Virgil’s root beer is currently hovering around the number one spot on this blog. It’s one of the most iconic, modern root beers out there, and a personal favorite. The only on-par rival that it has for me right now is Polar, which offers a much more traditional flavor.
Thus, when I saw Virgil’s Zero on the shelf, I couldn’t say no to opportunity of reviewing it. I do not typically seek out diet beverages, but there are those out there that don’t really have much of a choice. Hopefully this review appeals to them. However, please understand that diet is not my typical variety of choice and my review will reflect that.
Virgil’s Zero has some pretty big boots to fill, and I’ve had some rough brews lately, so I’m definitely looking for a win.
No Calories. Sugarless. Stevia Sweetened.
The bottle here isn’t trying to distance itself too far from the original, but there are some distinct differences. Instead of the more earthy design, Virgil’s Zero is perched in the clouds; with very clever border work hiding the original art. There’s also a distinct lack of text that covered the original bottle, missing ingredient information, and a lengthier tag line. There is one bit of additional information that is relevant, text adorned in green leaves indicating that this root beer is stevia sweetened. It feels like Virgil’s Zero is trying to portray itself as a more “heavenly” root beer than the original. That would be great.
Instead of talking about Virgil’s and Reed’s background (which you can read about on the original Virgil’s root beer review,) I decided to talk a little bit about stevia. Stevia is a sweetener that is used as a substitute to sugar. Unlike other sweeteners, stevia comes from a plant. This is clearly marketed on the bottle by the leaf art. Apparently stevia is a bit of a wonder replacement, being 200 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories.
- Purified carbonated water
- GMO-free caramel color
- Stevia rebaudiana leaf extract
- Natural flavors
- Citric acid
Unlike the original root beer, the Zero alternative has effectively turned to the dark side. In replacement for a list of spices and herbs that I have come to expect, natural flavors is provided instead. I’m disappointed. Virgil’s is the gold standard for telling the truth, but not here. This doesn’t bode well.
I will note that the following list is also available on the label for those wondering:
- Zero Preservatives
- Zero Caffeine
- Zero Gluten
- Zero Sugar
- Zero Sugar Alcohol
Once again, the first thing that hits after uncapping Virgil’s Zero is the pleasant smell emanating from the bottle. Unlike other brews, Virgil’s doesn’t really burn the nostrils. It’s not the same smell that comes out of Virgil’s, but it’s definitely root beer.
At least, as long you keep smelling. I guess I’ve found the difference. The first taste is just abysmal. There is a distinct flavor difference, and in my opinion, it’s just awful. I understand that Virgil’s Zero is a diet alternative, and I am taking that into consideration, but the stevia flavoring is completely overpowering. It’s too sweet, if you can believe it. There is no wintergreen, licorice, or vanilla flavor that was found in the original. It tastes chemically sweet. I can totally believe that stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but I have to question whether they put in a 200th of the amount of the sugar equivalent.
I will note this isn’t my first time trying stevia, but it might be the first time I’ve had it with any type of pop.
On the plus side, the carbonation is pretty darn good. It’s not uncomfortable, but it does kind of remind me of soda water. There’s a tang, or sourness that immediately follows the carbonation, which is unique and odd.
It takes some getting used to, but for a moment before the stevia hits, you can taste something very similar to Virgil’s original brew. Time, and letting the brew breathe, helps with that. I have to wonder whether I need to become accustomed to stevia over time in order to move past how sickeningly sweet it is. If that’s true, though, I think they could have done better with Virgil’s Zero. The stevia even affects the after taste, and it lasts way too long. The tang makes my tongue crawl and shrivel. I just can’t get past that flavor.
One strong benefit of the stevia is that there isn’t a syrupy texture to the root beer. There wasn’t one with the original brew, but I didn’t know what to expect going into this one. Unlike the original Virgil’s root beer, after time, Virgil’s Zero’s carbonation remains strong. Maybe that’s a benefit of the stevia too.
Virgil’s Zero seems more like a gimmick for implementing stevia as a sugar alternative, than providing a true diet root beer. I’m just a humble, amateur enjoyer of root beers, but it needs much less stevia flavor, and much more of the original herbs and spices. It’s just way too sweet, and that flavor lasts way too long.
I like seeing a diet root beer available, especially with a sugar alternative that’s harvested from leaves, but this one’s just not for me. If you like the way stevia tastes, I imagine Virgil’s will be a wonderful choice. My final rating will reflect that this is a diet alternative, and I have taken into account that this isn’t marketed for people like me.
Rating: ♛♛♕♕♕ – 2/5