This is the first installment in a series of reviews on Root Beers. There are hundreds of varieties of root beer when home brewing and micro brewing are taken into consideration. Those chosen for this series can be found nation wide as distribution has been picked up by larger companies. An effort has been made to choose a mix of root beers that have been around for decades and those that are newer to the market.

Root Beer was first documented as a beverage in the American Colonies. Believed by many to have been originally derived from the root (or at times bark) of the sassafras plant, there is growing support that a variety of ingredients were used as the key one.

This theory of varied key ingredients is at least supported in the root beers we see today. Like other early soft drinks, they were brewed in smaller batches which gave a distinct taste and texture to them. Some of that is still seen today in regional root beers and those proffered by people still brewing it in their home.

The first root beers were slightly alcoholic as the carbonation process was a result of allowing fermentation to take place. The soft drinks available today use carbonated water as a mixing ingredient thus eliminating the alcohol.

I’ve loved root beer for years and am more familiar with the sassafras based beverage in smaller brews as I grew up in Indiana in relatively close proximity to a large Amish region.

The four root beers discussed in this series were found in the beverage aisle of a local Fresh Market. They were next to a bottle of Cheerwine, which is a discussion for a different review.

Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer

Background: Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer is currently based in Jasper, IN but was originally produced in 1937 in Chicago, IL. Basement born, the root beer was named after one of the founder’s father who (like many dads in his day) brewed his own root beer for the family.

By the 1940’s it had become one of the most consumed root beers in America. I would guess this led to the “America’s Premium Root Beer” being added to the advertising. According to Wikipedia (a sometime useful and sometime dubious research tool of note), Dad’s was the first root beer to utilize six pack technology, half gallon sizing, and to offer sizes based on which member of the family would be drinking it. You can find out more about it online, but that should be enough history. On to the tasting.

Ingredients: The label starts off with Carbonated Water along with High Fructose Corn Syrup and goes down from there. Caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, and Sodium Benzoate (a preservative) finish up the list. It’s underwhelming to say the least. But in fairness, it’s not that different from countless root beers available, and this one as of 1986 was the second highest consumed root beer in the USA in terms of volume. There was a reason Coca-Cola was distributing it.

Nutrition: I’m not going to pretend root beer is healthy. For our purposes, we are finding out how much the damage is going to be so that we can allow for it. I will note that this was the only one of the four whose carbs were higher than the sugars.

Calories: 180
Sodium: 30 mg
Sugar: 43 g
Carbohydrates: 45 g

Taste: Dad’s had the most bite to it, which is remarkable as it has the fewest ingredients. Whatever the “natural and artificial flavors” are, they combine to make me want to chew the root beer rather than drink it. It had significant foam on the pour, but nothing like a true head. This is the kind of root beer you drink when you aren’t drinking real beer and don’t have a taste for Ginger Beer. It’ll still make you feel like your drink is packing a punch, even if you have no idea (or particular appreciation) for what it is.

Score: All scores are on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being the lowest rank possible and 10 being the highest.

Foaminess 6
Bite 8
Overall Taste 6

Our next review will discuss Stewart’s Original Fountain Classics Root Beer.