As a kid, I would always grab a root beer from the second refrigerator at my great-grandparents’ house. Why did they have two refrigerators? I suppose they couldn’t fit everything all in one… but I’m not sure. You don’t question stuff when you’re four years old. That particular fridge was covered in magnets from my great uncle’s travels, which I had to read and rearrange on every visit. It seems as though my love for root beer and for travel started right there. These two loves recently came together when we visited the birthplace of Barq’s Root Beer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
When it comes to root beer, it seems people either love it or hate it. I have yet to find someone in between. I definitely developed a taste for it early, before I was old enough to even attend school. The taste was so different with the sweetness of vanilla and the refreshing mint. The two brands that are popular here are A&W and Barq’s, and I love them both.
The Barq’s brothers were originally from Louisiana, and they founded the Barq’s Brothers Bottling Company there in 1890. In 1897, Edward Barq moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, a small town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The next year, he opened his own bottling company called Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works. It was here that Barq’s Root Beer was born.
The thought of a bottling company brings to mind huge industrialized rooms with conveyor belts and warehouses, so it was very surprising to see that this well-known brand had such humble beginnings in this small white building.
Barq’s Root Beer was produced using sarsaparilla versus sassafras like other root beers. Yep, root beer is actually made with roots and bark to give it that distinct taste. However, many artificial and natural flavors are used today to mimic the flavor because some of those plant parts are not actually safe for consumption. Glad they figured that one out back in the 60s!
Any product that has been around for over a hundred years is quite impressive. Their slogan, “Drink Barq’s. It’s good.” makes me laugh, but I can’t argue with it! Barq’s has a bit more of a snap to it versus the sweeter A&W Root Beer. It’s that quality that led to another slogan: “Barq’s has bite.” Today, Barq’s is owned by Coca-Cola.
At the time of writing, the building sits unoccupied and is for sale or rent. Someone should buy it and turn it into a root beer float shop celebrating its Barq’s history. Great idea? I think so.
The building does have Private Property and No Trespassing signs, so use your own discretion if you decide to go by. A historical marker is found on the right side of the building.
Barq’s Root Beer made it to our list of The Best Souvenirs from Mississippi because it is a great product, Mississippians should be proud that it was created here, and it is easy to find in convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations across the state. We purchased our glass bottle of Barq’s at the Biloxi Visitor’s Center, where it’s easy to see that Biloxi is proud to be associated with the brand.
Disclaimer: White our trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast was sponsored by Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism, our decision to stop by the old Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works building was entirely our own.
Are you a fan of root beer? Do you have a favorite brand? Did you know that this well-known brand began in Mississippi? Are there any hidden gems like this in your home state or region? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a message in the comments below!