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How to host a root-beer tasting

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Hosting a root beer tasting

• Limit your tasting to six root beers in a single sitting.

• Provide 1 standard (12-ounce) bottle of each root beer for every 2 people who are tasting.

• Use one type of glassware, which allows you to compare the head that each root beer forms and standardizes the amount of aroma each root beer releases.

• Chill the root beer but not the glassware. Let the soda stand, unopened, for about 10 minutes before each taste-test. Serving root beers too cold masks some of their complexity.

• Pour 4 to 6 ounces into an upright glass that holds at least twice the volume that you're pouring. This lets the root beer build up a decent head.

• After noting the size of the foam and the amount of time it lingers, inhale the aroma a few times to see whether you detect anything distinctive. My notes for many of the root beers say simply "classic barky root beer aroma," sometimes modifying it with 'strong" or "weak." The ones that stood out had scents reminiscent of mint, vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, pumpkin pie spices and even berries — or, in the cases of the ones I didn't like, cake and butterscotch.

• Take a few small sips to see whether you find anything distinctive in the flavor. Then take one good gulp to see how long the various elements of the flavor linger.

• The saltiness and relatively neutral flavor of pretzels is a good choice for refreshing your palate before moving on to the next sample.

Joe Bonwich

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The grape, known for its spicy, smoky wines with dark fruit flavors, is grown not only in Argentina and France, it's also grown in smaller amounts in other countries, including the United States.

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