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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).