Root Beer Project

My kids and I like root beer. But all root beer is not equal. Good root beer is a flavor party. Bad root beer can be truly gross. My kids have quite discerning tastebuds (which they get from their mother, not me). The Root Beer Project started in Saratoga Springs, NY, but it’s roots are a couple of years ago in New Orleans where I re-discovered good root beer (thank you, Abita Brewing Co.). Living in NOLA, my kids and I tasted and rated beignets and donuts, but we needed a new project here. Thus the Root Beer Project was born.

The  ratings below are a collective assessment among me, my son (age 7), and my daughter (age 9). It’s entirely subjective. We have no expertise. Our rating process is simple: Step 1: Open a bottle of our favorite; Step 2: Open a bottle of a new root beer; Step 3: Drink and compare. (A few more notes below the ratings). Eventually, we will try making our own root beer… but that’s a separate project. Much harder than just drinking it.

Overall

Sweet

Spicy

Minty

Fizzy 

Color

Bear Wizz

by Lake George Soda Co. (picture of old Moose Wizz label)*

 (9)

Our reigning favorite

 (7)

Sweet but not sticky sweet

 (7)

Well rounded flavor

 (4)

Hidden, mild

 (5)

Small, disappear quickly

(9) Dark Brown

[Jan 2017]

Frostie Vanilla

 (8)

The kid’s silver medal

 (8)

Vanilla enhances sweetness.

(Less sugar than Bear Wizz)

 (4)

Not a big flavor. Just good flavor.

 (3)

Vanilla, not mint.

 (6.5)

(9) Dark Brown

[Feb 2017 with regular Frostie]

Abita

(8)

Rekindled my love of root beer. Deserves its spot near the top.

 (6)

 (5)

Flavor? Of course, it’s from NOLA!

 (3)

 (6)

(9.5) Dark Brown

[Feb 2017]

Boylan’s

 (7.5)

The best widely available brand.

 (5)

Not very sweet (in a good way)

 (5)

Bland except for mint finish

 (7.5)

Strong mint finish

 (7)

Small to medium active bubbles

 (7) Medium Brown

[Jan 2017]

River City

 

(7.5)

 We will drink a lot of this when visiting N. California.

(5)

(3.5)

A bit of a licorice aroma.

 (6)

This is a dominant flavor, in a good way

(7)

Best foam head of any we have tried.

(9.5) Dark Brown

[March 2017]

Henry Weinhart’s

 

(7)

There were votes to rank this one higher. Very easy to drink.

(6)

(7)

A lot of flavor in a bottle.

 (4)

Mint is there, but so are a lot of other flavors.

(6)

A good foam head.

(8) Medium-Dark Brown

[March 2017; benchmark was River City because we did this while traveling.]

Frostie

 (7)

Past family favorite, but pushed down rankings by others.

(6)

 (4)

Good flavor, but not over-powering.

 (5)

More on the finish than Vanilla version.

 (6)

(9) Dark Brown

[Feb 2017, with Vanilla Frostie]

Steelhead

 (6.5)

Good, but honey and vanilla make it sweet.

 (9)

(2)

The flavor is… sweet. Vanilla and honey.

 (1)

See spicy

 (4)

(8) Medium-Dark Brown

[March 2017]

So Duh

 (6)

Label says “Soda with Attitude”. The attitude is love or hate the flavor, but you won’t miss it.

 (4)

(9)

Very distinct flavor.

 (2)

 (6.5)

(5) Very light brown.

[March 2017]

Bundaberg

 (5.5)

A decent root beer… unless you have better root beer available.

 (4)

(9)

Distinct licorice flavor

 (4)

 (6.5)

(9) Dark Brown

[Feb 2017]

Sky Valley Organic

 (5)

I was a bigger fan than the kids (6+), probably b/c the lack of sweetness was a strike against it.

 (3)

 Just 26g of sugar.

(8)

The younger judges felt it had strong flavor, but not a good flavor. Strong caramel tones.

(7)

Not pronounced with the other flavors but definitely there.

 (2.5)

Virtually flat.

(6) Very light color for root beer.

[Jan 2017]

Dad’s

 (5)

The more we drank, the less we liked it. We’d order it at a restaurant… if it was the only choice.

 (5)

 (6)

One flavor note. Vaguely medicinal.

 (2)

Barely. Might be less than 2.

 (3)

Very small bubbles.

(9.25) Dark Brown

[Jan 2017]

Next?

A few notes: The kids like sweeter root beers than I do, so the overall ratings tip slightly towards sweet. “Spicy” covers the rest of the flavor profile (other root beer rating sites seem to call this “bitey”). We like flavor, especially complex flavor. I like a mint flavor a bit more than the kids do, but not overwhelming. We’re not fans of lots of carbonation, especially my daughter.

A couple of rules for what we rate: Nothing sweetened with corn syrup. We lean towards craft root beers. Local is a plus (the reigning favorite is from 23 miles up the road), but we drink any root beer we can find that looks promising.


Preliminary Ratings

These are root beers we have tried but not formally rated. Usually, it means we tried it at a restaurant or while traveling.

Sioux City – expected overall range = 6-7.5


* Adirondack Brewing lost a trademark suit to Moosehead Brewing Company, and therefore changed the original “Moose Wizz” name to “Bear Wizz”. Either way, you can see how the name adds some appeal to some of the judges.