Stewart’s Root Beer began in 1924 with the opening of the first Stewart’s Root Beer stand in Mansfield, Ohio. Stewart’s was available exclusively in its root beer stands and drive-ins until 1990 when Cable Car Beverage Corporation obtained bottling rights and began bottling Stewart’s Root Beer for the first time. Later, Stewart’s was obtained by Cadbury Schweppes and is now a part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Not surprisingly, Stewart’s is now available everywhere. Perhaps the best thing about Stewart’s is that due to its broad distribution, it is much cheaper than other bottled root beers.
Stewart’s has a nice bottle presentation with its dark brown bottle, easily identifiable font atop an orange background, and the mandatory frothy root beer mug. For some reason, I love the “Since 1924” label on the neck of the bottle.
The root beer flavor is pretty good, but not very noteworthy. It has a classic root beer flavor without many frills. Stewart’s is not watery, and tastes like root beer. So, although there are better drinks out there, go ahead and grab one at a bargain price.
Columbia Soda Works was established in 1996 in the gold mining town of Columbia, California. Like other root beer sodas from small mining towns, Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla evokes the nostalgic bond between root beer, or sarsaparilla, and the Old West. Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla’s label explains, “The flavor will take you back to the days of yesteryear when miners and settlers alike enjoyed the rich tastes of these early refreshments. A taste as rich as the Mother Load.” Elsewhere, the label displays a banner declaring that Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla is “A VERY PRECIOUS LIQUID.” I could not agree more. Do not be fooled by the simple crest displayed on Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla’s label. This is indeed a very precious liquid with a taste as rich as the mother lode.
There are a lot of good root beers and sarsaparillas out there, which makes sense because root beer is based on some dang good flavors. Many root beers stick to the proven, classic root beer construction, providing very good sodas. Some stray from that pattern and create fantastic and bold sodas. Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla is of the later category. This soda has a dark root beer flavor with some bite. The bite is not harsh, but is solid. Suddenly, a faint wintergreen sensation becomes recognizable. However, the wintergreen does not take over. Rather, it gently guides you to the next and final flavor, licorice. I know there are many misguided souls out there who dislike licorice or anise flavor. Although those who do not like licorice may not like Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla either, the licorice flavor is smooth and sweet, and may not be too overpowering for licorice haters. I personally found the mixture to be very satisfying and delicious.
Zuberfizz Creamy Root Beer is handcrafted with fresh triple-filtered Rocky Mountain water. You would be hard pressed to find a root beer with made with more filtered Rocky Mountain water. The Zuberfizz label is simple and no-nonsense. Its brown hues get you in the mood for some root beer. After explaining why Zuberfizz is a quality beverage worth trying, the Zuberfizz website label invites, “So twist one off and drink it down.” Similarly, the Zuberfizz label exclaims “Twist this!” I did try to twist it. It may have just been my bottle, but I could not twist off the cap. I tried to “twist this” so hard that I hurt my hand. I had to distract myself by drinking root beer.
Despite its name, the only fizz I found in Zuberfizz was in its name. Zuberfizz had no head. While going down, Zuberfizz also seemed to be very low on carbonation. Again, this may have just been my bottle, but I was surprised by the lack of carbonation. Other than the carbonation, I was pleased by Zuberfizz. It has a good amount of sweetness. It also delivers on creaminess. Zuberfizz has a smooth, caramel creaminess overlaying its root beer base. Zuberfizz is definitely worth drinking.
During Prohibition, as many people searched to fill the void left by their inability to imbibe, many root beers came into prominence. One of those root beers is the well-known IBC Root Beer. IBC began in St. Louis, Missouri in 1919 under the Independent Breweries Company. The Independent Breweries Company did not last long, but it sold its trademark, and distribution of IBC Root Beer began to expand. The IBC trademark has been sold several times since. After being sold to Taylor Beverages, which was sold to the Seven-Up Company, which then merged with Dr Pepper in 1986, IBC became nationally distributed.
My IBC Root Beer came in the typical dark brown embossed bottle. On the one hand, the bottle gives IBC some serious legitimacy. It looks like it came straight out of an 1850’s saloon, before color label technology was available on glass bottles. On the other hand, it is virtually impossible to read anything on the bottle, including the name of the root beer until after you have consumed the contents of the bottle.
IBC is one of the most recognizable bottled root beers thanks to its Seven-Up/Dr Pepper/Snapple affiliation, its broad distribution, and its solid flavor. IBC is a classic tasting root beer. If you imagine a cold root beer on a hot summer day, you may be conjuring up the smooth, rooty flavor of IBC. There are no strong extraneous flavors, just a good traditional root beer. Also worth noting, I found the carbonation of IBC to be spot on. Thank you Prohibition.
Kutztown Root Beer comes to us thanks to Kutztown Bottling Works which has been bottling beverages since 1851 in the small town – population 5,012 as of the 2010 census – of Kutztown Pennsylvania. The Kutztown label is eye-catching, due in large part to its German influence. The bottle advertises, in a very German font, that it is made with the “Original Premium Recipe.” The label further states, not only in a very German font but also in actual German, “Nix Besser” – “Nothing Better” or “None Better.” This German influence makes sense, since, according to Wikipedia, 91.6% of Kutztownians have German ancestry. This German influence also bodes well for my expectations of Kutztown Root Beer. It feels like Germans should be expert root beer brewers. I do not know if that is actually the case. Germans may hate root beer, but it just seems like they should be adept in the craft of producing large amounts of frothy, exquisite root beer.
Although not the exquisite root beer I believe German-Americans are capable of making, Kutztown is a good root beer. The root beer initially has a fairly strong bite with vanilla and anise flavors. Subsequent sips are not as strong as the first, but the soda did not taste watered down. This soda lacks a little bit of direction, but is worth a drink. Oh, by the way let me know if you can decipher the meaning of the following message found on the back of the label:
– When you’re bad for something mighty good reach for a foamy mug of Kutztown Root Beer! Tastes chust like old-fashioned, ’cause you know we make it that way. Drink ’til you ouch, there’s more back!
The story of Capt’n Eli’s began in the early 1920’s with the Forsley family tradition of making homemade root beer. Young Eli pilfered his father’s root beer supply, selling it around the neighborhood. Young Eli grew up, becoming Dr. Eli Forsley, and he continued the family root beer tradition with his family in Maine. In 1994, Eli’s son started Shipyard Brewing Company, which began brewing the family root beer two years later. Their root beer started selling well in Maine, but they knew their root beer had made the big time when Capt’n Eli’s became the only soda in the world to inspire a graphic novel adventure story – The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli.
The Capt’n Eli label shows young Capt’n Eli donning a rain slicker, rowing his pilfered root beer booty across the rough seas, guided by his first mate, a macaw parrot. Is this root beer worth pilfering and rowing across the sea? Does it merit protection from a sharp beaked, tropical fowl? Yes. Capt’n Eli has a creamy wintergreen flavor. But unlike some other root beers which have a light wintergreen taste, Capt’n Eli’s is a dark, molasses wintergreen. I liked this dark flavor, feeling that it kept the root beer grounded, earthy, and rooty. Support the Forsley family and give their brew a try.