Root Beer With Booze? Yes Please!

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(image: Tim Nusog)

Giving cider a run for its money as the next hot trend, alcoholic root beer, is on the rise. These boozy (but not too boozy—approximately 5 to 7 percent ABV) root beers are popping up on menus at beer bars and high-end restaurants.

What’s the appeal? Food-friendly alcohol levels comparable to beer but a sweeter, spiced profile that’s almost akin to a cocktail or soft drink. And although the deep, dark molasses-and-spice flavors seem just right for comfort-sipping during blustery-weather months, these bottles also work for refreshing boozy root beer floats during warmer months.

We tasted them side by side to see how they stacked up. (P.S. If root beer’s not your thing, alco-pops on the horizon also include ginger ale, orange cream ale and apple ale.)

Best Damn Root Beer

Owned by beer giant Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Best Damn Brewing offers a bottle (at 5.5 percent ABV) with a slightly beer-y scent and has a flavor that falls somewhere between beer and soda, with a bit of vanilla and a bracing, mildly hoppy bitterness.

Coney Island Brewing Company Hard Root Beer

Look for lots of fizz and a molasses-forward flavor profile (at 5.8 percent ABV) in this root beer by Brooklyn’s Coney Island Brewing (owned by Boston Beer, the maker of Sam Adams). It sips only slightly sweet, with a smooth, creamy finish.

Forbidden Root Beer

The most beerlike of all five bottles, this “botanically inspired craft beer” (at 5.5 percent ABV), by Chicago’s Forbidden Root Brewery, has a relatively light hue, more amber than deep brown. It’s not at all sweet and has an herbaceous lilt.

Not Your Father’s Root Beer

Ideal for beer haters, this fizzy easy drinker seems to be the most widely available—Pabst Brewing is an investor in the brand, offered by Small Town Brewery in La Crosse, Wis. It’s the sweetest and most soda-like of the bottles sampled (at 5.9 percent ABV). You’d never guess it was an alcoholic cousin to beer. Grab your ice cream scoop.

Root Sellers Row Hard Root Beer (Memphis)

The only one presented in a can, by Memphis’ Root Sellers, look for a foamy pour and a mild roots-and-bark scent and flavor with just a hint of cane sugar sweetness (at 6.7 percent ABV).

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  • mclaughlindesignaolcom14962966 posted 1 year ago

    The "Root Sellers" - Row Hard Root Beer I have in my fridge, purchased a week ago was brewed in Weston Missouri where it was originally contract brewed by the Weston Brewing Company. I know that the company purchased a micro brewery in Columbia Missouri about a year ago. According to their website and as far as I know the company is still brewed and owned in Missouri and not Memphis. I suppose some product could have been contract brewed in Memphis.

    And by the way, Row Hard Root Beer is wheat and gluten free according to their brewmaster and their website.

  • plhs.superfine.79.reunion.b35e871 posted 1 year ago

    Coney Island is available in cans too here in NJ. Interesting you say NYFs is the most widely distributed, because hardly any places here in Jersey had it last summer. If so, it was in such small qtys, it flew off the shelf and that was it.

    So - when I went to the store, they told me about the Coney Island. The cashier said they did a tasting and that NYFs was more syrupy and less carbonated while Coney Island was more carbonated and a little less sweet. Well, I can't imagine sweeter and less fizzy than the Coney Island I bought, so I was very happy. Have since tried NYFs and we did a blind taste test with friends. Everyone preferred - and I'm addicted to - Coney Island. P.S. Before Sam's parent co bought it, you couldn't find ANY Coney Island beer around here without going to Coney Island. Haven't tried the others because I can't find them. Also, was surprised by friends how many people don't like root beer!

  • puckandygmailcom117025243 posted 1 year ago

    @andrewjdavis they are unlikely to be gluten free but it also depends on which glutens are worse for you. This is essentially just a mild dark beer with root beer extract. It can be home brewed pretty easy, allowing you to choose a grain you tolerate.

  • magnusscaverizonnet1026918311 posted 1 year ago

    Best dam root beer is defiantly not the best in fact one I never try again as I agree it sucked but I do like Not ur Father's but have not tried the others yet

  • andrewjdavishotmailcom60038546 posted 1 year ago

    My question is how many of these are gluten-free? I drink cider because I have celiacs disease and I would love to be able to switch things out with some hard rootbeer if possible.

  • ghattas.159316 posted 1 year ago

    Fun article, but can we at least get an honorable mention for Root liquor which is absolutely delicious over ice or with cold soda?

  • raykendy40229gmailcom814498878 posted 1 year ago

    Best damn Root Beer is horrible. ..Not ur Father's and Coney Island are good

  • Michael Ferguson posted 1 year ago

    With due respect, both Best Damn Root Beer and Not Your Father's Root Beer also come in cans. At least here in New York State.

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