Root Beer Reviews for the Rest of Us Reader’s Choice Awards #3

It is that time of the year again! Here are the top brews based upon your votes. The top five brews remained the same this year but their positions shifted quite a bit. I also included a few more brews in order to keep things interesting and to give you an idea of some of the other root beers that your fellow root beer fans have rated highly.

Here are the rules:

1. A brew must have at least 30 votes to be considered

2. The point value is as follows- A=5, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0

3. The points are the total of the votes received as of today

4. The winning brews get added to a special “reader’s choice” category on the blog to make them easy to find and to distinguish them from all the other brews

The winners are…

1. Boylan’s Root Beer– 65 Votes (47 A’s) totaling 270 points

2.  IBC Root Beer– 64 Votes totaling 230 points

3. Sprecher Root Beer– 46 Votes totaling 201 points

4. Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg– 46 Votes totaling 200 points

5. A&W Root Beer– 58 Votes totaling 188 points

6. Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer– 33 Votes totaling 151 points

7. Saint Arnold Root Beer– 30 Votes totaling 146 points

8. Abita Root Beer– 34 Votes totaling 146 points

Special Honors…

These brews didn’t make the top 8 but they were still very highly regarded by the readers of this website:

Capt’n Eli’s Root Beer– 29 Votes totaling 132 points

Frostie Root Beer– 27 Votes totaling 114 points

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Thanks again for stopping by the website and for voting in the polls. Check back often and make sure to look us up on Facebook and Twitter. I always post about new reviews on those two social media sites so that is a good way to make sure you know when there is any new activity here.

Now go enjoy a cold frosty beverage!

Caleb

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IBC Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Dark brown bottle with no label and only raised lettering to tell you what it contains. I like this design with the only downside being I have to look at the case to get the ingredients

Ingredients: Carbonated Water,high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural and artificial flavors, modified food starch, citric acid

Smell: Strong traditional smell from the bottle with wintergreen and licorice being dominant. The wintergreen becomes even stronger after it is poured. I would say this has the strongest wintergreen smell of any brew I’ve come across thus far

Carbonation: IBC has a higher level of carbonation than most and you can feel it as soon as it hits the tongue. This gives the brew great bite but also masks some of the flavor

Color: Dark brown color

Head: Tall and very foamy. I had to wait for the head to dissipate before I could pour the entire bottle into my frosted mug

Flavor:  The strong smell carries over to the flavor. IBC has a stout and very traditional flavor. I notice a lot of licorice in the flavor with some vanilla adding smoothness. It has a very slight medicinal aftertaste that is just enough to be noticeable.

Conclusion: There’s a reason you can find IBC Root Beer all over the place. It’s a brew that’s easy to like. It has a flavor that puts it on the high end of mainstream root beers. It’s definitely better and more refined than an A&W or Barq’s, but it’s not quite good enough to break into the top ranks. That said, it’s a great root beer to enjoy with food or as a float. The strong flavor makes sure that whatever you are eating it with does not overpower the root beer. If you ever need a root beer that will be a sure crowd pleaser, IBC Root Beer should definitely be on your short list.

RBR’s Grade- B

Root Beer Reviews for the Rest of Us Reader’s Choice Super Bowl!

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend I thought it would be a fitting time to do my reader’s choice awards! Here’s how it works:

1. A brew must have at least seven votes to be considered

2. The point value is as follows- A=5, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0

3. The points are the total of the votes received as of today

4. The winning brews get added to a special “reader’s choice” category on the blog to make them easy to find and to distinguish them from all the other brews

The winners are…

1. Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg- 15 Votes totaling 53 points

2. Boylan’s Root Beer– 10 Votes totaling 50 points

3. Sprecher Root Beer– 11 Votes totaling 42 points

4. Jack Black’s Dead Red Root Beer– 9 Votes totaling 38 points

5. A&W Root Beer– 10 Votes totaling 35 points

Special Honors

1. Boylan’s Root Beer– Out of it’s 10 votes, all of them were A’s!

Honorable Mention

Saint Arnold Root Beer– Out of it’s 5 votes, all of them were A’s!

So there you have it! The first Root Beer Reviews for the Rest of Us Reader’s Choice Awards! Be sure to try and get your hands on the winners and give them a try. Be sure to leave a vote and a comment on any brews you have tried so that your voice can be heard in the next Reader’s Choice Awards contest!

Thanks to everyone who has visited the blog. Keep checking back regularly and tell your friends about the blog too! There are many root beers yet to be tried and many reviews yet to be written!

Caleb

Sprecher Root Beer

Bottle and Label: A big sixteen ounce bottle distinguishes Sprecher from its more traditional twelve ounce cousins. It also has a nicely designed label that touts it being rated number one by the New York Times

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Malto-Dextrin, WI Raw Honey, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Phosphoric  Acid, Quillaia/Yucca extract, Sodium Chloride, Caramel Color, and Vanilla

Smell: Strong and pleasing wintergreen smell from the bottle with hints of vanilla. It maintains the pleasing smell nicely after it is poured

Carbonation: Medium-low level of carbonation gives this brew a nice balance of smoothness and bite without feeling flat or overly bubbly

Color: Dark amber

Head: Tall head, very long lasting, and very foamy when poured into my frosted mug. Sprecher definitely gets top marks in this category

Flavor:  This brew has an incredibly smooth flavor. It leaves no bitter aftertaste and is enjoyable from start to finish. It has a nice, traditional root beer flavor with a little extra sweetness that I believe comes from the honey in the ingredients. Undoubtedly the honey also helps give it it’s awesome smoothness as well. There are also some hints of vanilla and wintergreen in there that give just a bit of complexity to this tasty beverage

Conclusion: Sprecher Root Beer is the definition of a good root beer. It has a great smell, awesome head, perfect carbonation, and stellar flavor. I really can’t think of anything that I don’t like about this brew. It has a flavor that should be a big crowd pleaser thanks to its smoothness and sweetness. This would also be a great brew for root beer floats with the awesome head that it produces. Basically, this brew is an easy “A” and an easy “Editor’s Choice.” Sometimes I really have to debate about what grade to give a brew. There is no question that this fine beverage deserves high marks and deserves a place in your fridge

RBR’s Grade- A (Editor’s Choice)

Jack Black’s Dead Red Root Beer

Bottle and Label: Clear, short bottle with no neck. The label is easy to spot with it’s skull and crossbones and is probably very popular with aspiring pirates

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Caffeine, Brazilian Guarana, Sodium Benzoate (to preserve freshness), Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Red #40

Smell: Very nice wintergreen smell from the bottle with hints of vanilla and licorice. It has a nicely balanced smell from the bottle that becomes heavier on the wintergreen once it is poured

Carbonation: Fairly low with just a bit of bite on the tip of tongue and back of mouth. Overall it’s a nice mouth feel

Color: Very dark brown, almost black

Head: Extremely tall head that went almost all the way to the top of my frosty A&W mug when poured. It is also very foamy and long lasting

Flavor:  At first taste, when Jack Black’s initially hits your tongue it tastes like a very nice traditional root beer. However, once it reaches the back of the mouth it leaves a bitter and medicinal aftertaste that is not very pleasing at all. I kept going back to it hoping that the aftertaste would lessen as I drank more, but it only got more pronounced

Conclusion: Jack Black’s Dead Red Root Beer is neither very red nor very good. I can honestly say I would rather go to my local grocery store and get a can of A&W than drink this stuff. I don’t know what gives it that strange and unpleasant aftertaste, but it ruins what could be a stellar brew. This root beer has a great head, good carbonation, and a nice smell. However, if a root beer can’t cut it in the all important flavor category, it can’t cut it period. It’s not quite bad enough to garner an “F,” but it is certainly no better than a “D” in my book. You might like this brew if you don’t mind the aftertaste or if you are looking for something with a root beer label that contains caffeine since most brews do not

RBR’s Grade- D

Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg

Virgil's Root Beer Party KegBottle and Label: It’s a keg! Same basic design as the Virgil’s bottles. Well done, traditional, and it looks good on the keg.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, unbleached cane sugar, natural caramel color, all natural flavors (anise, honey, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, wintergreen, cassia oil, sweet birch and molasses. No preservatives, no artificial flavors.)

Smell: This brew has the strongest vanilla smell that I have encountered in a root beer. There are also some licorice hints, but they are almost overpowered by the vanilla. It’s not a bad smell, it just seems like it could use a little more balance.

Carbonation: Low level of carbonation makes this brew very smooth from start to finish. The low level of carbonation works with this brew thanks to the smooth flavor of the vanilla. The two complement each other well.

Color: Dark brown, almost like coffee

Head: Since this brew comes from a keg and is poured slowly, there was not much head present. However, I did have a root beer float with this brew and can attest that it makes a nice, foamy float.

Flavor: Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg has a flavor that reflects the smell. It is very strong on the vanilla. This is not bad, but it also means that the traditional hints of wintergreen and licorice that are usually present are largely masked by the vanilla. The vanilla flavor is smooth and the aftertaste avoids bitterness making this a good pick if you like a vanilla flavored brew.

Conclusion: Virgil’s Root Beer Party Keg gets some extra points just for being unique. How often do you get to enjoy a root beer from a keg? I bought this for my wife’s birthday party and it was a lot of fun making root beer floats from a keg. That said, the brew doesn’t quite rise to the top of the pack thanks to a flavor that is almost all vanilla and maybe even a bit too sweet. Don’t get me wrong, this brew is great for things like root beer floats and for people who like a strong vanilla flavor, but if you are looking for a brew with more complexity or with a traditional flavor you will have to look elsewhere. I highly recommend the keg for parties as it is a great conversation piece and the root beer is certainly better than average.

RBR’s Grade- B-

Saint Arnold Root Beer

saint arnoldBottle and Label: Saint Arnold Root Beer has nice label that looks different than its counterparts. This is probably because the brewery did the label with the same overall design that it does with its non-root beer beverages. The well designed label will make this brew easy to spot on a crowded shelf.

Ingredients: Water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavor, vanilla extract, citric acid and sodium benzoate as preservative

Smell: Very strong and pleasing traditional root beer smell with hints of wintergreen and licorice.

Carbonation: Medium level of carbonation. This brew has a nice bite throughout, but it does a good job of not overpowering the flavor.

Color: Very dark brown that is barely transparent. Overall, a nice color that suggests the brew is neither too strong nor too watered down.

Head: Medium head, but very foamy and long lasting when poured into a frosted mug. The head of this brew would lend itself to being very good for root beer floats.

Flavor: Saint Arnold Root Beer is a solid brew in the flavor department. It is very traditional and has a very balanced flavor. There are no overpowering flavors present which allows the drinker to simply savor the brew. The brew is very smooth and leaves no bitter aftertaste. The vanilla extract in the ingredient list is the dominant aftertaste and it is very smooth. Overall, I would call this root beer “full flavored” and if you like a brew that is strong, you’ll like this one.

Conclusion: Saint Arnold Root Beer is another one of those brews that does everything well. It checks all the boxes and you come away from drinking it knowing that you just consumed a quality beverage. If you like a brew that is straightforward and traditional in terms of flavor, you will like Saint Arnold. If you are looking for a brew to serve at a party or give to friends and family, Saint Arnold would be an excellent choice. You might not like this brew if you prefer a more complexly flavored beverage. This brew comes out of a brewery in Houston, TX (I live in Fort Worth) and is one of the first local brews I have tried (granted, Houston is five hours away but Texas is a big state). Saint Arnold does TX proud with it’s big, full bodied flavor and if you are ever passing through TX, be sure to try and find some. Thanks to the excellence of this brew, Saint Arnold Root Beer earns a coveted “Editor’s Choice” award and takes its place on my shelf among the best root beers out there.

RBR’s Grade- A

Abita Root Beer

rootbeer_bottle_raysBottle and Label: Traditional brown bottle with a label that is not very distinguishable because the border of the label is also brown. The label touts that it is made with “pure Louisiana cane sugar” and the lid touts that it is brewed in spring water.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, caramel color, root beer flavor, phosphoric acid

Smell: Strong traditional smell from the bottle. It has a strong licorice aroma and also a bit of sweetness to the smell that I have not noticed from other brews.

Carbonation: A good bit carbonation throughout. It is noticeable from the tip of the tongue to the back of the mouth. However, this brew does a good job of not letting the carbonation overpower the flavor.

Color: A very dark brew that is almost black in color.

Head: Medium head the dissipates quickly after being poured.

Flavor: Abita Root Beer has an interesting flavor. At first it tastes just like an average root beer, but then as it is swallowed and hits the top of the mouth there is a distinct sweetness to the flavor that is not present in other brews that I have tasted. It’s almost like there is just a hint of honey but it is so light that it is hard to distinguish. That hint of honey keeps this root beer from having a bitter aftertaste that I believe it might otherwise have had and helps set its flavor apart from other brews.

Conclusion: Abita Root Beer is a generally solid brew. The only place it is really lacking is the quickly fading head. The flavor of the brew, while very traditional, contains just a hint of honey that causes it to stand out from the merely average brews. I also like how this brew was able to step the carbonation up a bit without losing flavor. If you like a brew with some bite, you should definitely check out Abita. Also, if you like your root beer with a bit of honey flavoring, Abita would be a good one to try. Overall, it is easy to recommend this brew.

RBR’s Grade- B+

Boylan’s Root Beer

boylanBottle and Label: Boylan Root Beer has a very attractive bottle. It actually has raised lettering on it. I really appreciate the work that went into making the bottle reflect the pride Boylan takes in its beverages.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, natural yucca extract, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness)

Smell: Strong smell from both bottle and mug. The dominant smells are wintergreen and licorice

Carbonation: This brew has a medium-low level of carbonation. In other words, the carbonation is obviously present from the front of the mouth to the back, but it is hardly noticeable at first. Most of the carbonation hits at the back of the mouth.

Color: Dark, amber brown color that is barely transparent when held up to light. Overall, a pleasing color for the brew.

Head: Very tall and long lasting head when poured. This would be a primo root beer float beverage as the head is one of the best I have seen on a root beer.

Flavor: Boylan Root Beer has a very traditional root beer flavor. I suppose the best way to describe the flavor would be heavy or dark. Some brews taste watered down or flat, but Boylan tastes like a root beer from start to finish. There is no bitter aftertasteand the flavor is very pleasing from start to finish. There seems to be just the slightest hint of honey that helps give the brew a smoothness despite the strong flavor.

Conclusion: Boylan Root Beer is a solid brew that should be on your short list if you prefer brews with a strong, traditional flavor. This brew’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. While I think the flavor is spot on and the carbonation is good, it doesn’t have anything else to help it pull away from the pack. That said, this is a very good brew for you if you are looking for an introduction to gourmet root beer. Starting with something like Virgil’s or Gale’s might be a little off-putting with their slightly less traditional flavors. Boylan, however, would fare well in the hands of a newcomer to gourmet root beer or a veteran. It would also work well as a root beer float brew as the awesome head and strong flavor would be perfect with your favorite brand of vanilla ice cream. If you come across Boylan and you like root beer, it would be hard to go wrong with this brew.

RBR’s Grade- B

Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer

virgils-rootbeer-mBottle and Label: The most distinctive bottle I have seen to date for a root beer. It has a porcelain stopper to seal the brew and keep it fresh. The label is unique and well designed and attests to the premium nature of the beverage.

Ingredients: Carbonated water, unbleached cane sugar, natural caramel color, all natural flavors (anise, honey, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, wintergreen, cassia oil, sweet birch and molasses. No preservatives, no artificial flavors.)

Smell: Very mild smell from the bottle that is much stronger when poured. Strong wintergreen smell with hints of licorice.

Carbonation: Medium level of carbonation that offers some bite on the tip of the tongue and the back of the mouth. Overall, the carbonation is just right as it is not heavy enough to mask any flavor but still offers a bit of kick.

Color: Very dark, almost black. This could be because of the molasses in the ingredient list.

Head: Medium head that dissipates very quickly after the pouring stops. Definitely not a strong point for this brew.

Flavor: Virgil’s Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer offers up a full and complex flavor that still manages to taste like root beer. The flavor is smooth with no bitter aftertaste thanks to the taste of honey that lingers the longest. Unlike another brew that I reviewed, Virgil’s does a fine job of not letting the honey flavor become overpowering. There is also a nice hint of wintergreen in the flavor to help keep things interesting. Overall, a very balanced brew with an excellent and very smooth flavor.

Conclusion: I have to confess, there was a part of me that did not want to like Virgil’s Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer. It was the most expensive brew I have ever purchased and the awards touted all over the bottle seemed a bit pretentious. Well, lets just say that Virgil’s proved it had the chops to back up its fancy bottle and high price. Virgil’s could easily have turned into a convoluted mess with all of the spices tossed in, but instead it turns out to be balanced brew with just the right amount of distinguishing  flavors to set it apart from the pack. This might not be a brew you buy every day, but if you are looking for something in a fancy package with a great flavor to impress a date or a fellow root beer fan, look no further than this brew. Virgil’s earns an “Editor’s Choice” award for their outstanding root beer.

RBR’s Grade- A (Editor’s Choice)