Virgil’s Root Beer

This is the final part of a four part series reviewing some of the more popular Root Beers on a regional and national basis.

From time to time we will add new root beer reviews as we come across those that are notable in a positive or not so positive way.

Background: If websites are an indicator of quality then Virgil’s Root Beer is on the other end of the spectrum than Frostie. Where Frostie almost apologizes for it’s shifting around, Virgil’s informs you that if you care at all about what you drink and what others see you drink, you’d better damn well have a Virgil’s Root Beer in your hand.

They do a good job of selling themselves. From the micro-brewing process to ingredients from around the world, this root beer that touts itself as gluten-free can be bought in bottles or mini kegs. Around since the early 1990’s, Virgil’s can be found in health stores, some chains like Kroger and Wegman’s, as well as smaller chains like Trader Joe’s. It can also be purchased online.

Virgil’s was sold in 1997 to L.A., CA based Reeds, Inc after winning three “Outstanding Beverage” Awards at the International Fancy Food and Confection Show.

Ingredients: The first two ingredients are completely different than the previous root beers and reinforce why Virgil’s believes they have something worth bragging about. Their website also explains where they obtain the various ingredients.

Purified Carbonated Water, Unbleached Cane Sugar, Anise, Licorice, Vanilla (Bourbon), Cinnamon, Clove, Wintergreen, Sweet Birch, Molasses, Nutmeg, Pimento Berry Oil, Balsam Oil, Oil of Casia, and Citric Acid.

Nutrition: You’ll notice that something is missing from this root beer that has been in all the others, sodium.

Calories: 160
Sodium: 0 mg
Sugar: 42 g
Carbohydrates: 42 g

Taste: Virgil’s Root Beer is not on a level playing field with the other three root beers in this review. To find it’s rival, you will probably need to look at other brewed root beers and regional favorites. Old Dominion Root Beer comes to mind as their root beer uses honey as its sweetener and boasts a recipe based on old recipes found in the Library of Congress.

This root beer was the smoothest by far and after the initial taste, you could sense the mild anise and licorice flavors rolling around on your tongue. As someone who does not like black licorice, the fact that I was not overwhelmed from a taste perspective by these two ingredients tells me how hard they worked to achieve a good balance of flavors. There was only a little bit of a bite in this root beer which is surprising as I think some brewers tend to mistake bite for taste.

There was very little foam when I poured the root beer, and while I would have liked more from an aesthetic perspective, the taste more than made up for it.

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

Foaminess 3
Bite 6
Overall Taste 9

Summary: Virgil’s clearly won as the overall best tasting root beer. But as mentioned, it wasn’t a fair fight as the micro brew had all the advantages in terms of ingredients and process. However, you often find yourself in a store where this exact scenario plays out as they offer you multiple mainstream beverages and then one or two specialty drinks.

Virgil’s aside, if you are looking to choose between the other three, Dad’s has the edge in terms of bite. Both Dad’s and Stewart’s have interesting histories and if you are hanging out and wanting to impress friends with your burping skills, Stewart’s is the one you want in your hand. And Frostie, well Frostie is the root beer you have because even less than impressive root beer is perfect with a grilled hot dog in your other hand.