by Stef Jantz, Food Columnist

There are two stories that encompass the creation of the creamy, cold, sweet treat known as the root beer float.  One happened in Colorado in 1893 and the other in Pennsylvania in 1874.

The 1893 version goes that a Colorado brewery decided to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to their home brewed root beer, inspired by their peaks of Cow Mountain and called it Black Cow Mountain, then shortened it to Black Cow.

If you use chocolate ice cream, it’s called a Brown Cow. The 1874 version says that a man of the name Robert McCay Green, was serving soda to his customers and ran out of ice during a festival. He asked the neighboring vendor if he could have some of their ice cream to keep the sodas cold and voila!

Behold the float!

Today, you can find many varieties of the creamy treat but I’m going to focus on one in particular, Barq’s root beer. The saying goes “Barq’s has bite” since it contains more of the root flavor than sweetness, nonetheless, it’s freaking delicious.

Barq’s was founded in 1890 in the French Quarter of New Orleans, by Edmond Charles Edmond Barq, Sr and his older brother Gaston. The brothers bottled artesian water and different soft drinks, but before root beer, they created Orangine, an orange soda.

In 1897, Edward moved to Biloxi with his wife and opened Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works, then by 1900, Barq’s root beer was said to have been produced.  Along the way, Barq met a young man on the Mississippi Gulf Coast named Jesse Robinson.

After being mentored by Barq, Jesse moved to New Orleans and by 1934 they signed a contractual agreement on Barq’s product allowing Jesse to make his own concentrate.

The two stayed in close contact all their lives working on flavors and production. They both sold root beer in each state, but the labeling became distinctive in that root beer made in Louisiana was labeled red while root beer made in Mississippi was labeled the famous Biloxi blue.

The bottles were sent back and forth to each state once emptied but the two had a slightly different taste of the drink.

They soon found out that it was the water they used since it came from different sources.

Throughout the years, Barq’s faced many legal battles unfortunately, but no matter the challenges, it still comes out on top of one of the best root beers.

Fun fact: in 1990 Barq’s teamed up with a grocery store in DeKalb, Illinois to create the world’s largest root beer float.  In an above ground swimming pool, they used 1,500 gallons of root beer and 1,000 gallons of vanilla ice cream.

Besides ice cream, root beer goes with many other things like using them in recipes.  Pie, roast, pulled pork, cake, baked beans, fudge, brats, and surprisingly enough, cocktails.  I couldn’t believe what I was reading with all the cocktails using root beer.

If you’re interested, check it out, but always be sure to keep it original every once in a while, and be sure to support our local history and use Barq’s for all your float needs.