Even though the all-American soda fountain is an endangered relic today, one ever-popular libation of the old-school ice cream shops is the root beer float. The root beer float is a classic, and remains a favorite today. There’s just something about a scoop of ice cream that makes it the perfect complement to this polarizing soda, which tastes of vanilla, anise, and bitter sarsaparilla.
There’s no question that plain vanilla ice cream is the way to go when you’re making a root beer float, but which root beer brand do you choose? Do you go with one of the widely produced commercial brands like A&W or Mug? Or do you stick with the classic varieties (identified by their distinctive glass bottles) like Stewart’s or Boylan’s?
The Daily Meal staff decided to find out once and for all which root beer rules supreme when it comes to mixing and mingling with ice cream. We performed a blind taste test of nine common root beer brands with a scoop of Edy’s vanilla ice cream each, scoring the root beers from 60 to 100 based on flavor, fizziness, and how well the soda mixes with the ice cream. The results may be surprising.
The Root Beer Lineup
We sent our intrepid intern to find each of these nine iconic root beer brands, which run the gamut from commercial to artisanal. The root beers, whose labels were covered up during the taste test, were judged based on the quality of the soda, how well the soda interacted with the ice cream, and the resulting fizziness/head.
Bringing up the rear with an average tasting score of 75.36 is Boylan root beer. Boylan prides itself on bringing out the bitter sassafras flavor that harkens back to old-school root beer. But our judges weren’t having it, describing the root beer as “tasting like Altoids,” and having a very “rooty flavor.” Judges also complained that this variety was too sweet.