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October 01, 2006



Sasparilla? Is that what root beer is? We don't have it here, but we used to get sasparilla, or sarsparilla, when I was a kid. Never see it any more. Am a bit baffled, but then I do know what dandelion & burdock is, and of course there's the very famous Barr's Irn Bru (made in Scotland - from girders)and the equally famous Vimto. Ahhhh, the tartaric acid of youth...


Have you tried Henry Weinhard's Root Beer? It's my favorite of any that I've had in the past few years. (Not that I've done exhaustive research, but Weinhard's is sold in a lot of the pubs here in Seattle, and as I'm not a beer drinker, it's an alternative I sometimes choose when out with friends.)


My very first "real" job, with a pay check and everything, was as an A&W carhop, at an A&W root beer stand, in Sanford, Florida, a dusty little town in central Florida before most cars had air conditioning and even before most homes had it. The root beer was on tap, and we kept the glass mugs in a big chest freezer so they were nice and frosty. A big disaster at work was is if a mug would slip out of your hand and shatter into the freezer, necessitating removing and washing all the remaining mugs and re-freezing them. We made root beer floats and real milk shakes, along with some basic grilled foods, like burgers and hot dogs and fries and slaw dogs and hush puppies. It was VERY southern in that part of Florida at the time. The little trays hooked over the partially rolled down car windows. I didn't really like root beer at the time, but my father did, and he said our root beer was the greatest.


Root beer has never been a drink of mine but I still think a root beer tasting party sounds like a swell way to spend an afternoon. Especially an afternoon capped off by root beer floats.


I love root beer. Another small boutique one for your consideration would be Ithaca root beer, which I think is very good. G also loves Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer, which we can find at one area specialty market. I could hook you up with tastings of these when you come for a visit, if you can wait that long...


I second the Henry Weinhard's root beer! I moved from Portland, Oregon, to Boston a few years ago and, man, I miss that root beer. In my ever so humble opinion, it's a perfect balance between sugary sweet and rooty tang. Mmmm...

P.S. A recipe for home-made root beer (and ginger beer) was just posted on Chow.com. One recipe uses commercial yeast for bubblies and the other uses naturally occurring yeasts for a more subtle bubble. Here's the link to the article (recipes for each drink are in the right-hand column): http://www.chow.com/stories/10130.
Enjoy the root beer tasting!


Ooops, here is that link to the root beer article again. My insistence on ending that sentence in a period resulted in a bad url. Here tis sans punctuation:



Thanks everyone! The Chow recipe is going to be a really helpful template, since it has the method and materials set out really clearly. I can adjust the ingredients once I have the flavors figured out. I'm surprised they don't deal with the question of sassafrass root toxicity, though!
Say, Rebecca- I understand that originally the A&W places each brewed the root beer on site. Aficiandos are purportedly no longer happy with this brand, which is now made with extracts and shipped.All agree that it used to be great.
Got to check out that Weinhard's. And Julie-I'll always be ready to taste another root beer-esp. one that comes highly recommended from the experts.

GZ Tai Tai

I agree with the Henry's Root Beer, it is nice. I also like the Jones Soda Root Beer. Jones Soda has a lot of innovative flavors. My kids like the bubble gum flavor, but that is kids for you. I hate bubblegum flavor, I guess I got too much from those Tillamook Ice Cream cones my daughter could not eat fast enough.
You definetly should try a Jones Soda Root Beer or one of their other flavors, it will make you feel like a kid again having one with a slice of pizza.

Here is their website in case you cannot find it where you live. http://www.jonessoda.com/
We cannot get it here in China, but when visiting in Oregon this summer the kids begged for Jones Soda and the Henry's.

Good Luck
GZ Tai Tai

Lynn D.

Yes, do try the Henry Weinhard's. I don't know if it's available in the East, but Henry's is a very popular beer maker in Oregon. I'm not one for root beer myself, so get into the kitchen and make something else to entertain us with! Didn't you promise a potato salad post?

KIrk Mango

OK, I am a rootbeer fanatic from way back in the 70's. The absolute best rootbeer I have ever come across came from the tape on roadside A&W stands back when I was a kid. Just the right amount of sweetness and flavor, Went down easy even when thirsty, carbonation did not cause any issue because it was just so smooth going down. Head on it lasted and was thick complimenting its flavor. I have tasted all types of rootbeer canned, bottled, tapped and have yet to find anything that even comes close, that is until now. The Henry Weinhard's they speak of, which I had from the bottle while in California, is as close as I have come to finding that old A&W flavor (which as stated, in above, cannot be found anymore with this product). Henry's has all of the same characteristics of that taste I longed for. I can drink it even when not thirsty. What it does not have is that terrible after bite that many of the so called "gourmet" rootbeers have today. Man I hate that. Buying a gourmet rootbeer expecting so much and being disapointed. That has happened often, until I had a taste of Henry's. Exceptional is not a strong enough word to describe it. Just thought I would add my 2 cents. Oh yes, I can tell by looking at the ingredients from that Chow recipe that it will not be as full bodied as Henry's and that it will probably have that bite I hate in many rootbeer. Just my thought here.


Kirk- I'm very excited to have found an expert/afficiando here. thanks for the comments.

Do you know which ingredients in the Chow recipe are most likely responsible for the "afterbite" of which you speak? Can you give me ingredient suggestions for when I try mine? Do you have any ideas on how to create a more "full-bodied" rootbeer? I would greatly appreciate any further details and suggestions from your experience. What do you think about the sassafrass root/poison issue?

In fact, as I go on, eventually, to try to brew some of my own- may I harass you about this further?

Kirk Mango

Yes, First I have never made rootbeer and only know what I like to drink based on those experiences I have had as a kid. I also have tried many bottled rootbeers in the chicagoland area that you find at grocery stores as well as at restaraunts. (I have never found anything close, at least not in recent times, to Henry's, not anywhere.) Going by those experiences and the fine taste of Weinhard's root beer, I would guess that the ingredients that are suspect in Chow's recipe would be the Licorice Root (I just imagine this to be similar to dark licorice, but could be wrong), Cinamon Stick (which if it is in Henry's or the old A&W Draft/keg style I had as a kid, I never tasted it in there), and the Orange Zest (which reminds me of orange peel, which I do not like the taste of - bite). Two ingredients I do not know anything about is the Burdock and the Star Anise - What do these taste like??? If either are like licorice, no thanks.

As far as good root beer goes. Henry's, and that old A&W Draft/Keg style that you can't find anymore, were superb to me for several reasons:

1: Very vanilly flavor - which I like. kind of like the old Vanilla Phosphates but stronger. I mean I get Oberwiese Vanilla Malts for the same reason, very vanilly.

2. Great Thick Head on this beer - Lasts and holds to the bottom of the glass and it enhances the taste. Not frail and to light like most store bought beers.

3. Carbonation is perfect - I can drink this instead of water when very very thirsty and it does not burn my throat going down. Sometning that is very hard to find in any soda if you drink it to fast.

4. Actually Quenches Thirst - at least mine.

To me, that is what makes a great root beer. Now with those 4 criteria in mind. Which of the root beers that you tested comes closest to this taste? And, have you had a chance to taste Henry's yet?


Kirk Mango

Oh yes, as far as creating your own. What I woule want is Henry Weinhard's recipe and then you would make adjustments from that based on what you have learned so far in your quest. However, I would prabably just buy Henry's. By the way is that Soda King a real legitamate company? I might order some from there and see if it is as good as what I got when I was in California.


I haven't tasted any of these yet, Kirk-I'm waiting until I can get a few friends to do this with me. I will certainly follow up when I do, but things are getting a bit hectic with holiday stuff. It is entirely possible that we don't have the same taste in root beer. I like orange peel, for example. We'll see!
Soda King is a real company, but it took FOREVER for the root beer to get here, and there was no warning it would be delayed, so I can't recommend them, really.Everything did arrive in good shape, though.


Happy to hear that Soda King "is" a real company and that you did get your order eventually.

I placed an order with Soda King in December 2006. Despite several emails and unanswered phone calls to Soda King, about the status of my order, no one has bothered to contact me. Its been very frustrating not to have any customer service!

Their site was down recently for several days and their phone just rings and rings with no one answering it. Of course I am concerned about fraud and hope they are in good standing.


rob- Considering how long it took my rootbeer to arrive, and your recent experience, I don't think I'll be ordering from them again.

Barbara Stephens

I am trying to locate some kegs of root beer for a teen event this coming summer in Jacksonville,FL
Do you have any info on this?


Evan J.

I've been testing out several Root Beers and Birch Beers as well. Check out my blog to see my thoughts on the typical one's with high fructose corn syrup, and the better gourmet one's, such as Virgils, Boylans, etc. I hope you subscribe to my blog as well: www.evanj31drum.com

I hope to hear from you and we'll exchange Root Beer thoughts...

All the best, Evan J.

Terald Jarkins

Thats a really catchy name right there...id defiantly would love to partake in tryin this root beer

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