“Virgil's is the best root beer on the planet!”
“Come off it. Virgil's is okay. There are much better options. You ever tried Natural Brew? What about Bandit or Jackson Hole?”
“Virgil's is just okay?! What about Henry Weinharts? (In a Macho Man Randy Savage voice) Oh Yeah!”
“Henry Weinhards? Dude, you need to get out more. You know, Danny Meyer only serves Abita at Shake Shack.”
“Well, we can’t all be root beer snobs like you. And frankly, if you can’t be happy with a can of A&W, you got issues.”
“Alright, alright. There’s only one way to settle this. We need to get serious about a blind tasting of top root beers.”
“Well . . . that sounds fun.”
“I know, right?”
For our root beer tasting, we acquired 19 different non-alcoholic root beers, sourced from local grocers here in the Utah Valley, specialty stores along the Wasatch Front, online special orders, and from Ryan’s own personal private collection.
These were the rules:
- 6 taste testers.
- Taste testers receive 2 oz of each root beer in question.
- Testers much provide a score for nose, taste, finish, and overall impression. They must also provide comments on each selection.
- Testers must give the first root beer a score of 50 for each category. Each subsequent root beer can be scored higher (up to 100), or lower (down to 0) as they see fit. No root beer can be scored closer to 100 or to 0, in any category than there are remaining root beers yet to be tested. Tester’s can give fractional point scores if they deem necessary.
- All root beers are tasted blind and in a random sequence. Only the chef who pours for the tasters will know the root beer in question until all the selections have been tasted, scored, and commented upon. At which point, the bottles will be revealed.
- Testers will be provided with citrus wedges, sparkling water, still water, coffee grounds, and plain bread to serve as palate cleansers between the tastes.
- 3 ranking systems will be created from the resulting scores: mean fractional rank, total numeric score, and Ryan's picks
After the tasting, Ryan commented, “Even blind, I recognized some of these root beers right away. However, I was also often stumped and/or second-guessing myself. Several times, I thought I had identified Barq’s and/or A&W but then wasn’t so sure, when another selection popped up that I also guessed was one of these popular mainstream sodas.
My favorites were still my favorites, though probably not in the order I would have articulated prior to the exercise. More poignantly, when the selections were revealed I was surprised by certain selections I previously thought I didn’t care for that I scored rather high, and others I previously thought I really enjoyed that I scored rather low.”
So what were some of our most notable insights and takeaways? First, there’s a lot of great root beer out there! Second, root beer is a very complex, layered, and nuanced soda pop - even exceptionally similar ingredient lists can result in vastly different flavor profiles. Third, there are definitely some selections that generally please, some selections that generally don’t, as well as (rather curiously) several selections that are quite polarizing - loved by some and hated by others.
And perhaps most of all, we had a blast! If you’re interested in hosting your own private root beer tasting, we highly recommend it. And if you do, we’d love to see your results - send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.