Blue-ribbon winner: Boylan. This century-old company’s root beer, with balanced herbal and vanilla flavors, handily won best in show. It can be found in the bottle at Buzz Bakery—where you can also buy root-beer-flavored marshmallows—and in the soda fountains at Taylor Gourmet and Chop’t (multiple area locations; choptsalad.com).
Second place: IBC. It’s darker than most, and we liked that this bottled brew isn’t too sweet and has some bite. We found it at the Georgetown Safeway.
Third place: A&W. It’s hard to improve on this bubbly classic, available at most grocery stores.
Honorable mention: Tasters were split on Wisconsin-based Sprecher, sold at Dean & DeLuca and Breadline—some loved it, others thought it too sweet—and they enjoyed Dr. Brown’s, available at such local delis as So’s Your Mom, and Whole Foods’ 365 brand. To appreciate the “root” in root beer, pick up Virgil’s limited-edition Bavarian nutmeg version (sold by some Whole Foods, including Arlington and DC’s Logan Circle), which has the herbal punch of Jägermeister.
This article appears in the August 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.
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