Our rootin’ tootin’ favorites

WHO KNEW? These days, the root beer aficionado has many choices, including craft beers.
WHO KNEW? These days, the root beer aficionado has many choices, including craft beers.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The root beer revival can be observed in upscale markets such as Bristol Farms and Whole Foods. The real headquarters, though, is the Beverages & More chain, which stocks about 20 brands, and Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, a rare-soda specialist that stocks more than 40.

I recently sat down and tasted every root beer sold at all these places.

Most were perfectly good, although a few had an odd, though basically inoffensive, woody note. I liked an old-fashioned one named Fitz’s, which had a surprising little bite, and Virgil’s, with its sweet spices and peppery finish. Abita, one of the brewery root beers, had smooth licorice notes and good balance, and good old Dad’s, the root beer I grew up on, still acquits itself well. But the following five stood above the rest:


Stewart’s Root Beer. Wonderful old-fashioned sassafras-type flavor, foamy head, rich mouth feel. Excellent by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. At Bristol Farms markets (for locations, visit and Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, 5702 York Blvd., Highland Park. $5.69 for a four-pack.

Gale’s Root Beer. Very distinctive, with a charming note of cinnamon and ginger. At Galco’s. $1.59 for 12 ounces.

Olde Rhode Island Molasses Root Beer. Very dark color, very foamy head, unique old-time molasses flavor. BevMo stores (for locations, visit $1.29 for 12 ounces.

A.J. Stephans. Classical root beer flavor with an herbal note; gentler than the others on this list. At BevMo, Galco’s. $1.49 per 12 ounces.

Route 66 Beer. A big, aggressive root beer with a rich caramel flavor. At Galco’s. $1.49 per 12 ounces.

-- Charles Perry