Way back in 1891, Oscar Weber Bilby started making his own root beer on his farm in what is now Tulsa, Oklahoma. He combined roots and barks and some 14 secret ingredients to create his sweet soda pop for his family to enjoy. Bilby was quite the culinary genius as historian Michael Wallis is quite certain that he invented the hamburger at a Fourth of July barbecue in 1891. It was the family’s root beer, though, that started to develop a reputation. According to family lore, the root beer was so good, it even caught the attention of Frank and Jesse James. The noted outlaws reportedly swung by the Bilby farm for some root beer and a good night’s sleep in the family barn.
The secret family recipe blends 14 natural ingredients ("Every one of them are native to Oklahoma," Rick Bilby told NewsOK) with pure cane sugar and purified water that is aged in birch bark barrels, and then bottled into a creamy, delicious drink. It was Oscar’s son Leo who took the family recipe and started the root beer company back in 1933, selling it from a drive-through window in Tulsa’s Brookside district.
WATCH: We Seriously Can't Wait to Stay at Ree Drummond's Pawhuska Hotel
For the last 85 years, the Bilby family has been serving up frosty mugs of root beer and those tasty hamburgers (which the Houston Chronicle named the No. 4 burger place in America) to eager customers at their family drive-in, located at 3817 S. Peoria Ave. Over the years, Weber’s root beer went from being a family tradition to being a Tulsa one.
"We've been out here on Brookside for 85 years," Weber's current owner Rick Bilby, told Tulsa news outlet KTUL. "We make our homemade root beer from 14 natural ingredients. That's my great grandfather's recipe. That's a secret by the way."
The operation has expanded to include a root beer production facility and full-service restaurant, but it’s still a family business. The secret to their success isn’t in the hamburgers or root beer, though. "We're a very strong family, we all love each other," Bilby told KTUL. "We can all work together and live together, that's been the biggest secret to our success, along with the good quality products we provide."
The root beer can’t be shipped, so if you happen to be in Tulsa, swing by the shop on Peoria Ave and be sure to pick up a burger and a root beer.