My wife introduced me to Virgil’s Root Beer pretty early on in our relationship. I was mouthing off about how the best root beer ever is Henry Weinhard’s and she was all like “it must be your dimwitted naiveté that I find so attractive” or whatnot and told me about Virgil’s, which I’d never heard of and figured it was just one of those east coast things that people get all excited about for no good reason, like Tastykake or New York City.
But she made me drink some and I was like: Goodness, this is an extremely fine root beer. My my, this is quite the heady brew. O I am lost within its creamy embrace, &c. And it quickly rocketed to the top of my root beer charts, kicking Henry Weinhard in his Oregon jingle-jangles and sending him to runner-up status. I say this jauntily but man, you know it was a tough, fretful call. We’ve been over this before but declaring a favorite root beer is a venture fraught with peril.
Thing is, though, Virgil’s is not the easiest beverage to come by, and until I saw it in the store this weekend I hadn’t realized several years had gone by since my last Encounter with it. I delighted at once again seeing the distinctive label featuring a painting of a stern, bearded, apron’d brewmeister bringing a tray full of root beer to two children sitting at a table formed from a tree trunk (its roots meandering down into the letters that spell out ROOT BEER), the boy looking eager and the girl clutching a dollie, concerned. It’s practically a Jethro Tull album cover.
So I brought it home and Alexis’ face lit up with glee and she quickly downed a bottle and shouted out vile east coast expletives to punctuate her glee. I, too, knocked back a bottle and fond memories flowed through my head even as this fanciful elixir flowed through my body. But then. Then I was like: Hm, this seems a little heavy on the licorice. It’s not quite the uber-creamy sexxtravaganza that I remember it being. Delicious and refreshing? Yes, of course. But better than Henry Weinhard’s? Jesus Christ I’m not sure anymore.
I remember Henry’s (which I also haven’t had in a depressingly long time) as being very sweet, very rich, heavy on the vanilla. And Virgil’s is a little lighter, cleaner, and with this damnable anise being the dominant flavor note. A very great root beer, to be sure, but number one? I don’t mean to cliffhang you, Kev, but I need to procure some Henry’s posthaste and do a taste-test. The most luxuriously decadent taste test of all time.