This week on The Beer List, as promised, I am following up on last week’s feature on Not Your Father’s Root Beer with a review of Coney Island Brewing Company’s Hard Root Beer. Since the hard root beer craze came out of nowhere this summer, Coney Island Brewing’s version has served New Jerseyans as a go-to substitute for Not Your Father’s in its continual absence. I didn’t waste any time after acquiring a can, cracking it open at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning.
Having tried both over the past couple of weeks, they turned out to be quite similar to me. Both edge out at just under 6% on the alcohol-by-volume (ABV) scale, both taste exactly like root beer (at least as far as that portion of the taste spectrum is concerned), but contrary to claims I’ve heard that either or both are “too sweet”, no amount of sweetness masks the alcohol taste that is present in both. I’ll give the Coney Island Hard Root Beer a slight edge, since the taste of spiced rum is not quite as forceful to me as it was in Not Your Father’s, but still, it becomes more noticeable with each sip you take. I’m not a huge fan of rum most of the time, so that taste throws me off in both cases here. However, I may be in the minority with this complaint, as I’ve heard not another soul corroborate my claim.
Everybody knows that the alcoholic drinks that fully mask the taste of the booze, by way of sugar, fruit or other agents of flavor are the type that get you in trouble, and frankly, I would have preferred that here. Coney Island’s offering gets points in the plus column for faithfully sticking to the traditional taste of root beer, and I appreciate the novelty factor of it. The carbonation factor is there, also giving you the feel of a root beer, since it is one of the fizzier sodas. The alcohol percentage itself is not crazy, but is also nothing to be trifled with if you’re not a regular drinker. As I’ve learned through tasting hundreds of beers over the past decade, discussing them with others, and reading reviews by connoisseurs, everyone’s taste buds are different, which will lead each person to pick up different “notes” (beer snob word that I refuse to employ outside of quotation marks) when sipping a beer. To that point, you may not get the sensation that someone dumped a couple shots of Captain Morgan into your root beer while you weren’t looking, and if you concentrate on just the root beer taste, which both of these brewers nailed (Small Town Brewery for Not Your Father’s), you may be head-over-heels for either or both.
As with Not Your Father’s Root Beer, I recommend that you try Coney Island’s stab at the kicked-up soft drink, provided that you actually like root beer. I’ve heard a fair amount of people I say that they like the Hard Root Beer a bit better, and I may be in that faction myself. Although I love root beer, neither one of these brews is a home run for me, but I enjoyed them both enough to have them again, and to throw a “go try them” out there to the crowd. If you missed my review of Not Your Father’s Root Beer last week, check it out here. Come back next weekend for another edition of The Beer List!