I can say with confidence that in my now decade-long love affair with beer, I have never seen such crazy hype over a particular brew than I have over Not Your Father’s Root Beer. Small Town Brewery, based in Wauconda, Illinois, decided to brew an alcoholic root beer, and en masse, everybody’s head exploded. For most of the summer, it was impossible to find in New Jersey, unless you were willing to relentlessly call up liquor stores to find out if they got a shipment of the stuff, and then immediately jump on the bottle or two to which most stores were limiting customers. Personally, I couldn’t be bothered to do that.
Earlier in the summer, I was at a party at which someone who got their hands on a coveted case was gracious enough to let me try a single sip. I love root beer, and beer, so I had already decided that I was going to like it. How could it possibly be bad? That first sip was good, if a bit warm, but I couldn’t judge the beer on that alone.
As fate would have it, I took a trip down to North Carolina last weekend to see my brother for his birthday, and it was there that the great Southern supermarket chain Harris Teeter put an end to my search. The store right around the corner from my brother’s house had a sizable display of the massively-hyped hybrid brew just as I entered the beer section (on of the great things about the South). I picked up a couple of six packs to bring back home to Jersey with me.
On the night of Labor Day, I had my first full experience with Not Your Father’s Root Beer. It certainly tastes like root beer, as you’ll get serious hints of birch root and vanilla extract. I take that back, there’s no hinting. It’s more than blatant. The high level of carbonation is even very akin to that of the beloved soda. There is even considerable sweetness to it, but despite reviews I’ve read to the contrary, it doesn’t mask the taste of the alcohol. That taste is undoubtedly present, but it doesn’t taste like any beer I’ve ever had, but rather like spiced rum. For me, the sweetness was all up front on the tongue, while that spiced rum essence hit the back.
The alcohol content is slightly higher than that of a standard beer, riding at 5.9%. There are two other versions of the hard root beer, which stand at an ABV of 10.7%, and a just-plain-crazy 19.5%. All in all, I like it, but I don’t imagine going out of my way to seek it out in the future. That taste of spiced rum gives me the sense that some Captain Morgan was dumped into a root beer, while I suppose I was expecting more of a hoppy beer taste alongside the soda flavor. I do hope for the brewery’s sake that it’s able to amp up production to meet the sky-high demand for this novelty brew and ride this wave for everything it can.
I won’t be doing any negative beer reviews on this site, and I’m still recommending that everyone try this, so long as you actually like root beer, or just want to know what the insane fuss is about. I will finish what I have, and may have one here or there as it becomes more available in my neck of the woods, but I don’t see it becoming a staple for me. I imagine it would make for a killer spiked root beer float, though. I’ll have to try that. There has been a lot of buzz about the Coney Island Hard Root Beer, which is serving as an alternative to Not Your Father’s for those who can’t find it. Once I try that one myself, I’ll review it here. Stay tuned.
Have you had Not Your Father’s Root Beer? What did you think of it? I’d love to talk to fellow beer drinkers about it, so leave a comment and I’ll answer you! Until next week, bottoms up!