The best root beer is sweet, bright, fizzy, and tastes like some sort of root (or at least a chemical approximation of a root) was used in the making. It shouldn’t taste like plain old soda. Root beer is sophisticated and all-American. Let it shine. Over the course of two separate taste tests, I’ve tried 30 different root beers in order to find the best root beer brands.
I’m relatively new to root beer, which is surprising considering home much I like anise-y spirits and how many bottles of Fernet I can guzzle. But as a child, it was just too…not Coke. I didn’t have a root beer float until I was in my very late teens. But once I did taste root beer, I was in. I was invested. And I continue to search for the best root beers—for all those times when it’s unacceptable to drink Fernet.
It turns out, a lot of you are on the same journey. This is an update of our original best root beer ranking, which went live in April of 2022, and we have received lots and lots of feedback on it. Just scroll down to the comments to see the ire it inspired. Okay, you’re back? Wild, right? People really do love their root beer and they have opinions when it comes to the question, what is the best root beer?
After reading through the comments, I sourced a few more root beer brands from a specialty soda shop in L.A. (shout out Galco’s!) and a couple of them made the cut. Here is an updated list of the best root beers.
The following article contains affiliate links that may generate a small commission to us when you make a purchase through the link. Learn more about how we work with affiliates here.
I understand this is a controversial pick. People who love Barq’s really love it. And, yes, A&W from the tap is extremely good. But I encourage you to do your own side by side of the big bottled brands and then come back to me. Most of the big root beer brands actually just taste like plain cola. Mug, though, tastes like root beer. It holds onto that signature bite and has some herbaceous notes. If you want to buy a big, giant bottle of root beer or are catering for a child’s pizza party, Mug’s is the best root beer to buy in bulk.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
“I grew up drinking this,” said Sporked senior staff writer Jordan Myrick, who spent part of their childhood in New Orleans. “I love this as a special treat.” One taster noted that it tasted a bit medicinal, but I think that’s par for the course with a more crafty root beer. To me, it tastes like Christmas. It’s filled with notes of cinnamon and clove. It’s not too sweet, but it is very aromatic with a gorgeously foamy head (thanks to the inclusion of yucca, apparently). If you’re looking for some seasonal cheer in a bottle, Abita is the best root beer brand.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
- Hank’s Diet
This is the best diet root beer I tried, for sure. It’s really fizzy, which helps keep the flavor bright and vibrant. Too often, diet sodas can taste flat from the lack of real sugar, so that extra carbonation goes a long way. On its own, I’m not sure you’d be able to even tell it was diet. Compared to the classic Hank’s, though, there is a bit of a difference—it’s less sweet. But that just makes it all the more refreshing.
If you are a child and you want to pretend you’re drinking beer, we found the best root beer for your purposes. (Do not do this, children, enjoy the innocence of your childhood.) It comes in an extremely pleasing, chonky-as-heck bottle. And the label features a fun-loving blackbird or crow or raven brandishing a frothy mug of root beer and a bottle. But it doesn’t just look good. It also tastes good, with a rich, dark quality. Perhaps that’s because it’s sweetened with honey.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
A few of the root beers we tried had some fruity notes to them, including this one, which has an almost cherry-like flavor. It tastes like a root beer that has been garnished with maraschino cherries—but the good ones, not the neon red ones. “It needs to be paired with a sandwich,” Sporked contributor Danny Palumbo said. “A turkey sandwich with chips—it completes an old man’s lunchbox.” The acidity from the fruit flavor makes it food-friendly or, specifically, sandwich-friendly. But it’s not so fruity that you don’t know you’re drinking root beer.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart
It’s been a few years since I had A&W from the tap, but this is the best root beer that approximates that flavor as I remember it. It’s quite sweet with lots of very fine bubbles. It’s not too herbaceous at all, but it still has that signature root beer twang. Drink this with a burger instead of Coke—preferably out of a frosted mug.
Looking for a licorice punch? IBC is the best root beer for your palate. It’s light, extremely dry (as in, not sweet), and very, very fizzy. Personally, I loved it. It didn’t overwhelm me with sugar, which kept me coming back for more. I would sip this on its own—almost as a replacement for an after-dinner digestif. It refreshes your palate and settles your tummy with its slight hint of bitterness. It’s been around since 1919 for a reason.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart
- River City
River City advertises this root beer as being the best root beer made for ice cream. And, guess what? They did it. It has a ton of vanilla flavor to welcome in the ice cream and a nice, sharp fizz to cut its creaminess. “Oh yeah, that’s the root beer we know and love,” Jordan said. “That’s a craft root beer.” Plus, it has a riverboat on the label, so you feel like you’re down at the docks, swiggin’ an old-timey sodee pop in your best seersucker suit. That’s what I’m looking for in a root beer.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Albertsons
I love the toasty, holiday smell of this root beer. I wish I could have potpourri that smelled like Stewart’s root beer. It tastes like a grown-up root beer, with a pleasant balance of sweet and herbal. I feel like the only place I ever really see Stewart’s is in the fridge at the deli, and that makes sense. This is a perfect deli sandwich root beer—it’s not too cloying so it won’t overwhelm all the meat flavors. Grab a cold one and enjoy it with your Italian sub and tiny bag of kettle chips at a picnic table while staring out into the distance and mulling over what it means to be an adult.
You can’t deny the appeal of the packaging. It features a loveable little old man who might be one of the forgotten dwarves from Snow White—Frostie, one assumes. To me, this tastes the way the best root beer is supposed to taste. It’s like a better version of your childhood memories of root beer (I can only assume, having been afraid of root beer, as I mentioned). “This is perfect root beer,” Sporked managing editor Gwynedd Stuart said. “It’s creamy,” Danny commented. It’s all of these things wrapped up in a downright adorable package. And, in our first taste test, it was the best root beer. But it has since ceded the crown to…
Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart
- Dr. Brown’s
Yes, Dr. Brown’s has taken the title of best of the best root beers from Frostie. Frostie is a perfect root beer, but Dr. Brown’s is just a touch better than perfect thanks to an added layer of spice and intrigue. It still has the sweet, sweet goodness of Frostie’s, but then there’s this celery seed earthiness that just keeps you coming back sip after sip. I really could not get enough while we were tasting it. Congratulations, Dr. Brown’s. You are the best root beer.
Best of the Big Brands
Best with Lunch
Best with a Burger
Best for Root Beer Floats
Best Deli Root Beer
Best of the Best
Share your favorite fish sticks with us using #SporkedTasteTest for a chance to be featured on our social pages!
Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!
Virgil’s Root Beer is the best I’ve had by far.
Seconded! Virgil’s is the greatest.
We liked Virgil’s as a soda but it was too fruity and sour for it to fit into our concept of root beer! I will for sure drink it again, though. It’s just a little too outside of the box for us.
Yep, I was surprised it wasn’t even in the list.
Somewhat related, I know I’ve seen it on some of the newer articles, but you guys really need to include a section with all of the brands/versions tested.
A St. Louis classic, Fitz’s root beer is one of the most interesting root beers I have ever had. It changes up the root beer game. They use real cane sugar which just takes the cake.
I came here to agree with Alyssa. I visited once, and I have never been the same. Can’t get it out my way.
Yes! I agree Fitz’s should definitely be towards the top of this list!
Best I’ve ever had
Thanks for the article Justine. Welcome to the world of root beer. One king that can’t be ignored in the root beer world is A&W. One of the most popular brands; it might be too obvious to consider amongst this list. Although A&W straight from the can is a perfectly acceptable beverage, the real sleeper drink is A&W tap root beer from an A&W franchise restaurant. A&W on tap is an unparalleled experience that has to be enjoyed in house. The bonkers level of creamy richness makes it nearly a dessert by itself, while simultaneously staying true to its foundations. It’s really on a whole new level than A&W in a can, but it also puts other brands to shame, and calls back to an simpler era where the soda fountain experience could stand on its own two feet.
Unfortunately we could only rank items that were available to us in a can or bottle. But I agree–a freshly poured A&W root beer in a frosted mug is incredible.
A&W is over rated lol
A&W is widely available in bottles and cans. C’mon
Say, you are saying that you find Mugs root beer better tasting than A&W or Barq’s!? Really?
Both A&W and Barq’s lacked that root beer bite!
Yeah, Barqs is my favorite of the major ones, I find Mug to taste like a root beer popsicle, and that’s not what I’m looking for.
Never could agree more man
If you could make a list of every best soda I’d appreciate it. As a sober person craft sodas are the best.
Also I like the idea of “articles” however having a pdf or just a list accessible would be a lot more convenient than scrolling to find a specific article-I know the search feature is an option but I don’t know what you guys have and haven’t reviewed. Maybe like a master list at the beginning like a report card?
Zero calorie soda
Adding these to our list of upcoming tastings!
Henry Weinhard’s is the best by far. Perfect blend of creaminess and spice.
Totally a baller standard RB.
I agree! Henry Weinhards is the best and I refuse to drink any other kind of root beer.
No Boylan!? This is an outrage!
I’ve not had sodas including root beer for about 2 months as of this moment, but yes honestly I felt like maybe a different brand than Mug would be on (and I’m kind of new to this site since seeing that FWF R & L snack video). I kind of thought A & W would’ve been on instead, because I thought at times that its diet version tastes almost like its regular version. Anyways, hmm I’ve seen a at least 1 or 2 crafty type root beers I’ve not heard of before so that’s kind of cool.
I can’t believe you didn’t include Barq’s…….like, what?
A little surprised as well it is three on my top three root beers, IBC, Mugd, Barqs.
The character on the Sprecher’s is a a toon version of the brewery’s griffin
From a Regional Perspective,
in the PNW – Crater Lake on tap. WOWZERS has a touch of fermentation that mixes with the star anise and malty finish.
If you’re in Chicago- try Goose Island’s Rootbeer. It’s crisp, but be sure to drink it cold.
I think the top three are Hank’s, Dog and Suds, and A&W.
The best root beer I’ve ever had is Anchor. It’s hard to find, but it’s very tasty.
Also, a word of warning about Sprecher: I got a bottle from a local pizza place once and it just…barely had any flavor. It was weird because I had gotten it many times before, and it was always pretty flavorful and tasty. I poured the dud bottle into a glass, and sure enough, it had way less color than usual, too. I called the pizza place afterwards to let them know about it, and they said they get ones like that every once in a while. It really put me off from the stuff, haven’t had it since.
No Mikes and no Barqs… smh
Pretty decent list, Frostie’s has a fantastic orange cream. Noticed no Pennsylvania Dutch, but I guess it’s a birch beer so the bite is a bit different
Not sure on availability but Jackson Hole bucking’ root beer is my favorite.
Having mug on here over Barqs and even A&W. No way. Just for that reason alone I can’t take this serious. Mug is thee worst root beer out there by far. Sorry!
Fun fact: A&W root beer in the cans is totally different from the root beer in the restaurants. The root beer in the A&W restaurants is made in-house, and SO good. Y’all should try it, and let us know where it ranks on your list!
No Barq’s? What are you even doing?
Barq’s is best. It’s got bite. It’s not cloyingly sweet. It’s perfect balance.
Absolutely, I can’t take this list seriously when someone chooses mug over Barq’s.
I wish I knew what everything tasted was not just the winners dont count out faygo
did you guys try jones soda root beer? just curious. not my fav but its good. barq’s is our favorite but i saw that didnt make the cut cuz it dosnt have enough bite? We disagree mug has less bite then a&w or barq’s. but i suppose it all boils down to preference.
If this is the list of all the brands you tried, then this taste test doesn’t count. No A&W? one of the biggest root beer brands ever. And did you try Henry Weinhard’s, very smooth and yummy, my fav. You should show a list of ALL the brands you tried.
Im sorry to have to tell you all this but you list is unfortunate incorrect… but only because your not in Canada and probably didn’t have access to the best root beer on earth. I’m talking a&w root beer of course! , it would slap every drink out of it way to the top I promise you.
Henry Weinhard. Master brewer. It writes itself
I was today years old when I learned that Tommyknocker was a small brewery. But still the best root beer I’ve ever had. If you can get it near you, get it. https://tommyknocker.com
If you ever rank cream sodas, make sure and get some Sprecher. It’s delicious, complex even!
Can you rank diet root beer? I swear diet is actually better when it comes to root beer. Does anyone agree? Am I crazy? Eh, probably crazy 😂
Sprecher is criminally low on this list
I can’t even fathom how boylans root beer is not on this list. It is hands down the best root beer ever made.
I have never had any of the other root beers tested (I’ve had Barq and A&W) but I love Mug Root Beer also because it is caffeine free.
Have you ever tried 1919? Personal favorite.
A&W, but not the canned stuff. The flavor of what the restaurants serve is sweeter and creamier.
One thing that bugs me about sporked articles is you never seem to provide a list of everything that got tried. If you read the comments below a lot of people are responding “What? *Insert Brand* didn’t make the list? How?!” But honestly, as readers we don’t know what brands didn’t actually make the list because we don’t know who was even in the running. For all we know you could have tried just the ones listed and then assigned them to categories.
I doubt you’re actually doing that and I’m sure the work was put in, but could you please include the lists for the future?
Oh also could you include a sugar-free or diet category in the future?
Barqs, Virgil, Hanks and Stewards root beer
Very happy to see Frostie at the top. I’ve tried many root beers but I’m pretty sure Frostie is up there with the best of them.
Where is 1919? It’s easily the best in my opinion.
Came here to agree with Caleb!
Two of my favorite root beers (IBC & Mugd) are on here and that mames me happy (:
Greetings to the Sporked team,
My name is Savonna Clark (22) and I live in a small town in Oklahoma. I recently heard the news of your team rating root beers in the top 7 best root beers found on Sporked.com. As a root beer lover and connoisseur, I was thrilled to see others interested in this premier beverage. But to my astoundment, the top 7 that your team at Sporked chose were nothing near the best of root beers. To not have an honorable mention for the other root beers was also quite surprising. Brands such as A&W, Boyland, and Bundaberg, did not receive their proper respect in the root beer community in this rating. I am here to propose that you rethink your decision on those root beers and rate them again, or take it a step further and resort to the Mythical team to handle this matter in a ‘We Try Every Root Beer’ or a ‘What is The Best Root Beer’ naming the best root beer ‘Root Beer Brian’. I choose to stand by all root beer and advocate for the delightful fizzy underdogs that you have overlooked. I hope this email finds you well, and that you make a decision here. One that will change your mind of the so called, ‘best’ root beers that you chose.
Triple XXX Root Beer is 10/10 A+. Anyone could have it at #1. Not too sweet but still has a nice vanilla and honey flavor.
Agreed. It’s the best.
Has anyone tried a couple of spoonfuls of heavy cream (33%) in a cup of root beer or cream soda? It reminds me of the Italian sodas I used to spend all my money on when I was in college!
Mug is definitely my favorite!! Now I gotta try all of these
Was 1919 rootbeer in the test?
What about Faygo’s Root beer? My dad worked at the Faygo plant here in Michigan, so I always was around it. You also forgot about A&W. There is Town Club as well.
Root Beers so many and not 1 taste like another, but i disagree with your ratings, a Root beer should taste like a Hires Root beer since they were the 1st on the market, I think today since the original Hires is not around anymore. My list is Boylan, Barq’s and Dads followed by Mug,. I have tried all that you mentioned and some were a waste on money as far as Root beer floats either Mug or A&W these days as a kid it was always Hires or Dads or Shasta
Y’all didn’t include Barqs root beer. It is so much better than Abita. Abita’s fruit beers are the bomb.
The best root beer in the world is Triple XXX made with cane sugar and no phosphates. It’s sort of hard to find, but well worth the search. Absolutely yummy.
Frostie and Dad’s uses corn syrup now, and it just tastes like sweetener instead of allowing the Flavors to come through. I can’t believe they’re rated so highly.
I have to say, leaving Barq’s OUT of the entire lineup, very good choice. I like root beers that have a flavor beyond just fizz and caffeine syrup.
Henry Weinhard’s Should have won for best root beer and best packaging.