Root beer is a classic American beverage that’s been satisfying the taste buds of soda drinkers for close to 150 years. Whether you like to sip it straight from an icy mug or use it to create a creamy root beer float, this fizzy refreshment has a unique, licorice-like taste that sets it apart from other soft drinks. It also comes in a wide range of formulations and flavors depending on the brand you choose. So which ones are the best? Here’s a list of our six favorite root beer brands, from mainstream staples to lesser-known brews.
6. IBC Root Beer
Launched all the way back in 1919, IBC (short for Independent Breweries Company) is old-fashioned root beer at its best. Although the company is now owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper, this beverage has retained its classic (and strong) root beer taste. It’s creamy and smooth, delivering a robust kick without leaving behind an overwhelming aftertaste.
Each 12 fluid-ounce, vintage-style bottle of IBC contains 160 calories, 60 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of total carbs. It’s not quite as sweet as some of the other root beers on this list, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a drink with a little bit less sugar.
5. Dr. Brown’s Draft-Style Root Beer
We love Dr. Brown’s Root Beer because it has a rich, full-bodied taste that’s the perfect mixture of spicy and sweet. While it’s less creamy and carbonated than the average root beer, this doesn’t affect its taste (and can be quickly remedied by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream). Dr. Brown’s also has a distinct hint of orange and a subtle, mouth-cooling taste of wintergreen.
A 12 fluid-ounce serving of Dr. Brown’s Draft-Style Root Beer has 170 calories, 30 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of total carbs. We love the fact that it’s easy to find at the supermarket but tastes more like a craft drink than a mainstream soda.
4. Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer
Formulated in the basement of a middle-class Chicago home, Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer was launched in 1937. It quickly became a Midwest soda staple and by the end of the 1940s, had become one of the most popular root beer brands in the country. Dad’s was the first root beer to offer half-gallon bottles (which they cleverly called “Papas) alongside quart-size bottles (known as “Mamas”) and 12-ounce bottles (called “Juniors”).
If you like your root beer to have a heavy vanilla-and-licorice taste, Dad’s is perfect for you. It’s also very sweet and better for drinking straight rather than using in an ice cream float. Each 12 fluid-ounce bottle contains 190 calories, 65 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of total carbs.
Barq’s Root Beer
This root beer’s motto is “Barq’s has bite” and that’s definitely not an exaggeration. In addition to boasting a bold, wintergreen-heavy taste, this old-school brand (sold since 1897) is one of the few root beers to contain caffeine (22 milligrams per 12 fluid ounce serving, to be exact). So it’s the perfect pick-me-up when you’re craving a root beer and need a little boost.
Each 12 fluid-ounce can of Barq’s regular root beer contains 160 calories, 65 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of sugar, and 44 grams of total carbs. If you want to avoid getting the jitters from caffeine, try the brand’s diet version, which has zero caffeine and zero calories.
2. Mug Root Beer
First sold in San Francisco during the 1940s as Belfast Root Beer, Mug Root Beer is now owned by PepsiCo, which means it’s easy to find in the aisles of your favorite grocery stores. It has a refreshingly sweet taste and a foamy consistency that makes it perfect for pairing with savory foods like pizza or burgers. It also makes a great party drink, as it’s zesty without being overly flavorful, so it’s likely to please a variety of palettes.
Mug Root Beer has 160 calories per 12 fluid ounce can, along with 65 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of sugar, and 43 grams of total carbs. There’s also a zero-calorie diet version, as well as a delicious Cream Soda with 180 calories per can.
1. A&W Root Beer
Another ubiquitous mainstream brand, A&W has been around since 1919. According to the beverage’s website, it’s still made “fresh on-site” with the same unique recipe that made it a roadside root beer stand hit—pure cane sugar and a proprietary blend of bark, herbs, berries, and spices. It also uses “real aged vanilla,” which is what helps give it such a uniquely sweet taste.
While A&W is now owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper, the company licenses the soda to the A&W Restaurant chain, which means you can order a glass of the smooth and creamy beverage in its signature frosty mug. Each 12 fluid-ounce serving of A&W root beer has 170 calories, 65 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of sugar, and 47 grams of total carbs.