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Old-School Rootbeer in TO?

So The Boy and I were talking the other night about fond childhood food memories, and he got a little nostalgic for an old-fashioned soda place he used to visit on camping trips up north.

Now we've both got a wicked bad craving for old-school root beer - and by this, I mean the kind that's actually made from homemade syrup and mixed with soda on the spot - no artificial flavourings or colourings, please. More specifically, we've got a wicked bad craving for a float made from said old-school root beer.

So, is there anywhere in TO where you can still find a proper root beer float? Barring that, someplace that sells bottled root beer made the old-fashioned way, which can be made into floats at home?

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  1. Cajun Corner, on Queen east, sells the concentrated syrup, together with instructions on how to make batches.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Snarf

      Perfect! My only concern would be that the syrup would still include artificial flavourings... but if it's made the old-fashioned way with natural flavourings, I'm on it like a fat kid on a smartie.
      I'm often in that neck of the woods, so I'll probably give it a look-see (if anything, it'll be an excuse to grab some brunch at Cafe Vert or Bonjour Biotch err... Brioche)

      1. re: tartiflette

        If you find out, please do let us know. I would trek over to pick some up if it was natural!

    2. I've been on a rootbeer kick lately myself....
      Boylan's (larady referenced) makes prety good rootbeer and birch beer (this stuff is wicked), and is available a lot of places. I get mine at Sun Valley on the Danforth, and further noticed it at Balzac's in the Distillery on the weekend.

      Virgil's is another amazing rootbeer, and I have purchased it at Bruno's (Yonge and St. Clair). At $3/bottle, I'm not buying it in bulk, but it topped a recent Chowhound list of good old-fashion rootbeers.

      Both Boylan's and Virgils use cane sugar to sweeten, and authentic ingredients to flavour (sasparilla etc.). I was amazed at the difference between these and large scale commercial rootbeers. Never going back.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bluedog

        Boylan's actually makes 2 different Root Beers. The "Natural" one (with the orange & tan logo) uses all natural, old style ingredients. The other one (with the tan-only logo) uses "natural & artificial flavors", although it still uses cane sugar. Both are good, but I prefer the "Natural" one when I can find it.

        1. re: gregclow

          Thanks for the tip! Sun Valley is just down the street from me, so I shall pop over (pun intended) sometime during the week to see if Boylan's lives up to its reputation. Hopefully they'll have the "natural" version - that's really what I'm after.

          1. re: tartiflette

            Pick up a bottle of Birch Beer while your there. I prefer it over the root beer. Not sure if its the all-natural or the other they have there.

      2. If anyone knows of a place in Toronto that sells the Boylan's Natural line, please let us know. I just read about it on their website and I'd really love to get my hands on some!

        3 Replies
        1. re: vorpal

          I've seen it at various times in Pusateri's on Avenue. And Whole Foods carries a wide variety of flavours of their regular line. Most of which are delicious. My favourite brand of soda.

          1. re: vorpal

            I have seen it at the Big Carrot.

            1. re: vorpal

              So I was in Magnolia on College this morning and noticed they sell what looks like the entire line of Boylan's - root beer, cherry, birch beer, cream soda, orange, etc. I did notice that the root beer was definitley the natural line, but didn't really scope of the rest too closely. I didn't see the price, but I did pay $1.99 for a bottle of Hank's gourmet root beer (philadelphia recipe?) and a vanilla cream soda - so I imagine it's around that. They are also made with cane sugar. I recently finished off the root beer and I have to say it was a refreshing beverage - not too sweet.

            2. So here's a followup.

              After the chorus of agreement on Boylan's, I swung up to Pusateri's on Bay St during my lunch. They do indeed carry the brand, and for only $1.69 at Pusi's, it's pretty much on par with what a bottle of Coke seems to go for these days.

              The bad news: the all-natural root beer is not available there (their regular version is, however). The good news: the all-natural birch beer IS!

              It's delicious. Everything I hoped for. On the way home, I'm going to check in at Sun Valley to see if I can find this elusive all-natural (and if The Boy is lucky, maybe I'll let him have a bottle). :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: tartiflette

                You inspired me to run by Bruno's at lunch and pick up a Virgil's. Wow that's good rootbeer, and I confirmed all natural. I still prefer Boylans's birch beer. It packs an interesting punch. In fact, I'm gonna stop by Sun Valley tonight and pick some up!

              2. I'm just writing to say that, at least as of today, neither the Big Carrot nor Sun Valley have any of the Boylan's Natural, and I didn't see space for them on the shelves of either in the pop sections, so I'm assuming they don't stock it currently.

                If anyone has any more leads on where one can find these, please do let us know.

                5 Replies
                1. re: vorpal

                  Try phoning the Carrot. Last time I saw it there, it was only in the fridge - not on the shelf.

                  One store where I saw the (un) natural version told me his distributor didn't carry the natural line. I hope this doesn't mean it isn't available here any more.

                  1. re: embee

                    I'll try phoning and asking, although sadly, I checked both! Hopefully in my normal daze I just missed it, because it sounds delicious.

                    1. re: vorpal

                      Just got back from weekly trip to Highland Farms in Mississauga. They carry Boylans. Noticed they have Natural Root beer , balck cherry and another that slips my mind. Thet also carry the regular Boylans.

                  2. re: vorpal

                    By happenstance, I managed to find the Boylan's Natural Root Beer just today... and in the little organic market right next to my office, no less! (Olive Tree Organics, north side of Bloor between Jarvis and Sherbourne... their overall product selection verges on the pathetic, but who cares when they carry Boylan's?)

                    However, I have to confess that I'm a bit let down. It's sweet and smooth like a good root beer should be, but I think I preferred the slight minty bite of the birch beer I tried earlier as per bluedog's recommendation.

                    ...now I just need to try out the red cream birch beer and my quest will be complete. :)

                    1. re: tartiflette

                      Actually, I was a bit disappointed by the red cream birch beer. Seems a cross between cream soda and birch beer, and I never was a cream soda fan. Still think that the birch beer is top o' the heap.

                  3. Please pardon my intrusion... while doing a search for root beers I came upon different posts on Chowhound including this one.

                    Since you all seem to be root beer experts, I was hoping someone could tell me where to find IBC root beer in Toronto. Also, has anyone ever seen Henry Weinhard's Root Beer in Canada?


                    6 Replies
                    1. re: LovelyAsia

                      I have yet to find IBC Rootbeer in Toronto but maybe other chowhounds have had better luck. I enjoy that rootbeer too so what I do is when I drive to Buffalo I buy a whole lot of IBC and Stewart's Rootbeer and Cream soda back with me to T.O! Never heard of Henry Weinhard's before.....

                      1. re: callitasicit

                        Thanks for the reply callitasicit! Do you go to a special beverage store in Buffalo or just to a regular grocery store?

                        I read about Henry Weinhard's on a chow review and it sounded good!

                        1. re: LovelyAsia

                          Just go to any regular grocery store in Buffalo usually Tops or Walgreens should have it.

                        2. re: callitasicit

                          You can easily get Stewart's products in T.O. There's even a distributor in the Dixie/Courtney Park area if you need it in bulk. :-)

                        3. re: LovelyAsia

                          I think we are out of luck on IBC. It appeared suddenly - in six packs - at high end grocers around Toronto a few years ago. I was getting it at Sun Valley, but it was all over the place. Then, months later, it disappeared totally.

                          Whomever was importing it didn't bring it in any more. I tried to get a handle on the distributor, but never could. I don't really understand why this should prove impossible. Surely the places that sell it could tell us where they got it so we could follow up. In any event, it sold out quickly and wasn't reordered.

                          1. re: LovelyAsia

                            I found IBC at the soda pop central in whitby!

                          2. Not bottled, but there is great root beer available at the GTA ribfests...I can't remember what the company is called, but it's similar to Old Fashioned Soda Company...something like that. Very good, thick, creamy rootbeer.

                            1. FYI, Mr. Case carries the regular Boylan's line, including the birch beer, root beer and sugar cane cola. $29.99 for a case of 24.

                              1. Uncertain if this qualifies == A&W at Bayview Village?
                                This is one restarant/fast food spot that I do not understand.
                                Obviously they have root bear/beer available.
                                Bayview Village is a high end mall (want a pair of $600 sneakers?) but it has been able to support am A&W for many years now. In general they seem to have captured the blue hair crowd (60-80?) that want to re-capture their lost youth (my opinion).
                                I can not make any claims as to the quality or authenticity of the alleged beverage, but it is obviously capable of providing an endless supply for those in need.
                                So go back to your roots & try A&W? Or not!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: dancingTimmy

                                  I prefer Seaman's root beer or birch beer to Boylan's (http://www.bevnet.com/reviews/seamans/


                                  Seaman's used to be carried by Mr. Case and was available at the Bruno's at Yonge and St. Clair...I haven't seen it around in a while though, if anyone has a line on a store that carries it, I'm all ears.

                                  1. re: gogol

                                    Sadly, I don't think Seaman's is distributed in Ontario anymore. Being from PEI, I was really happy to see them appear here a few years ago (around the time they were bought by Pepsi, I believe), but I guess they didn't catch on enough for Pepsi to keep shipping it up here.

                                2. Flo's diner in yorkville, in my mind makes the best rootbeer floats so far. They use IBC Rootbeer as well. They are located above the second cup at 70 Yorkville avenue.

                                  1. I wanted to follow-up on availability of the various Boylan's soda products at Sun Valley and Big Carrot.

                                    I was at BOTH on Saturday morning and can confirm that Sun Valley seems to carry Boylan's full regular line, but NOT NATURAL PRODUCTS.

                                    And Big Carrot DEFINITELY carries Boylan's Natural line. Saw them all, except for the natural birch beer :(, in the cooler, next to a number of other all natural sodas.

                                    Note that Big Carrot carries a few all natural root beers, and I tried another one whose name I cannot now remember: had BREW in large letters on the bottle.

                                    But my favourite by of everything I've tried thus far, even though I have now confirmed it was the REGULAR and NOT the NATURAL version, was the Boylans birch beer.

                                    In any event, even the regular version seems to have very few additives the worst of which seems to be sodium benzoate, followed by citric acid and the always popular "natural flavours" (which can still mean a chemical flavour extracted from a natural ingredient, if I understand labelling laws). I still highly recommend it.

                                    1. In searching for IBC I came across this website for a pop store in Whitby... I never knew Vernor's was no longer carried in Canada... I think this place looks like it is worth the drive to Whitby!


                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: LovelyAsia

                                        Where does it say on that website that Vernor's is no longer available in Canada?

                                        If that's true, it must be a recent development, as I had a can a few weeks ago.

                                        1. re: LovelyAsia

                                          Thanks for that website, they had a lot of great products to choose from!!

                                        2. Well, here's proof people pay attention to this board: I was near Carrot Common last night, and decided to pick up a bottle of Boylan's natural rootbeer for my stroll home, and someone had cleaned out the place of every bottle of natural rootbeer.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: bluedog

                                            They had quite a bit of stock on Wednesday late afternoon...

                                          2. Much to my surprise, I walked into the IGA on the Danforth last night and found an almost complete selection of Boylan's Regular Line (not natural). They had everything except for the Birch Beer, at the unbelievably low price of $1.39/bottle. The same thing at Sun Valley is $1.79. A great deal. Picked up some rootbeer and the balck cherry to try.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: bluedog

                                              SWEET! That's cheaper than I've seen anywhere else ($1.65 to $1.79 seemed to be the going rate so far).

                                              I normally pass over IGA since they're relatively small and don't carry anything particularly hard-to-find or "special" (unlike Sun Valley)... but for cheap Boylan's, I think I may have to add an extra stop to my usual Danforth meanderings.

                                              1. re: tartiflette

                                                I agree re:hard to find or special, but anything that IGA has that Sun Valley has is WAY cheaper at IGA. Good for them for going this path re:cheaper better products.

                                                And, hey, the last time I was in Sun Valley buying birch beer (two weeks ago), the person behind me was buying all sorts of different soft drinks, including a lot of Boylan's stuff and those wierd mexican soft drinks they have. Is it rude to ask if that was you? Just curious about those Mexican soft drinks.

                                                1. re: bluedog

                                                  Definitely not me. I oogled the Mexican soft drinks, but I haven't worked up the courage to give one a try yet. I've also been sticking to the birch beer and cream soda in the Boylan's line, because I'm a snob like that.

                                                  I'm sure more than a few hounds have made the trek to Sun Valley for a Boylan's since this thread got going, tho. :) Oh Mysterious Purchaser, could you please stand up and provide your opinion on weird Mexican drinks? Inquiring minds want to know!

                                                  1. re: tartiflette

                                                    Now that Sun Valley is gone where can Boylans and/or Virgils root and birch beer be found on Danforth?