Location: Plano, TX (national brand; produced by Dr Pepper Snapple Group)
Purchased at: Walgreens
Container: 20 oz brown plastic bottle
Sold in packs of: Purchased as single bottle
Date Reviewed: February 22, 2015
Color: Medium brown
Sweetener: High fructose corn syrup
Nose: Wintergreen and vanilla
Fizz: Medium bubbles
Flavor notes: Heavy vanilla, wintergreen, hint of cinnamon, slight bitterness on the back end, a bit of sugary sweetness reminiscent of cotton candy
Commentary: A&W initially pours with a pretty good head, but it bubbles away fairly quickly. The color is a couple shades lighter than many root beers, a bit more like a medium brown. The carbonation has medium bubbles, maybe even verging on large. The nose is fairly simple – wintergreen and vanilla, without much else to be noticed. The taste itself goes a bit beyond that, if not by a ton – the label promises “aged vanilla” and this is paid off as vanilla is arguably the most prominent flavor in the root beer, taking much more than its usual complementary role. Wintergreen is present but more subdued. There is a definite hint of cinnamon, but it’s mild. The aftertaste leaves a lot of vanilla but also a slightly bitter taste, particularly at first. After a while, a sugary taste that reminded me of cotton candy appears, mostly hanging around after a sip is swallowed. Mouthfeel is fairly creamy.
Summary: In my first root beer blind taste test, back in 2005, A&W received some of the worst scores of the day. Maybe that was just a bad bottle, because I actually liked this just fine. It’s true that it doesn’t have the most complicated profile, but I didn’t find it to be watery – it’s probably the creamiest I’ve reviewed for this blog, which obviously doesn’t necessarily mean it’s extremely creamy, but I thought the body was decent. It’s awfully vanilla-heavy, almost like you’re just drinking what was left over after you’ve eaten the ice cream out of a float glass (though not as sweet or flat), but the hint of cinnamon helps add a little bit of rootiness to the proceedings. Certainly I’m looking for more overall, but is this better than average? I’d say so, if only by a point or two. It’s got that creamy mouthfeel I’m looking for and aside from a slight initial bitterness it tastes fine. That may not be a rave review, but considering how much easier this is to find than most root beers, I’ll take it. This does make me interested to try the (much harder to find) glass-bottle A&W, however, because if you can get something decent out of plastic, surely the alternative is liable to be even better.