Barq's vs A&W: Which is the better root beer?

Making floats, but not sure which root beer to go with? Barq's and A&W might seem more or less the same — they're both going to be available at most supermarkets, and they're similarly priced. So how do you make the best decision? We've got you covered. 

According to a taste test conducted by Serious Eats, Barq's is the way to go. In a ranking system based on carbonation, sweetness, and strength of the root beer flavor (from "mild" to "Holy Sarsaparilla!"), Barq's came in first out of eleven brands because of its "nice creamy, caramelized taste balanced with minty, anise-y spices." A&W, on the other hand, ranked far worse. It came in tenth, second to last. The choice is clear.

A ranking by Deadspin agreed with the Serious Eats verdict: Barq's is significantly better than A&W. Out of twelve brands, A&W came in seventh and Barq's came in fifth. Their number one pick was 365 Everyday Value's root beer, which is only available at Whole Foods, so it's not always an option. A&W was described as "very smooth and sugary and not very complicated, with heavy vanilla and light mint," while Barq's was praised for its caffeinated kick and its "firm ginger bite that could trick a blind taster into mistaking it for a gourmet brand."

So what makes a good root beer?

So what flavors should you be looking for in your root beer? According to self-described "Food & Wine Diva" Summer Whitford, there are two main styles of root beer: "sharply pungent" or "sweet and creamy." A good sharply pungent root beer is "spicy, strongly flavored, and can even be bitter and astringent. It's not for the faint-hearted." A good sweet and creamy root beer, meanwhile, is " a happy balance of pungent flavors and sweetness with a smooth texture that blends perfectly with ice cream." If you prefer your root beer pungent, definitely stick with Barq's, but if you'd rather have the sweeter flavor, less harsh flavor, you might actually prefer A&W. 

So if you want to go with the root beer endorsed by the expert taste testers, stick with Barq's. Ultimately, however, Barq's and A&W are very different root beers for very different palates. You'll have to decide if you prefer your root beer flavor strong or sweet.