Get Fizzy with the 7 Best Root Beers

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 ones.

I want a root beer that tastes like it’s made from a root. I want it to be sweet and brightly fizzy. I want to be refreshed but I want to be intrigued. It shouldn’t taste like plain old soda. Root beer is sophisticated and all-American. Let it shine. 

To find these platonic ideals of root beer, the Sporked team sat down with Katrina “Chappie” Chaput, Mythical’s assistant graphic designer. They happen to only drink one type of soda and that soda happens to be root beer. So we were joined by a pro. Here are the top seven root beer brands that we tasted.

Frostie root beer

Best of the Best

Frostie

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 tasted the way 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,” staff writer Danny Palumbo commented. “It has the flavor of a Dum Dum,” Chappie said. It’s all of these things wrapped up in a downright adorable package. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

River city root beer

Best for Root Beer Floats

River City

River City advertises this root beer as being 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,” staff writer Jordan Myrick 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

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

IBC root beer

Best Grown-Up

IBC

Looking for a licorice punch? IBC is your root beer. 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

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Dad's root beer

Best with Lunch

Dad’s

“It almost has a cherry flavor at the beginning,” said Chappie. “It’s good, but not what you’d expect.” A few of the root beers we tried had some fruity notes to them. It seemed odd at first and some of them were straight-up sour, but this one made it work. It tasted like a root beer that had been garnished with maraschino cherries—but the good ones, not the neon red ones. “It needs to be paired with a sandwich,” Danny said. “A turkey sandwich with chips—it completes an old man’s lunchbox.” It’s the acidity from the fruit that makes it so food or, specifically, sandwich friendly. But it’s not so fruity that you don’t know you’re drinking root beer. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Sprecher root beer

Best Packaging

Sprecher

If you are a child and you want to pretend you’re drinking beer, this root beer will do very nicely. (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. “It’s smooth, dark, and very rich,” Chappie said. Perhaps that’s because it’s sweetened with honey. They recommend enjoying a cold bottle with a “big hot dog.” 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Abita root beer

Best Spiced

Abita

“I grew up drinking this,” said Jordan, who spent part of their childhood in New Orleans. “I love this as a special treat.” Chappie 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 tasted like Christmas. It was filled with notes of cinnamon and clove. It wasn’t too sweet, but it was 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, try Abita. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Mug root beer

Best of the Big Brands

Mug

Obviously, we preferred the more craft-leaning brands to the big boys. After tasting through so many flavor-packed root beers, we were shocked to discover that most of the more ubiquitous root beer brands actually just taste like plain cola. Mugs, though, did taste like root beer. It held onto that signature bite and had 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 will get it done. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

6/10

Sporks

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About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

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  • Virgil’s Root Beer is the best I’ve had by far.

    Reply
    • Seconded! Virgil’s is the greatest.

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      • 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.

  • 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.

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    • I came here to agree with Alyssa. I visited once, and I have never been the same. Can’t get it out my way.

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

      Reply
  • Say, you are saying that you find Mugs root beer better tasting than A&W or Barq’s!? Really?

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    • Barq’s ftw

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      • Both A&W and Barq’s lacked that root beer bite!

  • 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?

    For sodas:

    Black cherry

    Cola

    grape

    Ginger ale

    Lemon lime

    Zero calorie soda

    Reply
    • Adding these to our list of upcoming tastings!

      Reply
  • Henry Weinhard’s is the best by far. Perfect blend of creaminess and spice.

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    • Totally a baller standard RB.

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  • No Boylan!? This is an outrage!

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  • 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.

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  • I can’t believe you didn’t include Barq’s…….like, what?

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  • The character on the Sprecher’s is a a toon version of the brewery’s griffin

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    • love that.

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  • 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.

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  • I think the top three are Hank’s, Dog and Suds, and A&W.

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  • 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.

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  • No Mikes and no Barqs… smh

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  • 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

    Reply