In recent years, root beer has been relegated to birthday parties and floats, but it's not just for kids anymore. Hard root beer combines the bubbling sweetness of a classic soda and the alcoholic kick of a more traditional brew, Kyle Stock reports for Bloomberg Business. That’s a recipe that breweries small and large are betting on.
The new “it” brew isn't all that new though. Root beer traces its roots to colonial times. “It was a popular drink in the 18th century before falling out of favor and virtually disappearing,” Samantha Christmann notes for Buffalo News.
The modern trend seems to have started with Small Town Brewery in Wauconda, Illinois. They’ve been producing Not Your Father’s Root Beer since 2013, Stock notes. It’s brewed like regular beer with root beer-like seasoning—sassafras root, vanilla and other spices.
The popularity of the product garnered the attention of larger operations that could take it nationwide, writes Stock. Earlier this year, Small Town Brewery inked a distribution deal with Pabst and sold the beer to a group of investors outright.
Small Town has two more root beer varieties in the works, they say. Chicago’s Berghoff Beer recently released Rowdy Root Beer. Sprecher Brewing in Glendale, Wisconsin, makes an alcoholic version of their popular root beer soda. Coney Island Beer, a subsidiary of Boston Brewing (maker of Sam Adams), also produces a hard root beer, points out Ethan Lascity for International Business Times.
Craft brewing is a crowded business, but the appeal of hard root beer makes a lot of sense, explains Stock. For those who don't like stronger, hoppier brews, it’s a sweet alternative. It also mixes well with some liquors (and probably ice cream). But, more than anything, everybody knows what root beer tastes like, so the hard version could conjur both a sense of novelty and nostalgia.