Since I stopped drinking caffeine back in March, I have rediscovered my love for a good root beer. My project for this summer is to find the best root beer.
For comparison, I am considering grocery store root beer to be the measurement of what an average root beer is. Think Mug, Barq's, and anything else you can find in a 2 liter bottle.
Here are my results so far
A&W - From the tap, not the bottled stuff you get at the store. Yum. This is what a good root beer aspires to be. Very creamy with lots of foam. Mildly flavored. This stuff makes the best floats ever. Unfortunately, I'm working on memory here, as the 2 A&W stands in the area are of a distance (one's in Middlebury and the other is Wilmington, NY). A&W from the bottle or can is pretty average stuff.
IBC - By far, the best of the standard grocery store brands. Creamy with a more pronounced flavor. If I had to choose between grocery store A&W and IBC, I'd definately take the IBC. I'm always sad in restaurants when I get this because there's no free refill.
Natural Brew - Gets points for not using high fructose corn syrup as a sweetner. Other than that this stuff is pretty dissapointing. Heavy on the liquorice and very sweet, it lacks the creaminess that I find really appealing about root beer. Not undrinkable, but not very good, either. It's gotten good reviews elsewhere and I expected more for the price.
Jones Soda - Also gets points for avoiding the high fructose corn syrup. It's light on the carbonation and has a good blend of spices. It's nothing spectacular, but not bad either. A good average root beer, though not as creamy as I'd like. One of the major selling points is the personalized label - for a nominal fee you can have any picture you want on the label of your very own case.
Virgil's - Blah. This one was nearly undrinkable and takes the dubious honor of being the worst root beer I can remember tasting. Seriously, on first taste I almost spit the stuff out. Upon giving it a second chance, I contemplated just dumping out the rest of the bottle rather than finishing it. Very heavy on the liquorice and leaves a nasty after taste. Not creamy and light on the carbonation. At nearly $6 for a 4-pack, I expected more.
Harpoon - Very tasty. A good, creamy, anise based root beer. Mmm...anise. So far, my second favorite to date, right after Saranac. I've heard a rumor that you can get this in a keg. If that's true, I am so getting one at some point this summer.
Saranac - Also very tasty. Creamier than harpoon. It's drawback is that it's difficult to find. I've only seen this in very few stores, and only as a single bottle. Just edges out Harpoon as my favorite bottled rootbeer to date.
Maine Root - A nifty little microbrew I found in the natural food section of my local Hanneford's grocery store. Very creamy with a good blend of flavors. On par with Saranac and Harpoon. This one's pricey - $5.50 for a 4-pack. Their sarsaparilla is also good. And yes, I consider sarsaparilla to be different than rootbeer.