:

  1. Baumeister - (Sample E)
  2. Cool Mountain Root Beer - (C)
  3. Gale's - (F)
  4. Grandpa Graf's - (B)
  5. Gray's - (D)
  6. IBC - (A)
  7. Sprecher's - (G)

The Test

The testing methods of Round Three followed closely the successful methodology learned from Round Two. We filled two bowls with oyster crackers for easy accessibility to each participant. Each root beer bottle or can was wrapped in newspaper before the test to hide its identity. All the bottles were kept chilled in the fridge right up the moment each round of samples was poured. Once again, our able-bodied assistant chose each bottle at random from the refrigerator, then poured it into the sample cups in secrecy in the kitchen.

The taste-testers were given worksheets to rate their satisfaction with each root beer on a 1-5 scale for the categories of Sweetness, Creaminess, Complexity, Punch, Aroma, and Overall Taste, with space for additional comments and a long-shot space to guess the brand of root beer.

Despite some reviewer complaints of dulled taste-buds from over-eating, Round Three testing proceeded in good spirits and optimism. The brands sampled provided an exciting range of flavors, from gourmet micro-brew to mass-market generic soda, to mid-range specialty root beers.

Before the bottles were brought in from the kitchen and revealed, we talked about our impressions of each brand. The "Guess the Brand" category on the score sheet has become a hit, as the researchers made up ridiculous names to describe the good or bad flavors of each sample. When everyone had disclosed their comments and scoring for each sample, that particular bottle was fetched from the kitchen and its wrapper removed to expose the mystery brand. Its always a great surprise and shock to see the identity of the actual brand, as compared to the imagined identity.

Round Three Results

Of the root beers sampled in Round Three, only a few brought controversy of the type seen in Round Two. Most of the brands won widespread approval or disapproval, with only a minority of reviews taking the contrary position.

This time, the tabulated scores seem to generally reflect the verbalized comments of the testers:

Total Scores

Average scores across all categories:

  1. Baumeister - 3.58
  2. Sprechers - 3.44
  3. IBC - 3.22
  4. Cool Mountain - 3.19
  5. Grays - 3.03
  6. Grandpa Grafs - 2.78
  7. Gale's - 2.31

Overall Taste

Average scores in the category of "Overall Taste":

  1. Baumeister - 4.00
  2. Sprechers - 3.67
  3. Cool Mountain - 3.50
  4. IBC - 3.33
  5. Grays - 3.17
  6. Grandpa Grafs - 2.67
  7. Gale's - 2.00


Round Three brought the widest range of scores yet. From an test record high of 4.00 for Baumeister in Overall Taste, to the second lowest score of 2.00 for Gale's, what had seemed to some reviewers to not be as lucid a test as Round Two, proved to be quite decisive in the end.

Once again, the unusual gourmet brews were not a great hit with the testers. Gale's root beer, in particular, only won approval from a small minority of testers, and was outnumbered by the majority who did not appreciate its unusual ingredients and "coffee grounds" surprise in the bottom of the cup. Baumeister and Sprecher's on the other hand, won over the testers with solid, pleasurable, non-offensive taste, gathering enough points to come out on top.

Our Rigorous Taste Testing

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Copyright 2001 Matt Bergstrom. Text Copyright Matt Bergstrom