Root beer was originally made partially with sassafras root bark (and sarsaparilla, etc) which naturally foamed.
Sassafras root bark contains safrole, which the FDA determined was a potential carcinogen and banned in the 1960s. Root beer manufacturers turned to other flavoring combinations as a substitute (sarsaparilla, ginger, juniper, wintergreen, licorice, anise, cinnamon, lemon oil, orange oil, cloves, vanilla, and artificial flavors, in various combinations.). But none of these have the same foam enhancing qualities as sassafras root bark. So other surfactants were added, including an extract from the yucca plant.
The particular brands of root beer that foam a lot do so because that's the way the manufacturers make it - foaming characteristics have become part of the marketing campaigns. Not all root beers foam the same - for instance Barq's root beer is more highly carbonated and Dad's root beer has more long lasting foam.
So, to make a long story short.......I think in the case of root beer, they put stuff in to make it foam like real beer...
It's the washing up liquid they put in it.
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