Aug 222014

You know how friends are sort of like root beer?

The first root beer we tested at my birthday party was A&W so we could begin with that nice base of a good old, friendly root beer. A&W is smooth with quite a bit of caramel and without overwhelming fizz. It’s comfortable and reliable. You can trust it, whether you’re at the restaurant or you buy it in the 2-liter and you know how it will taste and how it will pair with your other activities.

Next came Dad’s, which is the friend your parents are happy with that you don’t particularly care for. The fact that it is so accessible to you (a.k.a. cheap) makes it not very enticing as a truly good friend or root beer.

Brigham’s Brew, which surely marks this as a Utah concoction, is about as remarkable as this desert state. It’s good but doesn’t invite you to have it as a constant presence in your refrigerator or your life.

After these unremarkable root beers, we tested Bundaberg’s, which is root beer gone wrong. Root beer is something friendly and fun, but Bundaberg’s is that friend who shows up at nap time, demanding attention and leaving you wanting to spit it out. Bundaberg’s root beer gets right in your face and sighs out his foul breath while laughing raucously. Bundaberg’s is a betrayal.

Stewart’s, on the other hand, is the friend you love whose house, fridge, and couch, are always open. You know where you stand with this one because it is all of the good, benign things you love about root beer.

When listing friends, I always begin with my very best (Josh, of course). For some reason, when listing root beer as friends, I have instead worked my way up to the very best.

Virgil’s is the root beer that you decide to marry for its simplicity and complexity all at once that welcomes you and says, “Buy a keg of me and, when you run out of that, buy another one.” When they say, “Marry your best friend,” and you think to yourself, Who is my best friend?, “Virgil’s” is the name that rises to the top. Let me read you part of this label: “anise from Spain, licorice from Frane [forgive the typo-theirs, not mine], vanilla from Madagascar, cinnamon from Ceylon, clove from Indonesia…” the list goes on and on. That’s complexity you can live with. All of those flavors work together to make it seem like a mild, mellow root beer, sidling up comfortably next to you, inviting you to learn more and more and spend the rest of your life plumbing its depths.

If you didn’t know before, now you know how root beer is like friends.