The Best Root Beers For Making Root Beer Floats

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.

#9 Boylan

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.

#8 Virgil’s

Virgil's root beer, from parent company Reed's, may call itself a "gourmet root beer," but the product came in low on our taste test, with a score of 75.4. One judge said Virgil's was "the least root beer-like" of the bunch, while others said it was "medicinal" with a "weird aftertaste."

#7 Barq’s

Our lowest-scoring commercial brand root beer came in with a score of 76.2. Barq's is bottled by Coca-Cola, a fact that came through during the taste test, as one judge said it "tastes like Coke." Most participants loved the perfect fizzy quality when mixed with the ice cream, but thought it was "too sweet" and would taste better as a stand-alone soda.

#6 Mug

Mug root beer, another one of the big brands, is produced by Pepsi. It got mixed results, with a score of 76.9. Our tasters were middle of the road with this variety: some called Mug "just OK-tasting" with a "nice fizz," but when mixed with the ice cream, one judge said it creates a "classic ice cream float."  

#5 Dr. Brown’s

There's nothing like a deli sandwich and a root beer, and Dr. Brown's root beer is the delicatessen favorite. Dr. Brown's scored exactly in the middle. It wasn't a runaway favorite, but our judges weren't doing spit-takes either. It was called "too watery" with "no foam interaction with the ice cream," although multiple judges did describe it as "sweet and refreshing."

#4 Hansen’s

The unique thing about Hansen's is that it's made with raw cane sugar and authentic Tahitian vanilla. You can find this proudly all-natural root beer at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. We thought Hansen's had a "strong vanilla taste that was different than the others," and was "very creamy," However, some thought the "medicinal taste" was too much.

#3 Whole Foods 365 Every Day Value

Name brands aren't always the winners when it comes to taste. With 78.7 points, the Whole Foods store brand root beer did pretty well for itself. It was called "smooth" with a "nice flavor" and "tasted the most neutral — ideal for a root beer float." One participant accurately guessed that this was a "bland store brand."

#2 Stewart’s

Stewart's, produced by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, is probably the golden child of nostalgic root beers, with consistently high marks from soda reviewers. This root beer originated at Stewart's Restaurants and continues to be emblematic of the drive-thru, diner scene. We thought Stewart's had a "strong caramel taste" and a "perfect combination of flavors" although it was deemed not fizzy enough by some.

#1 A&W

Surprised? One of the most common root beer brands out there is A&W. Owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple group, A&W is an extremely recognizable soda name, with a chain of accompanying restaurants worldwide. With a runaway score of 84, this was a favorite among our judges for its "sweet, smooth taste" and "good amount of foam." One participant even said it "tastes like what root beer should taste like." 

Root Beer Floats

A&W may be the best root beer out there for a root beer float, but no matter what your root beer is, a root beer float is the perfect way to cool down this summer. And if you're over 21, check out The Daily Meal's recipe for adult root beer floats made with alcoholic root beer.